Friday, November 23, 2012

The Joy of Old Postcards

Sometimes, you just don’t have a lot of pictures of an ancestor – or perhaps no pictures at all. But often times we do have a location where that ancestor lived. A picture of that location can brighten up your family history, give the reader (and yourself) a visual. But many old homes are no longer there, or the location has changed so much that your ancestor would hardly recognize it. And even if the building is there, minor details that bring that special touch might be wrong – a modern car parked in front, or letters on the store front painted over or replaced by another name. A good alternative is to look for pictures of the location around the same time period your ancestors lived there, and often times old postcards are a treasure trove of such pictures.

Take for instance this postcard below. It’s a factory for gold and silver works around 1900. Note the letters on the front, saying “Koninklijke Nederlandsche Fabriek van Goud en Zilveren Werken” (transl. Royal Dutch Factory of Gold and Silver Works).

The fa├žade is actually a protected monument, but as you can see on the picture below, that did not prevent the letters from being painted over. And honestly, when I’m writing a piece about my ancestor who worked in this factory from 1888-1911, I do not want a modern car parked out front in the picture I put in my family history.

Sometimes, an old postcard actually gives you details you never would have noticed otherwise. For instance, the postcard below is of a street called Lange Delft in Middelburg, around 1910. Lodewijk Wesselo managed a store here from 1912-1920.

The red arrow (inserted by me for this blog post) points to a store front that is actually Lodewijk’s store! I had not expected it to appear on a postcard, and the only reason I know this is the store is because of the lettering above it. It says “Fabriek van Goud en Zilveren Werken” and I can only read that because I know what it’s supposed to say. Now that’s what I call a picture worthy of illustrating my ancestor’s life!

*Clicking on the pictures in this post will enlarge them.

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