My new “happy mystery”
For the last few weeks, I’ve been on a quest to find a new “happy mystery.” I wasn’t sure if I could actually find such a thing, but I knew right where to start… ebay.
For those of you who know me, you know that I’m an avid genealogist. I’ve done extensive research digging up the backstories of my own German, Swedish, and Norwegian ancestors. For me, finding names and dates isn’t good enough. The real meat is found in the stories of the people themselves… their dreams, their struggles, their tragedies, and their passions. The best finds are primary sources like letters, journals, and… the Holy Grail of all genealogy quests… a family Bible.If your family is lucky enough to own an antique Bible showing the births, marriages, and deaths of your fellow family members, consider yourself blessed. For one thing, these beautiful books are true works of art. I’ve run across two such Bibles in my own family research, and in both cases, the craftsmanship of the cover, binding, illustrations, and printed pages is truly impressive. “They just don’t make them like they used to,” so to speak. The other reason these family Bibles are such a great find is that they often give a complete genealogical record of all births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths of family members whose records weren’t tracked in the days before hospital births, newspaper announcements, and the Social Security Administration. In these cases, finding a family Bible is like hitting the ancestry jackpot.
So, imagine my surprise when, a few years ago, I happened-upon a family Bible for sale on ebay. I can’t remember how I ran across it exactly… it must have shown up in a random Google search that I was doing at the time. However, after a little more searching, I learned there are a LOT of family Bibles for sale on ebay. I couldn’t believe it. How did these historic family relics end up on the auction block? Surely the family members would want them back, wouldn’t they?
I decided my new “happy mystery” would be to purchase one of these Bibles and return it to its rightful owner. That all sounded very valiant and fun until I was outbid on every item I tried to purchase. It turns out that being a do-good-Bible-returner is an expensive franchise.
So, on a whim, I decided to do another ebay search… this time for “love letters.” Again, much to my surprise, it turns out ebay is full of antique love letters for sale. How exciting! These would be even more fun to return to their rightful owners!
I took some quick glances at a few of the descriptions, and immediately saw the letters I wanted to buy. They were written by a woman from White Plains, New York and sent to a doctor in Duluth, Minnesota. (Remember White Plains, New York? That’s where Elena Duke Benedict was from.) I decided it was a sign… so I hit the “Buy It Now” button and shelled out $12.49 for both letters.
Here’s the description included on ebay:
LOT OF 2 LETTERS AND ENVELOPES [I PAGE AND 2 PAGE LETTERS]
SOME TEARS FROM BEING OPENED, A LITTLE WRINKLING, SOME YELLOWING AND POST OFFICE WRITING
POSTAL STAMP: WHITE PLAINS NEW YORK
SEPTEMBER 60, 1949
OCTOBER 4, 1949
FROM: R. IVES, WHITE PLAINS NEW YORK
TO: DR. JOHN VAN DUYN, DULUTH MINNESOTA
CONTENTS: A MAN AND WOMAN [NOT YET MARRIED] TRYING TO WORK OUT THEIR DIFFERENCES.
Of course, I was curious about all kinds of things. Did they ever end up getting married? How did they know each other? Why were they living so far apart? What differences were they trying to work out? Sounded like a good, happy mystery to me… or so I hope.
I’ve already done some preliminary research and am busy piecing together the story of these two people who were in love in 1949. Much more to come in my next few posts… stay tuned!