Finding Family Ephemera

ephemera-1912~Ethel & HenryYou are working on your family history, have a family tree established and are getting names and dates in place. However, realize really knowing about your ancestors includes understanding a bit more about their life and the things that mattered to them.

So you need to have a collection, if only in a digital photo form, of any letters, business letterheads, photos, receipts, journals, diaries, family Bibles, business cards, written stories, postcards, documents, military artifacts/documents, etc. This can be mostly classified as ‘Ephemera‘.

Many family items are handed down through the generations. If you are not the holder of some family memorabilia, then first start checking with all and any other family members. Even a distant cousin could have a copy, if not the original of a document for one of your relatives. In requesting any assistance from a relative, narrow your request. Ask about one specific branch or family.  

If you have no luck there, expand your search. Contact the historical societies, genealogy societies and museums of the hometown of a specific relative. Look for those places by Google search placing the town and / county name and museum. It is amazing how many individual or family items (or copies) that museums will have of citizens. Many times it was another family member who donated such items to the museum. Even if that individual moved away then an estate is settled, family members see that items are donated to the hometown museum.

ephemera- 1900-groff homeAnother source is using social media — Facebook, Twitter, web sites for a specific hometown, web sites for a local genealogical society and online message sites. With Facebook see if there is a group with a specific surname on your family tree. A common family name is more difficult but if it a little less common, try it. Submit your request, never know what someone else in a different part of the country has. The key is to let people know what your are looking for, so narrow your request.

Another online site to check is the auction site ‘eBay‘. Search using an unusual surname, hometown name or county name. Putting in the family name of ‘Luckhardt’ one day produced the wedding photo of Jack Luckhardt and bride, for sale rather than auction on eBay. If a relative owned a business, put that business name in a search, but do put quote marks around it to narrow the search. If nothing is located, to save time searching in the future, remembering the items on eBay are always changing, click on ‘Follow this search’ and you will get an email anytime in the future that same search name, place, term appears on an eBay item.

Another overlooked auction site with many items is Goodwill. This online auction site also allows you to do a search and you might find something totally unexpected.

ephemers-Bixler-Muss marriageSo expand your search, you need the originals or at least copies of ephemera from your ancestors.

Photos: 1912 photo of grandparents from a cousin, 1900 photo of mother’s ancestral home from eBay and image of marriage record from the Bixler family Bible.

Related genealogy blogs:

Missing Heirlooms

Heirlooms on eBay

Picture Postcards

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