19 July 2015

Dutton Letters: An Introduction

I have been procrastinating writing this entry into my blog for over a week now.  Not because it is anything negative!  But because I am at a loss for how I want to craft my words.  My emotions have been crowding out my ability to think logically.

This blog has paid me back time and time again.  Distant cousins googling their ancestors or their surnames or whatever; they find me and write me, then they offer to share (some are only interested in what I can give them, but we won't mention them). Such is the case with "the Dutton letters."

As my regular readers know I am particularly proud of my Dutton ancestors.  After reading my blog I was contacted by a descendent of the Duttons -- Linda, a 3rd cousin once removed.  She said she had a lot to share.  Boy howdy!  She had family artifacts!  Letters, pictures, and more.  All I had to offer her was my research.  She was happy to get it!  She blesses me, and we have become friends, albeit 2200 miles apart.

She sent me the first batch of family letters.  Yes, she sent them to me, via registered mail, the ORIGINALS!  God bless her!  Mostly from the 1920s, one or two as late as the 1940s, eleven in total.  The only original she did not send me was an 1863 Civil War letter from my 3xg-grandmother Nancy Smith Dutton to my 2xg-uncle Harvey Dutton.  She plans on donating that to a museum, so she sent me a photocopy and a transcription.  I will take it!  Thank you!!!

The loss for words has returned.  So have the tears of joy.  Yeah, I am an emotional guy, so what.

Over the next several days I will be posting pictures and transcriptions of all these letters, beginning with the Civil War letter tomorrow, on the occasion of the blogging prompt "Amanuensis Monday." All the letters deal with family relations, which could explain why they were kept by Linda's parents and grandparents.

Understandably, I have read the letters, and two things jumped out at me.  The first is kind of hard to explain.  We as genealogists and family historians talk about the happiness of the finds and the discoveries, especially the difficult ones that we had to work our hardest to get through the figurative "brickwall."  But I think I have discovered something even more rewarding -- the confirmation that what I presumed about these people was correct.  Let me explain.  We all create images in our heads of these people as we research them.  Who they were, what they were like, what they believed, why they made the choices they did, etc.  As long as we don't promote our presumptions as fact, it can actually aid in research.  But then, to actually read in their own handwriting and their own words a confirmation that the presumptions I made about them were correct?  The feeling is indescribable.  Nothing else like it!  "Rewarding" does not say enough.  It fills the researcher with joy.

The second thing that jumped out at me in these letters is these are real people just like us, doing what they need to do and what they want to do.  They work and they relax, experience highs and lows, illnesses and well-being, losses and triumphs.  Too, too often when we do this research, these people becomes names and dates -- static, objective, without identities.  So wrong.  These are living people, progressing in real time in their daily lives in their era, living subjectively, and full of identity and individualism.  Time and custom might restrict how well we are able to get to know them as persons.  But they never were less.  They never are less.

Linda says she has more, she just needs to find the time to gather it all.  If you are a Walker relative of mine in all likelihood she is your cousin too.  She is not just blessing me by sharing, she is blessing you too.  From all of us Walkers to you cousin Linda, thank you.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

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