Buyers at Estate Sales

When in a pinch, lists of purchasers at estate sales can provide clues as to ancestral associates and relatives. Individuals who purchased the property of your deceased relative likely knew him.

I usually focus initially on any person who purchased more than two items as a potential relative or “close connection.” Those people may have lived where your ancestor used to live or ended up moving where later members of the family moved to.

I’ll follow up on the ones who purchased one item as well, but starting with the purchasers of more items is a good way to start.


4 thoughts on “Buyers at Estate Sales

    1. michaeljohnneill Post author

      They would be in the same set of probate records that contain the probate inventory. Sometimes they may be in the case files or there may be record books of sales. It just depends. In earlier times there might not be any record of the specific items sold. These would typically be county (or occasionally city/town) records in the United States.

  1. Nancy Nelson

    I’ve seen estate auction lists were every buyer was a relative of the family. Was it possible, or maybe required in some cases, that only family members were allowed to purchase estate items?

    1. michaeljohnneill Post author

      There was no such requirement that relatives purchase items. In some locations and during some time periods, there widow would be allocated certain property before items could be sold to pay bills.

      Since these were family items, family often purchased items. In some areas, I expect that bidders usually gave “family” first dibs on making purchases and “dirty looks” would be shot at those who bidded against a widow or son who was purchasing an item.

      There was a sale in Missouri in the 1860s where every item the widow purchased at the estate sale went for “pennies on the dollar” when compared to the appraised value. Items bought by other family members or neighbors sold for close to the appraised value. In that case, it really looked like that if the widow wanted (or needed) something, locals saw to it that she got it. In that case, the law said there “had” to be a sale–and this was how the community worked around it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.