The Family Letters Project is a companion to the letterpress volumes of the Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, published by Princeton University Press. The documents archived on this site provide full text-searchable transcriptions of a rich body of correspondence between Jefferson’s immediate and extended family. The letters, and related documents, provide personal insights into aspects of Jefferson’s life that are unlikely to appear in his own writings. Falling in the years between 1809 and 1873, with a concentration on the years between 1809 and 1835, many of the letters are authored by women and contain vivid accounts of domestic and social life in nineteenth-century Virginia. Few of these documents have ever been published, and the Project seeks to make them accessible to the public through this electronic edition.

Click to view the Featured Letter
In the winter of 1816, Virginia Randolph wrote to her sister-in-law Jane updating her on the status of her mother’s health and the activities of her younger brothers and sister: "you mention’d in your last letter to Brother that you had heard of Mama’s spitting blood. it frighten,d us very much. Papa & Brother Jefferson wished to bleed her but Grand-papa opposed it & as it was not absolutely necessary it was not done... Mr White has been keeping School in Milton ever since the 1st of January. Mama will send the boys the 1st of March. James I hope will be in joininghand, & Benjamin already begins to read a little. Septimia is very sweet. she has not forgotten you, & when any one speaks of the fall which you got with her down stairs she pity’s her self very much with out bestowing a single thought on the bruises which you got in trying to save her."

This site will continue to grow as more letters and documents are transcribed.

Visit often!

The Family Letters Project is grateful for the support of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The University of Virginia Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library provided scans of original letters from the Correspondence of Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge.