Sunday, July 15, 2018

Genealogy On The Road #3 - Finding Ancestors in Antique Shops

Welcome back to Genealogy On the Road!

I just returned from another trip to Western New York for work. My latest adventure was doing some shopping at one of the local antique shops in Corning, NY. I've been to a few shops over the last year and bought a few treasures along the way, some of which I'll highlight here.

Outside entrance of local antique shop (one of my favorites!) in Corning, NY

There are a number of things that you can find in an antique shop that may be of interest to you.

1. Photographs

I was amazed at the different types of photographs left "orphaned" in the stores. I even found a wedding picture (below), which made me sad that a family didn't want to keep in their family photo collection.

Wedding Picture - Unidentified Couple. Found in Corning, NY Antique Shop. 

I plan on starting to date them and hopefully re-unite them with a descendant. I'll be posting these photos on sites like If you have any clues on possible descendants, please contact me at shamrockgenealogist[at]gmaill[dot]com.

2. Military Antiques

I feel like I'm finding a gold mine when I can locate military antiques such as medals and pins. These items are tied to specific wars and sometimes specific regiments. Imagine holding a medal like one that your ancestor was given for their service?
Asiatic Pacific Campaign medal (WWII)
3.  Miscellaneous Documents

One of the latest documents I found was a memorial card for a young man who died at the age of 19 years old, Reuben Stiles.  This would be something that would be created for a church service. The back of the memorial card says Geo Mitchell, Manufacturer of Fine Memorial Cards in Middletown, Ohio. One might think that the person died near Middletown, Ohio but we need to remember it was found in an antique shop in Steuben County, NY.  We can't discount where it was found.

Reuben Stiles Memorial Card 1893, Steuben County, NY
I did a search on to see if I can find Reuben Stiles and I think I located him. He was the son of Albert Stiles and Nancy Leach, born on November 19, 1873. This birth date matches up perfectly when compared to the age on the memorial card which lists his date of death as November 16, 1893 where he was listed age 19 years, 11 months, 27 days. A mere 3 days before his 20th birthday. According to his Find a Grave memorial, he was buried in Chenango Cemetery in Troupsburg, Steuben County. I'm confident that I will find a descendant of the Stiles family who would like to add this to their collection.

Frank B. Hower Scottish Rite Cathedral Consecration and Dedication Booklet
I also found a small booklet for the consecration and dedication of the "Frank B. Hower Scottish Rite Cathedral" in Corning, NY in 1921. It includes several pictures and a history on the project. The masonic temple was closed in September 2005 and items were auctioned off to make room for a smaller facility. I wonder if this booklet was one of the items auctioned off and sold to the antique shop. Or perhaps a former member's collection was donated after they passed. I will be doing some research and following up with local archives in Steuben County to see if they would like this part of their collection. I think it's a very valuable document for local history as well as genealogy for members that helped found the masonic temple.

Here are my tips to make the most of your time in the antique shop:

1. Be prepared to spend some time poking through the shelves. Some of the biggest finds were items that I found tucked away from the clothes, hats, and toys that were for sale.

2. Bring cash - a lot of store owners will appreciate cash (less fees for credit/cards).

3. Buy some orphaned photos - they are usually a few dollars each and you may be able to reunite with a family member

4. Make friends with the owners - a lot of them are interested in history and genealogy!

What kinds of treasures have you found at an antique shop? Did you strike gold with finding something that belonged to one of your ancestors? Share in the comments below.

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