Research Your Family History Through Business Card Collections

I’m learning so much about the various ways people can research their family’s history and was stunned to find out that there is a Historical Business Card Collection that can be researched by name to find out which businesses your ancestors may have worked with.

The Genealogy Blog says:

I just got the following note from my good friend, Illya D’Addezio, at Genealogy Today. Illya posts the stuff that the “corporations” overlook. The business card database is just the latest in an ever-growing list of small resources for the genealogist.

I found a few name possibilities on the list, but it ignited my imagination. By finding your ancestor’s business card, you not only find out which company they worked for, but their title and responsibility. The business cards themselves offer insights to the type and style of the company by their designs. Many stoic designs mean the company was fairly serious and straight-laced, while a more colorful or creative design may express a more colorful and creative place of employment. Not always, but who knows what little hidden treasures may occur to you as you examine this old business cards.

I’ve collected business cards for years as a long time graphic designer, but I never thought of my collection as a “collection” with historical value. The cards are in boxes in storage, so now I want to dig some of the old ones out to share with such a resource, possibly helping someone else find their ancestor’s information. What a great value out of what some people call junk.

Business cards are not limited to employees or owners. It is a cultural tradition to have a personal card for sharing your contact information with others in many countries. “Here is my card” is a common exchange in many parts of the world. In these cases, you could learn where your ancestors lived and possibly a few title keywords to learn more about them.

An old friend of mine used to fly helicopters for the military, doing highly dangerous work. He then took his adventurous skills to flying helicopters for the movie industry. His business card labeled him as “daring adventurer, risk-taker, dare-devil, knight-in-shining-armor, crash test dummy, stunt pilot, pilot, racer, lover, leaver”. I thought that spoke a lot about his true character as well as his persona.

The Business Card Collection database includes business cards by a retired gentle man from the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad, as well as other railways and support services, among the current 740 business cards in the collection. They are also accepting business cards for the collection, though they will not make public business cards newer than 1950 for now, as that protects the privacy of the living.

The Business Card Collection Guide also lists other resources for finding information on collections and collecting business cards, including a Business Card page from Wikipedia.

I’m itching to dig into my storage room now to find out what treasures I’ve been hiding.

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About Lorelle VanFossen

Lorelle VanFossen hosts Family History Blog covering her ancestors and related family members. She is one of the top bloggers in the world, and host of the Lorelle on WordPress, providing WordPress and blogging tips for bloggers of all levels. A popular keynote speaker and trainer, she is also editor, producer, contributor, and official disruptive thinker for Bitwire Media which includes WordCast, Making My Life Network, Stories of Our Journeys, Life on the Road, WordCast Conversations, and the very popular WordCast Podcast.
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2 Responses to Research Your Family History Through Business Card Collections

  1. Steve says:

    I collect business cards myself, I have over 105,400.

  2. Do you ever think of sharing them with a museum or scan them for online research? Contact Genealogy Today if you are willing to help add to their collection. I bet they’d be thrilled.

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