Sunday, 12 February 2012

Postcards from the Past


As mentioned in the previous post, my brother was here for the weekend, and we spent yesterday at The House, getting on with various ‘projects’ there.

In the afternoon, I decided to look through the contents of an old chest that seemed to be filled with old photographs.

Most of these turned out anonymous and I didn’t recognize anyone in them. Those I put back in the chest for now and they’ll probably go to the local historical society or the town archive.

There were also a number of framed family photographs. Do you keep lots of framed portraits around the house? I don’t. My parents had some; my grandmother had lots (and most of the ones in that old chest were hers.) She came from a large family, with a bunch of half-siblings I never met, and I have a hard time telling them apart in old photos. The problem is that there are no notes in grandma’s photo albums either, neither who’s who nor what’s what.

Anyway… I made the decision to de-frame the family portraits, keeping the photos but letting the frames go to a future sale. So I spent a good deal of the afternoon yesterday doing that.

However, at the very bottom of that old chest, I made a find that I’m really excited about. Two old postcard albums from the early 1900s, which seem to have belonged to two of my grandmother’s older half-siblings, born in 1878 vs 1881; one brother and one sister. Both of them went off to America to live and work for some years back in their youth (not together, but separately, I think). The sister also seems to have travelled quite a lot around Europe.


I took these albums home with me and as I started paging through them last night - I’m hooked!

Unfortunately some diligent stamp collector in the past robbed every card of its stamps… But gently. (Steaming them off I suppose.) On many of them the postmark can still be read though. The cards themselves are of fascinating variety, and the writing on some of them will no doubt also tell a story – of a kind. The handwritings are not entirely easy to decipher, but I expect with practice it might get easier.


It seems the larger and most interesting album belonged to the brother; but many of the cards were written by the sister. I think the sister probably inherited that album when the brother died. (I know he passed away long before she did.) And then my grandmother  about 20 years younger than both those elder half-siblings) inherited the album in her turn.

The sister is the one of whose story I know the most, and yet not enough details to puzzle it all together. I’m hoping the cards may give some helpful dates. What I do know is that later in life Gerda (as her name was) worked as chamber maid or similar to Estelle Manville-Bernadotte, American wife of the well-known Swedish diplomat Folke Bernadotte, in turn related to our royal family.

Looking things up a while back though, I found that Folke and Estelle did not get married until 1928, and Estelle was not even born yet when Gerda first went to America in her early twenties. I’m not sure if she was employed by Estelle in the States prior to the marriage; or got the job later, in Sweden. Perhaps the postcards will give me a clue. It seems she was back and forth between America and Sweden/Europe more than once.

Many of the cards have writing all over them. They are different kinds of cards and from various countries, some written in Swedish and some in English.


The smaller album contains cards addressed to Gerda, these are mostly Christmas, New Year, Easter and birthday cards. I’ve not really looked closer at the senders yet.


I’ll have to ponder a bit on what to do with this incredible find - besides sharing the occasional card on this blog… Actually I’m thinking that every one of them deserves to be scanned and preserved digitally. Since most of the cards are over 100 years old that should not infringe on any copyright laws!

There are about 400 cards altogether in these two albums + I also found some loose ones earlier.

Just now I’m thinking the best thing for me would be to give this project its own blog. That’s probably the simplest way for me to do it and a chance of getting some feedback along the way as well. One card at a time, each in a separate post… That would be like a blog from the past! (I wonder if Blogger can back-date to the early 1900’s?)

While thinking about details I might do a few test posts here.


PS. (10:25 pm)

Just did an experiment to back-date a post on my private test blog to 1912. Blogger says: "The post date must be between Jan. 1, 1970 and Dec. 31, 9999." I find that hilarious. I must do a post and pre-schedule it to 9999! What a treat for those who come 7987 years after me!


  1. What a wonderful find. I think your idea of blogging the postcards is a good one because things like that become of much wider interest than just the family: they are part of social history.

    My immediate reaction was that, apart from a few of Gareth up mountains, I don't have portrait photos around the house. Then I realised that I actually do have a few in the bedroom on walls.

  2. these are incredible. i saw on BBC show, Cash in the attic, they found some of these and they were worth a lot, you should have them appraised. they are a true treasure and can't wait to see more of them

  3. PS. Just did an experiment to back-date a post on my private testblog to 1912. Blogger says: "The post date must be between Jan. 1, 1970 and Dec. 31, 9999." I find that hilarious. I must do a post and pre-schedule it to 9999! What a treat for those who come 7987 years after me!

  4. That truly is a wonderful discovery. There must be so much history in the house. So glad you and your brother are doing such a thorough job of going through it all and finding the right place for it to rest so it will be preserved.
    The cards are fascinating - and do deserve a blog all on their own.

  5. So exciting. and yes, please, let's have a blog for them. (I'm sure you'll be kind to us and translate the Swedish ones. We Brits are such poor, or lazy, linguists by comparison with most other Europeans.)
    I love the way not a spot of space was wasted. I have a couple of early family postcards like that where the person obviously wanted to get value for their postage!

  6. What beautiful cards, and what an exciting discovery, your ancestor sounds like they led an interesting life.


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