Thursday, September 06, 2007

Things left behind

Last post I mentioned this house that we just bought for my MIL. And how it was part of a woman's estate and how the family left the house full of stuff. Well, except for the stuff they wanted, like cash, jewelry, a car, and some creepy doll collection.

But it breaks my heart that they left these things behind:

Yes. That's a real telegram informing parents that their son was killed in World War II. The soldier was this woman's brother. She evidently kept the telegram and subsequent letters after her parents died. Left behind.

And those are the medals that this young man was awarded both during the war and after he died. I didn't open the cases up for the photo because there is too much identifying information engraved on the medals. He was a heroic young man, and the letters along with the medals are a testament to his bravery. Two purple hearts, the bronze star, a silver star, and a distinguished service cross. Left behind.

I didn't photograph this woman's photo albums, scrapbooks, or her wedding album that nobody cared enough to take.

Now, we gave them the benefit of the doubt and thought that maybe they just didn't know about this stuff. Called their attorney and told them that we would gladly give them these documents and photos. That was over a month ago, and we didn't get even a peep in response.

People. Huh. They'll still surprise you.


  1. I should put you in touch with some of my archivist friends. Some of them might know a good place to put it. LMK.

  2. My friend Anna (see above comment) forwarded your posting to me because I'm archivist. I find it just as baffling that the photos and other items were left behind. Might I suggest that your local historical society might very well be interested in the materials? I'd really encourage you to be in touch with the staff there. Or, if you could determine where this woman or her brother went to college, you might try its archives. Sometimes people think that archives and historical societies are only interested in the papers of "famous" people but that isn't necessarily the case. Materials that document the lives of a local family would, I think, be of interest. If you need help finding someone to contact please let me know at mfbjr AT

  3. Wow, I can't believe people. The things you photographed and mentioned would be the FIRST things I would be taking. When I cleaned out my parents' house I made sure I had all family heirlooms. I especially treasure my grandparents' (mom's parents) marriage license. I also have a huge box of every letter my dad wrote to my mom while he was in the Army. I hope if the family doesn't take them that a historical society will be interested in them and give them the home they deserve.

  4. Please contact the national archives. There are many programs underway to preserve memories of WW 2 vets (as well as other wars but WW 2 has current priority). THat family may not currently value the items but there may be other family members (current or future) who do family history and would love to know those items were preserved. IT will also be valuable to those who research military units.
    A local genealogy society might want to have the items. If not, contact one in Pittsburg. There is a national conference there in either 08 or 09. Philadelphia definitely has one in 2008.


  5. I am just speechless!!!! Such treasures to be left on the heap. Unbelievable!!

  6. I'm flabbergasted myself. Some people!!

    I've just had the best time catching up with your blog posts over the last few weeks. You may have been crabby, with every reason in the world to be, but thanks for sharing it all in your blog. I've been pretty crabby too lately. :D

  7. The Veterans History Project is run by the Library of Congress, not the National Archives. Their website is

    I would agree with MFBJR, though, and say that you should contact your local historical society first or the Historical Society of Pennsylvania They will help you find an appropriate home for these materials.

    How sad that they just left them behind.

    I too am an archivist. Let me know if I can be of further assistance. clsb AT

  8. I cannot believe what I just read. It boggles the mind, doesn't it?

  9. Wow....and here I am struggling to give away anything left from my Dad's estate...I couldn't bear to leave behind photos and's like tossing away a life.

    When my Dad died, I made one last sweep of the house before I locked it up for the new owners and I was so glad I did! I found an old photo album tucked up against the wall on a closet shelf...all my parent's cadid wedding photos, pictures of them as children. What a loss that would have been for me...