It’s a good idea to post a watch on eBay on your surname. When a matching item comes up for auction, you receive notification by email. You never know when a family Bible or something else of value might show up. Fortunately for Dee Grimsrud, she did just that.
The passing of an older generation is poignant, perhaps even more so for a genealogist, since we are so focused on our ancestors and their memories. Dee lost her mother in 2007. Her grandparents had passed back in the ‘60s. One of two uncles died back in World War II. That leaves her with just one uncle from her Mother’s family.
A seller on eBay with the username “junybean” likes old stuff and frequents auctions, buying things despite her husband’s objections. Some time ago she bought a box of old books at an auction near Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Earlier this year junybean needed some cash to pay for a car repair bill, so she put the books up for auction.
That triggered the watch Dee had established and she received an email notification of the Grimsrud listing. She clicked through to examine the items.
“Imagine my surprise,” wrote Dee to me, “to zoom in on photos of various pages containing my grandmother's very-recognizable handwriting, and snapshots of various family members, including my mother as a young girl!” She immediately contacted junybean who got special permission from eBay to cancel the auction so she could get the scrapbooks to Dee.
“Just today I went to visit my 91-year-old uncle, to deliver to him a scrapbook kept by his mother from about 1917 to about 1941 and his baby book,” wrote Dee. He was the last living person documented therein. “Needless to say, he was in tears much of the time this afternoon while we uncovered treasure after treasure pasted and written in the books!”
Dee and her family wonder where the books—which no living family member knew existed—had been all those years. How had the books left the family and made their way from Milwaukee to Oshkosh?
Junybean told Dee, “It actually makes me think that there was some sort of divine intervention to help you locate these.” Dee’s best friend calls it “genealogical karma,” Dee’s reward for helping so many people as a reference archivist at the Wisconsin Historical Society as well as helping numerous friends and acquaintances.
We call it “serendipity in genealogy.”
Thank you, Dee, for sharing.
P.S. Dee recommends creating carefully worded watches on eBay for family surnames, clarified with place names and or other focusing keywords.
Sources: Dee Grimsrud ([email address withheld for privacy]) to the Ancestry Insider (AncestryInsider@gmail.com), emails, “Another ‘Serendipity in Genealogy’ Story,” 13 September 2013 and 14 September 2013, privately held by the Ancestry Insider.