Christmas Cards and Genealogy

Thus far in the “Great Cleanout” we have discovered decades of Christmas cards. The temptation is to treat them like other paper trash and send them up to the recycling barrel. However, it occurred to me that these cards might contain valuable information.

I don’t only mean the scintillating newsletters penned once per yearâÂ?¦though they have been fascinating reading. The entire ensemble has value, especially for those of us addicted to studying the family tree. Here’s how:

Envelopes: I have family envelopes back to 1904. I’m not as sure of the cards themselves, many were tossedâÂ?¦much to my regret. The stamps are (naturally) of interest to stamp collectors and that they are attached to the envelope increases the value. The real important parts are addresses.

Names: Whether inside the card or on the envelope names are valuable to a genealogist. They may place a last name with the first name scribbled on the back of an old photo. They could give information about last known addresses. Those help track down records and such. In this they are a gold mine.

Using the Information: There are databases on-line with millions of records. In many cases all that’s needed is a first and last name. In others an address may be required to make sure you have the right person. Genealogical societies in most states as well as in other countries have the data. All you need is the right key and you could find it on a Christmas card.

Finding Connections: When a family member deliberately separates him or herself from the rest of the family it makes genealogy very difficult. However, with some sleuthing it’s possible to find the missing members. I actually received a Christmas card from someone whose grandmother (my great great aunt) did just that.

Notification List: This is the sad part, but these cards will help a great deal. Eventually our elder will pass on and we need to have a notification list. In fact, we need to prepare it well in advance. Believe me, no stone will be left unturned and that includes the cards. That is in part because I can’t read half of what is written in her address book.

This year, instead of tossing the cards you might want to keep them. To make life easier for the person who will be researching through them, put them in a box (or bag if you must) and put in the year. That will make things easier and your descendents will be very grateful.

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