I have finished filing thousands of precious letters between my grandparents, as well as letters from my great grandparents, extended family, and friends to my Grandpa during WWII and my grandparent’s respective missions.
I have begun scanning and transcribing. What a joy!
But I am struggling with a few decisions.
Should I post the letters here or on their own blog? I haven’t counted the letters, but there are thousands. If I post them here, how should I alter my posting schedule?
Should I include everything? My Grandma wrote the word destroy on a few of the envelopes. You see, she inadvertently “Dear John”ed my Grandpa and was extremely embarrassed by that. It wasn’t something she talked about. Ever. But my Grandpa told me all about it. How do I handle those letters with respect to both my Grandma’s feelings and honoring the truth of their story? (I really don’t think she had a reason to be embarrassed, it all worked out just fine in the end.)
Then there are a few letters written by Grandpa’s friends that don’t exactly paint the letter writers in the best light. Do I include those?
Oh boy! So many decisions.
So, I have a little survey here with these questions. Feel free to answer on the survey or in the comments or both. I would love any feedback that might help me choose a path forward.
34 thoughts on “Advice Please ❤️”
I am not sure I can advise you on this. Do you follow the Genealogy Lady’s blog? She posts letters every day, so she might be the best to advise you based on her experience. My own personal reaction as a reader? I don’t have time to read a daily blog. And letters may be very important historically once they’ve been read, studied, annotated, etc., but unless they tell a compelling story in order, I don’t know how many people will feel compelled to read them all. That’s just my honest reaction. You might be better off putting them all in a book, maybe a separate blog? And pick particularly interesting ones or even excerpts for your regular blog? I just don’t know. You can always experiment and see how it works out. So I will do your survey, but all my answers are very tentative.
Thank you for this Amy. I do follow the Genealogy Lady’s blog. I feel so pulled on this decision. Part of my problem is that amongst this vast collection are a shoebox full of letters written by my great grandparents. There is great interest from their other descendants that those be shared somehow. Because the entire collection is about 5 feet (linear feet…? not sure exactly what the correct term is but the letters are all filed and that is the total depth of all the boxes) – this is no small feat to find a way to share it well. A blog would allow for family to read a bit at a time and for the project to feel like it’s making progress. It would also eliminate some of the more challenging decisions – like what to include. But I also feel so torn because of my desire to protect the privacy of the feelings of my Grandma. I really wish she had left instructions or at least what she was considering herself. She was clearly going through them and rereading them after my Grandpa’s death, and before her own. They are full of notes on the envelopes and small markings throughout the letters. I’m rambling, sorry. I appreciate your input. I’m hoping to find a nice balance of easy (and hopefully somewhat prompt) access for my family members that doesn’t become public fodder. Unfortunately, the most reliable and user friendly mediums are public.
The privacy issue is tougher than the other questions. I think you can set up a blog on WordPress that is private—by invitation only. Mine was like that at the very beginning because the cousin who set it up for me chose that setting. I think you can still do that. Then you could share your grandmother’s letters only with family.
On the other hand, there may be wider interest in some of them, but only you can judge that. It’s interesting that she marked some with Destroy, but never destroyed them. Perhaps she was ambivalent. So maybe keeping those private is the best approach.
I agree, it really is the heart of my struggle. If she had been planning to widely share them with family, it would make this a lot simpler.
I did set up a private blog for her collection and couldn’t get any of my family to go through the steps to view it. They all just wanted it to be public so it was easier for them. Family – I love them, and they make my decisions more complicated. 😉
Thank you again for offering your advice, I really appreciate it.
GRRR. Family. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.
Agree with Amy, daily postings are not my favour. Regarding personal information: I faced the same challenge when I wrote the profile about my grandma. As there are still people alive who have been effected by her, it was a thin line between being true to ther story and protecting other’s feelings. I asked my mom and got her consent. I published what she was fine with. So, ask the descendants if there are any. They might be effected, too.
Great advice, thank you Barbara. I think part of why I feel conflicted is that I am balancing the interests and desires of multiple generations. The collection includes one shoebox full of letters written by my great grandparents. Their descendants want those publicly available to all of them as soon as possible. My dad and his siblings are less enthusiastic and lean toward sharing on just the family level. Because the collection is so vast, and all of the letters tell a more complete story when kept together, I am struggling to find the best path.
And – I totally agree, daily posts are too much for me to keep up on when reading other’s work. 😉
Thank you again!
