Family Treasures on eBay

Since the late 1990s, an online auction site called eBay has become the premier place for individuals to buy and sell collectibles, new merchandise, or just about anything. What many people don’t realize they just might be able to locate a long lost family heirloom by using eBay.

Up for auction is not just old collectible toys, electronics, jewelry, but also an array of old photographs. There are the ambrotypes, daguerreotypes, tin types, cabinet cards, stereotypes, case mounted and glass plate negatives, which can be found on eBay. Unfortunately, not all are labeled or identified. Yet, occasionally there is a written note on the back to tell you who the person or scene is in the photo.

It is not just old photos that a family historian would be interested in, but also family Bibles, letters, business letterheads, needlepoint samplers, journals, school yearbooks and scrapbooks. Also to assist the researcher eBay has genealogical books, directories, software, reference CDs and archival supplies.

So how do you search on eBay? Start first with distinctive surnames, one at a time. Now if a surname is common or associated to a celebrity’s name, there will thousands of items called up on that search. To help narrow down a search, place the surname and location for the family in the search box. Or if the ancestor had a certain occupation, such as doctor, blacksmith, photographer, include that and the surname. Click the box under the search box titled Search title and description; this will produce results in the item description the seller wrote, even if the surname, business or town was not listed in the title.

If nothing is found the first time, try in a couple days, new items go online everyday. By becoming a registered eBay member (there is no charge for registering) you can have email messages sent to you of any new items which match what you are looking for, a hometown name, a surname, etc. With nothing available for sale on a search, just click on the ‘Add to Favorite Searches’ on the right side and a box will appear allowing you to request email messages be sent on any new items matching your search criteria.

Strange as it seems many of our ancestor’s possessions have gone to other parts of the country through estates sales. With eBay there is the chance of bring them back home. See the example of a journal located on eBay written by Grace Trafforo in 1825.

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