We probably all have objects in our families that have been passed down through the generations that we treasure, but have you ever thought what they can tell you about your ancestors.
Heirlooms can take many forms from a book to a piece of furniture and everything in between.
We have my great Grandma’s perfume bottle that she kept in her handbag. It’s tiny, only a few centimetres tall and lives in a velvet box. It’s probably worth next to nothing but to the family it’s worth everything. After she died the bottle went to her only granddaughter and became a treasured connection to a much loved Grandma. It still smells vaguely of the perfume it carried and thus evokes a memory of the way she smelt. Thus it’s a tangible link to our ancestors.
We also have a bible that was given to my 3 times great Grandfather Peter Arnold Wardle who lived from 1845 to 1892. It was given to him by his grandmother Ellen Wardle nee Taylor who lived from 1797 to 1867. Now as a book again it’s worth very little and has spent all my life just sitting on various bookcases throughout the family never being looked at. In fact it was only in the last 5 or so years that I even realised the inscription was there let alone the significance of the book. But just think it’s the handwriting of my 5 times great Grandma. How cool is that to have the handwriting of someone born in the 18th century. Ellen also came from a rural area and her husband was a farmer so the fact that she could read and write is fantastic and I have to say her handwriting was so much better than mine.
We also have things which we own that we hope will become heirlooms for future generations. One of mine would be my baby rattle. I still have it and it’s even in one of the photo on my website.
So what other heirlooms may you have that can tell you a story?
Well it could be a piece of jewellery that has been passed down from mother to daughter throughout the generations. It may sit in a draw never being looked at, but it does tell a story. It could give an indication as to the wealth of your ancestors. If your ancestors were wealthy then it was probably a more ornate piece or the stones were of a better quality. It could also indicate the love the giver had for the recipient. If you come from humble stock and your ancestors saved for a long time to buy the piece it’s obvious they loved the person they gave it to deeply. This could be backed up by the fact that the piece has been handed down through the family. It’s not just jewellery though it could be a pocket watch or a wrist watch which was treasured by the men in your family. Also if the piece of jewellery was a bracelet you would get an indication as to the size of your ancestors. If they bracelet is small and will not fit you then you can guess that they were of a small delicate stature.
Your heirloom may be a bit bigger. It could be a piece of furniture that has been handed down through the generations. Maybe it’s a dresser or a chest of drawers. All of these can connect your to your past. When you put your clothes away in the chest of drawers you can imagine all the previous generations that have done the same thing. Also you can think about how different the garments you’re putting in the drawers will be different for before. In my case it would be jeans and hoodies whereas ancestors may have been putting corsets and bloomers in.
So the things we use every day like furniture and the things we have put away in a cabinet or a draw are a direct link to our ancestors and as such should be treasures for the direct link they give to use. Make sure to pass on the stories behind them or better still take a photograph of it and write the information on the back or make a book about all the heirlooms you have. Why not include a family tree in as well and some information about the original owner and in a sense make a new heirloom giving the history of your heirlooms.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my Family History Ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!