As I sat on the train making my way to the postcard fair at Woking last Saturday I started considering the similarities between postcard collecting and family history research. I came to the conclusion that there is some common ground between them which probably explains why I love doing them both.
1. The thrill of the chase is as important as the end result – If someone handed you a neatly bound, fully sourced copy of your complete family history you would probably be interested, but not as interested as if you had put in all the effort and done the research yourself. In the same respect if someone handed you an album of postcards you would be pleased, but you would be lacking the experiences and feelings that go with the whole process of searching and discovering.
2. It can take a long time to find what you want – Patience is a virtue they say, and never more so than when it comes to family history research and postcard collecting. There may be some short cuts (and the internet has made things easier), but in both cases it might take a long time to find what you are looking for, that is if you find it at all.
3. The thrill of discovery is a huge part of the experience – Nothing beats the feeling of finding the answer to a particularly difficult question, or locating a missing ancestor who has been hiding for years. Well, the same feeling of euphoria is experienced when you discover a particularly unusual, unexpected or long sought after postcard.
4. Each discovery leads to more questions – Every record you discover seems to lead to more questions, finding a missing individual is just the start of a longer process of find out more about the individual. Discovering a new postcard can also be the start of a longer research process, so many more questions are raised such as who is on the postcard? What does it look like now? Who published it? When was it published? Who was it sent to? What does the message tell you?
5. You never know quite what you are going find – A good example is the WW1 British Army Service Records, you may not be certain that someone served with the army during WW1, and until you actually look you don’t know whether the record survived. With postcards there is very rarely any way of knowing what postcards were actually published and how many examples (if any) have survived.
6. The internet has made both of them a lot easier – It may not be the complete solution and of course not everything is on the internet, but it has become a lot easier to find you ancestors and postcards online these days. The postcard collecting community hasn’t embraced the internet as whole-heartedly as the family history community (but it is getting there) and sites like eBay make adding postcards to your collection far too easy!
Do you share my passion for postcards? Do you think there are other similarities between family history research and postcard collecting? What do you think makes them different? Let me know in the comments below…