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?