How our ancestors declared their love


05 January 2023
Charlotte Soares takes a look at some of the ways in which our ancestors might have declared their love – from a cheap and cheerful postcard, to a hand-made declaration of undying love...

Did you ever put the stamp on crooked to mean a kiss? Nowadays people will be using emojis on texts, a far more open way to say you care. But hearts and smiley faces with hearts  may become so over used that they may lose the potency of special intimacy.  

Love letters

When there was no alternative to writing a letter, love letters were prized and treasured in a secret place, tied with ribbon, no elastic bands, no photographs, the letters were proof you were loved once.

Perhaps your family has the letters from a long gone relative, from someone who went abroad to seek their fortune, maybe saying he would send for his bride but never did or never returned, the jilted spinster, the soldier killed in a war.

Love tokens

There were many tokens of love. Some cheap and cheerful cards and postcards with sentimental phrases and roses, elaborate valentine cards and lacy silk hankies sent from Belgium and France by soldiers in the Great War to their sweethearts.

Later there came decorated greetings telegrams quite different to the buff-coloured War Office telegrams which a girl did not want to receive. Base metal name brooches, Lizzie, Annie, Albert, were made or saying Sweetheart or MIZPAH which originated in the Bible and means May the Lord watch between me and Thee while we are absent one from the other.

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Brooches with doves, hearts and flowers especially forget me nots were symbolic of deep feeling. Lockets can hold photographs or locks of hair and hair was braided into bracelets, some as mourning jewellery for a departed lover.

Text extracted from an in-depth study of the census for family history, published in the February 2023 issue of Family Tree. Get your copy here

About the author 

Charlotte Soares' passions are writing, history, music, travel and making patchwork quilts. She has self-published family histories and undertaken trips with other people to further their research on location.