Roots to the Past

Diana Tibert
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What to do with all those Christmas cards

Roots to the Past

Its that time of year again when our mailbox is stuffed with letters and cards.

At our house, the holiday mail begins the first week of December and, by the time Dec. 25 rolls around, we have more than 50 cards decorating the kitchen. They come from as far away as British Columbia and as near as 10 minutes up the road.

We all value cards during the holidays, but what do you do with them afterwards?

Do they have some genealogical value?

Yes, Christmas cards are significant to genealogy research.

Most cards come with a return address label stating the name of the individual and their current address. I check this address against last years information and if it is the same, I discard the label. If it is different, I add the information to the address book noting the year it changed. I dont cross out the old address, but note that it is no longer valid and record the year it ceased to be used.

Another option is to tape the address label into the address book or to the back of the card and record the date.

Over the years, my address book has grown. It includes almost every known address for family members regardless if I send them a card. I always buy a large book, so it will last 20 years or more.

I also make sure there is room to record the names of everyone at that address. In a glance I can see when and where my family moved throughout the years.

When the book outlives its usefulness, I throw it in the keepsakes box.

The other significant genealogical value of cards is the notes written inside.

Our family always signs for everyone in the house, including their kids and the one on the way. Years later, these cards reveal who married who, when family dynamics changed and the children as they entered the family.

Short, but revealing messages or announcements are often recorded inside Christmas cards because for some this is the only time of the year communication is exchanged.

Christmas decorations were at a premium at our home when I was growing up.

Each year, my Mom saved the cards and put them around doorways to create a festive atmosphere.

One year, as we stood about reading the new cards mixed in with the old, someone commented about my mothers sister being pregnant. This was during the years my mother was run off her feet with half a dozen kids at home, so she missed the announcement.

The next day when she was talking to her sister in Newfoundland, she asked about the pregnancy. Much to our surprise, our aunt wasnt pregnant; the card had been sent a few years earlier. And that is why it is important to record the date on the back of each card before storing them away.

It is also helpful to clarify names and relationships because 20 years later, you might not remember that Gumpy Boo Boo was grandfather Louise.

Researchers File

Seeking information on Nathaniel Travis (1749-1838) and his family of Yarmouth County. Nathaniel arrived in 1783 and married Rose Crowell. Names of his family include Elkanah, Jacob, Sarah, Deborah and Abigail. Many married into the Roberts family in the area. Contact: Linda Temple, 8 Merriman Ave., Ottawa, ON, K1K 3E6; email:

Diana Lynn Tibert is a freelance writer living in Milford. Submit a query. Its free!: RR#1 Milford, Hants County, NS, B0N 1Y0; email:

Geographic location: British Columbia, Milford, Newfoundland Yarmouth County Ottawa Hants County

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