This April we are once again blogging along with the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our team of one-place studiers will be sharing some of the treasures to be found for a one-place study, particularly around the theme of Visualisation, our Shared Endeavour for 2016.

Ephemera (singular: ephemeron) is any transitory written or printed matter not meant to be retained or preserved. The word derives from the Greek, meaning things lasting no more than a day. (Wikipedia)

Most of us are used to looking at "well-preserved" records such as parish records, census, etc. This article is about the type of record that may often be discarded and so not survive in record offices or be available on-line.

For my one-place study of New Fishbourne, I have managed to obtain a number of ephemeral items such as postcards, cuttings from newspapers, railway tickets, letters sent to and from New Fishbourne addresses. These have mainly been sourced from on-line auction sites such as eBay, and (there are also other auction websites available such as,, and although I haven’t personally had any success with these sites).

I read somewhere recently that ephemera means different things depending on whether you are a genealogist or a family or local historian. For the genealogist who is concentrating on the construction of a pedigree, most ephemera is of limited use. However, for a family or local historian (and of course a one-placer) then it can be gold dust! This is the stuff that lets you reach out and touch, to understand the daily lives of the people we are interested in.

So what else? The list is only limited by your imagination – there was an article in a recent edition of "Your Family History" magazine where the author had used a collection of pawnbroker’s tickets to make some interesting observations and provide some insight on people’s finances in times past.

ephemeraSo keep an eye open for (in no particular order) – church guides, parish and local newsletters, house and farm sale particulars, walking guides (especially where there is information on the history or buildings), old transport timetables (bus, train or ferry), in memoriam cards, programmes for local events such as horticultural shows or local theatre groups, school photographs, account books, diaries, documents, deeds, plans, maps, auction particulars, early photographs, albums, prints, family bibles, invoices and catalogues from shops, official documents from the local Councils, utility bills, material published by local organisations, education certificates, school reports, national identity cards from WWII, ration books, items advertising local companies, books of local memories (very popular at the time of the millennium), membership cards/leaflets/tickets, garage bills, vehicle log-books, leaflets, handbills, posters, playbills, menus, sales catalogues, school prospectuses, brochures, business cards, election material and much, much more!

By its nature some of this material may be difficult to find, but check the record offices and libraries, check on-line sites such as those above, look out at car-boot sales, charity shops and junk shops, talk to people, make sure that people know that you are interested in what might otherwise be thrown out. To paraphrase – one person’s junk is another's valuable historical resource.

Steve Pickthall


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