New family history project: letters from immediate family

As I mentioned in a recent post, my brother Jay gave me an amazing cache of family history earlier this week. A bin full of all sorts of stuff about our father, Peter, and some stuff about our grandparents, George and Helen, and various other family items. A bunch of photos; I already have copies of at least 3/4 of those, but there are several that I’ve never seen before. (And a few great large-size versions of some photos that I previously had only in smaller versions.)


About 150 letters and cards, mostly from our family to our grandparents, written from 1968 through 1996 (though tapering off significantly after 1981). (This adds to another 25 or so such letters that I already had.)

…Well, when I say “mostly from our family,” what I really mean is mostly from Marcy, Peter, and (in the later years) Jay. There are a few from me, but not many. I have various thoughts about why I never wrote many letters to George and Helen (or to anyone else in my family), but those are for another time.

For now, I’m starting to digitize the letters. It’s a little harder than digitizing the letters from Marcy to her parents was, because those letters were mostly typewritten and these letters are almost all handwritten. (Also, there are more than four times as many of these as there were of those.) But I’m reading them aloud into the Dragon Anywhere app on my phone, and that’s both pretty fast and pretty accurate; probably faster and maybe more accurate than if I were to retype them.

I waffled a bit over where to post the letters. They’re letters to George and Helen, so I initially thought I would post them in my George-and-Helen blog. But they’re mostly about my immediate family—Peter and Marcy and Jed and Jay (then known as Joaquin)—so instead I decided to start a new “PMJJ” blog to post these and other immediate-family items. …I suppose I could put all of my family-history stuff in one big blog and just use tags/categories to sort them, but for now, having separate blogs continues to feel simpler to me.

I don’t know whether I’ll post all of the letters, but I expect to post at least most of them, though I may redact some bits of some of them.

I’m also not sure how often to post them. Posting one a week would end up taking three and a half years, which is longer than I want to devote to this project. Posting one a day (as I did with Marcy’s letters to her parents) would mean finishing in about six months, but would mean I would have to put in a fair bit of concentrated work during that period. So my current plan is to post three or four of them every Sunday, which means it’ll take a little over a year to get through all of them.

(I originally wanted to post on Thursdays, to continue the “Throwback Thursday”/“TBT” pattern that I’ve been using for years for family-history posts; but Thursday is a particularly busy time of week for me these days, so TBT as such isn’t a good model for posting this set of letters.)

I’m starting by posting the first four, from 1968. The first one is just a brief note from June, 1968, when I was two months old; the next three were written at Harbinger, the commune where we lived in late 1968, at Harbin hot springs.

June 3, 1968: a note from Marcy to George and Helen
“Dear Mrs H__, Mr H__, & all…”
October 8, 1968: a note from Peter to George and Helen
“it’s very difficult for me to begin to tell you what’s happening for us, without your being here to feel for yourselves the spirit of this fellowship, here, and now… but i have to try, it’s so beautiful…”
October 9, 1968: a followup note from Marcy
“your favorite grandson weighs 17¼ pounds and can turn over by himself in both directions (though sometimes he turns to his front & is very surprised about being there so suddenly) and is beginning to resemble a zeppelin more than anything.”
November 8, 1968: a letter from Peter
“I’m doing well in the 3 classes I’m taking, Japanese, shorthand, & biology, & I’m tutoring mathematics & studying matrix calculus & quantum mechanics…”

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