I enjoy amanuensis when the writing is reasonably deciphered! It is a peevish problem when one’s head is tilted this way and that begins to swim with visions of ambiguous scrawling handwriting with no hope of decoding what appears to require a WWII code breaker from Bletchley Park! The fulfillment however when the secret of the original records’ message is revealed is a kin to magic! Journals, letters, legal documents, postcards, are personal and can often reveal intimate details of our ancestors’ emotional, internal lives!
Some of my absolute favourite transcriptions are of letters of wartime context. The sense of longing and sorrow associated with a lost loved soldier or a distant love in dangerous circumstances can be heart wrenching.
Here are a couple of heart weighing tales discovered from a few simple transcriptions~
Frederick Martin, a cousin of my husband’s was a gardener of much prestige first in England and later at Reynolda House, a magnificent estate in Winston, North Carolina, USA. Frederick sadly died in France on July 22, 1917 during the First World War. His wife was devastated and her candid emotion in a letter to his employer, Mrs. Reynolds is truly breathtaking:
A second–I’ll be it happier–wartime correspondence is a telegram written to one Lance Corporal Knowles from Paris, Ontario, Canada 15 Nov 1916 announcing a joyous event which I’m sure he was disappointed to miss, the birth of his daughter Gwendolyn:
Western Union Cablegram From Paris, Ontario Number of words 22/23 Dated 15 Nov 1916 —
To L co. Lance Corporal Knowles 163232 Fourteenth Platoon D company seventy fifth Canadian Army Post Office London.
Daughter Gwendolyn both doing well. Knowles
Fred Knowles, a relation of my sister-in-law, was lucky enough to return home to meet his daughter. However, he was so badly wounded at the Somme that he was invalided home and lost his left arm.
These personal letters were truly sent With love and for love…