In my last post I described my thrill at finding a treasure trove of old Linn family photographs on eBay. While they were the first big family related purchase I have been able to make on eBay, they weren't the first or only purchase that has helped me in my research. Among my eBay treasures are two Ripley, Ohio high school yearbooks from the 1920's, 1976 reprint of the 1876 Atlas of Brown County, Ohio, a Maysville, Kentucky phonebook from the 1960's, and various old postcards from towns that I have come to know from my research. All of these purchases have given me a glimpse into the lives of my ancestors that enrich my understanding of them.
I search eBay regularly for these types of items using several methods. First, using the Advanced Search option allows me to check the box which tells eBay to search not only in auction titles for my query, but to also look in the descriptions of the items. Checking this box will sometimes add unrelated items to the results, but I have found many items of interest that did not contain my search phrase in the title so I think it is worth it to keep the box checked. I also keep my search in All Categories.
For my searches, I use keywords and phrases such as the town and state or surname of my many families. I do not place quotation marks around my query because I have found that it tends to limit the results. The only exception to this is when I search using counties and states. For example, I often search for "Brown County" Ohio where placing the quotation marks around "Brown County" keeps the result list within my interest. I also search using the abbreviations for county or state and am always presented with results that didn't show up in the first searches using the whole word.
If my search brings about a result list that is just too long to go through, I then look to the left side of the page to refine my search. There are various categories to choose from. I like to check all the ones that I think might apply to family research or histories of the locations in my family tree such as books, photographic images, postcards, and maps. There is a Genealogy category that can be found under what eBay calls Everything Else, but don't let that be your only place to look. The other types of treasures you are looking for won't be found in that category.
Using eBay as a family research source is great fun, especially when you hit the jackpot and find something to add to your collection. It is easy to use and by experimenting with various keyword searches you will soon find what works best for your surnames and locations. I strongly suggest getting a PayPal account, start searching eBay, and get ready to find things you never knew were out there! Good luck and I'll see you on eBay!