My mother's family goes back a really long way. There have been claims to being able to trace things as far back as William the Conqueror, but I tend to be a little skeptical about that. But what I do accept and am fascinated by, are the actual photos and other ephemera that my grandmother and her mother before her held onto and which luckily and miraculously we still possess.
One of these family history caches include some love letters, circa 1850s, between David P. Nichols and Matilda Averill, my third great grandparents. I love how the mail looks from that time — pre postage stamps, with just the price, 10 in the upper right corner. There is also no envelope. It is actually a folded letter with a wax stamp on the back to close it.
Apparently Matilda was the pack rat, or more generously, romantic — I have many letters from him to her, but not the other way around. Nichols was a widower with five (!) children. He courted Matilda through the mail and in person, and they eventually married and had one daughter, Mariette Nichols, my great great grandmother. He was a prosperous businessman in Danbury, Connecticut, and held the position of State Treasurer of Connecticut at his death in 1882.
I love these little glimpses into the past.