Swaney Family Papers

        One of the most powerful aspects of extended family archival collections is their documentation of traditions.  Whether a family meal or a pearl necklace on a 16th birthday, every family has some traditions they treasure.   For the Swaney family, that tradition was writing—letters, poetry, or academic essays—each member wrote with passion, skill and artistry.  Some of it was everyday fair such as family correspondence. Other writings were carefully cultivated and encouraged such as a childhood diary, college essays for English and Journalism classes, poetry, glee club missives, entries in literary magazines, and family histories.  

        More widespread circumstances also shaped the writings found in the Swaney Family manuscript collection. Letters written by Andrew Swaney to his wife and children while he was deployed in the Philippine Islands in 1898 were kept, and connected Andrew not only to his children while he was overseas, but to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Love of poetry united two souls, Alexander and Mildred, in matrimony. When a tragic accident stole one of that couple away, the ardency in the letter provided a precious link between mother and daughter, 15 years later.  The power of family paper collections is not only the informational value it might give to researchers and historians, but the link between generations it creates, both within family units and to a wider community. They demonstrate fears, ambitions, love, loss, and lifeways that have remained unchanged, 100 years later despite the rapid changes in technology and culture.


Karly Watts, Alexander Swaney Family Papers Summer Intern