Using Newspapers: Letters Lists

Back before we had postal carriers and post boxes, mail boxes at our driveway or in a large repository at the end of a block, our ancestors had to go in to the post office to pick up their mail. If they didn’t do that often enough, they would publish a list of letters to be picked up at the post office. Let’s look at this list below published in the Guthrie Daily Leader, Oklahoma, 2 May 1900:

Lists such as these can be very helpful in pinpointing your ancestor in a time and place, and produce a FAN Club (list of friends, associates, and neighbors) of sorts for your ancestor. This list is interesting because it separates items for men and woman. I did not know why until an audience participant told me about “Ladies’ Delivery Windows” at the post office. “In an attempt to prevent “timid females” from encountering “detention, rudeness and a thousand vexations” while picking up their mail, Post Offices in some cities had a special ladies delivery window dedicated to their use.” (See “Ladies Delivery Windows” below.)

Next time you pick up your mail from your porch or driveway, think of your ancestors having drive their wagons into town to pick up their mail.

Further Reading

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