poetry and prose about place

a stack of post cards

with 6 comments

Saturday, for me, is genealogy day.  I am interested in the history of my family and I have a lot of boxes of information to sort through.  If I don’t spend a dedicated time to the study of the items in those boxes, the work will never get done.  And, I want to try and get my value from the small fee I pay each month to .


Over the last few Saturdays, I have been studying a small stack of post cards sent to my grandmother (Katie Clark) from 1906 to 1910.  There are 174 post cards in the collection.  The post cards are one record of her travels to the United States where she was studying to become a nurse.




Born in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia in 1890, Katie Clark was raised on a farm with her brother and four sisters.  When she graduated from High School, she went to Boston to become a nurse.  She was joining her sister Anne who had started her nursing program there the year before.



Katie Clark in her nursing uniform


Katie Clark, my grandmother


Travel from the Maritimes to Boston and other cities along the Eastern Seaboard was common in the early 1900s and was usually by train.  Nursing was a relatively new type of professional work for women and men.  Professional nursing had been established in the 1860s largely as a result of the efforts of Florence Nightingale and others.  By the turn of the century, many nursing schools were established in both the United States and Canada.


Katie went to school in Newton Lower Falls, on the outskirts of Boston.  She studied with two of her sisters (Anne and Laura) and a small group of women and men who became her friends. Katie’s photos show sliding parties and sports activities.



Photos of winter sledding in Newton Lower Falls from Katie’s photo album (Katie is third from the right in the lower, right photo)



Photo from Katie’s album of the school’s women’s basketball team (Katie is fifth from the right in the top row; her sister Anne is second from the right in the seated second row from the front)


Post cards were one way friends and families could stay in touch.  The post cards show that cards were mailed even within the same community and sometimes at the rate of two or three a day.  The messages on Katie’s post cards often mention getting or sending letters and often ask Katie to send a post card, soon.


The post cards are mostly scenic in theme.  There are also a large number of comedic post cards …



The card on the left pokes fun at Mother-in-laws (1910) ; the post card on the right is one of many scenic views, this one of the ‘flower pot’ formations near Alma, New Brunswick (1907).


There are also post cards with seasonal themes, for Christmas, Easter, New Years Day and Valentines Day …



One of Katie’s post cards with a Christmas theme (1907)


A few of the post cards are blank, without stamp, post mark, address or message.  Perhaps these were delivered to Katie in person as a contribution towards her post card collection.  Sometimes the address is the only handwriting on the card.  Usually, however, the sender included a brief message to Katie, written in a special space on the back of the card.  In some cases the message was written upside-down, or in various blank spaces on both front and back of the card.



A post card with a New Year’s message (1909)



The back of the New Year’s post card with a message and a stamp affixed upside-down ! (1909)



The information on these cards goes beyond the written message.  The cards are a record of where Katie was living at various times during the five year period.  The post marks and an occasional return address indicate where Katie’s friends were living.  The messages contain common expressions of the times.  The post card themes tell what subjects interested people and the comedic cards show what people thought funny.  And the stamps on the cards are a study of their own.


In future posts, I’ll have a look at some of the information contained in my grandmother’s stack of post cards.


Copyright  2015  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

February 9, 2015 at 7:42 am

6 Responses

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  1. Jane, your post reminded me of the countless boxes I have yet to go through, mostly letters, postcards and the paperwork of various ancestors. Tim has a great-grand aunt, Georgianna Rodgers (1874-1941), who was born in Provincetown, but her parents were born in Nova Scotia. She also studied to be a nurse, in Boston I think. I noticed some pictures of her class when we hastily stuffed everything we came across into boxes. The family home was sold kind of suddenly. Maybe I should have a regular “going through boxes” day, too.

    Like Robin, I love to collect and send postcards, too. Whenever someone goes overseas they ask me what I would like her to bring home for me. My answer is always, send me a postcard or two. Maybe someday someone will be going through my collection the way you are going through your grandmother’s collection now.

    Maybe my granddaughter, also named Katie, will be the one! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    Barbara Rodgers

    March 5, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    • Hi Barbara. The boxes can seem daunting, but ‘little by little’ they can be turned into ‘story’. I have a list of the graduating nurses from Boston, and when I find it, I’ll see if your relative is listed. I’m sure there was more than one hospital graduating nurses but you never know! If I ever go somewhere exciting, I’ll send you a post card. Jane


      jane tims

      March 5, 2015 at 1:21 pm

  2. How wonderful to have so much history to sort through! I love post cards. I collect them, and send them. As you mention, post cards go beyond the written message, telling little stories of their own individually and bigger stories as a group.
    It’s interesting to not the “flower pot” formation near Alma looks about the same as it did when I visited Hopewell Rocks.

    Liked by 1 person


    February 9, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    • Hi Robin. Yes, the post card could be used to measure any erosion loss over the interim 100+ years! Jane


      jane tims

      February 9, 2015 at 8:38 pm

  3. What a fascinating journey into your Grandmother’s life and what a medium of exploration – the simple postcard. I imagine those Saturdays spent sleuthing are fun indeed. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person


    February 9, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    • Hi Fran. Yes Genealogy Saturday is a good change from other writing! Jane


      jane tims

      February 9, 2015 at 8:42 pm

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