Why is this man sitting on a dead horse? Sharon Sergeant, the genealogist behind the Website AncestralManor.com has shed some light on the matter...but more on that later.
I'd asked Sharon for some input on how genealogists use ephemera in their work. "A large component of tracing family history is being able to find a paper trail to chase," says Sergeant, "as well as learning more about the life and times of people and communities--through daily activities that are embodied in all sorts of old paper items--including posters and notices, day books, merchant journals, tickets, programs, pamphlets, receipts, checks, insurance policies, bookplates, letters, postcards, calling cards, advertising cards, etc."
Sergeant hosts international teleconferences to help people research their past. In her work, she uses ephemera such as photographs, bibles, postal stamps, coins, and other collectibles. "Genealogical methods and resources can be applied to the provenance, or history of ownership, as well as creating collections of items enhancing the value of a central work of art or type of craftsmanship," she says. "Such collections create both visual and documentary stories."
Which brings us back to the photo of our man perched on the dead horse. Recently, Sergeant began working on the mystery of the photograph that has raged for months on the Web. Speculation has been rampant. But she's the only one who actually did any methodical research on the issue. Check out her findings here.
Genealogists like Sergeant are called upon to find all sorts of interesting tidbits. For instance, Sergeant was recently asked to find the college graduation ceremonies booklets for James A.
Michener, where Michener was a speaker.
Other examples of Sergeant's research:
- finding a collection of postcards between various family members in the 1910-1930s time frame--tracing the people and their relationships for that family's historian.
- providing census information and insurance maps to a milk bottle collector who was trying to date and document a particular bottle.
Genealogy research can pay off handsomely for collectors and dealers. Photography dealers, for instance, frequently underestimate the value of their salable items, according to Sergeant. "That is true also for all types of ephemera collectors," she says. "There is also great crossover opportunities, in that ephemera collectors can provide historical expertise for family history researchers."
So, whether you need to see a man about a horse or want to know something about the photo of a man on dead horse, a genealogist can help.