Posted by on August 21, 2014 in Juliana's Corner

heirlooms2The other day I was rummaging through the top of my closet and moved a few things around. I spotted an old hat box that I hadn’t set eyes on in years. Grandma’s hat! Now it is a fur hat, and I’m not really a fur person, which is ironic since Szucs actually means “furrier.” (We used to ask as kids, “Furrier than what?”)

But while it’s not something I usually wear, it was my grandma’s and it is special. I started thinking about that and some of the other unusual heirlooms that I have, and the fact that while I know why they’re all special, my daughter might not. What if something happened to me? Would Grandma’s hat end up in a yard sale? What about all of the other heirlooms?

It was a good reminder to start recording the stories behind all these heirlooms and even some of the things that I have that are just special to me. For example, those ceramic lambs I talked about in the #TBT birthdays post didn’t just adorn my cake as a child. They were also on my daughter’s cake for her first birthday. The Norman Rockwell plates on the wall in the kitchen? Those were my grandmother’s as well. And the clock on my china cabinet—my daddy made it and gave it to me for Christmas a few years ago.

The doll in the china cabinet was my mom’s growing up. I inherited it because it was named Madelon after the aunt who raised her. I named my daughter for that aunt as well and someday I hope that doll will be in Maddy’s china cabinet.

Then there are the heirlooms from the ancestors who I never met, like my maternal grandfather. The book sitting next to Madelon in the foreground of the picture is his copy of Julius Caesar. I love that he treasured it enough to keep it. Since Maddy is a self-proclaimed theater geek and loves Shakespeare, I know she will treasure that as well.

Another family treasure is the nightstick that once belonged to my great-great-grandfather Edwin Brough Dyer. He worked his way up through the force from patrolman to police captain. I’ve always wondered if he was carrying that nightstick the night he caught the murderer that is covered in this article from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on Newspapers.com.

BibleBehind those heirlooms is another book—the Bible that my grandfather got from his Sunday School teacher when he was 9 years old. The neat thing about it is that there are handwritten notes written by him that give me some insights into that young boy that I only knew as Grandpa. That Bible has a note inside telling me of its origins, whereas there was nothing in that hat box that gave clues as to its provenance and significance—something I will be remedying.

So what about you? What heirlooms do you have and what are the stories behind them?  How will you make sure they are passed on and treasured by future generations? Share your story with us, and more importantly, share their significance with your family.

 

So I’m thinking maybe I’ll start wearing hats now. I’m kind of liking this one.
Grandma's hat2

About Juliana Szucs

Juliana Szucs has been working for Ancestry.com for more than 16 years. She began her family history journey trolling through microfilms with her mother at the age of 11. She has written many articles for online and print genealogical publications and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Juliana holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program, and is currently on the clock working towards certification from the Board for Certification of Genealogists.

3 Comments

Yvonne 

Thank you for the wonderfully inspiring article. I have many keepsakes to document, what method do you recommend? I plan on putting a photo of the item with documentation in my FTM file, but where else should the info be kept to be sure it will be found?

August 21, 2014 at 7:36 pm
Juliana Smith 

Thanks for the kind words. I found this article with some very good tips for documenting provenance of heirlooms. http://ancstry.me/1ACIhQA

August 21, 2014 at 7:55 pm
Nancy 

Like my mother-in-law has done, I make a Word document for each item that tells about the item’s significance and I add a photo to the document. Then, when feasible, I print the document and include it with the item (like putting it in the drawer of an antique desk). Of course I have a folder on my computer to keep all these documents together. I probably should print them out and put them in a binder, too. I’m thinking of getting a portable external hard drive, too, for genealogy stuff. Can’t have it saved in too many places!

August 22, 2014 at 9:01 am