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22 April 2020

Quarantine Quests: A Lifetime of Postcards

Chris Pattillo is collecting "Quarantine Quests," stories of genealogical projects and discoveries made by our members while sheltering at home due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. This story was shared by CGS Board Member Arlene Miles.
Jamaica is one of the places in Long Island, New York that
Arlene Miles lived
I telephoned Arlene Miles, chair of the CGS Library Committee, a few days ago with a question about the library. While chatting I learned about Arlene’s Quarantine Quest project. After thinking about it for three or four years Arlene has now begun to scan her collection of postcards, partly because she now has extra time to do so.

The collection was started by her husband Ted – a regular visitor to the CGS Library. In his youth Ted had a vision problem that made it difficult for him to take photographs so his mother agreed to let Ted buy postcards of the places he visited and things he saw. Before he and Arlene married in 1984 Ted had already compiled a sizeable collection of postcards that reflect his life and his personal interests in trains, historic homes, streetcars, sailing ships, lighthouses and more.
Ted Miles's collection includes many historic buildings such as
the Wading River Congregational Church on Long Island, New York,
where he and Arlene were married
After Arlene and Ted were married the two of them continued the tradition and the collection has continued to grow. Now their two collections tell the story of their lives in postcards. Arlene has postcards from the schools she attended, from St. Francis de Sales Church where she was confirmed, and from St. John’s Church in Riverhead, New York, where she and Ted were married. They have post cards from their vacations and cards from every place they have ever lived. Arlene is considering starting a blog where she could use her postcards to illustrate her family history – “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Arlene considered several scanner models before deciding on the Brother DS-720D, a small, compact unit that sells for $129 (she found one on sale for $109 at Office Max). “It is easy to use, will scan one or both sides, does full-color scanning and is self-feeding,” she says. She estimates that she can scan about 400 postcards in two hours. Images can be saved as either a PDF or JPG file.

The scanner comes with software that helps you organize, label and add information for each card. Arlene and Ted are maintaining the same organizational system that they created for the original cards – so they are grouped by subject matter. After the cards have been scanned Arlene uses Picasa software to crop, straighten, adjust the brightness, and make whatever adjustments are needed.


St John's Church in Riverhead, Long Island, New York
I asked Arlene, “How many have you finished scanning?” and was impressed when she said she had scanned about 1,600 postcards. But then I asked “How many cards do you have in your collection?” and I was truly speechless when I heard her answer. Arlene estimates they have 60,000 to 80,000 postcards in their combined collection! Hopefully the quarantine will not last long enough for the project to be finished. It seems Arlene is making good use of her at-home time while staying healthy.

The Miles collection includes postcards from 42 towns in
Long Island, New York
Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

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