By Sheila Benedict

Contributing Writer

If you want to find out more about your ancestors aside from names, dates, and places, consider checking out old receipts, memberships, and other documents that can give insight into who those people were, what were their likes and dislike, and how they lived.

Think about the following non-traditional items — become the family anthropologist, if you will — and handle items carefully, make copies of old newspapers on acid-free paper, and store everything in conservation/preservation containers. Consider these:

– Bank statement and/or blank, voided check

– Old love letters, and letters of any kind

– Dated receipts from markets, department or discount stores

– Vehicle registrations

– Expired passport, travel photos and maps

– All types of legal papers: court, land, tax, etc.

– Catalog pages to show what was “in” during your lifetime

– Animals’ registration certificates and vet bills

– Raffle and lottery tickets

– Warranty booklets

– Newspaper headlines and articles (be sure to cite name, date and page number)

– Coin or stamp collection information (sheet from an appraisal book)

– Diplomas, degrees, certificates, tassels, etc.

– Union membership book, club membership cards and/or a list that includes offices held

– Maps and historical data from all places in which you have lived

– Calendars and/or old date books (just a few pages are enough)

– Prom invitations and/or invitations to other special events

– Videotape of family and audio or CD of family history

– Political memorabilia from all parties

– Baby books, birth announcements, lock of baby hair, etc.

– List of friends and family, and business partners

– TV Guide or a page from a newspaper

– Separate lists of books you read that you liked and those you disliked, and why.

– Likes and dislikes in music, art, movies and clothing.

– Holiday cards with handwritten notes

– Funeral handouts

– Internet and email information

– DNA results

– Something personal to only you.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and all the other holidays this month.

Next month, the column will try to list all the places in Santa Barbara County, especially in the Santa Ynez Valley, where one might do some family research. We will cover both genealogy libraries and centers as well as non-genealogy places such as libraries and archives.

If you have questions, please send them to so they can be answered in future issues.

Sheila Benedict is a professional forensic and family genealogist. She is the author of “Research in California,” which she wrote in 2015 for the National Genealogical Societies “Research in the States” series.