Finding Family Heirlooms & Artifacts with eBay

It’s been years since I looked at eBay to find family heirlooms and artifacts. In the past, I have made some spectacular family history finds.

For example, I once found an old family letter written by Jonathan Huse (1767-1853) to his mother, and an 1813 sampler created by his daughter Sarah Araline Huse (1807-1825) when she was only 6 years old.

photo of a sampler by Sarah Araline Huse, 1813

Photo: sampler by Sarah Araline Huse, 1813. Source: Huse Family Papers.

Wow—if the family has lost track of some of its treasured heirlooms, eBay is a good place to find them again.

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My Recent eBay Family Find

Looking at eBay last week, I spotted this old family Bible first owned by William Richmond (1820-1871).

photo of a family Bible first owned by William Richmond

Photo: family Bible first owned by William Richmond. Source: eBay.

The eBay seller described this Bible as:

Cover is well worn and torn.
A few pages are loose, most still intact.
Pages have spots throughout.
This is a family Bible which belonged to the William Richmond (1820-1871) family.
Bible has handwritten pages of marriages, births and deaths.
Also includes two typed pages detailing history written in the Bible as well as a brief family history dating back to 1040.

OK—these details, along with close-up photos of some of the Bible’s pages shown in the seller’s eBay posting, were encouraging. I didn’t have “William P. Richmond (1820-1871)” in my family tree, but there is a Richmond line there—and based on the evidence provided by this online auction, it sure looked like he is a relative.

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Did this Heirloom Belong to My Ancestor?

I dug a little further on the large family tree sites FamilySearch and Ancestry, to see what more information they had on William Richmond and the other family members that were named in the close-up photos that the eBay seller had included in his posting.

These people were not included in either family tree site.

That really got my attention.

So—I didn’t have this family in my tree and it was not in the two large online tree sites. Hmm…

I poked a little further and decided this could be a good find for us—the family Bible of a previously undocumented family—that could be part of my family tree.

I was for many years the editor of the Richmond Family News Journal (1972-), a family history publication. So I had more than a passing interest in this Bible and the family records it contains. Even if this was not part of my Richmond line, I wanted the information because I like to document all Richmond family lines to assist everyone working on their family history.

So—I decided to buy this Bible on eBay.

My bid won and I received the news that the family Bible had already been shipped and that I should receive it soon.

To Be Continued…

When I do, I will report on what genealogy gems I find in the Bible in my upcoming posts.

Have you ever found old family heirlooms, documents and papers on eBay? If so, what types of artifacts have you found?

Please let us know.

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Written by Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp is the Director of Genealogy Products at GenealogyBank. Tom Kemp is an internationally known librarian and archivist – he is the author of over 35 genealogy books and hundreds of articles about genealogy and family history.

He previously served as the Chair of the National Council of Library & Information Associations (Washington, DC) and as Library Director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

An active genealogist, he has been working on his own family history for 47 years. With the rapidly growing online archives at GenealogyBank – it is a great day for genealogy!

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About Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp is the Director of Genealogy Products at GenealogyBank. Tom Kemp is an internationally known librarian and archivist – he is the author of over 35 genealogy books and hundreds of articles about genealogy and family history. He previously served as the Chair of the National Council of Library & Information Associations (Washington, DC) and as Library Director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the New England Historic Genealogical Society. An active genealogist, he has been working on his own family history for 47 years. With the rapidly growing online archives at GenealogyBank – it is a great day for genealogy!

6 thoughts on “Finding Family Heirlooms & Artifacts with eBay

  1. When you set up alerts for those “possible” family heirlooms, how do you go about it? I have just set up alerts with surnames. Problem: one surname is shared with a famous baseball player, so I get his cards and memorabilia to sift through. Another surname is the same as brothers that wrote children’s books in the 19th century. Those come in even faster than the baseball player stuff. Any tips?

  2. Hi Barbara – like you I was finding similar problems with the surnames I am tracking. Even in this example – his surname is “Richmond” – just like the well known city.

    Here’s what I do.
    I link my search to specific types of items.
    Surname and family bible
    Surname and family papers
    Surname and oil painting
    Surname and letters

    I also use:
    Surname and name of the city they lived in
    or
    Surname and the state they lived in

    Keep digging. Finding an item long lost to the family is really a welcome surprise.

    Please let me know what you find.

  3. Looking for an Erb bible in Pittsburgh area was taken from a Great Aunt when she was held hostage by her caretakers in 1860″s, it is a very plush bible in a wooden box from Germany

  4. I look at old postcards for specific counties and states. I found a real photo post card of a distant cousin who was the teacher in a class photo (seemed to be a one room schoolhouse ). I also found copies of accounts kept by the owner of a general store showing all purchases. It was fascinating to see that my relatives bought half a pound of coffee beans, spools of thread or bags of flour!

  5. Sharon – that’s a terrific find.
    Real photos postcards can be the only surviving photograph of our relatives.

    I encourage you to document this story and add it to your family tree. Do a little digging and you might find articles about your cousin the teacher – the school and happenings in the town.

    Get it documented and let us know what you find.

    Tom

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