The Archive Lady: Preserving Christmas and Other Greeting Cards

, , Comments Off on The Archive Lady: Preserving Christmas and Other Greeting Cards


Melissa Barker, aka The Archive Lady, shares her tips and tricks for preserving Christmas and other types of greeting cards.

Robin in Montana asks: “I have hundreds of Christmas and other greeting cards that I have saved over the years. I have really old ones and ones that I just got this year. To me they are genealogical records because of the handwritten messages and signatures contained in them. Can you please tell me how I can preserve them?”

Robin’s question seemingly comes up every year around Christmas time. I usually have several people who email me right after Christmas asking me about what to do with their Christmas cards. I love answering this question because it means these wonderful genealogical records are being saved.

Example of one of the first Christmas cards from 1843.
First Christmas Card 1843, Wikimedia Commons

I have a confession to make, I have kept every single greeting card that I have ever received. Yes, I know, I have a problem. Maybe you have a stack of Christmas cards from this Christmas and from Christmases past. Maybe you also keep other greeting cards from birthdays, Valentine Day, etc.

Most importantly, if you have old greeting cards that are in your genealogical records collections, are you preserving them properly?

If you are like me and you have kept greeting cards from various events, holidays and special occasions and you intend on keeping them, it is important that they are archivally preserved just like the other documents in your genealogical records collection.

Bateman Family Christmas Card, ca. 1930’s, Houston County, TN. Archives
Christmas Card, ca. 1930’s, Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Preserving greeting cards is very easy, it’s really a matter of obtaining the right materials and being consistent in the archiving process.

Archival Materials You Will Need

These items can be purchased at any online archival materials store:

  • Archival plastic sleeves in the size that fits the greeting card
  • Archival box, a Hollinger box is recommended

Before the preservation process can take place, it is important to document each greeting card and digitize it. Placing a note in your family genealogy software that says something like “Christmas 2019, received Christmas card from Aunt Marie, she signed the card”. If the person put a note in the card, you might want to transcribe that into the notes field as well. Also, make notes about the senders mailing address too.

Digitizing greeting cards can be very tedious and time consuming. However, if you want to ensure that these records are preserved in case of a disaster that destroys the cards, this process is highly recommended.

I normally scan the entire card; the front, inside and back. I place those scans in the computer file of the ancestor who sent me the card in a separate folder entitled “Greeting Cards”.

I also take a soft #2 pencil and on the back of the card I write the year I received the card. Hopefully, the card’s subject will tell what the occasion was but if not, you might want to make a note of the occasion.

Take the greeting card and put it in an archival plastic sleeve that is the right size for the card. The archival supply stores have all kinds of sizes to choose from. (See list of archival stores below) It is also important to keep the envelope, especially if it contains a mailing address or any other information. You should be able to stick the envelope in the same sleep as the card.

Next, put the cards in the Hollinger box. I normally organize the greeting cards by surname and then within that surname I put the cards in date order by year.
Example of Hollinger Box

Next, put the cards in the Hollinger box. I normally organize the greeting cards by surname and then within that surname I put the cards in date order by year.

If you have a lot of greeting cards, like I do, you might want to dedicate a Hollinger box to one surname.

The process is quite simple and gets the greeting cards in order so that they can be enjoyed and if you are looking for a certain card, they are easy to find.

Online Archival Supply Stores

Watch Melissa Barker’s Legacy Family Tree Webinar: The Home Archivist: Preserving Family Records Like a Pro!

The Home Archivist: Preserving Family Records Like A Pro! (includes a 9-Page Syllabus!)

You Can Now Follow The Archive Lady on Facebook

Follow Melissa Barker, The Archive Lady, on Facebook


If you have a question about researching in archives or records preservation for The Archive Lady, send an email with your question to:

Melissa Barker - The Archive Lady

Melissa Barker lives in Tennessee Ridge, Tennessee. She is the Houston County (TN) Archivist and a Professional Genealogist. She writes the blog, A Genealogist in the Archives, and has been researching her own family for over 26 years. She lectures, teaches and writes about researching in archives and records preservation. 

©2019, copyright Melissa Barker. All rights Reserved.