During Fort Wayne Ancestry Day's Ask the Experts Panel, we received so many questions that we were unable to answer them all during the event. The following are questions asked and The Genealogy Center staff's responses.
Are there resources for researching auction house records? My grandmother remembered a portrait of an ancestor that reportedly fetched $500 in an auction circa 1922. My grandmother’s grandmother had to sell the portrait when she fell on hard times.
Worldwide Auction Databank claims that it includes the records from more than 2,900 auction houses from around the world. It may not include the one you need, however! Do you have an idea of where this auction took place or the name of the company that handled it? If so, and if it is not included in the website mentioned, you might contact the county and state historical societies in the location of the auction house to see whether its records have been deposited in one of those facilities. Auction companies are private businesses and so like funeral homes, hospitals and other businesses, their records are not automatically archived by a government entity. They may be found at the business if it still exists, in an archives or historical society if donated, or in the basement, attic or garage of a relative of the former business owner. They also may have been discarded at the time the business became defunct. Another helpful resource pertaining to auction records is “How to Read Auction Records” on the website of the Chicago Appraisers Association.
Where to look for occupations, for example, weavers.
An interesting article online that discusses the occupations of our ancestors is “Discovering the Occupations of Your Ancestors: Finding Clues in Occupational Records” by Kimberly Powell. Some occupations required licenses, which may have been recorded. Check the county courthouse for these licenses. Business records were privately held by the business owner, but may have been donated to the local public library, historical society, genealogical society, or a nearby university special collections department. Newspapers are rich in details about local businesses. Many newspapers are not indexed, but browsing them for the time period when your family lived in the area can be immensely rewarding. More and more newspapers are being digitized, also, and so may be searchable by keyword. Check the local USGenWeb sites, as well as subscription websites such as Footnote.com, GenealogyBank and NewspaperArchive.com to see whether a newspaper from your area of interest has been digitized. City directories are another fine source of information about local businesses and the occupations of residents during particular times in history.