26 November 2013

Are you using eBay as much as you can to advance your family history research?

Not all records are at libraries and archives. A number of historical documents can be found on eBay. With just a few keystrokes, you could find a deed, indenture, family history book, Bible, journal/diary, or other genealogy-related item to augment your research.

Finding these items on eBay can be both simple as well as frustrating. With simple search parameters, you can easily find items of interest to your research. Results can be as varied as documents and books to postcard and other ephemera. However, there are drawbacks to these searches, the most frequent being typographical errors in the seller’s title and/or descriptive information which you use as your search specifications.

Suggested search parameters:

“[name of] Co”
“[name of] County”
“[name of city] [abbreviation or spelled out name of state]” –
Use Categories on the left of the results list to drill down to more relevant items.
[surname of interest]
***The asterisk is no longer supported as a wildcard character.***

Using the quote marks will require the terms to be together. For example, “Wake Co” will provide results with the search terms next to each other, i.e., Wake Co and Wake County. Without the quotes, Wake Co will result with items with just the word Wake anywhere in the title (or description if you click the checkbox under the blue Search button) as well as results with variations of the word beginning with co, i.e., comic, company, Columbus, college, etc.

Search parameters can be saved. While you are on the page of results, at the top of the list of items will be a link “Follow This Search.” Click on this link (log in if necessary), and you will start receiving e-mails when new items are listed.

By using Advanced Search, you can limit the results to items which use the search parameters in either the Title or the Description. There are many search limitations you can use, including:

  • searching only completed listings [listings that no longer active/current] and/or sold listings
  • price range
  • buying formats (auction, buy it now, classified ads)
  • whether the item is new or used (or not specified as either)
  • shipping options (free or local pick up)
  • within a certain radius of a ZIP Code
  • within specific location(s)

To find filler items for the journal, I use the above search functions, using the search parameter “deed” or “indenture” along with “Wake Co” to narrow down the results. If I find anything, I will cross-post to the WCGS member e-mail list, and someone else will cross-post to the RootsWeb list for Wake County researchers. If I have extra time, I will use other search parameters (postcard, manuscript, journal, letter, diary, etc.) along with “Wake Co”. As a rule, I am not planning to bid or purchase any of the items I find on eBay.

Here’s a slave document I found which was published in a recent issue of the journal:

There are several Facebook Groups/Pages which post a variety of genealogy-related materials from various internet sources including EBay Genealogy and Dead Fred Genealogy Photo Archive.

In a recent issue of American Spirit (Daughters of the American Revolution, September/October 2013, Page 10), there is an item “Beyond eBay: Tips for Checking Out Online Marketplaces.” Included in their list are Coollectors.com, Bonanza.com, OnlineAuction.com, and eCrater.com. I have not checked these websites, but include them here for your reference.

Try these ideas next time you are searching on eBay. Let us know what criteria *you* use to assist in your research.

Hope Blackford
(nee Janice Lee Hope)
Assistant Editor – Wake Treasures
Wake County Genealogical Society
Raleigh, North Carolina

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