Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Genealogy Serendipity Moments - Details on Ledger Books Findings

Today I made my fourth trip this month to Sherwood, Oregon, to work on the Post Office Ledger Books kept in the Sherwood Heritage Center. The findings thus far are that there are a total of eighty-five ledger books from the old Sherwood Post Office covering some years between 1899-1935. I have taken on a project that seems to have a time frame of its own. The biggest difficulty is that the Center is only open two days a week, for three hours a day.

For the second trip I took my son Michael. He helped me to move the very heavy boxes of books and then to sort the books. This was a very dirty process, as these books obviously were kept in poor storage for some time. Some of the books are a challenge to read, but the majority are in fairly good condition. We separated those that had names of customers from those that did not. There are fifty-four that only list figures for the accounting of daily post office transactions and the names of the postmasters. There may be additional information in these ledger books and the loose papers hidden in them, but the focus for this project is the names listed in the ledger books.

There are thirty-one ledger books with lists of people's names. Today I finished working on number twelve and most of thirteen. With eighteen books to go, I am over one third through this collection of books. At this rate it may take me another nine trips to complete the project. It actually should start to go a little faster as the more recent books are easier to read. I started with the oldest books, as I knew if I just did the newer ones, where my ancestor's names are more likely to be found, I might never finish the entire project.

So, what have I learned so far from the books and how might they help you in your research? First of all it places our relatives in a time and place. Second if they are purchasing a money order, which is what most of the lists include, you will often discover where other relatives are living. Third you will begin to see patterns in their lives, where they purchased things from, if they were involved with the local Sheriff's or County Clerk's offices, etc.

In today's research I finally came to one of my relatives who moved to Sherwood in about 1913. This relative is the person who took in my grandmother when she came to Sherwood, Oregon from Iowa in about 1920-1926. You can see that this time frame easily coincides with the information in the books. In one early glance of a book there was a listing for my grandmother's aunt, who lived in Independence, Iowa, and had sent a money order to Sherwood. I did not record the information at the time and I can hardly wait to find it again. When I fill in all the pieces of the puzzle I will write a separate piece on this family.

The other fun piece of information is the accounting for post office box payments. In this time period almost everyone had a post office box. Many people paid for purchases, sent money to relatives or paid off debts by using money orders. I am not sure how prevalent such a find as these old post office ledger books will be, but they certainly would be worth asking about in an area you are researchng. What unusual finds have you made in the process of researching your relatives or ancestors? It certainly pays to be inquisitive and persistent in this research.

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