In 2008, Ted Gup's 80 year old mother handed him a suitcase full of letters that belonged to his grandfather Samuel Stone. The suitcase was entitled "Memoirs," and all the letters were dated the same week of December 1933. The Great Depression. And they were all addressed to someone named "B. Virdot." The letters were from individuals ranging in age from 14 and older, asking to be considered to receive a gift from the benefactor B. Virdot.
(Click on letter to read transcription of CBS story)
This was Canton, Ohio in 1933. In 2008, Mr. Gup began his investigation to learn more about B. Virdot (who turns out to be his grandfather) and the people who received the gifts. He uses local genealogists to aid him in his search, and along the way also finds out that his grandfather, who became a well-to-do clothing retailer, is not from Pittsburgh, as he claimed, but from Romania, and arrived penniless to the U.S. in 1902, to escape persecution.
Here is an audio of the NPR interview with Mr. Gup. He has written a book about his grandfather "B. Virdot" and the people who received his gifts.
It's a wonderful story. Benefactors in Canton, Ohio have now taken up B. Virdot's cause and each year donate to the needy.
Another case where genealogists play a vital role in connecting people, solving mysteries, and providing intimate, human details of an historical period such as the Great Depression.