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06 May 2015

Greeting Cards as Clues

When my parents were married in 1967, they received a congratulatory card from Ola Howes. The name did not ring a bell to me and I concluded it was a former neighbor or a fellow teacher of my mother.

Upon asking Mom who Ola Howes was, I was told that "I don't know."

Years later in my research, I discovered that my paternal great-grandfather had a first cousin Ola (Baker) Howes (their mothers were half-sisters). She had apparently seen my parents' announcement in the paper and sent a card.

Are there genealogical clues hiding in old greeting cards?


  1. My grandmother kept post cards sent to her, and as pictorial memories of places she visited. My cousin has her collection, and in it I found several new clues to family in them. Plus, I learned she had traveled far more than I had known prior to reading her postcards!

  2. I did an entire series of blog posts using the names of people who signed the guest books at my grandparents' funerals. I discovered family connections, second marriages, and more. Even noticing when one person signed for another offers a clue to a close connection.

    1. I also used the guest books, but the real treasure were the names on the cards from the floral arrangements. I was able to sort out my grandmother's extended McBride family with those and using census records gave me their family information.

  3. I’ve tried to save the cards & letters I’ve received over the years, & recently found a bundle of cards from relatives when I’d gotten married back in 1976. There were 10 from relatives of my husband’s, & I only knew his Grandma; & hadn’t even seen photos of the rest of them. Recently I’d been organizing photos my mother-in-law had left me, & there was everybody who had sent the cards. Now I had faces to go along with the names! It’d been over 35 years since I got those cards, & almost all of those relatives have passed.

  4. My great aunts saved wedding invitations. When we closed their home, I bundled all the invitations together thinking I would one day get them back to a family member. One was even printed at Tiffany's. When I started doing genealogy years later, they became a fantastic source for dates and maiden names. Almost every scrap of paper can have value!