A Few Examples of the Use of Postcards in Genealogy

In this section, I use a few of my cards to illustrate how I have combined my two hobbies of Genealogy and Postcard Collecting. In this case, it is the content that is of primary interest to me. Postcards are like a nutshell documentary on the geography, history, traditions and cultures of our ancestral background. In some cases it is possible to find cards which will give a good picture of the past from a greater distance than one might expect, because there are a lot of cards out there which are replicas of paintings and artists renditions of places and events of earlier times. Perhaps in the distant past, cave and rock paintings served the same purpose (however, much harder to collect!) Please click on the small graphic to view the full-size card:


Example of location, KELLY and DARTON families: "Union Street, Plymouth", one of the cities where my great-great grandparents lived in Devon, England, prior to their arrival in Canada. This card is used and postmarked 1906, dating it about 50 years after the Kellys left Devon, however some members of the family were still living there in 1906. This card is part of the Valentine Series. Although this card has a divided back, it is a very early example, still allowing some room for a message on the front; a message could also be written on the reverse, for "Inland" postage only. The card required a half penny stamp (still attached to this one)



Location, WILLCOX family: "Clovelly, High Street". Clovelly is also in Devon, a very picturesque spot, where my great great grandma Mansel (Willcox) was born. This is not a postcard, but part of a very old souvenir folder with 8 single-sided views. Some or all of these scenes were also sold as individual postcards, I have this same view as a single black & white postcard.


Location, CARVER and DAVY families: "Market Place, Kingston, Ont., Canada." Kingston is where my great-grandparents lived in the 1890s. This example is exceptional in that it is in the correct period for my family. It is published by Valentine & Sons, printed in Great Britain, unused.

Kingston Baptist

Example of place of worship and/or marriage, CARVER-DAVY: "Baptist Church, Kingston, Ontario". If this church dates back to 1883, it is where my great grandparents were married; if not it is a later version of the church. This is something that I will want to follow up.


Example of employment, also point of immigration, KELLY family: "Esquimalt Harbour". Although this card is later, (the Kellys arrived in Esquimalt in the early 1860s, although my great great-grandfather arrived first in the late 1850s), the harbour itself had not changed a great deal. The naval base still exists there today.

New Westminster

Location, KELLY family: "New Westminster, ca. 1865". A reproduction, however for the time being I am quite content with this card, and hopefully at some time in the future will be able to replace it with the original. In the meantime, I have an excellent idea of what New Westminster looked like just 4 years before my great great grandfather arrived with his family from his previous home in Esquimalt

Fire Wagon

Employment, KELLY family: Although this pumper is actually from the Vancouver Fire Dept., it is the same type of equipment (as far as I know) that my great grandfather was engineer on in New Westminster in the 1890s. This is a reproduction, but I keep hoping that somewhere out there I will someday find the original card, or better yet, one of the New Westminster wagon.

Gleaner and Tutshi

Employment, and in this case also home, KELLY family: "The Tutshi and the Gleaner". I was ecstatic to obtain this real photo postcard! My great grandfather was steam engineer on these sternwheelers, and the winter of 1900/1901 he and his family lived for a period of time on the Gleaner while acting as caretakers of three boats up on the "ways" not far from "Caribou Crossing" (now called Carcross), Yukon. The Gleaner was my grandmother's favourite boat when she was a child. It is one of the many sternwheelers later destroyed by fire.

Racine High School

Example of Schooling, HARCUS family: "High School, Racine, Wis." This card is postmarked 1909, just about the time that my grandpa left Racine with his parents to come to Vancouver, B.C. in Canada. As a teenager at the time, I would not be surprised to learn that he attended this school, something I will try to verify in the future.

Empress of Japan

Employment, CARVER family: The original version of the "Empress of Japan" at Vancouver harbour. The Empress sailed between Vancouver and Asia. My grandpa worked as a cabin boy early in the century on this ship. The figurehead from the ship, which is shown in the second postcard, was displayed at Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC for many years before weathering made it necessary to remove it and take it into "protective custody" so to speak, before it became totally destroyed. A replica was placed at the park which remains there today, while the original is under the auspices of the Maritime Museum.

Fergus Falls

Example of Location, PAULSON (HATTREMSOIEN/OIEN)family: The family lived in Fergus Falls in the early 1900s.


Example of traditional clothing, GEHLIN/GELEAN family: Leksand, an area of Sweden familiar to Dennis' grandfather and his family. Particularly interesting for seeing the type of clothing worn in the area.

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