Today’s Find – The Stuart Papers

My cousin, Monique took this fantastic picture of the Stuart Papers.

“My Dear William…we have no more a father…I held his right hand in mine…and only a few moments before he expired…he called for you.”

So begins the first letter in the Stuart Papers, a collection of personal documents belonging to my great great great-grandfather, William R. Stuart that arrived on my doorstep today.

To hear my great great-uncle describe  to my great great grandfather, Col. Stuart the last moments of their father’s life is an indescribable gift, way beyond any hope I had when I began this odyssey.  And this letter is just the beginning.  I skimmed a condolence letter to the colonel that read more like an evangelical sermon and obituaries that were a stark contrast from the more formulaic announcements in our local papers today.  I’m bracing myself for the final letter the colonel’s brother wrote to him, the same brother who wrote the words at the opening of this blog.  Just a month later, he would die of yellow fever just like his father and someone else would have to write to the colonel that he had no more a   brother.

I’m forever grateful to our genealogy buddy, Antoinette Lee for alerting my cousin Monique and me to their existence, to the Mississippi State University Libraries for archiving them, Lillian Handy, a distant relative I presume for donating them and the UPS delivery man whom I’ve stalked since last week for getting them to me safely.

My oldest daughter was as excited as I was when she heard the tell-tale creak of footsteps on our wooden front steps and the thud of the package landing on our porch.  “What is it, Mom?” she squealed when I ushered the package into the kitchen like it was a newborn baby.   “The Stuart papers,” I said completely expecting that she’d have no idea what I was talking about.  Instead, she gasped, “Our family’s history!”

That made me just about as happy as receiving the package. My girl gets what this research means to me.

More than anything, I’m thankful that my ancestors had the foresight to save their musings and bequeath them to people who would continue to preserve them. Their rediscovery is the kiss and embrace these long dead ancestors would not have been able to give otherwise.

It makes me mindful to take care of things I want my children and future generations to have, like my wedding dress and maybe some  journals.

What will you bequeath to future generations?

Whether they wear it or not, I'm giving my daughters my wedding dress.

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5 Comments

Filed under family history, geneology, Mississippi, Uncategorized

5 responses to “Today’s Find – The Stuart Papers

  1. brian mclaughlin

    you a lucky lady! not only because you have found family history, but for the fact your daughter is excited about it as well.

    peace and good hunting
    brian

  2. How moving this must be for you and your family, and how wonderful! I started my food blog so I could pass on recipes and family/food-related stories to my kids 🙂 My two boys unfortunately will have no use for my tiny wedding dress!!
    Looking forward to hearing more about those letters.

  3. I realized a few years ago that with the advent of digital cameras, my children would not have the gift of finding boxes of old slides and photos – that great tactile discovery like you are feeling with the Colonel’s papers. So now every year I have a book printed with photos from the previous year, a mini-library in the making.

    Paul can trace his family back to the 1500s and is a “Son of the American Revolution” on his mother’s side, it’s all carefully charted. In my family, our connections are through plates, jewelry and esp. furniture – the boys now sleep in my father and uncle’s childhood beds that my father refinished for them; my bedroom furniture is my grandmother’s prized waterfall set from the 30s; my brother now has my parents’ Bertoia chair that Karl and I spent countless hours bouncing in (do you remember that low scooped chair in our TV room?). But your blog has inspired us to make sure we ask for family stories, remember ones told by ancestors now gone, and to pass them down to our boys. Thank you!

    • Thanks for commenting, Audrey. I can’t for the life of me remember that chair!!! (Self absorbed teenager that I was). Do you have a picture of it? I’d love to see it. I also enjoy the tactile discovery and even though the papers aren’t the originals (they’re just photocopies), I love flipping through them.

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