Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sorting Saturday - Boxes and Boxes of Really Old Bills

What do you do with this kind of stuff when you're the family historian?  For a few brief seconds my thought was throw them out!  But as I flipped through them I realized that they could provide an interesting snapshot of my parents lives.  Besides I found a stack of bills from the Milk Man and I was hooked!

As it turns out, it wasn't just bills, there were receipts, bank statements, cancelled checks and check stubs from employers.  Since they were sorted by payee and date, it was easy to flip through and pull out ones that were what I'll call milestones: 
  • The first and last bill/stub at an address or from an employer.
  • Checks made out to the City of ______ which is an indication of just when my parents relocated while in the service.
  • A check made out to one of my grandfathers.  It's the only document I have ever seen with his signature!
  • Receipts for dues payed to the "Community Club" in the neighborhood where I grew up.  I didn't know there ever was a "Community Club."  I wonder what that's about?
  • Gas receipts from Union 76.  Cost of a gallon of gas in December 1959 was 31 cents.
  • My favorite:  bills from the Milk Man.  See below.
Here's what I did with the samples I pulled out.  I got a small 3 ring binder, used some of the archival photo pages for 4 x 6 photos and a few 8.5 x 11 Avery sheet protectors and slid groups of the receipts, checks, bills or whatever into the slots.  It provided a quick and somewhat archival method of preserving and presenting a portion of my parents early years together.

How it has helped. 
When putting together a couple of photo books of my parents lives, it helped me to place them in a particular location or job at a certain point in time thereby helping to more closely date some of their photos and provide a more interesting narrative or caption.

Here's a copy of one of the Milk Man bills.  Do you remember the Milk Man?

My husband and I both have memories of the Milk Man but very different ones since we grew up in different parts of the country.  Husband remembers him coming very early in the morning before daylight so it wasn't so hot.  I lived in a much cooler part of the country and remember sitting in the living room window and watching him drive up and make his delivery.

Of course, Teenager couldn't understand why we didn't just go to the store and get our milk and dairy products.....

I hope this give you some ideas of possible uses for old family records that you might run across.
© 2010, copyright Michelle Goodrum


  1. Thanks for the ideas. I recently came across more such documents and was not sure what to do with them.

  2. Lisa - Good luck and have fun! I'm glad this article was helpful!

  3. Thank you for this post. My mother handed me 2 large envelopes of "Bills" to keep as the historian. In it I found both parents old pay stubs from the 1960s-1970s, mortgage payoff notices for old properties they owned, doctor receipts for us kids, etc. I now have ideas for where/how to keep them.