HELEN Baggott, of Sturminster Newton, is the proud author of Posted from the Past, a book revealing the stories behind postcards sent more than 100 years ago.

Using a genealogist's 'toolbox', she has uncovered a wealth of fascinating stories - all from secondhand postcards picked up at car boot sales, in shops or bought on Ebay for £1.

Helen says Posted from the Past has been in the making for 20 years and it's only through her work as a proof reader - going through the self-publishing process herself to develop a better understanding for her clients - that she decided to publish the book.

She said: "I began researching postcards several years ago when my parents bought one from a car boot sale that was sent to a soldier in 1913 and addressed to the Chelsea Barracks. The postcard had been sent from America.

"I eventually traced Gilbert Freeman’s short life, he was killed in the Battle of the Somme, and shared my research online.

"That led to his relatives in America contacting me. Two of Gilbert Freeman’s brothers had emigrated to Massachusetts – one before and one after the First World War. It was so satisfying to share my research with his family – and others – that I decided to continue researching postcards and very soon realised that each had a fascinating story to tell and they have become the collection published as Posted in the Past."

Research for the book has taken Helen all over - from Gloucester to Bath and Cornwall visiting the homes of the postcards' recipients.

Postcards from other people's families are so easily obtainable, Helen says, because they are often forsaken when someone is downsizing their home.

"For whatever reason all the postcards I've collected have been discarded. When people downsize there's a limit to how many items with emotional connections they can take.

"If you're asked to take something as a keepsake you're more likely to take something from the mantlepiece rather than a postcard."

Once she has a postcard Helen begins her research by using the Census returns of 1901 or 1911. She sees if she can match the writing on the postcard with the writing of the head of the household on the Census.

"That information gives you how old they are and who's in the household. That gives you a lot to start with. I then start checking the marriage register and probate records," she added.

"It all fits together like a jigsaw puzzle. I don't have any particular background in genealogy, except I've always been interested in history at school and had worked on my own family trees."

There seems to be a current day interest in genealogy, Helen said, with the popularity of TV programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are and A House Through Time and people researching their own family trees.

"There's an interest in these subjects. People want to be taken back to their childhoods. We're all linked to our history.

"It's a shame that today not many people send postcards and even the postcards that are received over the years are never kept.

"I've been thinking the postcards I need for the future are all on Facebook and now there's just thousands and thousands of pictures that people are posting. People will be blinded to the story."

*Posted in the Past is available from Amazon. For more information on Helen's research and details on the talks she gives, see helenbaggott.co.uk