Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Genealogy Lesson 16 - Make the most of eBay for genealogy research

One of the most under-rated places on the Internet to find genealogy resources is eBay.  Most of you are probably familiar with eBay, if not you must be living under a rock!  EBay is an online auction site where average people sell items to other average people around the world.  It took me awhile to realize it but eBay is an untapped jewel when it comes to genealogy.
There is a place in your eBay account where you can set up a favorite search and have the results e-mailed to you on a regular basis.  Most people do not like subscribing to anything but trust me, this is not spam! I have found many valuable family documents and items because of this service.  It does not cost anything and only takes a few minutes to set it up.

All you have to do is log into your eBay account and go into "My eBay." Click on the "Saved Searches" link and then "Add new Search." From there you can add or remove search terms/words, pricing, location or other parameters from your search.  When you are finished, your search would look something like this:

"+lett +(virginia, VA) -beantown -looney -jazz -funk -beer -killian -killians -"della reese" -"lett-lopi" -lopi -engine -baseball -music -songs -football -leon -dallas -cowboys -bronze -canada -latvia -benchwarmer -italy -mail Sort: Ending First, Located In: United States, Currency: U.S. dollars"

This might look like a foreign language but it is my search for the name Lett. I had to specify that I wanted Virginia only, nothing about Letts in Montana or Nebraska. I also removed a lot of terms that do not interest me. For example, I do not want to see items about the Dallas Cowboy's Leon Lett nor do I want to see anything to do with the singer Earl Lett on Beantown Records. This search allows me to find only items that interest me. It might seem confusing but eBay makes it quite simple to set up, just follow the on-screen instructions.

Every day I get an e-mail from at least one of the many searches I have set up. It lets me know when an item of interest has been posted. Sometimes it might be a reference in the index of a book. Other times it might be an old Bible or family photo. I recently bought a collection of original estate papers, including a handful of family photos, concerning my great-great-great-grandfather, Edward Thomas Cole of Mecklenburg County, Virginia. I have also purchased various old letters, envelopes and even a few newspapers from the communities in which my ancestors lived.

Without the favorite search function on eBay, I would probably have missed out on a lot of neat items that I was able to pick up. The service is free and takes only a few minutes to sign up for. There is no reason not to sign up for it. You obviously have to have an eBay account but that is free as well.

The only thing you will have to do thereafter is bid on the items  that are found and hope that you win! Be careful not to get carried away with the bidding process, although I understand that it is almost impossible to pass on a potential family heirloom. I paid over $500 for the estate papers I mentioned earlier, simply because I slipped and let the seller know that I was desperate to get them. Play it cool, bid with confidence and let me know if you find something good!

1 comment:

Hokie Grandma said...

Just found your site and find it refreshing and full of ideas. I especially liked Lesson 12. I am in the same boat, neither my husband or other members of my family are interested. But my mother-in-law is and she is a great help to me. We recently moved to central Va and several relatives came from this area so I am excited to do some real searching. Thanks for your tips.