“You might be better off putting them all in a book, maybe a separate blog? And pick particularly interesting ones or even excerpts for your regular blog?” <–This idea sounds like a great one.
I personally would be interested in reading the letters and would happily read a daily blog, but I can also see Amy's point in considering a general audience. Not sure how helpful that wishy-washy comment is! Ha!
I'll be following this thread with great interest, as I also have wartime letters from both sets of grandparents and would love to know how best to present them.
Thank you for this Katie, I appreciate it. 🙂
I also think a book would be better. I also think that you must respect your grandmother’s wishes. Do not destroy the letters, but perhaps just paraphrase them with their basic content, but not her actual words. Good luck!
Thank you for this suggestion Ellen. I hadn’t thought to paraphrase. The letters she marked to destroy, she also marked with a bunch of tiny stars and phrases like, “very, very special”. I know those letters were especially meaningful to her. I think you may have just given me the suggestion that strikes the best balance, in regards to those letters. Thank you. 🙂
I am glad to be of help. This way you keep her history but also respect her wishes. Best wishes.
Thank you! 🙂
The interesting thing is that she wrote “destroy” on them rather than destroying them herself. Maybe she was embarrassed by them, but couldn’t bring herself to actually get rid of them. Maybe if you prefaced the letters with some background information to explain the circumstances and that it all worked out in the end. It is a rare thing to have events like that written down. It’s easy to sugar coat life when writing journal entries. I wish we had more information about how people really felt – the good and the bad.
Thank you for your insight. I agree that it is interesting that she marked them with the word destroy but then did not destroy them. She also marked them with lots of tiny stars and phrases like, “very, very special”. I wonder if she was planning to hold on to them a little longer for her own reading, but then destroy them before her death. Death came first. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. This decision feels like a doozy and I’m taking all the advice I can get, hoping to find the best fit for sharing and protecting my Grandma’s privacy.
I love the idea of a separate blog where we can follow their love story!!! So we can still get all your amazing entries here but live the love affair with them in a separate place. Then it will feel a little more personal like we are living it with them 🙂 As for the personal stuff, maybe share what you can and blur out the rest? Kinda still sharing but also respecting her wishes in a way? Either way, I want to live a love story 🙂
Thank you for the input, I really appreciate it. I think I may have settled on a plan. I think. 😉
Not an easy decision with the letters. I’ve seen several biographies where there were excerpts from letters, enough to tell the story but still protect the privacy and then either paraphrase or simple explanation of the rest of the letter. I think if i had something like this to deal with I would scan all the letters, then publish the scans privately if enough family members were interested. I did find a 105 year old letter from my maternal grandparents which has left me with all sorts of questions as to the situation at the time. I have sadly lost almost all of the documents I had (they were in storage and it finally reached the point I couldn’t pay the rent anymore and had no one to help me get anything out of those storage units – my spouse and cousins said “you don’t need all that crap” and laughed at my upset) – lost all the heirlooms, household goods, craft supplies, furniture, everything really. Make sure you have a place for those treasures to go if something happens, all I needed was a job, something that after 7000 applications or resume submissions I haven’t and couldn’t secure.
Oh, my heart is breaking for you. I’m so sorry! <3 I wish there was something, anything comforting I could offer, but that is just awful.
Thank you for the input. I really appreciate it.
My heart is breaking too. Not a damn thing that can be done, too much money needed and not to be had. There are/were so many treasures in those boxes, photos, documents, plus the various physial items. I was basically told it was my fault for wanting to keep such useless garbage by my spouse, losing all the items, photos and documents on his lines too. Make sure you have someone who will take those precious things and keep them safe. None of it can be replaced, once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
Thank you for the hard-earned advice. I will make sure to protect it always with back up plans. I’m also trying my darnedest to get everything scanned and backed up in multiple places. Sending lots of virtual hugs, happy vibes, and just general good juju your way. <3
Thanks, it helps.
I can see both sides of the problem so I don’t think I’ll be of much help. I understand her children not being ready to have all of these letters be public, but I can also see a time in the future that those children will be gone and the grandchildren and others will want to see them. In the long run, withholding those letters takes away from the picture we get of an entire person. I guess for me, the question is not whether to publish all of the letters, but when.
Thank you for the input Elaine, I really appreciate it. I think I may have settled on a plan. I think. 🙂 I did have one important a-ha as I was talking with my sister. There are lots of letters that I know for sure are missing. There are also letters that Grandma edited with scissors and permanent marker. We are wondering if the letters that remain with the word “destroy” were too precious to her to destroy them and that the ones she was most concerned about are gone.
