Heirlooms represent family wealth, history and memories and we feel fortunate if some exist in a family. These are treasured artifacts once used by an ancestor. We covet them, but often for different reasons. Some individuals like specific items such as a complete silver service because of its monetary value. That goes for gold jewelry, always a favorite.
Yet, most family heirlooms are just simple items, again things once used and handed down through the generations with no large monetary price tag. Some can be very fragile and could be destroyed forever if not handled properly. So each should be cared for.
Heirlooms kept for sentimental reasons tend to be the most treasured. It could be your grandmother’s favorite wooden spoon that she used for all her cooking. It might be a tool chest that a great uncle used to keep his many woodworking tools in and how he created household furniture.
If you have not done so, you do need to make an inventory, including photos with descriptions, of what heirlooms you have in your possession. If your siblings and / or cousins have some, get them to make an inventory also. Find out if one of the relatives in not interested in keeping one or more of family heirlooms that everyone one else in the family is offered an opportunity to request and take care that artifact.
In family hometowns, if an ancestor was well-known (a governmental officer, a business owner, civic leader, a war hero, etc) the local museums would be very interested in having for preservation purposes relics of that individual. So after discussing with the rest of the family members, donating to a museum is an excellent idea.
If you do have some of the family heirlooms, make a special list for the family history you compile. This would give you an opportunity to mark which ones are your favorite one and why. Future generations would really appreciate knowing about a specific heirloom and how it was treasured by earlier generations.
My personal favorite heirlooms include a four-poster double-size bed made of cherry wood along with a high chest from the family farm in Pennsylvania in 1857 for my 2nd great grandmother before her wedding. There is a necklace pendant that my grandmother had since she was a young girl and that she wore her whole life. Also, a baby christening gown and cap worn by several generations since the 19th century.
So see what family treasures are part of your heritage.
Photos: Cherry wood bed made in 1857; pendent necklace and handmade baby christening gown and cap made in 19th century.
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