Telling A Better Story

Old postcards

Old postcards

When we start to examine our family genealogy we tend to collect a lot of names and dates. We gather information like dates of birth, marriage, and death. Sometimes we can fill in life events such as type of employment, birth of children, and perhaps military service. In other words a collection of facts lacking any embellishment. This type of collection will not hold much interest for most people. If your family is like mine they will give it a quick look and just as quick turn their attention elsewhere. I can guarantee you that when you try to show your collection of facts to someone outside the family, the result are very much the same. They just lose interest faster. It is unfortunate that many of us do not have a comprehensive collection of family photographs. For example the earliest picture I have of my father is when he is in his early thirties. Photographs can help tell the story that hides behind our collection of facts.

I am trying to write my family history and do not want it to be a collection of; born, married, died, like so many genealogies we all have read. What I have started to do with great success is to purchase postcards that show a glimpse of my families past. I also find that they can help you recall forgotten memories and stories about your family. Postcards can be found many places for purchase. Antique shops, flea markets, and estate sales are some of the places to look. But I find that the on-line auction houses such as eBay, are an easy and fast way to find picture postcards. The cost for these postcards are generally inexpensive and well worth adding to your family history.

Above you see two postcards that I have acquired. These will help tell my family’s story. The first postcard is showing Margaret Street which was in its day the main business district for my home town Plattsburgh. This would have been the downtown that my great-grandmother, grandmother, and my mother would have known so well. This was the street on which my Mother Veronica Deloria Moore, met my Father Charles Moore, when he was stationed here with the army. In fact, except for the old cars it looks very much like the downtown of my youth. I can still remember going into Fishman’s store and spending a great amount of time in the toy department. While being watched very carefully by what I thought of as “old lady sales-clerks”. The second postcard shows the Steamer Ticonderoga that serviced Lake Champlain from about 1906 to 1953. My great-great Grandmother Mary Guyette Barney, was a cook for several years on this luxury ship. I remember that my Grandmother Pauline Bonnett Deloria, had a few plates and a serving platter with the ships logo and image on them. These were displayed in a glass front cabinet in her kitchen. I cannot recall them ever being used. I still wonder to this day were they have gone.

This has been just a few examples, of how images from the past can help us tell our family story better. Most of us have to put in long hours and much effort to gather the facts, that make up the skeleton of our family story. We want people and especially our family and its future generations to read and become acquainted with our ancestors. It is by using these images we can tell a fuller and more interesting story.

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20 Responses to Telling A Better Story

  1. Kim Simpson says:

    What a GREAT IDEA!!!!! I hadn’t thought about including postcards in my write-ups, although I have a few I could include. Now I will be scouting the antique stores looking for my family’s past as well! Thank you for this post!

  2. chmjr2 says:

    Thanks for your comment. I have more postcards which I will write about later. They are a great way to help tell a story.

  3. Sheldon Hall says:

    Well done Charles! And with good suggestions. There is little that I can relate about my own family. You will learn why in our correspondence. In the meantime, I would like to share a link about my home town with you and the others here. I still remember much of what is shown from my childhood. All my best in your endeavors here. Sheldon

  4. chmjr2 says:

    Thanks for your comments Sheldon. Wow! What a great link for post cards.

  5. Janet Curley says:

    I agree with you about your comment that family histories need some embellishment. The post cards are a great idea!

  6. chmjr2 says:


    Thanks for reading my post and taking the time to comment.

  7. Sheryl says:

    I agree! I also find the stories that make up a family history more interesting than lots of dates and names.

  8. chmjr2 says:

    You are so right, no one likes to read a lot of names and dates. But we all like stories.

  9. locksands says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Stories are what matter which is why I have much less interest in those long ago family members for whom there are only bare facts.

  10. chmjr2 says:

    Yes it is much harder for our ancestors that lived many years ago. I try to help their story with learning about the history of where they lived and the history of their times. Sometimes putting a time line together helps. Thanks so much for reading my blog and taking the time to comment.

  11. karinboutall says:

    Great idea. I can almost feel those “old lady sales-clerks” eyes watching now that you added the postcards. Thanks

  12. I thoroughly enjoyed reading htis post! And yes, the postcards are a great idea as well as the timeline! Have you ever worked on I am addicted to that site, but love and find many stories there in old newspaper archives. I find that newspapers of the mid to late 1800’s are a lot like facebook today–full of gossip and snippetes about families. Interesting. I like the book suggestions, we had a death bed secret come out in our family as well, but I am not yet free to share it publically. I’m sure I’d enjoy reading those books. Helen

    • chmjr2 says: and I are old friends. I also use I love it when I can get a newspaper article about my family. Thanks for reading and your comments.

  13. theotherlisa says:

    This is the single greatest idea for collecting and preserving family stories that I’ve ever come across! I can not wait to get started on creating these snapshots in time. I’m working on the genealogy of my family with grandma and she is full of great stories. I’m constantly struggling with how to incorporate the stories into the basic information. Thank you SO MUCH for this idea!

  14. charts2012 says:

    What a great idea about the postcards! I’d not thought of this idea and will try and look them out. What I have done, though, is identified (as you have done) the need to somehow bring the ancestor’s day to day activities to life… something to ‘hang the imagination’ on, as it were.
    The first thing I do is to find out where they were baptised/married/buried and try to get an image from the internet if I’m unable to travel there myself. Secondly I put their address (obtained from census records etc) into Google Maps and then zoom in to see if their house is still standing. I’ve had quite a few successes doing this and it’s fascinating to imagine what it might have been like to potter around in the house, leave for work, imagining relations with neighbours (also available from the census records) and to pad out the lives of ancestors. Using the maps to see how the town/village/city/ centre may have changed is also sometimes very useful.
    Websites that hold old photographs of the area are also invaluable for visualising their lives in those surroundings. I often copy them, for my own use, in my growing ‘book’ of family history for my children and grandchildren. I add to this digital record (organised into generations) as I find out new information and try to keep it both visually and verbally interesting, as well as giving the vital dates of their lives.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thank you for reading my blog, also for your very thoughtful reply. You gave some very good advice on how to bring our ancestors to life. I can readily see that your book of family history will be read over and over by your family for years to come.

  15. kjw616 says:

    When I tried to ask my mom vague questions about what her life was like growing up, I did not get very useful feedback. Then I went out and bought some postcards, and every week or so, I would send her one with a memory jogging question such as: How old were you when you had your first job and did you contribute any of your salary to your family, or what kind of job did your father have? Do you know how your parents met? What did you do for fun growing up?

    What happened was that long letters started arriving in the mail. Now I not only had some insight into what her life was like growing up in the 1930s and 1940s, I also have invaluable letters from my mother and some nice stories to add to my family history.

  16. I’ve been thinking about this very same matter recently, as I collect information and gather photos into groups, but there will come a time when I will only have the internet-searched facts of an ancestors birth. I had thought in terms of adding significant historical events of the time, or perhaps music that may have been popular during their years of life. Postcards are a great idea and I will keep that in mind for any Australian relatives that I’m short of a story for….thanks for the tip. 🙂

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