Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge: L is for … Letters

For the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge I have decided to write about ‘Letters”. It’s almost a lost art these days, with email, texting, and DMs (direct messages) – who needs to write eh?

L is for LETTERS

Writing a letter was THE way to communicate up until relatively recently … well at least until phones became popular. I’m sure every one of you can remember just how exciting it was to actually get a letter (not a bill) in the mail. I know I sure was. Letters can be an enormous source of historical information. They told of life as it was, of happenings of friends and family and more. I find with letters there are two challenges:

  1. reading the handwriting, and
  2.  just taking the time to read through them all.

Both I find equally a challenge. Anyway I’d decided to write about Letters, so as I have done with a number of my Family History Through the Alphabet Challenges, I visited my parents to see what they had in the way of old letters, and I came across something really special.

I recently wrote about John Beavis Randell, my great grandfather. Well amongst the Randell ephemera that has been saved, I found a letter written by Samuel (a half-brother to John), to his sister Bessie. First things first, I know that trying to follow relationships in narrative form can be confusing, here’s a little chart. It’s the 10th child I’m descended from.

As Bessie would have only been 14 or so at the time, Samuel addressed the letter to his father: W.B. Randell Esq., Dawlish, Devon. Obviously there weren’t many Randell’s in Dawlish, in Devon at the time.

the front of the envelope that Samuel Randell wrote to his sister Bessie – addressed to his father W.B. Randell Esq.

the back of the envelope that Samuel Randell wrote to his sister Bessie

Now the cool, yet weird thing about this letter is that is it written double way. I hadn’t seen this before, but I have been told it was a common practice to save paper. So this 4 page letter, is actually 8 pages long – the first 4 pages are written portrait style like a usual letter, then each has been turned sideways for the next 4. Rather than put the whole thing below, I’ve chosen to include the first and last pages.

page 1 of Samuel Randell’s letter to his sister Bessie, dated 1854

page 4 (or page 8 if count the sideways bits too), the last page anyway of Samuel Randell’s letter to his sister Bessie, dated 1854

I must say that my little Flip-Pal scanner did a magnificent  job of scanning and stitching these letters together. I gotta agree it really is a MUST HAVE for genealogist’s.  Anyway this post is not about Flip-Pal, but rather Letters.

My family are fortunate enough to have literally hundreds of old letters from various family members. But as I mentioned above, each will take time to go through to read, and interpret the writing. So that’s a take for another day, or two, or three … and the rest.

So, do you have any old letters that have been saved in your family?

5 Responses to “Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge: L is for … Letters”

  1. Carey says:

    Interesting as always! Jane Austens novels often mentioned crossed letters. They must have been terrible to read, especially in poor light.

  2. Fi says:

    I think they wrote like that to confuse their descendants. We’ve got some Flemish just to be difficult!

  3. Tanya Honey says:

    Thank you for including the chart – they always help. 🙂

    LOVE the letter. I haven’t seen that before and am not sure how they would have read letters like that. I guess they were just used to it. Lovely post.

  4. Pauleen says:

    It’s a bit like those pictures where, depending how you focus, you see a beautiful woman or a witch. How I envy you those hundreds of letters! I know it’s not a nice attribute but….

  5. Michelle Bishop says:

    Just come across this website – Samuel was my great-great-great-grandfather. Amazing to see his handwriting. Thank you for uploading.

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