Emigrant letters are a great source for information about the pioneer generation. Yesterday, I asked for emigrant letters on a newsgroup. Already, I’ve received two letters that were not widely known yet.
Personally, I think finding a letter that is written by an ancestor is one of the greatest finds a genealogist can make. My personal favorite find is a letter by my ancestor Arend Kastein to ask for a transfer from Amsterdam back to the Achterhoek in Gelderland because his wife was homesick.
Emigrant letters often contain personal information that is unavailable in other sources. A great example is a letter by Miss Beij that I received as a result of my question in the newsgroup soc.genealogy.benelux yesterday. About half of the letter is devoted to asking for a reply. It sounds like the writer was very lonely and longing for a message from the homeland. The entire letter, including a transcription and translation, can be found in the following article:
Request for emigrant letters
Many emigrant letters are known because they have been published, either in books or online. However, I’m sure a lot more Dutch emigrant letters exist that have not been published anywhere yet. These letters would be a great find for a descendant, or nice to use for background information even if it’s not someone you’re actively researching.
If you happen to have such a letter, or know of such an unpublished letter in a library, historical society or wherever, please contact me. I would love to receive a scan or photocopy. A transcribed version would be great as well although I prefer to see the original letter too.
I will try to write articles about the letters I receive, just as I did for the Beij letter. In the article I will include the letter and background information about the family involved. Even if not much is known about the family, putting the letter online increases the chance of someone seeing it that does have more information.