Ephemera Friday found me up to my elbows today in old paper. Bills, receipts, travel postcards, and other bits-and-pieces of everyday life left behind by their owners.
My goal was to try out a new mobile to computer workflow using Adobe Lightroom Mobile, and to digitize some of the very cool paper I’ve been picking up here and there. Which brings me to. . .
Instant ancestors are everywhere. You can’t go into a thrift store or antique shop without seeing old family photos, Bibles, scrapbooks, or photo albums. Some genealogists enjoy rescuing such treasures and researching the families with the hopes of bringing home the keepsake. It’s a labor of love that takes patience and time.
Orphaned family photos seem especially forlorn. Those eyes. Oh, those eyes. So, you may end up bringing home a crumbling photo album of wartime prints or a tightly rolled military group photo.
But, do you ever stop and look through the basket of leftover paper? Probably not often, because miscellaneous paper is more likely to be tossed away than beautiful vintage cabinet cards or Victorian photo albums. It takes time and effort to track down old names and dates.
Which is so sad. Too bad. Because scrap paper can be almost better than gold.
Today I photographed several pieces that were on offer by an antique dealer for $3.00 per item. I chose a goodly number and was able to get a slightly better price. Here’s a peek at some of the spoils:
- 1922 Bill of Sale for a 1919 four cylinder Overland Automobile from Pete Justi to Gaetano Cozzi Aguilar
- 1916 souvenir marriage certificate for Mr. Ernst Thimm and Miss Auguste Nickel both of Hillsboro, Kansas, signed by Mr. John H. Thimm and G.W. Nickel, witnesses, and Wm. J. Ewert, Elder of the Men. Church
- War Ration Books for Allen and Earl R. Daily of Buffalo, Erie, New York. Allen was 15 and Earl R. 17 years of age
- 1955 Rejection Notice for admission to the Enterprise Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons
- 1887 Expense Bill to transport 2 wood coffins via the Eureka and Palisade Railroad Company
- 1891 order for “Black and Green Tea” from S.C. Dobbs Wholesaler, Athens, Ga. To Mess. Irwin & McBride, Phila. Pa.
Now, if you were researching the Seldon Daily family of Buffalo, New York, wouldn’t you love to know that 17-year old student Earl R. was 5 ft 4 inches tall and weighed 130?
Or, if you hadn’t been able to find a marriage record for Ernst and Auguste, wouldn’t you like to have that beautiful wedding certificate?
It doesn’t take much for family history to end up in the family dustbin. Fine and good if you’re curating the deeds of your life. That’s your business.
But if you want the stories to survive. . . If you want the family tree to grow. . . And if you don’t want your written history to be sold at three dollars a pop, it’s a good idea to be thinking about the future of your family history and your archive.
The bonus, of course, is that as you work through the scraps of paper from your parents’ and grandparents’ homes, or from the junk drawer at your own house, you might uncover all kinds of “interesting” family stories. And, even a sheet or two of vintage writing paper.