Monday, March 23, 2015

Women's History Month 2015: Home Sources and Auction Websites

Yesterday, I posted about ephemera. Two places to consider searching for ephemera are home sources and auction websites.

Vernon Street House in Keene New Hampshire. Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County.

Home Sources
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You have no home sources. I know, I get it. I have very little in the realm of home sources myself. What do you do if you weren't the lucky one in the family to inherit the stuff that details your family’s history? Most of the time a home source is defined as what we have in our own home but remember a home source may be located at  the home of another family member, both known and temporarily unknown to you. In addition, people not related to you may have had information about your family in their own home sources. These may include photo collections, correspondence, personal business papers and images. This is also why searching manuscript collections is important, finding the collections that came from other members of a community.

In order to find these items it’s important to let people know about your research and try to connect with other family members. This can be done through social network sites, online message boards, writing to a local genealogy society or sending emails to family members.

Auction Sites
I see auction websites as a repository of home sources because often they include discarded, genealogically relevant ephemera and heirlooms. While everyone has heard of eBay, there are other auction websites including one hosted by the thrift store Goodwill. eBay touts itself as the “world's largest online marketplace,” and rightly so given the auction site has become a place to buy anything from books to real estate, toys to ephemera and more. While many bidders use eBay to find collectibles, eBay can also be used as a genealogical resource.

People who sell items on eBay acquire them through various means, including yard sales, estate sales, traditional auctions and from their own private collection. Almost anything having to do with a personal family may be offered for sale on eBay. Ephemera found on eBay can include letters, documents, pictures, postcards, war memorabilia, and other personal affects. 

To find items pertinent to your family, I would suggest coming up with some specific search terms such as a surname and/or a location and checking on that search term often. You may also consider searching on phrases that describe your ancestor's occupation or religion. I have also found genealogical related items under the search terms “family letters,” “war letters” and “vintage photos or photographs.”

Another tactic to take in searching on eBay is to search on the category you are interested in. One way to search just ephemera is to go to from the eBay homepage and click on All Categories> Collectibles>Paper>Ephemera. From that search you can then choose a specific time period. Remember that the items are going to appear according to how the seller described it. So it’s important to try a number of categories that would describe what you are looking for. Some other category searches to consider are Postcards, Photographic Images, Historical Memorabilia and Paper, all categories under the heading Collectibles.

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