Last week our Collection Spotlight featured a photo of a canceled 1943 check — a mundane slip of paper that might easily have been discarded. Something so common seems unimportant in the grand scheme of history. However, everyday artifacts such as these are the bread and butter of historians, archaeologists and genealogists! They can often help us piece together pictures of the past and personal connections. Historic paper items which would ordinarily be disposable are called ephemera, and can sometimes be quite valuable both in monetary and historical terms.
So what can we deduce from this piece of ephemera? The check is made out to Tressie Surpas. This is most likely Tressie N. (Smith) Surpas (1897-1977), who was married to Benjamin Surpas until his death in 1944. She later married Albert VanArsdall, and is buried with that family in New Palestine Cemetery.
The check is drawn on the account of Gilbert Hoop, likely Gilbert F. “Pard” Hoop (1912-1981). Gilbert was a charter member of the Acton Volunteer Fire Department. He is buried in London Cemetery in London, IN.
Although we may never know what the check was payment for, we can draw a connection between these two families thanks to a little slip of paper that survived. So the next time you’re sorting a box or paging through an old book and come across a letter, news clipping, or other piece of ephemera, read it carefully and consider whether it can tell you anything about the past before you dispose of it!