Family Ephemera

Something intended only to last a couple of days. That is what the term ephemera means. Those short-term items might just be an important part of your family history. Some examples of ephemera items you may have and overlooked are: postcards, matchbooks, business cards, ticket stubs, calling cards, funeral pamphlet or card, food ration cards, civic or club membership cards, dance card, invitations to a party-wedding-reception-anniversary, and church or civic newsletters.

If you realize you or another family member might have some of these – gather them up and begin sorting. Arrange them by family surnames, then by individuals in that family. Then arrange each group by dates (if possible)-the oldest first.

Scan or photograph digitally so you have now additional copies. Share with other family members.

Then with your family history material, start making additions to what each of these items tells you. For example, membership cards are very important showing which clubs and organizations a specific ancestor was was a member of. If that club still exists in the family hometown, contract them. They may have records, yearbooks and other items related to the work that your ancestor did in the club. Good examples are Woman’s Clubs, Kiwanis, Rotary and Masonic Lodges. These groups go back decades and most do keep records of past members.

Business cards and matchbooks carry the names and addresses of hometown businesses. It could be businesses owned by an ancestor, or by another relative you were not aware of. It also tells you the types of businesses your ancestor used – certain stores, an attorney, an accountant, etc.

Ticket stubs are really neat, letting you know the type of fun events your ancestor liked, such as boxing matches, baseball games, concerts, plays, or movies. It also provides the cost of what such events cost in certain decades.

If you don’t have many family ephemera, do check with the hometown museum, they may have in their files, business cards, membership cards, and postcards that relate to your relatives.

The ephemera items you can gather can be very important in learning more about your ancestors.

Photos: 1926 membership card, 1938 Fishing Guide booklet, 1980 business card and 1990 matchbook.

Related Blogs:

Finding Family Photos and Ephemera

Places to Look for Ephemera

Flirtation Cards

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