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Get Lost in Ledgers – The Unique Looking Glass into Our Ancestor’s Lives (Records)

August 26 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm EDT


Small business ledgers are rarely examined by genealogy researchers. Have you explored “small business” ledgers, typically found in manuscript collections (privately held or as part of a university collection)? Did you know you can learn much about your family (e.g., relationships are sometimes noted – e.g., Tom, son of William), neighborhood, and local business proprietors through these records? Are you looking to expand your FAN (Friends, Associates, and Neighbors) Club? Did you know that the often-used barter system created an extensive web of relationships involving many in the community and documented in ledgers? Did you know that ledgers survive from the 18th through the early 20th centuries?  Did you know that they document our female ancestors? (Every kind of ledger examined mentions women transacting business!). Did you know that children are sometimes mentioned by name? Did you know that ledgers include references to the enslaved and Free Persons of Color (FPOC) (e.g. physician’s ledger documenting health care)?

What? Women, children, enslaved, and FPOC are mentioned?  The same individuals are often underrepresented in official government documents!

A livery ledger might note Deaths or weddings as a horse is rented. Distillery ledgers show everyone seemed to buy whisky – including preachers and physicians. Depending on where you lived and when different goods were bought and sold at the local stores. Different industries (e.g., naval stores) proliferated in select communities, and ledgers reflect such. Every ledger has a story to tell about your ancestors and with personal/intimate details NOT found anywhere else!

We’ll take a quick look at small business ledgers for stores (general, hatting, millinery, shoes, etc.), businesses (e.g., hotels, livery, stable, distillery, blacksmith, etc.), post offices, health-related entities (e.g., physician, insane asylum, etc.), and many other types of ledgers. These ledgers can link family members and provide content invaluable to your family history narrative. They also contain incredible genealogically leverageable material – linking your ancestors to other individuals, families, and businesses or helping identify politics, hobbies, business interests and beyond. The frequent use of the barter system connected many! Samples of all the mentioned and more ledger types are shared.

We’ll also provide insight into the myriad resources that will help you discover their existence. You can do much exploration online to discover the existence of these ledgers, and in some cases, the ledgers themselves are already digitized and FREELY accessible online. In other cases, you can request digitization for a small fee, or a road trip may be in your future.

Please remember that many extant ledgers include everyday little details about your family that will be found nowhere else. A small business ledger may poke a hole in that brick wall you’ve been staring at. And, this type of record is not unique to the US; they are found worldwide.

Give me an hour, and I will open the world of historic small business ledgers to you!  I guarantee that before the talk is over, you’ll be chomping at the bit to start seeing if you can find ledgers that survive for when and where your ancestors lived.


August 26
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm EDT


Diane L. Richard


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K974B Ledgers Overview 24-08-26
$ 25.00