If you find some old postcards in your family history piles. Here are a few ways you might want to use them.

But first, digitize them (use the process in this blogpost)

Second, regularly backup the digital files

Third, if you’re a keeper, archive them correctly

Fourth, even if you’re not a keeper, consider saving ones that might have the sender’s DNA on the stamp if there’s any possibility you’ll want to extract DNA (totheletter DNA)

Fifth, if you’re not a keeper, give the meaningful ones to family who will want them

Sixth, use the digital files or leftover postcards! Here are some ideas.

For me, the value of old postcards is in the images. That’s it.

In our family postcards, few of the messages contain especially valuable information. I’ve saved a few if I think I might someday want/be able to glean the sender’s DNA from the stamp (totheletter DNA) but generally the subject matter is somewhat trivial or the postcard was never used, it was just kept as a travel memory/photo. It may give the address of the recipient, but I typically have that information in my records. I’m not doing deep research into the social history of my ancestors, so I’m left with the images. I’m not interested in accumulating possessions, so I’ve digitized the postcards then given them away to family who want them. So…

Family Videos, Slideshows, Memory Books

I use postcards in family history videos. Here’s an example of a family history video with limited ancestral photos; most of the images are from postcards, free photos online, and genealogy records (a passenger list, etc).


When I make a video about an ancestor, I have more text than images. I’m desperate for more images. Postcards help fill in the gap. I don’t need (and they don’t exist), tons of photos of ancestors to tell their story. I just need some image to help the story move along.

FREE – signup for the OnGenealogy newsletter for more helpful ideas and a free download, How to Use Free Photos and Images Without Worry

Making Crafts/Gifts with Old Postcards

I also make crafts or gifts with old postcards.


Here’s an example of a family quilt which includes images from old postcards. This is from ExposuresOnline.com and is no longer available but quilters could easily make this themselves.


  1. You cut a piece of fabric you’d like the image copied onto
  2. Tape the blank fabric to a piece of paper
  3. Put this paper + fabric into the photocopier’s paper tray
  4. Place the postcard on the copier
  5. Run the paper & fabric through the photocopier and the postcard image is transferred to the fabric (see the example below)
  6. Untape the fabric from the paper
  7. Repeat this with all the photos and postcards needed for your project
  8. Piece together the different images for your quilt top

Gift Cards

I’ve given away most of the inherited postcards, but the few I’ve saved include seasonal postcards that I can copy and use as gift tags for holidays. Just wrap a present in a very simple wrapping paper or brown butcher paper, tie it off with jute or twine and attach a message to the back of a historic postcard/tag (printed from a digital copy of the original postcard).



nd archivists will be appalled, but I’ve ordered postcard sleeves, like these: image

and put unwanted postcards in sleeves to be used as coasters. They’re easy to store, they’re a conversation piece, and people have fun deciphering the old handwritten messages. It would be better if I went to the trouble to create digital duplicates and then went the extra mile and just laminated those. But, these are almost the equivalent of garbage to me because I’ve got the digital image saved, so, just being honest, this is what I do.


Search the OnGenealogy directory for postcards by location. You might be able to find some postcards/images in a locale where your ancestors lived. Also search for nearby Libraries and Archives as they often have digitized postcards.

Best with your family history research!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.