The First Valentine and Some English Genealogy

The First Valentine and Some English Genealogy is today’s holiday post. The BBC reports: “The first reference to ‘Valentine’ has been found within a 500-year-old love letter, where the 17-year-old Margery Brews pleads with her betrothed, John Paston, to marry her (despite her parents’ refusal to increase her dowry).” The letter is part of a British Library exhibition on the evolution of the English language.

A love letter from 1477 with the first use of the word Valentine seen above. (Courtesy British Library)

Written between 1422-1509, the letters between the Pastons, a Norfolk family, are the oldest record of private correspondence that survives in Britain. The bulk of the letters are in the British Library, others are in the Bodleian Library, Oxford and the Norfolk Record Office.

Margery and John married in 1477 and produced a son, William, in 1479. The 16th- and 17th-generation descendants of Margery Brews and John Paston were traced via

Using letters from collections in the British Library, the Royal Naval Museum, and the Imperial War Museum,, put up a gallery of significant British love letters from the past 500 years at They are also looking for the “romantic British love letter ever written,” which can be submitted at the same URL. The winner will be announced on February 25. Details on the competition’s terms and conditions are available online.

For more posts on St. Valentine’s Day, click here.

About the Author:

Nancy Loe has an MA in American History and an MLS in Library Science and Archives. She has appeared on PBS’s American Experience, at Rootstech, SCGS Jamboree, and state and regional genealogy conferences. Her website was featured in Family Tree Magazine's “Social Media Mavericks: 40 to Follow.”

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