Sunday, February 27, 2011

Heritage For Sale

I put your family heritage on eBay today. I’m hoping to get top dollar.  I struggled with the idea at first, but in the end I succumbed to my capitalistic urges.  Because I would never want to have my own heritage up for sale, I thought I would warn others so they don’t suffer the same fate as your ancestors.

I bought the photos of your great-grandparents and relatives, including the little baby in the casket, at the local auction house.  You see, I truly enjoy going to auctions and estate sales.  It’s part of the same pack-rat, “collector” mentality that draws me to genealogy.  What drew me to this sale was the fact that I knew your parents, and the local memorabilia and ephemera was simply too much for me to resist.  I made an emotional purchase, taking all of the box lots containing your family photos, scrapbooks and other newspaper clippings.  I told myself that I wanted to preserve the local history – keeping it out of the hands of the flea market dealers.  But in the end, I realized that it was not my responsibility to preserve your heritage.

Oh, I struggled with the decision to sell the photos – they were the types of photos I wish I had of my own ancestors.  Most of them were even labeled!  I found myself on, searching your ancestry instead of my own.  When I reached that point I knew that I needed to purge myself of these extraneous photos.

I don’t know why your family wasn’t interested in preserving these family heirlooms.  To me, knowing they exist and not having them would create a void I would yearn to fill.  Perhaps someday, one of your descendants or an extended family member will be interested in genealogy.  Maybe they’ll ask you if there are any old photos lying around.  You’ll have to be the one to break their heart and tell them that all the pictures were sold at an auction.

The genealogist in me wouldn’t let them go into the night without trying to preserve them in some manner.  I made scans of all of them and uploaded them onto the website, before placing the originals for sale.  At least this way, they will be preserved in some manner.  I may even contact your cousins on and email them digital scans as well.  That should keep me from feeling too guilty.

So the next time you eat at the local Cracker Barrel, and you see someone on the wall who looks familiar – it may just be your family.
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