Meet Pam Beveridge, a genealogist who reunites old artifacts she’s found in New England with the descendants of those who originally owned them. She kindly answered Family Tree Magazine contributor Sunny Jane Morton‘s questions in the magazine’s January/February 2015 “Genealogy Insider” column about heirloom rescue, plus a few more especially for our blog.
FTM: How did you get into this?
PB: I’ve been collecting old photos and manuscript items for about 40 years. I used to stop at antique shops in Maine and New Hampshire. Finding things online starting about 15 years ago really bumped up my collecting. Now I’m starting to let these things go. You go through life in your acquisitive stage and then you get to your inquisitive stage and I like to think that’s where I’m at now.
FTM: What’s with all the autograph albums on your site?
PB: They’re wonderful. They were the social media of their day. Some of the older ones have hand-colored engravings in them and must have been a prized possession. Many hand-drawn designs by the owner’s friends and relatives reflect an amazing commitment of time and talent. The words that people wrote in them came from the heart and soul.
FTM: Any other preferences or themes in your collection?
PB: I’m more interested in hardscrabble people than famous people. Famous people have a huge record. But this might be the only remaining artifact or record of this everyday person. With artifacts, I limit myself to items from no later than the early 1900s for the privacy of living people. And if an item doesn’t put someone in a very good light, I shy away from it.
FTM: What do you get out of this hobby?
PB: I get to time-travel with these artifacts. They have expanded my knowledge of the world and history. The contacts are a lot of fun. People I’ve met through Facebook, Google+ and my blog help me with translations and research. But hearing from families is the best. I’ve had people tell me they’ve cried when they saw their great-grandfather on my site.
FTM: Is your experience always that good?
PB: No. Once I connected with a young man whose ancestors were in a Bible I had. When he saw it, he offered me only $10 for it because it smelled bad. In that case, the Bible will be safer waiting for a descendant who appreciates it more.
FTM: What’s a great heirloom that’s come back to you?
PB: I found my great-grandmother’s Bible on eBay by making alerts out of the surnames I’m researching.
FTM: What you do is kind of heroic, don’t you think?
PB: The people I know who volunteer [in the genealogy world] don’t think of themselves as heroes. More like we’re stewards and we’re on a mission, and we couldn’t be any other way. If there’s a snake hiding under that stack of old books, you’ll find out how heroic I am.