Here’s something I never thought I’d be doing on a Saturday morning: getting very excited by finding a penny red, King Edward VII stamp, with a 1908 cancellation mark on it.
I’m not sure if I’m more excited about that, or the S. Hildesheimer & Co. postcard I found with glitter on it. Printed in Bavaria. Pre-1922. So many questions! Who glitters a postcard, and then doesn’t send it? Why was a printing manufacturer, with a factory in Manchester, outsource his printing?
This all started because my partner has started to collect bank notes. A place one might go to grow their collection of worldly numismatical goodies is the Charing Cross Collectors’ Fair, just outside of Embankment Tube Station, and it’s there I came across a box of postcards. I only ventured into it because as any teenager in the LiveJournal era did, I loved PostSecret. And here I was, in front of boxes and boxes of postcards to and from people all around Europe. What exciting secrets might I come across!
Picking some at random from the unsorted box was very exciting. I about flipped my shit whenever I’d see a postcard close to my home land of Wednesbury (about 170 miles from London, near Birmingham). Eagerly trying to decypher the 1900’s handwriting. I don’t know how to explain glee I felt, the sheer taken-aback-ness, when Tim handed me a postcard to a “Mrs A. Preece”, sent in 1905.
I still don’t understand how it’s possible that I would travel hundreds of miles to the south of where I once lived, follow my boyfriend into this incredibly niche market, find – amongst many – a particular box of hundreds of postcards, and then to randomly pick out a postcard that was not only addressed to somewhere not far from where lived with my family, but addressed to my family name!
Since then a whole new hobby has been kicked off for me: how much information can I find out about this postcard, and is Mrs Preece a relative of mine?
The primary aim for me is to find out if Mrs A. Preece is a member of my family, so I started off with my family tree. Many branches fell into place, except for the branch I actually care about: my dad’s side – the Preece side. My dad has a complicated origin story, which included never really knowing who his father is. A key piece of information for me to step back in time, swept away by family squabbles. The challenge is certainly a lot of fun though – tracking down leads to potential new lives my Grandad might be leading now, and getting my hands on as many public documents as I can.
Slow going though.
The other part of my quest is to understand the postcard itself.
I’ve learnt an unusual amount about the postage history in 1905, lots about cancellation marks, and I definitely know my King Edwards from my King Georges now!
All this research feels like archaeology. Learning more from clues really, than history books. It’s one of the most fun adventures I’ve been on in a while!