How to Use eBay for Genealogy

By Madge Maril Premium

Using eBay for genealogy research would have never crossed my mind. That is, until I saw Emily Kowalski Schroeder’s post on Instagram about finding an advertisement for the farm store of her husband’s great-uncle on eBay.

How clever is that? Sometimes, we spend so much time chasing our hard-to-find ancestors that we ignore the easy-to-find information right in front of our noses: searching for your family name on websites like eBay.

I decided I had to try it out for myself. Luckily, I have an easy last name and some interesting relatives. I typed in “Maril” into eBay’s search browser.


I’d always known I was related to the 20th century modernist painter, Herman Maril. A few days ago I posted the emotional story of finding a voice recording of his on Facebook. What I didn’t know is that there was a plethora of information on Herman right there on eBay, waiting for me to find.

I found books detailing art exhibitions in New York, photographs The Baltimore Sun were selling from their collection (which means there’s a Baltimore Sun article I need to find!) and actual paintings from my relative. 

Luckily, eBay features a contact service. While I’m not able to afford one of Herman’s paintings (one was listed for close to $500), contacting the seller of the painting is totally free. I sent them a message explaining I was a relative of Herman’s and I was wondering who they were and how they came to own the painting.

Not only does eBay give me the chance to learn more about Herman Maril through new documents surfacing online, I also will get to know about how this person came to own one of my relative’s paintings. And who knows—maybe the person selling the painting is a Maril, and I just found a new branch on my family tree!

 If you aren’t having luck with last names, try searching for yearbooks from your ancestor’s schools in the years they lived there or newspapers you know they were featured in. 


Diane Haddad from the Genealogy Insider suggests finding the perfect gift for a family member by using eBay. “For my dad’s Christmas one year, I found him some postcards of a town he lived in for a couple of years as a child, while his dad was building a dam on the Missouri River,” Diane says. 

With every item I find about Herman Maril or any of my ancestors, the story of my family tree is illuminated. If you do manage to find something special on eBay, make sure you know exactly how to sort, save and share your new family heirlooms by clicking here.

How to Use eBay for Genealogy