Saturday, 24 May 2014


What is an heirloom? An heirloom is something passed down generation to generation. The term heirloom (loom meaning a tool) probably came about due to a person handing down his/her tools of the trade to the next generations. It doesn’t have to be of great monetary value, but more of a sentimental value and family tradition. I am still trying to track down some family heirlooms that were not passed down, but auctioned off when the last son living at the family farm died. My ancestor was a carpenter and he made their dining set of which the chairs had the family crest carved on their backs.  It is rumored some went to family, and some were bought by a Mr Hamilton of Toronto.  Also, by family legend, my Seale ancestor had on the wall of the family home a ragged piece of the Banner of William of Orange that was carried at the Battle of the Boyne by an ancestor in 1690. All the sons got a piece to remind them and their progeny of how they got where they were and what they stood for. I am searching.

Sometimes it is not practical to hold on to an heirloom, and if that is the case make sure it is documented and photographed. Such was my situation when I moved across the country with just 16 small boxes to my name. There was a wooden Silver Chest made by my great-uncle for his mother, my great-grandmother (middle in above photo).  He was a carpenter, very skilled at inlay work, and his job was making floor model radio cabinets. The top of the Chest lifts up to put the big items in. The chest front drops down to reveal 4 drawers, each inlaid beautifully. It sits on a stand made for it. Frankly I needed the money and I thought the piece should go to someone who would lovingly use it day to day. It was an emotional time for me and I forgot to put the provenance with it, as I intended. But I did photo and document it.

These are other heirlooms I treasure! When she decided it was her time to go, my grandmother instructed me to give her amethyst jewelry to my daughter who shared the same birth month as her, but that I should keep her engagement ring.  I love the story of it, as my grandmother lost the diamond out of the ring in her wringer washer! My grandparents were retired by this time and couldn’t afford another diamond, so my grandfather surprised her and had it set with an amethyst.  I will pass this on to my granddaughter, who is also an amethyst baby, and tell her stories of her great-great-grandparents.  Last year my mother surprised ME at Christmas, by taking my grandmother’s wedding band, and having it made into the shape of a heart and hung on a chain! Now I can wear it all the time and feel close to both my beloved grandparents.

What family heirlooms were passed down in your family?  Below you will find links to help you document your precious heirlooms, take care of them, and ideas to display them.

Relevant Links:

Lost and Found Heirlooms

Family Heirloom Exchange - USA ($ but search is free)

Heirloom and Oral History forms from Family Tree Magazine

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