Love Letters, Chapter 2

Who’s “Poul”?

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Both of the letters I’d purchased were signed “Love, Poul” and I was curious to know who “Poul” was. The return address on the envelope said “R. Ives,” so I figured “Poul” must be some kind of nickname. I’d never heard it before, so I ran the word through Google Translator, and when I clicked “detect language,” it gave me Danish for the origin of the word. Unfortunately, the English translation was also “poul,” so I still have no idea what it means. However, it may stand to reason that it would be a Danish/Dutch term of endearment, since the recipient’s last name is Van Duyn… a Dutch name. (Incidentally, “mon poulet” is a French term of endearment and means “my chicken.” Probably similar to that.)

I assumed the recipient of the letters, “Dr. John Van Duyn” of Duluth, Minnesota, would be easy to find on Not so. I found a few Van Duyns living elsewhere in the state, but none in Duluth. So, I put that name on back burner for a while and concentrated instead on “R. Ives” living in White Plains, New York.

I tried looking for “R. Ives,” gender female, with a keyword of “White Plains,” but no luck. Too many hits, and none with a first name starting with “R”. I tried restricting my search to just Census records, but still no luck… too many hits, and no “R” first names. Then, I tried taking a stab at her birth date. This letter was sent in 1949, so I assumed she was about 25, give or take 5 years. Still nothing. Finally, I went back to my original search and checked the box that said “Exact” next to my keyword phrase “White Plains.”


I found 12 year old “Ruth Coes” on the 1930 census living in White Plains, New York with her father Warren, mother Millicent, and younger brother Edward, age 4. They had misspelled the family’s name. In brackets under the search results, it said [Ruth Ives].

I still didn’t know for sure that this was my “R. Ives,” so I opened up the file to look at the original census document.


As luck would have it, in 1930, the Ives family was living at the same address as the return address on the letter (sent nineteen years later): 107 Ralph Avenue, White Plains, New York.

I’d found my Poul. But… now the next question… was she still alive?

I went back and edited my search again. First name: Ruth. Last name: Ives. Birth: 1918 (plus or minus one year). Birth Location: New York.

I found a record on the U.S. Public Records index for a Ruth L. Ives living at 107 Ralph Avenue in White Plains, New York. Birth date: October 1, 1917.

I ran my search one more time, this time with the middle initial “L,” and the exact birth year of 1917. I found a record for Ruth Ives on the Social Security Death Index, born October 1, 1917. Died August 1975 in Maine.


I took a look at her birth date again, and wondered how close in age she was to Elena Duke Benedict. I checked back through my Villa Am Meer blog posts and discovered the craziest thing. Elena Duke Benedict (originally Elena Amaducci) was born September 11, 1917, also in White Plains, New York. They were born 20 days apart.

Now really, what are the chances of that?

They were probably schoolmates; maybe even friends. Now that I had a name, Ruth L. Ives, I’d be able to track down a lot more information, and potentially some living family members. And of course, there was still the mysterious “Dr. John Van Duyn” I would need to track down.

Color me giddy. My “happy mystery” is starting to get fun.

Read Chapter 3


  1. Wow, what a coincidence; these two individual stories may become one….

  2. I’ve continued to follow your interesting stories since Villa Am Meer, I’m intrigued with this one! You may already have your answer, but have you tried searching the name “Duyn” instead of “Van Duyn”? My grandma’s name is Tuyn, used to be Van Tuyn but the Van got dropped decades ago which she says was common for Dutch names (why, I have no idea). Just a thought!

  3. Here we go again… LOVE IT! How far away from each other are the addresses of Ruth and Elena? You’re right…school mates? Friends? Neighbors? How interesting. Write on dear cousin. When do you have time to do the laundry?? he he

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