Genealogy: The family history value of the post card

By Barry J. Ewell

While researching for family records, I have been fortunate to come across several postcard collections of ancesters.   They have been a great snapshot into several aspects of my families lives.  The value of postcards to family history are as follows:

  1. Post card images are great resources to relate to your ancestors’ time period.
    1. See their hometown the way it looked back in the 20’s or 30’s.
    2. View the courthouse that your great-grandparents went to for their marriage license…the old courthouse, not its modern replacement.
    3. Is it a memento of some special vacation?
    4. Is it a picture of Uncle Joe’s hometown cafe?
    5. Is it a reflection of their personal tastes or longings?
  2. Postcards were kept as keepsakes or mementos of the sender.
  3. Postcards were an inexpensive reminder of a special journey.
  4. Postcards preserved pictures of families, family homes, hometowns and more.
  5. People often buy postcards just because they’re pretty pictures when framed & hung on a wall or put on a shelf.
  6. Learn tidbits of information about the family.
  7. Gain handwriting samples.
  8. Find addresses to help you track family movements.

Even if you don’t have any post cards from your ancestors, you can search for the post cards relating to the time period when your family lived in their hometown, clothing styles of the time period, etc. Start with the local historical society in the area in which your ancestor lived or at local antique stores. Many postcard collections are also beginning to spring up on the internet. Postcards can be a wonderful alternative to photographs for illuminating the lives of your ancestors.


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