New Home for Visceral Musings

I’ve finally taken the plunge and moved to Word Press*.

Visceral Musings is a blog focused on an exploration of the internal, or gut, reactions to the past, the present and the potential of the future. It is also home to a new project.

Take a trip with me into the 19th century. I’ve found a treasure trove of old family letters dating back to the 1850s! I’m putting them into archival sleeves, scanning, and attempting to transcribe them. Almost all of the ink is in incredible shape and most letters are in envelopes, but the earliest ones don’t actually have stamps on them. (I’m also learning a little bit about stamp history from a colleague.)

packet of old letters

This is one bundle; so far I’ve opened several dozen letters. All are written to Henry Munroe, my third-great-grandfather. He was a miner in the Central Valley in California during the gold rush and up until his death in 1904. It would appear from the other paperwork I’ve found amongst the letters, and family stories, that he did quite well.

I’m discovering some interesting things about the general population of the 19th century. Many of them didn’t write any better than the general population does today. All letters are written in cursive, but it’s a much older style than I learned, so deciphering words is sometimes difficult. In addition to the old, and at times inconsistent cursive, the spelling is often creative, and at times the legibility lessens deep into the letter when the writer has clearly become tired. Sometimes when a writer ran out of room on the page, she would then add more around the edges, overlapping some of what was  written earlier.

I won’t be posting full transcripts, but I will be sharing what I learn about some family and friends in Rutland, Massachusetts, early California and beyond.

*All old blog posts for Visceral Musings can still be found at

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