One morning a Belding woman was doing the mundane task of getting the mail. However, the universe gave her a surprise when tucked in between her junk mail and bills was a 100-year-old artifact.
It was a postcard, meant for the previous residents of her house, delivered 100 years late.
Amid the craziness of her mornings, Brittany Keech, 30, didn’t realize how old the postcard was until she saw the intricate cursive scrawled all over it. At first, she thought the card was 15 or 20 years old. That’s when she looked at the date on the weathered card, which was marked Oct. 29, 1920.
A woman named Flossie Burgess wrote the postcard, which was supposed to be sent to Roy McQueen but had Keech’s address written on it. In shock about the sheer age of the card, Keech knew she wanted to find living relatives from the author or recipient of the postcard.
The postcard is vintage Halloween-themed with an illustration of a witch and a black cat. The antiqued postcard, faded with yellow hues with a rubber stamp pressed on the back, reads a simple but interesting message.
Mirroring a modern-day text, the author writes:
Hope this will find you all well. We are quite well but mother has awful lame knees. It is awful cold here. I just finished my history lesson and am going to bed pretty soon. My father is shaving and my mother is telling me your address. I will have to close for a night. Hope grandma and grandpa are well. Don’t forget to write us – Roy get his pants fixed yet.”
Keech uploaded her findings to a community Facebook page called “Positively Belding,” where she posted about her finding and wish to track down family members.
This post caught the attention of history lovers and internet sleuths from all over. Her Facebook post, which was intended to be seen by her small-town community, propelled to virality.
In a matter of days, the comments on her post flooded with theories and other people who were just as passionate to track down the family.
Robby Peters works at the Grand Rapids Public Library and stumbled upon Keech’s post in another Facebook group that does genealogy research.
Since he was already involved with genealogy tracking, Peters said he couldn’t resist diving in and researched more about the postcard once he saw the names on it.
“I started with making a family tree for these names and trying to use the power of what Ancestry.com can do,” he said. “Which is gathering all the records, census records, marriage records, death records, obituaries and all sorts of other things.”
Peters said once he got the ball rolling with his research, the documents started flooding in. Through every discovery of a birth or census record, the story of Roy McQueen and Flossie Burgess started to mosaic together.
Roy McQueen rented Keech’s house in the 1920s and was married to a woman named Nora Bell Murdock, she said. The author of the postcard is Florence “Flossie” Burgess who was Nora’s cousin.
The McQueen family was well-known in Belding and had multiple news articles published about them, Keech said. During the time when Burgess wrote the postcard, McQueen was a manager at a produce company, Peters said.
In 1920, Burgess lived in Jamestown, New York with her parents, and became a nursing student in 1930 at Buffalo General Hospital in New York, according to Peters. By the ’60s, Burgess was a nurse at the Woman’s Christian Association Hospital, and she possibly lived until 1999, according to a death record.
Peters said Roy died in 1942, and Nora died in 1977. The couple didn’t have children, nor did Burgess. So far, Keech hasn’t been able to track down a direct family descendent but has a possible lead for a family member in Canada.
Since uploading her post, Keech said she’s been overwhelmed but excited about the attention she’s received. She’s been interviewed by the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN about this. Keech also said people from South Korea, Spain, Japan and Belgium have reached out to her about this story.
Preserving these records captures the lives of people who came before us, Peters said.
“When we go about our lives today, we have a very different idea of our footprint, like the things that are gonna last for generations,” Peters said. “And it’s just a little bit of digging and some tenacity; you can really paint a pretty thorough picture of someone’s life.”
From just a few sentences and a collective effort from people around the world, the story of the McQueens and Flossie Burgess, dug up from the depths of history, was pieced together.
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