Photos, clothing, old furniture, things people made by hand, maybe china and silverware or jewelry — these are the things we normally think of as genealogical artifacts. While they are artifacts of a sort, they are more accurately described as heirlooms. Of these, only the photos may provide valuable genealogical information as well as sentimental value. But, there are other valuable genealogical artifacts out there that you may not have thought of that can, in fact, provide information to add to your family tree. Even better, some of the information you will find in these artifacts cannot be found anywhere else.
So, what are these valuable genealogical artifacts you should be looking for?
Family Bibles — The venerable family Bible is a treasure trove of genealogical information. It records births, deaths, and marriages in the family, sometimes going back generations. The Bibles were most commonly kept in the 1700s and 1800s, and you may find information in there that was recorded before municipalities began ordering vital records to be recorded. You may also find people who missed being included in any census record. In addition, dates you may not have previously known will be in there. A family Bible is an excellent genealogical artifact.
Diaries — People have been keeping diaries for centuries. Even going back into the Middle Ages, you will find diaries (though it was usually only men who kept them until the 1700s and 1800s when more women began to be taught to read and write). These are wonderful resources for finding out not only basic family information you need for your tree, but also for discovering valuable insights about who your ancestors were as people, and what their lives were like.
Their authentic voices and personalities are in those diaries, as well as their everyday activities, and mentions of people they knew, such as friends, neighbors, church members, and family members. A diary is like reading your ancestor’s life story in their own voice and is a true genealogical treasure.
Old Newspaper Articles — There is a nice selection of old newspaper articles online, usually in searchable databases. You can also find them in some local archives, history centers, and even museums. You would be surprised at how much about your ancestors’ lives may have been recorded in their hometown newspapers, and even in national ones.
Old newspapers recorded a lot of social information, such as who was visiting from out of town, who was currently out of town on business or vacation, who was visiting who, descriptions of birthday and engagement parties (in great detail, even for children’s parties), and play-by-play coverage of weddings down to the lace on the bridesmaids’ dresses. Family reunions and anniversary get-togethers were described. Whenever anyone moved to or from town, it was usually also noted. And, if anything big happened in a family or with a person, a whole page or more might be devoted to it. Old newspaper articles are wonderful genealogical artifacts to find out the long-forgotten but incredibly important details of your ancestors’ lives.