Lesson Learned: Use Ebay and Facebook to Find and Identify Your Lost Relatives!

I don’t know why, but I have had the most amazing luck locating relatives of a certain surname on my dad’s side lately. They are the source of our family’s pronounced dimpled chins; the one that got me so much attention, both positive and negative growing up.

It all started with a response to a query I posted on Ancestry.com at the beginning of this year. Through my grandmother’s obituary, various genealogy websites, and the Google News Archive, I was able to find a lot of information about the family. I traced them back to Lewis County, New York but I was unable to go further than the parents of my immigrant ancestors from Switzerland. So I posted what I was able to determine at the time. Sadly, there were no replies until last Saturday. A relative replied to my post and said that she was currently in Switzerland and she wanted to know if I had any other information. She had already found my personal genealogy website for access to my data. Since I had dreamed about one day going to Switzerland doing the same thing she was trying to do, I excitedly activated her username and waited with suspense.

While I was waiting, I decided to go to my tree on Ancestry to see if anything new had showed up in search. Immediately, I saw that someone had added photos to their data. Finally, I saw some faces! I knew it was my family because the photo I saw looked similar to one I saw the faint imprint of this relative’s passport application. I read the description and it said that it was being sold on Ebay and gave the link. My excitement briefly turned to horror when I saw the auction in sold status. I frantically searched to find out if the photos had been sold since that auction had ended. I was in luck! The seller had relisted a few of them so I bid on them and then contacted the seller to see if she had any more and mentioned I did not see a few of them relisted.

In the meantime, there was another response to my Ancestry.com query. I thought it was the cousin in Switzerland, but it was someone else! How could it be? This cousin started listing off names I recognized and some living individuals that we could check with. From the names he listed, I knew that he was not a distant cousin, he had my dad’s last name, and he is married to my dad’s 1st cousin. You can’t get a whole lot closer than that!

Then the Ebay seller replied and sent me this photo:

She told me that she had about 20 more photos and there were some others on Etsy and that she had purchased them online at an online estate sale! I was thrilled… and it wasn’t easy to feel that way since my dog of 11 years had died the day before I got the initial response. I made her an offer on the remaining photos and then proceeded to Etsy to purchase those photos. She accepted the offer and listed the photos as a reserved lot and said she would send them priority mail ASAP! I do believe she was as excited as I was about them going back to family. In fact, she set up a username for the database since she had spent so much time researching the family herself. That way, she could see the end result. In return, she gave me access to her Ancestry.com database so I could see what she discovered.

I decided to set up a private group on Facebook, since everyone seems to be on there these days, where I could post the photos once I received them and got them scanned. Then I could add any relatives that I find while researching. That way, we might be able to identify some of the people in the photos. So I got it set up, invited my immediate family to the group and then posted the link to it in reply to my query. For some reason, the moderator decided to remove that post so I contacted both cousins by private message with the link and told them to invite whomever they think might be interested. So far, the cousin in Switzerland is the only one on Facebook and has joined the group and she’s going to add her mother the next time she’s on. The second cousin is on vacation and said he will get back to me once he is home.

Then I get an email from another cousin; one that the second one had mentioned. He sent me an image that was written in German for our mutual ancestor. It’s apparently a church promotion certificate. He had requested a username to the website so I approved it and I replied back with the link to the Facebook page. He gave me some more information on his immediate family to add to the data. He also said that he has some Kohler family photos that he will scan and send to me! I can’t wait to see them.

My Ebay auction for the rest of the photos has ended now and I’m expecting them the first half of the week. Some of these have names so I’ll be able to pick them out in some of the other photos.

I hope by sharing this story that someone else might discover their ancestors on Ebay or Etsy. Or maybe if you find a photo for sale, you might be inspired to rescue it and attempt to find the family.

As always, if you have any Swisher County Photos you have found and would like to donate them, please contact me for a mailing address or email a digital copy to me at the address in the image at the top of this page. If you would like to try to identify someone in your photo or would like to share your family photos with everyone, you may email them to me as well.

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