The "letters from the past" on this web site comprise a collection of primary sources: they give an insight into history from the people who experienced the events. Most of the documents do not describe 'earth shattering' events; they are concerned with tithes, family matters, the need for money — the sort of events that make up the lives of most people.

The letters also carry their own external history: the postmarks provide a great deal of evidence about the postal service of the time, the routes taken by the post in order to deliver the letters, the cost of the service and so on.

From the various documents, that span almost 150 years, one can glimpse the concerns of ordinary families. Perhaps just as interesting is the amount of information that may be gleaned from the letters. There is also a great deal of material there for further research as well. Casual mentions of names/places can lead to a far better understanding of what was going on at the time. People 'come alive' again through these letters; as Eunice Shanahan says on several occasions, one can tell how the writer is feeling — angry, ill, worried — and the modern reader sometimes is left wondering what was the outcome of the event described.


Last modified 19 December 2002