An unexpected gift

davebealetterI’m still visiting my family and today, I stopped by to see my aunt (my father’s sister). She delighted me by giving me a photo of she and my father, taken in 1934, when they were 5 and 6 years old. Adorable. I’m very grateful for it.

Then she blew me away by pulling out a 36-page handwritten letter (though at least two pages are missing) from my grandfather to my grandmother, written about a month before they were married in 1927. My grandfather, David Adams, wanted to reveal his life’s story to his sweetheart in hopes that she would still want to marry him.

How tantalizing is that for a genealogy enthusiast? As I’ve written here, I’ve been frustrated in my efforts to know more about my grandparents. I didn’t know why my grandfather’s family moved from Kentucky to Washington in the first decade of the 20th century or why his parents were estranged. I’m hoping to learn the answers (at least from his perspective) in the letter. Maybe I’ll also learn why it is that these estranged parents were buried next to one another.

I’ve not yet read the letter. I have a long flight ahead of me on Saturday and I think I’m going to wait until I have that uninterrupted time to dig into it and see what mysteries are solved and what facts are revealed. I am so grateful to my aunt for sharing it with me and promised to scan it (guess what I’ll be buying!) and return the original to her, though she promised I’ll be able to keep the original one day.

I noticed that on the back of the last sheet, my grandfather wrote, “Destroy the manuscript, will you please?” I am so happy that my grandmother ignored that request!


  1. Oh, how wonderful! I know you must be excited to learn more about your grandfather and his family. Great early Christmas present!

  2. Janine,

    Wow! What a wonderful gift your aunt gave to you!

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

  3. This is fantastic. What a wonderful surprise! Enjoy the long flight 😉

  4. Shana Looman Juarez says:

    Oh! Sit down with a nice cup of tea and open that letter carefully! Get the tissue box out!
    I have a box from my father’s father’s mother. She kept track of everyone who died, married, divorced, had a party and so on. She kept little leather bound notebooks with dates listed and which cousin had a baby. Along with a million little pieces of newspaper announcements, cut out and glued on to a page. She kept her father’s leather day book from 1909. It has all of his “shoe heal templates”, drawn in it and used it to record his pay outs and pay in for daily items. He was shoe cobbler. And a good sized stack of letters!
    The first one I opened and read, was dated Feb 1903. The first letter my Great Grandfather Ralph had ever written to Great Grama Lola. He was 20 years old and living on his own in Lompoc, CA!
    I have been opening and putting each of the letters into proper archival sleeves, with the envelope and stamps. I have been able to trace Great Grampa’s whereabouts by the letters and stamps. I have also found a few surprises in the stack. A letter dated 1885 to Grama Lola’s father, Henry Clay Payne (Lola was born in 1885), written by his father Dr. O.B.Payne. Dr. Payne was writing his son to tell him of his step mother’s death. The tears start rolling here! I found several other letters from Aunties telling of the family gossip in mid 1890’s. Letter’s written to a Sweet Aunt by here Nieces and Nephews, about how they all experienced the 1906 California earthquake!
    I too have left several letters unread. I was very close to my father’s parents. My Grandfather wanted nothing more then to protect his grand babies from the poor life he grew up with. At the age of 14, Grama Lola pushed the last of her 3 kids, from her home and sent him to his father in the oil fields of Santa Maria, CA. Circa 1928. He drove his old Ford Model T all the way from Pasadena, CA to Santa Maria, CA all by himself! This is where all of the stories of growing up with dad in a shack and no blankets came to be true. Several other letters written in both of his siblings hands, as well. The truth comes out in ways you never expect! My only “Happy Thought”, as I read these letters, Grampa Bob is going to meet the love of his life very soon! Little does he know that in the next few years, he will be a husband of 62 years and grandfather of 5! More tears!
    I love the genealogy blogs and this is my first time sharing! I hope you enjoy reading all of those pages! Happy Holidays to ALL!

    • Shana, thank you so much for sharing!! It’s just wonderful what we can learn in this personal correspondence, isn’t it? It makes me sad that there isn’t more pen-and-ink writing happening these days.

      I appreciate your visiting the blog and honored that you chose to share. Happy holidays to you too.

  5. How absolutely wonderful! What a great gift!

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