Family History in Postcards
If you’re working on your family history, you probably know the names of special places in your family members’ lives. Maybe your parents honeymooned at the Pancoast Hotel in Miami Beach, your grandmother graduated from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, and your great grandfather was the President of the Farmers National Bank in Abilene, Kansas.
If you’re lucky, they left you pictures of all these places, but what if they didn’t? My favorite source for this kind of picture is the online postcard store CardCow. They sell real postcards here, but after the card is sold, they keep the scanned images and information on the site. They’ve been doing this for years, and now have a huge collection of postcard images online. You can search by keyword, or browse by category: Churches, Hotels, Amusement Parks, etc. I like to browse by location so I can browse through all the pictures of a particular place, like my hometown: Worcester, Massachusetts. There’s no way to limit a search by date, but try throwing a year in a keyword search anyway. For cards that were mailed, the year of the postmark is indexed, so you just might get lucky. For example : 1906 Syracuse New York. Just keep in mind that you’re excluding all of the postcards that lacked a postcard, and that the dates aren’t very precise because many postcards were sold over a period of several years.
Once you find postcards that are connected to your family history, you have a lot of options. You can order the actual postcard, if it hasn’t been sold already. As devoted as I am to digital images, I like keeping some of these in my paper files, and imagine my future grandchildren discovering them someday. It’s also easy to embed the postcard images in a blog or website, as I have done here. You can get the code to copy-and-paste in three different sizes. The image will be linked back to the Cardcow site, and have a subtle watermark. For cards that have already been sold, you can also buy a digital image in different sizes, starting at $3 for a 600 x 377 unwatermarked image for posting on the web. Larger files (1660 x 1044) with various rights are also available.
These old postcards can supplement family photographs, and help bring your family story to life!