Thursday, March 27, 2014

"Postcard Collections and Genealogy" Program Review

Carol Davidson Baird provided an enthusiastic and informative presentation on "Postcard Collections and Genealogy" at the March 26th monthly program meeting of the Chula Vista Genealogical Society to about 35 attendees.  See Carol's biography and talk summary in March 26th Program Meeting - Carol Baird on "Postcard Collections and Genealogy."

Carol started collecting postcards as an adult, and used postcards from her collection and experiences from her travels to illustrate hr presentation.

Topics covered included the purposes of postcards (communication, souvenirs, advertising, official notices); postcard subjects (e.g., buildings, famous art, ships, locations, advertisements, personal photos, etc.); history of postcards (from 1870s to the present); how to date postcards from postmarks, stamps, different paper types, card style, handwriting, images shown, printed legends, etc.

She also noted that you can learn about geography, history, customs, holidays, personal lives, and more from collecting postcards.  They are useful in genealogical research also (e.g., pictures of ancestral towns, ships on which your family emigrated, ancestral schools and places of worship) and perhaps have correspondence from family members and friends.

Carol used several postcards received by her family in Germany before and after World War II to illustrate some of the genealogical usefulness.  A researcher can add personal information to a biography from personal letters and information on postcards.  She provided a short genealogy case study derived from 13 postcards to a teenager in the 1908-1910 time frame that she found in a box of postcards at a collectors show.  Miss Mary B. Hyde was the recipient of romantic postcards from a number of young men.  Carol researched Mary Hyde, found her as a 17-year old in the 1910 U.S. Census in Los Angeles County with parents and siblings, and found an Ancestry Member Tree for her that showed she married a John Francis Delaney in about 1911, and had two daughters.  

She noted that sometimes serendipity happens - Carol found a card with a famous art painting of a nude woman sent from Spain in 1969 by her and her siblings to her uncle in Burbank.  She found it in a box of postcards for sale at an antiques store in the Los Angeles area. 

One of the audience questions was where a researcher might find postcards for their family or ancestral localities.  Carol said to look in home paper and photo collections, antique stores, stamp and coin shops, ephemera shows and county fairs, nursing homes, military bases and post exchanges, old friends, historical societies, and local libraries.

This was an interesting presentation for many of the attendees.  Some expressed dismay that they did not have any postcards from their parents or grandparents, and some lamented that they knew many postcards had been lost when their elders died and the heirs cleaned out the ancestral homes.

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