Thursday, 2 August 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday - Letters to my mum

I like to think that every genealogist is entitled to a treasure chest, a chest full of family things: photographs, objects, grandma's curls, whatever. Why? Well, isn't it nice thought to hold something in your hands that has survived the teeth of time (a Dutch saying), objects that have been touched by your ancestors? Maybe even their DNA is still there! Interesting thought.
One day my mum remarked that since I was the family archivist, she had something for me. I really didn't know what to expect but it certainly was not what I saw. It was an old piece of luggage. Judging by its look, it must have been fashionable in the forties of last century. I can picture my mum and dad boarding a train, carrying one of those real leather suitcases or valises as they were called then. Here it is.
When I opened it, it appeared to be full of letters and picture postcards, maybe a few hundred all together! Most of them have been addressed to my mother. As far as I have been able to look at them, they have been written before, during and shortly after WWII. Some of them have been written by my father when my mother was still in maternity hospital in The Hague recovering from my appearance. My father was living in Apeldoorn at the time. There are letters of condolence on the occasion of the death of my father a little over a year later.  Also my mothers collection of picture postcards showing pre war movie stars with on some backsides the handwriting of my grandparents. All in all it's too much to tell you in a few sentences. It'll probably take me a year or so to make an inventory and to read through it. But that is a small price in exchange for such a treasure! Despite many, many removals, my mother managed to keep this treasure in tact. Thank you mum!

Ik zou hopen dat elke genealoog recht heeft op een vondst, op een schatkist vol familiestukken: foto's, voorwerpen, een krulletje haar van je grootmoeder, het hindert niet wat. Waarom? Het is toch een intrigerende gedachte dat je iets in je handen houdt dat de tand des tijds heeft overleefd, voorwerpen die je voorouders nog in hun handen hebben gehad. Misschien zit hun DNA er nog wel op... mmm, daar moet ik toch eens over nadenken.
Op een goede dag zei mijn moeder dat ze iets voor me had. Want ik was toch de familiearchivaris... Wat ik zag had ik zeker niet verwacht. Het was een koffertje uit een ander tijdsgewricht. In de veertiger jaren van de vorige eeuw waren dat soort valiezen in de mode. Ik zie zo mijn vader en moeder instappen in een trein terwijl ze zo'n koffertje met zich meedragen.
Het bleek vol met brieven te zitten maar ook filmsterkaarten, misschien wel een paar honderd alles bij elkaar. De meeste zijn aan mijn moeder geadresseerd. Ze dateren van voor, tijdens en kort na de tweede wereldoorlog. Sommige zijn van de hand van mijn vader en gericht aan mijn moeder toen ze nog (van mij) in kraamkliniek Margaretha aan de Laan van Meerdervoort in Den Haag lag. Mijn vader woonde en werkte toen in Apeldoorn. Er zijn brieven van rouwbeklag na mijn vaders overlijden, ruim een jaar later. De kaarten met filmsterren, met o.a. de handschriften van mijn grootouders, tonen de sterren uit de dertiger jaren. Afijn, te veel om zo even te vertellen. Het zal me wel een jaar of zo kosten voordat ik alles heb geïnventariseerd en doorgelezen. Maar dat heb ik er graag voor over! Toch wel goed, zo'n moeder die, ondanks heel veel verhuizingen, alles bewaard heeft!


  1. Very cool! My grandfather had a similar type of briefcase full of photos, letters and such. I wrote about this in my blog. And I recently found that he had another briefcase with other genealogical treasures.

    Congratulations on your awesome find!

  2. Thanks Jana and I am so curious what I will read in the letters. I'll have a look at "your" briefcase and compare them.

  3. @Jana, I looked at (and read) your April 25 post. What I see of the briefcase, looks very similar. A great find as well! Apart from all the information it also provides material for many posts.

  4. Dit is toch ongelooflijk! Wat een geluk dat ze jou die koffer gegeven heeft. Een lang bewaard geheim! Een schat aan emotie.

  5. Wow, what a treasure! Enjoy every piece of it!

  6. Peter, I also have one of those briefcases, which belonged to my grandfather and I also keep a lot of old things in there. I remember him with that briefcase and it is quite heavy as it is made from leather. It was stitched on the sides and almost fell apart, so I had to restitch and restore the locks. It has telescopic hinges at the back and front so you can absolutely pack the case to the brim, but it would be very heavy by then.
    Your letter collection is beautiful. I also have many of my grandparents and parents, which they wrote to each other during the war.
    The address you are looking for is definitely the one on the envelope and that house must be still there even though it probably won't be called Margaretha house and also won't be a clinic anymore.
    The only way to find out is to contact the kadaster in the Hague. Have you been there yourself to look?
    Good luck. Yes, digging in the past can be fun, but also be frustrating when you reach a dead end.

  7. Making an inventory of all documents in there is a very time consuming matter. But it being a luxury problem I'll gladly make that investment.
    Thanks to the Beeldbank of the The Hague city archive, I know exactly where I was born. It is an ordinary house now and it is for sale, as so many houses here...
    Thanks for your interest!

  8. A treasure chest indeed Peter. Good old Mum!

  9. I have now inventoried about an inch and a half of documents and my sequence number stands at 127... But no complaints here :)


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