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Presidential Family Correspondence: Manuscript Collections and Resources at the Library of Congress

Highlights from the Collections

This section highlights selected family correspondence from the Manuscript Division's presidential collections. Each group includes links to catalog records for individual collections. Each catalog record provides additional information about the collection. Many collections have a finding aid linked from the record that provides a description of the contents and arrangement of the collection. Links to online content are included in the finding aids and catalog records when available. Collections not available online are accessible in the Manuscript Reading Room.

The selections on this page are not intended to be comprehensive but represent a curated set of materials. For example, collections of prominent figures such as Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt, and of family members such as Lucretia Rudolph Garfield and Alice Roosevelt are included.

Thomas Jefferson Papers, 1606 - 1827

Thomas Jefferson, author. Letter from Thomas Jefferson to his daughter Martha “Patsy” Jefferson. December 11, 1783. Library of Congress Manuscript Division.

The Thomas Jefferson Papers were made available digitally in 1999. A finding aid (PDF, 226 KB) and the index to the Thomas Jefferson papers, 1606-1943 are available for navigating the digitized collection. Jefferson had two daughters with his wife Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph and Mary “Maria” Jefferson Eppes.

When Martha “Patsy” was eleven years old, she was being educated by private tutors and lived away from her father. She had shared with him a rumor spreading that the end of the world was near, to which Jefferson responded in a letter dated December 11, 1783. Jefferson wrote, “I hope you will have good sense enough to disregard those foolish predictions that the world is to be at an end soon. The almighty has never made known to any body at what time he created it, nor will he tell any body when he means to put an end to it, if ever he means to do it.” We see in this letter Jefferson’s care for his daughter’s mental well being even though he believes the fear is irrational. In the letter, he proceeds to ask Patsy about her French lessons, encouraging her to continue despite her tutor being sick. He also asks for her to send her best reports to him so that he can see her progress.

The items in the digital edition of the Thomas Jefferson Papers are individually described allowing for keyword searches by name, date, or title.

The following collection links to bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.

Ulysses S. Grant Papers, 1819 - 1974

U.S. Grant letter to Julia, 1852
Ulysses S. Grant, author. Letter to Julia Dent Grant. 1852. Library of Congress Manuscript Division.

Ulysses S. Grant spent many years of his life in the military, often stationed away from his family. In the early 1850s, Grant was on the West Coast, primarily in Oregon Territory and California. Grant wrote the featured letter to his wife, Julia Dent Grant, from Astoria, Oregon. Julia was pregnant when Ulysses left for the West Coast so she and their oldest son Frederick did not accompany him. On July 11, 1852, Ulysses "Buck" Grant, Jr. was born.

The letter, dated September 19, 1852, was written before Grant received news about his new son. In it, he writes: "Night-before-last I dreamed that I got home and found you, Fred. and a beautiful little girl, all asleep. Fred. woke up and we had a long conversation and he spoke as plainly as one of ten years old. Is my dream true, with the exception of my being there?"

This letter shows Grant's affection toward his family and the longing he had to not be separated from them. This theme is repeated consistently in his family correspondence throughout his military career. Grant always sent his love to his wife and "little ones" and often sent a flower from his location, pressed in the pages of a letter. The outlines of these flowers are still visible on some pages. These early letters show Ulysses S. Grant's character long before he knew he would be famous. It is very likely Grant had no idea when writing them that they would one day be of interest to historians. They were a genuine picture of his contemporary life, making them all the more interesting.

The Library of Congress made the Ulysses S. Grant Papers available online in 2017. To navigate this collection, use the finding aid (PDF, 256 KB) and the index to the Ulysses S. Grant papers, 1819-1974.

To find more family correspondence in the Grant Papers, look in these locations:

James A. Garfield Papers, 1775 - 1889

Garfield Children
Matthew B. Brady, photographer. The Garfield Children. ca. 1881. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

James A. Garfield is a president who is lesser known than others today. After all, he only was president for six months. Garfield was born into poverty in Ohio, became an Ohio state senator, fought for the Union Army during the Civil War, was a Republican member of the House of Representatives, and later won the 1880 election, becoming the 20th President of the United States.

James and Lucretia "Crete" Rudolph Garfield had seven children, five of whom survived past infancy. The photograph to the left pictures, from left to right, Mollie, James, Harry, Irving, and Abe. It was likely taken around 1881, about the time their father was president.

On July 2, 1881, four months after becoming president, James A. Garfield was shot by Charles Guiteau, who was angry at not being granted a consulship after believing he had helped Garfield win the presidency. Sons Harry, seventeen, and James, fifteen, witnessed their father's shooting. Garfield survived for three more months but died from infection on September 19, 1881. His vice president Chester A. Arthur then became president.

Hal Garfield Letter
Harry A. Garfield, author. Harry "Hal" A. Garfield letter to his parents. December 19, 1880. Library of Congress Manuscript Division.

Harry, known as "Hal," wrote this letter to his parents on December 19, 1880, seven months before witnessing his father's shooting. He and his brother James, both attending St. Paul's School in New Hampshire, were preparing to travel home. This letter describes their examinations and school activities. At the end of the letter, Hal wrote, "We pack." He included a drawing of his haphazard process of taking clothes from his dresser to put into his traveling trunk.

The James A. Garfield Papers were added to the digital collections in 2019. To navigate this collection, use the finding aid (PDF, 333 KB) and the collection index to the James A. Garfield papers, 1775-1889. To find more correspondence between members of the Garfield family in this collection, explore the following series:

The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.

Theodore Roosevelt Papers, 1858 - 1919

Pach Brothers (Firm), photographer. President Theodore Roosevelt and his family. July 12, 1903. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The Theodore Roosevelt Papers were released digitally on September 7, 2018. A finding aid [PDF] and index are available for navigating the digitized collection (also linked below). Theodore Roosevelt had six children. His oldest, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, was his only child born from his first marriage to Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt, who died after giving birth. Roosevelt had five children in his second marriage to Edith Roosevelt: Theodore Roosevelt Jr., Kermit Roosevelt, Ethel Roosevelt Derby, Archibald Roosevelt, and Quentin Roosevelt.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth, pictured in the middle of the back row, was known well by the public due to coverage of her in the news. She learned jiu-jitsu, had a pet snake named “Emily Spinach,” and a shade of blue at the time was nicknamed "Alice Blue" after one of her favorite colors. A research guide with search strategies for navigating newspaper coverage of Alice is available.

The Theodore Roosevelt Papers contains several items related to Roosevelt’s family life that are of possible interest, which include:

A letter from President Theodore Roosevelt to his son Archibald B. "Archie".. February 16, 1908. Library of Congress Manuscript Division.

Archibald B. “Archie” Roosevelt has one of the larger collections of letters compared to his siblings. Roosevelt wrote frequently to Archie while he was in school, particularly during Archie’s time at Groton. Roosevelt’s letters show his deep care and concern for his son’s education and well being, where he stresses the importance of the outdoors and shares stories of his exercises with his son. In the image to the right, Roosevelt wrote to Archie reminding him of the importance of proper school balance, saying “I think that if anything you need to remember that you must not work too hard - that is, must not work up to the point of increasing your headaches.” The collection of letters sent from Roosevelt to Archie give insight into this Roosevelt child’s life during the school year and the values his father pressed upon him.

Additionally, the collections of several members of the Roosevelt family are held in the Manuscript Division. 

The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.