Chelsey Brown – SWNS

Chelsey Brown likes to trawl flea markets and thrift shops for interesting items, but not for decorations or collections.

As an amateur genealogist, she enjoys tracking down the owners or the descendants of the owners and reuniting them with their lost heirlooms.

The Manhattan interior designer claims to have returned more than 500 objects to their owners, and she does it all for free.

“I love the thrill of the chase; I love to close out the mysteries,” says Brown. “It’s insane the things I have found. All of the Holocaust items I have been able to return have been special.”

After finding a telling clue on an object, she seeks out demographic information in city census records and other sources. This usually brings up a marriage certificate or another distinguishing legal document.

She is then usually able to track down the owner and contact them about whatever it is she’s trying to return, though she admits most people think it’s a scam.

Brown says that many of the same emotional dramas that can cause disruptions in relationships and households today were just as prevalent 100, sometimes 200 years ago.

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Chelsey has found hundreds of interesting items—including love letters from decades ago, which show all the hallmarks of love struggles today, such as clinginess and ghosting.

“Heartbreak, affairs, and family drama were all still happening then,” says Brown. “I think it comforts people to know if they don’t get any contact with someone after going on a date that the exact same happened to some in 1850—but with letters.”

Her specialization is typically letters, such as a romantic series during World War II, or a diary of two teenage lovers who drifted apart.

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“I found this amazing one written by a woman who was in a long-distance relationship. It was full of love letters and poems,” she said. “They decided to end the relationship but then I found out they got back together years later and are married with six kids. It’s really exciting returning them to the families.”

All this digging through the past has given her the idea to write a time capsule book.

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