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 Ancestry.com, 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, DeadFred.com before placing the originals for sale.  At least this way, they will be preserved in some manner.  I may even contact your cousins on Ancestry.com 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.

8 comments:

Karen said...

I, too, am at a loss to explain why someone would sell their heirloom family photographs. Some people just flat out don't care, and aren't interested in their heritage. I'm glad you made the scans and distributed them as you did. At least descendants of that family won't be completely without these photos. And perhaps whoever buys them on eBay will have the kind of appreciation for them that they deserve. Very sad.

Lisa Wallen Logsdon said...

Powerful! I have rescued photographs and a very old family bible from an abandoned farmhouse in the country. I managed to find descendants to claim both. When I find these things with names I can't resist buying them, researching them. I have a very old leather hymn book that children wrote in...all kinds of names. I have found the family it belonged to in the census. Guess I'll try to see if I can locate a descendant for that too.

Travis LeMaster said...

Karen - It was a strange that on the same day I posted these photos on eBay, my cousin shared with me several photos of my ancestors on my mother's side that none of us had ever seen. That is why it is sad that no one wanted these photos and let them go to auction.

Travis LeMaster said...

Lisa - I understand what you mean about researching the families. This particular family has a 150+ year history in the Madison County, Indiana area. The gentleman was a high school principal, superintendent and political candidate. Well regarded in the community. Just sad that the photos went up for sale. Perhaps the family overlooked them, but more than likely didn't have an interest.

Cheri Daniels said...

Great post! Reminds me of the tragedy of letters going on at Ebay as well! A family had sold a huge collection of their Parents' WWII love letters to the highest bidder who then separated them into batches of 10 on Ebay with the highest prices based on content or timeframe during the War. I spent a fortune on trying to buy up Jack and Thelma's letters to keep them together....didn't get all of them, but quite a few....and I later found Thelma's obit from the year before that told me she and Jack did marry and have children after the War as they had dreamed about so often in the letters....too bad those children didn't care much for their parents' dreams or priceless history. Maybe someday, the grandchildren will want them. As much as I hate selling off the family gems, the dissection of family histories for profit makes me nauseous! Love the Ebay widget...will get one for my blog too....as long as I can learn to not obsess about saving every one!

Apple said...

Very sad. I know that there must be more pictures of my family out there but where? Probably in the cellar of some distant cousin. When they pass they'll hopefully end up on DeadFred or ebay where I might find them rather than just put out with the trash and lost forever.

GrannyPam said...

This reminds me of my grandmother's photo album, which was for sale at an antique shop. The shop probably bought it from an estate sale a relative had.

I was lucky, a friend of my M-in-L bought it for the album, and then while looking through the photos, saw my name in the captions, and my face in my ancestor's photos. What a blessing, she called us, and sold me the album for what she paid.

Free Genealogy Guide said...

I've seen lists of things that one can buy with a high probability of purchase on eBay, but never this. I suppose that, for everyone who is apathetic about his own genealogy, there is someone interested in everyone's.