Thursday, June 27, 2019

Doing Family Research on eBay

It might sound like it's crazy to go to eBay and expect to find anything that helps you with your genealogy research, but it happened to me.  I'm going to show you the tips and tricks that I use to keep an eye on items that get posted on eBay, receive alerts to new items that might have gotten out of our family, and how I was able to purchase my great-great-Grandfather's Civil War medal after it was posted for sale by a non-family member on eBay.

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I have been amateur genealogist since I was a child.  I was fascinated with one branch of my mother's side of the family, but as I aged and things like DNA testing became available, I realized I was more than just one branch of our family tree.  I started to want to learn everything about all eight of my great-grandparents and the generations their lives.

I started by occasionally searching for the more uncommon surnames in my family tree.  As I learned to filter, I was able to be able to get more specific searches.  For instance, my great-great-Grandfather had the surname Sanders.  That will come back with thousands of hits that are not family names.  Even if I narrow that down to "Sanders book" that will still come back with thousands of hits.

If I change my search to :
sanders (family, book) -(bernie)

I still will receive thousands of hits, but the top two listings are Sanders family history books where I can look and see if that will help me in my research or not.  I can decide from there what I want to filter out. To further refine my search, I enclose anything in the parenthesis that I want to appear in the listing title.  Anything I want to filter out I put the minus sign

-(then put what I want to filter out here)

Right after the number of listings the search returns, there is heart and it says "Save This Search"

If I check that box, once a day, I can choose how I want to be notified when more items appear on the site that fits my search.  I can set it up so I can be notified almost instantly on my phone, receive e-mail once a day, or even be able to visit it in My eBay Feed.

Now that you know HOW to search for family history items, what search terms are best to use?
Obviously, surnames are important.  Don't forget spelling variants, either.  One name in my family tree is Ayersman.  It can be spelled many different ways including Ehrismann.  My grandmother was thrilled when I found her a Gottlieb family cookbook on eBay for Christmas one year.  It wasn't our family, but it was still very exciting for her.

Where your ancestors lived is important.  I have several eBay searches set up for the towns in which my ancestors lived.  From one of those searches, I found many many items being listed that belonged to my great-great-grandfather.  Unfortunately, I found the listings too late to be able to bid on his Civil War bullet maker and his New Testament, but I was able to purchase his Civil War Medal.  Evidently, someone inherited a box of items, and was going to throw it away, but an eBay seller instead was able to get their hands on it, and I was able to recover some family heirlooms.

In addition to surnames, if there is anything unique anyone in your family did or owned, it deserves it's own search.  Someone in my family owned a brewery, so if I search for the brewery name in quotation marks, the searches that are returned are almost all for items that relate to that brewery, and thus my family. 

eBay is an often overlooked resource for genealogy research and it shouldn't be. There is no telling what you might find.  I love telling people the story about how I purchased family heirlooms online, and I'm so glad they are back in my family.  Your heritage might be just a click away!

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