Genealogy helps tell fascinating philatelic stories

By Jesse Robitaille

As philatelic storytelling becomes a significant aspect of the hobby, collectors have found powerful tools in genealogy services and other historical research platforms.

With the advent of digital technology, most collectors have ready access to in-depth research tools, which lend well to learning the stories behind the stamps and postal history in their collections. One west-coast collector noted his “love” for philatelic storytelling has been bolstered through, the world’s largest for-profit genealogy company, and, the largest online newspaper archive, which is also run by Ancestry.

“To me, these are some great tools for philately and for storytelling,” said Darin Cherniwchan, of Chilliwack, B.C., the chair of the Digital Philately Study Group. “They’ll make you one of the best storytellers. They’re not cheap, but you can just try them, and if you’re disciplined, you can get out of it before the 14-day trial is up.”

As a challenge, Cherniwchan randomly pulled a cover from his collection and performed some genealogical research to learn as much as he could – and as quickly as he could – about the person who received it.

The yellow cover is franked by a strip of three two-cent Small Queen stamps (Scott #36) paying double the letter rate and each cancelled by what appear to be duplex cancels. On the front of the cover, its origin postmark is dated May 1, 1883, from Niagara, Canada West (present-day Ontario).

At first glance, Cherniwchan thought the addressee’s name was Francis Gale before deciding the surname could be Bale.

“I didn’t know what it was; it looked like ‘Gale Esq., County Attorney,’” he said, adding he originally acquired the cover not for its genealogical potential but for the “little green blob” in the centre stamp’s bottom margin.

On the back, a receiver postmark is also dated May 1, 1883, from nearby Woodstock alongside several manuscript notes, including what Cherniwchan believes could be two names plus the word “papers.”

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