Do you have any old letters laying around your house? Have you read them? No, I mean have you really read them!
I was given a copy of a letter that was written by my second great grandmother (Ellen Smith Kaye) to her brother and sister (I think they were her brother and sister in law). The letter was conveying to the family the trials she has faced since the death of her husband. For many years I focused only on grandpa’s demise. I put it away and didn’t think of it for a long while.
While I was working on trying to figure out who her parents were, family story said that her parents died of the smallpox when she was little, I went back to the letters to see what I can find if anything and happily I found the following:
“I was glad you received my Dear Husbands likeness safe you ask me for mine I am sorry I do not have it the last one I got taken was last winter along with Byron to send to a much loved cousin at the cape of good hope who has now joined around the throne those who had gone before him to Wellcome his arrival at the heavenely[sic] mansions he was commander in one of her Magestys Mail steamers to the cape he & his noble crew and also the vessel was lost in an awfull storm at Table Bay on the 17 of May he had addressed the Sabbath school children of the scotish presbytreian church on the voyage of life on the Sabbath previous the next Sabbath he was interred in the burying ground close to the church where he had so faithfully admonished the children………. it was with them I lived when at home so that I have felt their removal very keenly”
In this small piece of letter there is a lot of hidden, okay so it smacks you in the face ;-), information.
My next thought was, well If I can’t find Grandma Ellen’s parents using her, maybe I can find her parents using this cousin. So, I did a search on Table Bay and May 17 1865 and I found Captain David Smith and his ship the RMS Athens. In following searches and help from new cousin, Davids great grandson to be exact. I found his parents. We believe that her father may have been a David also, but this I have not been able to prove. I am not finding an Ellen with a father of David. In saying all that, I must show what I do have and and what was shared with me.
Besides this lovely picture, I was sent a letter this young man wrote to his Uncle, his marriage information and copy of his masters certificate. Now that is what I call putting flesh on the bones.
Sometimes if you open up that back door to your research, using extended family members in an attempt to find your direct ancestors, you just might find a treasure and new family.
I would also recommend re-reading your files, letters and newspaper clippings on a regular basis! You never know what treasure will pop up at you when you least expect it.