1941. The world was at war.
Bombs were raining down on London. France had fallen to the Nazis the year before.
Across the sea in Texas, 22-year-old Edmond Nicholas enlisted in the United States Army.
He left behind his family and his sweetheart Elner Mae—“Sis” to her friends.
For years Ed and Sis exchanged letters, not knowing when he would return.
Decades Later: the Discovery
Ed and Sis’ love burned bright throughout the war. Over the years they exchanged dozens of letters.
When he returned from the war in 1945, they finally wed.
They were married for 70 years and were by all accounts a sweet couple.
But their love letters were not often mentioned and lay tucked away in an attic for some 30 or 40 years.
It wasn’t until they both passed and their son Bobby was cleaning out his parents’ home that he discovered this treasure trove of fervent letters.
A Family Legacy
Bobby had heard his parents’ letters mentioned but had never read them.
He quickly realized what fascinating glimpses of the past they contained and shared them with his family.
Ed’s granddaughter Ashley* was completely blown away.
“My grandparents were a super cute couple, absolutely adorable. They were it for each other. I hadn’t heard much about Grandma Sis and Papa Ed’s love story or how they met.”
When Ashley realized that her grandmother had kept all of her grandfather Ed’s letters, and he had kept the ones he had managed to hang on to, she was super intrigued.
“So many of Papa Ed’s letters are gems. It’s hard to pick a favorite.”
Still, she shared a few that really struck a chord.
Hope and the Kindness of Strangers
In the age of texts, it’s impressive to think about the obstacles Sis and Ed overcame to stay in touch.
Sis didn’t always know where Ed would be, and he didn’t always have access to postal services.
At one point, in February of 1944, Ed was back in the United States and resorted to throwing a letter out of a train window and hoping it would make it to her.
By some miracle, it actually made it to Sis!
I Will Catch You
By April of 1944, Ed was back overseas. Sis had managed to send photos and candy.
He was dreaming of returning home, joking that he would just drive up one day and simply ask, “Remember me?”.
For Ashley, the letter brought tears to the corners of her eyes.
“It just got me when I read, ‘Do you remember me? And if you faint, don’t worry. I’ll catch you.’”
Uncovering More About Papa Ed’s Story
Finding the letters rekindled an interest in their family’s past for Ashley and her father Bobby. And as it happens, Ashley was working at Ancestry.
Together they worked on finding out more about Ed, the young Texan and son of Lebanese immigrants, who left behind a family and sweetheart all those years before.
They found the Ellis Island immigration records that showed Ed’s grandmother, Angalina Faham, and one of his uncles coming to America via Greece.
They were detained because they each needed $50 and only had $20 each. It was only after a son in Beaumont, Texas wired them the money that they were released.
Ashley also found Papa Ed’s draft card on Ancestry’s military records site Fold3.
Finding the Family Roots
Bobby built out a family tree dating back to the 1800s.
Among the discoveries was that his grandmother’s great-grandfather had been given a land grant and actually owned Cecilia, the town in Louisiana where she was born.
Passing on Memories
Next Bobby and Ashley are working on archiving their family’s letters on Ancestry for future generations to discover.
They’ll be able to find everything from insights into the young mind of a soldier in the 1940s, like in this letter, where Ed worried about his mother fainting…
…to this passage, which shows a love so deep it rings as clear and moving as it did generations ago.
“It means so much to me to discover things about his past and to be able to share that with my daughters and to hopefully preserve the knowledge for future generations.”
What’ll You Discover?
With 16 million Americans who fought in World War II, there may be a veteran in your family tree.
The World War II records collection on Ancestry has more than 15 million names and 11 million images from documents, including enlistment records, registration card, POW records, and more.
What can you learn about your family story on Ancestry today?
*Ashley is an Ancestry employee. This is her actual family story.