While Dottie Kearney was renovating her Staten Island, NY home 30 years ago, a stack of letters fell out from a beam in the ceiling.
“The letters must have fallen through the floorboards in the attic, and they were discovered when we opened up the walls,” says Dottie. She examined them and quickly discovered that she had stumbled across a real treasure: they were love letters exchanged between Claude Marsten Smythe and his wife Marie Borgal Smythe while Claude was away serving in the U.S. military during WWII. “It was such an exciting time for us… to me the letters were a precious love story from long ago.”
In the letters, Claude shared details about his life on the front and constantly told his wife how much he missed her and longed to see her.
“We decided to hold onto the letters in hopes of finding the rightful owners, but unfortunately, many years went by, unable to find anyone related to them,” says Dottie.
Dottie continued living in that house for 10 years, and even when she built a house in the backyard and moved to it, she brought the letters with her — still holding out hope that she would one day be able to return them to the rightful owners.
Fast forward to 2022. Dottie was watching The Kelly Clarkson Show and happened to see an interview with Chelsey Brown, an heirloom hunter from New York who collects old documents, photos, and artifacts and returns them to the families of their owners. Dottie understood that Chelsey might be able to help her find the family of the lovers who exchanged those beautiful letters she found so many years ago. So she sent an email to Chelsey — and Chelsey wrote back.
“We took pictures of the letters and sent the pictures to Chelsey and she went right to work,” says Dottie.
After extensive research on MyHeritage, Chelsey was able to identify the closest descendant of the couple: Claude and Marie’s daughter, Carol Bohlin.
There was only one problem: Chelsey was unable to find a way to contact Carol, who now lives in Vermont.
However, Chelsey discovered that Carol had a son, Tim. She contacted him over social media, and fortunately, he responded.
“When I read Chelsey’s message I got via FB messenger, I first thought it was some sort of scam, someone fishing for personal information,” Tim admits, “but soon realized after finding her videos on social media that she was legit and truly looking for the rightful descendants of these letters.”
Tim’s mother, Carol, had lost her parents at a relatively young age: she was only 14 when her mother died, and she lost her dad when she was in her early twenties.
“I was excited to call and tell her what I found out,” he says. “I knew she would absolutely love to hear what I had to say. I immediately called my mother to verify the address she grew up at in Staten Island. Then I told her about the message I got from Chelsey.”
Carol was surprised and shocked to learn that these letters had been found in her childhood home. She had never known they existed. “This made my mom so happy!” says Tim.
Chelsey arranged to mail the letters to Carol, and she anxiously checked the mail every day waiting for them to arrive. Finally, these precious testaments to the love between her parents were in her hands.
“This one was so special,” says Chelsey, who has already reunited many such letters with the descendants of the people who wrote them. “These letters were how this couple stayed connected during WWII. I couldn’t imagine the pain of being split from your husband for that long!”
“I wouldn’t have been able to find Tim without MyHeritage.com,” says Chelsey. “I contacted the owner of a public family tree on MyHeritage and they immediately responded with a possible Facebook link for Tim.”
Chelsey says letters and diaries are her favorite artifacts to return. “You learn so many things about a person no record could ever tell you,” she explains. “It’s very special to read these first-hand accounts from people!”
“Thank you, Chelsey, for taking the time out of your busy life to find the rightful home of my grandparents’ letters,” says Tim.
“It fills my heart with joy to know that they have a piece of their grandparents’ history,” says Dottie. “I’m so grateful I saved them and now they’re where they belong. It makes me happy to know they were not lost and beautiful love letters are now shared for generations to come!”
Listen to Carol reading some lines from the letters in the video below:
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The post After 80 Years, WWII-Era Love Letters Found in Old Home Returned to Couple’s Daughter appeared first on MyHeritage Blog.
Source: My Heritage
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