What Do You Plan to Do with Your Old Family Heirlooms?

Maybe you have an old cedar chest, or other large object, as one of your prized family heirlooms.

photo of a cedar chest

Source: Abernethy’s

We have an old chest that was owned by my grandmother, Adelaide Mildred (Wright) Kemp (1893-1949), and it was said that it had been passed down to her mother, Ida Estelle (Smith) Wright (1873-1963).

Now if the only family heirloom we had was one object, we might be able to handle that—but wait, there’s more.

Much more.

There are also old photos—large ones, framed—and dishware, glasses, books, and on and on.

What do you do when your home has become the designated family museum—and you start looking to the future wondering what will become of these treasured heirlooms?

Start by taking a photograph of each heirloom and upload that to your online family tree. Record which relative owned the object and tell the object’s story. What is it? Who owned it? And why is it important to the family?

That’s a start.

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But, as you look to the future, what is your plan if other family members are not interested in these old heirlooms?

What is the best way to preserve these pieces of your family history?

What solutions do you have for heirloom preservation?

What is your plan?

Please share and give all of us the benefit of your best thinking on this.

Related Family History Preservation Articles:

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Written by Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp is the Director of Genealogy Products at GenealogyBank. Tom Kemp is an internationally known librarian and archivist – he is the author of over 35 genealogy books and hundreds of articles about genealogy and family history.

He previously served as the Chair of the National Council of Library & Information Associations (Washington, DC) and as Library Director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

An active genealogist, he has been working on his own family history for 47 years. With the rapidly growing online archives at GenealogyBank – it is a great day for genealogy!

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About Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp is the Director of Genealogy Products at GenealogyBank. Tom Kemp is an internationally known librarian and archivist – he is the author of over 35 genealogy books and hundreds of articles about genealogy and family history. He previously served as the Chair of the National Council of Library & Information Associations (Washington, DC) and as Library Director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the New England Historic Genealogical Society. An active genealogist, he has been working on his own family history for 47 years. With the rapidly growing online archives at GenealogyBank – it is a great day for genealogy!

8 thoughts on “What Do You Plan to Do with Your Old Family Heirlooms?

  1. This has been bothering me for a long time. I have been watching the younger generations and so far none of them seem responsible enough or even interested in their past.

    • MarilynH – hopefully interest will be sparked as they get older and look back with nostalgia for their ‘roots’.

  2. Since I have turned 50, I have been giving this a lot of thought. Fortunately my daughter is interested in it as well as my nieces and nephews. I have a large extended family so I am fortunate that way as well.
    A few years ago I went to a flea market where a woman’s genealogical research was for sale. I purchased it for 20 dollars and was able to get part of it into a reference collection at a community college and the rest into a genealogical society.
    One thing I am doing is reaching out to other researchers and share with them what I have. I have several distant cousins who I have been corresponding with about our Caswell-Wilkinson lines of eastern CT. We have a Facebook page where we post information about the family and discuss it. This makes it great to share documents in a cost efficient manner.
    I am also scanning documents and pictures and placing them in a pdf format. This makes it easier for me to share with others and for them to see the information I have to help them. My plans also include to reach out to local historical and genealogical societies to see what they would like to have and in what format. I just hope my research doesn’t end up at the local flea market either! :)

    • Good work Casey.
      Since you are creating PDF’s – consider putting copies of all of your research & records on Scribd.com

      Scribd is a free site where you can upload all information that is important to your family. You can also upload scanned images of your photos, documents etc. to the major online genealogy family tree sites.

      Putting the information online is the best way to insure that in the future family members will easily find their heritage.

      Keep up the good work!
      Tom

  3. I give the family heirloom’s to my niece’s and nephew’s when they get married, along with a history of the family members that the items belonged to. So far they really enjoy them. My nephew carried the small missal in his coat pocket down the isle that his Great-Grandmother carried down the isle on her wedding day.

    • Something old,
      something new,
      something borrowed,
      something blue,
      and a silver sixpence in her shoe

      Nice story Barb. I am glad that you’ve been able to keep your family’s heritage a part of the fabric of the life of the family. Be sure to add a photo of that missal to the original owner’s page on your online family tree. Add in the history of how that person acquired it and that it was carried down the aisle by both generations. A great family story.

  4. Attaching photos of your keepsakes on an online tree “is a start.” But when you die, especially if it’s unexpected, your heirs probably won’t go there to see the provenance of the items in your house. Yes, photograph them BUT WRITE ON THE BACK the history of the item. Or you can print them at Shutterfly.com and have 80 characters to give a brief i.d. Then put them where you have your important papers (wills, lists of accounts and credit cards, etc.) that will be accessed very soon after your death. An extra benefit …. with a nice photo of a keepsake, you can give the item to other family members and still enjoy the memories of the history (and owning) the object when looking at the photo.

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