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Diving Into My Email Archives

Eighteen years ago, I set up a cloud-based email account.  My boyfriend at the time talked me into it, saying we could use these cloud-based accounts to keep in touch while I was on a research trip.  Up until that point, all of my email was downloaded to an email client on my computer.

I kept using the account after I got back; in fact, I used it until the day the kids started school.

I recently had to go back into that old account to search for an old email, and while I was there, I decided to download all of the emails and save them to my computer.  I spent an hour clicking around, re-reading old notes that I had either sent or received.  There were emails back and forth with friends overseas after the Bush-Gore election as we were all trying to figure out who was president.  There were all of the emails I sent on September 11th when we were trying to account for everyone who worked in the Pentagon.  And then there were the personal moments; birth announcements for kids who are now in high school, telling people about our engagement, my own failed cycles, and finally the birth of the twins.

But my favourite emails to revisit were the first few emails I sent back and forth with Josh.  Yes, I have the first emails that we sent each other as well as the ones I sent my friends dissecting every early date, phone call, and interaction with Mr. Ford.  I was so nervous!  Rightfully so since I only know that everything worked out in retrospect, but still, so nervous and excited.  I loved getting to revisit those moments.

I downloaded over 12,000 emails, so I’ve only scratched the surface, returning to dates that bubbled up to the top of my mind.  I set the emails aside as a good snow day activity, delving into the past and seeing who I was back then.  Ready for the next blizzard.

Do you still have access to your old emails?  How far back can you go accessing messages?


1 torthúil { 10.25.16 at 8:40 am }

How cool! I’ve used the same email account pretty consistently since 1999, I think (I had a few other ones that have since closed) so I can go quite far back. I haven’t tried yet, for the most part. I do still have a few unread family conversation threads from before my dad passed away (unread because I couldn’t keep up with the conversation at the time and put them aside for later). And many many more that I did read, of course. I haven’t found the right time or motivation to look at old emails, but I like that they are there.

2 Middle Girl { 10.25.16 at 9:41 am }

Wow. I have a lot over the five or six addresses I have /have had in use. Great project idea.

3 nonsequiturchica { 10.25.16 at 9:54 am }

I have a few of the first emails that my husband and I sent each other. It’s fun to go back and look at them!

4 loribeth { 10.25.16 at 10:12 am }

I have had the same main email address (via my ISP) since 2003, but I’ve always downloaded my emails to my computer via my Microsoft Office Outlook program. I don’t think I was able to access my emails from my ISP online for many years. I still mostly access my email on my computer via Outlook, but it’s nice to have the online backup & vice-versa. I do back up my laptop & the emails there about twice a year.

This is actually a timely post for me because about a month ago, my ISP switched its email system… and the day it did, when I went to download my latest emails to my laptop via Outlook, it started downloading 17,000+ emails from the server (!!!), including junk email from all the mailing lists I’m on, etc., dating back to 2010!!! I called the ISP & talked to some of the techs, because I only wanted the latest emails to download to my laptop. Eventually they suggested I create a folder in the online email system for “old emails” & move all the older emails over there, so the server would only download the latest emails to my laptop. Of course there was no way I could do it all at once; I had to move all the emails over manually in batches. So I spent several hours every evening over about a week, going through all 17,000 emails (!!), deleting the junk and moving the rest over into a separate folder. It was a pain in the butt, but it worked! I deleted over 10,000 emails and transferred 7,000+ that I wanted to keep into an “old emails” folder.

I do have hundreds, probably thousands, of pre-2010 emails on my laptop. I’ve culled some periodically (there are some I wish I kept), and I lost a year or two’s worth in a glitch with my old desktop computer 🙁 and not all of my emails from my original 1996 desktop transferred over when I bought the second one in 2003 — but I do have a few emails from the late 1990s. Most of them date back to the early 2000s.

5 a { 10.25.16 at 12:59 pm }

I’ve had my Yahoo email since the late 1990s, so I probably have emails going back that far.

6 Working mom of 2 { 10.25.16 at 3:50 pm }

I had the same email address from 1998-2015. It was my first personal email. For years I had been paying a monthly fee to keep it, bc the isp that it was thru didn’t serve the area I moved to. I wanted to keep it bc it went to outlook whereas gmails etc. don’t. Finally the spam was just too much despite blockers etc. and I switched to a new isp that has email addresses you can direct to outlook. I also keep a couple gmails for certain things.

My outlook has a ton of emails. I occasionally try to cull, but ugh, one of those nagging tasks that lingers for years and is never gotten around to.

My work outlook is a disaster too…I regularly got notices it was about to explode. Finally IT expanded our mailbox sizes..again, one of those tasks I never have time for. At my last job I had to be religious about moving stuff to pst folders bc our emails would vanish after 30d. What’s annoying is so many work emails are people trying to set calls, meetings, etc. its not always good to delete those right away in case the group hasn’t decided yet…then a week or two later they’re way down the list and forgotten..


7 Lori Lavender Luz { 10.25.16 at 9:31 pm }

Mine don’t go back this far, but my daily journals do.

As a documentarian, I LOVE this post. Very, very cool to be able to time travel in this way.

8 Charlotte { 10.25.16 at 9:33 pm }

I love how sentimental you are. I think back to my earlier email accounts and who I emailed…and there isn’t anything I would want to read again, for sure! Past is past. Most of what I keep now is business type emails. I don’t have many personal emails…I text more than anything. And before texting I would have been talking on the phone vs. emailing. In fact, I rarely email friends and family unless it’s a forwarding of something. We all mostly text.

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