How I Accidentally Found An Ancestor On eBay

How I Accidentally Found An Ancestor On eBay

by Kerry Scott on 26 July 2010

This is an example of what genealogists call serendipity.

We moved into our current house four years ago.  It was much bigger than our old house, and so had a lot of extra space to fill.  We had just had a baby, so we didn’t have much money to spend on artwork.  I decided to see just how cheaply I could fill the walls without resorting to ugly hotel-type stuff or posters from IKEA.  I also wanted to see if I could incorporate our family history into the decor in interesting ways (i.e. something other than antiques and/or a wall of ancestor photos).

I had one small hallway that especially cried out for something different.  I decided to find vintage postcards of places that my ancestors (or my husband’s) had lived.  I already had a few, and I searched eBay to find more.  The one above was one of my favorites.  It shows the old high school in Plymouth, Wisconsin, where my mother-in-law’s family has lived for generations.  I bought it for $6.99.  The listing said it was postmarked 1910, but it didn’t say what else was on the back.

A week or so went by, and the postcard arrived in the mail.  I ripped open the envelope, admired the vintage cheerleader, and then turned it over.

This is what I saw:

Could we arrange a game down there with the Waldo High School or second team, Friday night.  We would guarantee you a return game through our principal—we would want 4.00 and will give you the same when you come up.  Answer on the next train as we want a game for Friday.

Le Roy LaBudde–Ass’t Mgr. Plymouth High School B. B. Plymouth Wis.

LeRoy LaBudde sent the postcard.  LaBudde is my mother-in-law’s family’s name.  A quick search revealed that LeRoy was a collateral ancestor of hers.  Nearly 100 years after one of her relatives mailed this postcard, I’d bought it on eBay without having a clue who it was from.  What are the odds?

Freaky stuff like that happens all the time in genealogy.  It’s pretty cool.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy Boland July 26, 2010 at 12:47 pm

And how cool/smalltown is it that in 1910 you could address a postcard with a name and town only?

I thought you were going to tell me that the drawing of a cheerleader was a picture of your Great-Grams or someone. Can I pretend that it is?


Kerry Scott July 26, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Works for me!


Nancy July 26, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Congratulations! I wish some freaky stuff like that would happen to me!


Susan Tiner July 27, 2010 at 10:01 am

Serendipity indeed. I guess the $0.01 postage stamp in 1910 tells us something about inflation since then!


Michelle August 2, 2010 at 6:07 pm

This is one of the coolest things ever. Thanks for sharing!


Carole October 22, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Very cool!


Joyce October 23, 2010 at 8:52 am

I only have one question and that is: Did you know that Leroy was the assistant principal of the high school?? All of it is really cool. I have a postcard from the government telling me my 4th great grandmother will receive 20 dollars from the government for her husbands military service in the Civil War. Thanks for sharing.


Kerry Scott October 23, 2010 at 8:53 am

Nope—I didn’t know anything about LeRoy before this. It was just dumb luck that I bought his postcard.


Caron November 9, 2010 at 9:37 am

Cool story! I was contacted by a “research cousin” who told me they saw a picture on eBay with one of my family names on it. I had never gone on eBay before, let alone bid on anything. Long story short, I ended up with a 4 generation picture of my great-grand uncle and his children, grand-daughter and great-grandchildren, all labeled on the back!


Lisa September 18, 2011 at 11:50 am

It gives me the chills when stuff like that happens… very cool. Love genealogical serendipity.


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