I agree with Amy on many points. First for those of us who work full-time, it’s impossible to keep up with a daily blog. In addition, it is difficult to keep track of the interconnecting relationships that are familiar to family and close friends.
Privacy is also a big issue. And so is crafting a structure that will come together for the non-family member. If you are to make a public blog, how about making it an extract of a particular period? Or a collection of letters that share a similar theme or that bring to the fore an admirable quality about each ancestor? Readers want to get involved in their highs and lows but with a definite take-away for each visit. That is my approach.
This may sound burdensome but I would review the letters and do the sorting through ideas with another family member who loves these ancestors as much as you do. I do not think it is wise to put the entire collection out there all at once. It may not even be advisable. There are so many considerations and permissions involved.
Right now you are saturated with the after effects of sorting and filing. You need some time to let things settle. But I do recommend being selective about the letters and what you do and how you connect them to create a story.
I recommend studying some techniques of episodic fiction storytelling. It is a great technique that may lend itself to the letters as episodes in the bigger story. Also please remember that non-family members will not be familiar with the social setting, the geographic location, etc. that the letters reference. I have lost interest in blogs that do nothing but post letters without that vital background information. The readers should not have to fill in the blanks unless they have lots of time to research. But I believe that is the blog owners responsibility.
Please take a rest and think about it. I made a big mistake a few years ago of blogging about my research as things progressed. I discovered some things that were better to remain private and when I’d finished oh boy, what a mess! Please learn from my mistake.
Thank you for your input EmilyAnn, I really appreciate it. One of the trickier components is that there are so many family members that want access to the entire collection. As I sat on my bed staring at the nearly 5 feet of letters, I realized I can’t possibly publish them in book format in any sort of affordable way. Scanning them and sharing them as digital images creates another set of problems – no matter how careful I am about keeping the items in order, there is no guarantee that as files are moved to new systems they will stay in the proper order and make sense to future family members. There are just so many things to consider! I did try making a private blog to post her entire collection in for just family. But I couldn’t even get my sisters (who are super interested) to work through the steps of accessing the blog.
After considering everyone’s suggestions and advice, and talking with some more family members, I think I have come up with a plan. I am aiming for January as the beginning of the execution of my plan, so I have plenty of time to ruminate on it. In the meantime I will keep scanning and transcribing slowly. I won’t publish them here for sure.
Thank you again for your thoughtful response. I really appreciate it. And I’m sorry to hear that you had a mess of your own. That is not fun to deal with. I hope you were able to resolve everything okay.
I’m happy that you and your sisters are working through the details. So long as love is the overarching motivator and inspiration things will fall into place so long as patience and perseverance are companions in the journey.
My mess was my own fault. As I researched I blogged and blogged. Then I realized I was on the trail of something that would have been better left private. But God has a way of blessing me through some of the most stressful situations. Everyone who contacted me with updates and corrections became a good teacher. I learned so much. A few became very good cousin-friends and our bonds continue to develop. But I won’t do this again. If I have any questions now I discuss with the cousins first. Everything related to their families is submitted as a draft and they get to work with me on the final posting.
I can see your point about keeping things in a certain order. If you were to categorize them that might take them out of sequence. I admire your taking on this gigantic project. Others might have fainted. Whatever–please–I hope nobody stresses you out and that if needed you will be blessed with capable hands, hearts and minds to assist you.
Thank you for all of this EmilyAnn. You are so kind and thoughtful. I appreciate you. I’m glad that things worked out well for you with your family members. <3
Here is a hug in return! I am so blessed with this little family of friends here at WordPress.
I feel the same way! 🙂
Interesting discussion. I have just written a play based on letters from WW1 . These family letters were posted publicly on the Canadian WWW1 website. I chose very specific letters to include in my play and inserted them verbatim. I left out letters with names the audience would not be familiar with. I tried to include letters that spoke of the daily strife and how the soldiers emotions changed as the war dragged on. When the play was workshopped I had some criticism about how a specific letter was written but I really wanted the voice of the soldier to come through loud and clear. I would archive every letter but handpick the ones to post on a blog. How fortunate you are to be the recipient of such letters, I really wish for some Boles letters!
I love and admire your work, Sheila
Thank you for your kind words and insights Sheila, I really appreciate it. <3