Discover Your Family History in Postcards

Posted January 3, 2014 by Amanda | One Comment

Many people send postcards to loved ones while on a family vacation, traveling or just to say “hello.” Today, we often send short messages to each other digitally through text messages or emails. While new technologies have made communication virtually instantaneous, the custom of sending a handwritten messages is becoming a lost art. There’s nothing quite like discovering an old postcard from your relatives written in their own hand. A postcard not only provides you with a snapshot of the past, but an intimate connection with your family history.

The history of the postcard can be dated back to 1840s London. Writer Theodore Hook is credited as creating the earliest known picture postcard. It’s believed his card was a practical joke on the postal service. In his self-addressed postcard, he hand-painted an image depicting a caricature of workers in the post office.

During the 19th century, postcards became commercialized and gained wider use because it was a fast and cheap way to correspond with family and friends. The height of the postcard’s popularity came during the first decade of the 20th century. Images depicting landscapes and exotic locations became commonplace, making postcards the perfect souvenir to send to loved ones while traveling. 

Postcards are fantastic as a family history resource because often they can provide you with a personal story shared by your relative, names of family members and hints to where your ancestors may have traveled and lived. They also provide intimate look into the lives of your relatives and the relationships between them. These clues can help you further your genealogy research and point you in new, groundbreaking directions.

Have you discovered any old postcards? What information have they revealed about your family? Let us know in the comments below!

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Social Media Coordinator at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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  • Jan McClintock

    Good sources for old postcards are eBay, CardCow.com, and OldPostcards.com. Also search Pinterest by location.