Voices from the distant past

Patricia Yourdan, left and Pat Shillingburg transcribing one of the last letters in a batch of more than 700 written from the 1740s to the 1820s.

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Patricia Yourdan, left and Pat Shillingburg transcribing one of the last letters in a batch of more than 700 written from the 1740s to the 1820s.

A team of enthusiastic amateur historians, led by Patricia Shillingburg, spent much of the summer transcribing a treasure-trove of 762 letters written by and to Thomas Dering and his children between the 1740s and the 1820s. Here, Patricia Yourdan and Pat are transcribing one of the last letters. At a reception hosted by Pat and Ed Shillingburg on August 3, Pat presented Phyllis Wallace, archivist for the Shelter Island Historical Society, with a thumb drive containing the complete transcript of the letters, making them accessible to scholars and researchers.