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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - June/July 2004
eBay Online Auctions – A New Source for Genealogy Research

Interest in genealogy research has exploded over the past few years. More and more people are questioning who they are, who their ancestors were, and what can be discovered in their family history. While genealogy is not a new concept, the rapid growth of the internet has allowed researchers instant access to records that would have taken weeks or even months to obtain in the past. Not only are records becoming more readily available, but the tools used to perform genealogy research are not as hard to find as they used to be.

It’s surprising, but many genealogy researchers are overlooking what may be possibly one of the best resources of genealogy tools to be found anywhere – eBay online auctions. Think eBay is only about designer fashions, the hottest toys of the year, and collectible PEZ dispensers? Think again. If you’re serious about researching your family history, you don’t want to overlook the tools and resources that eBay online auctions can offer you. With millions of people interested in genealogy and millions of people using eBay, it’s only natural that the two would eventually come together.

Many people are surprised to find out that the eBay online auctions site actually has a category dedicated to genealogy research. What kind of items does the site have up for auction? The genealogy category of eBay online auctions is broken down into seven different subcategories. These subcategories include Birth, Marriage and Death Records, Census Records, City and State Directories, Immigration and Passenger Lists, Maps, Military Records, and Other. There are anywhere from a couple of dozen items to a couple of thousand items in each category.

The Birth, Marriage and Death Records subcategory of the eBay online auctions site offers bidders the chance to bid on items ranging from written histories of pioneer families to CDs containing public records for certain areas during certain periods. These items are relatively inexpensive. For instance, if you’re looking for information on relatives that lived in Patrick County Virginia, you can purchase a CD containing the death records for that county from 1853-1870 for just $7.95 plus shipping. CDs like this can be found at the eBay online auctions for a variety of counties and states and include birth records and marriage records as well.

The Census Records section of the eBay online auctions includes items that can help you obtain data from various census records. The census records are not limited to U.S. counties and states; there are a number of international census records up for auction as well. Since census data plays such an important part of genealogy research, these eBay online auctions are a great resource for finding the information you need to track your family history.

The eBay online auctions City and State Directories category provides bidders with the opportunity to search and bid on a number of directories from the 1800s and 1900s. These directories often include county maps and details on the history of the county. You can find directories in both hard copy and on CD. The CD copies tend to be less expensive and easier to search, but if you want original print material, you’ll want to bid on the books that are up for auction. 

When you search the eBay online auctions category of Immigration Passenger Lists, you’ll find that it doesn’t have as many items for sale as some of the other categories, but the content more than makes up for that. You can bid on naturalization records, immigration lists, Family Tree Maker passenger lists, and more. Prices for these records are very reasonable, with the average auction seeing a starting bid of less than ten dollars.

The maps section offers county and town maps showing surnames and where each person lived within the county or town. You can buy most of these maps at the eBay online auctions for about ten dollars. Again, most of these maps are on CD, but you can obtain some print copies of the maps. There are even CDs for sale that have all of the counties in a given state on one disc. These CDs will cost more than the county-specific CDs, but will give you much more information. For instance, the CD for Indiana was selling for about $35. For that amount the winning bidder got the complete set of Indiana’s 1876 maps for each county. The maps detail the railroads, the early homesteads, and more. There are a number of resources like this available for other states and counties on the eBay internet auctions site.

The military records category is another category that is smaller in size, but great in informative value. Civil War records, Revolutionary War records and World War I records can all be found by searching the eBay online auctions. The resources in this category aren’t just limited to traditional records; you can also bid on personal diaries, letters and more.

The last, but largest, genealogy subcategory on the eBay online auctions site is the “Other” category. This is where you’ll find the latest tools and resources that don’t fit into any of the other six categories. You can purchase genealogy research notepads, family-specific genealogy charts that have been completed by others with the same surnames, scrap booking guides, instructional books, and more.

The key to utilizing the eBay online auctions to their fullest is to use a combination of all of the categories together. Many genealogy researchers have discovered just how valuable a resource eBay has proven to be when it comes to providing them with hard-to-find information. eBay online auctions also provide an inexpensive alternative to the monthly fees charged by some databases. Buy purchasing a CD containing all of the census data you need in a specific area, you won’t have to pay a monthly subscription to a site that hosts that information on their own server.

As more and more people explore their cultures and pasts, more and more people are sure to flock to the eBay online auctions to both share research and to purchase the tools needed for further research. If you’re an avid genealogy researcher who hasn’t caught on to the eBay trend yet, embrace the inevitable and start using the site resources for all they’re worth.

Robert Ragan has been actively involved with computers and genealogy since the 1980s and has published the Treasure Maps genealogy email newsletter since 1995.  He has written several guides and tutorials on Internet genealogy research and is a former director of a Family History Center in Jacksonville, Florida. 

Now Robert has another valuable genealogy tool available to the genealogy world. It is interactive, unique and completely free. You can take Robert's free genealogy eBay online auction course at--

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