Friday, February 23, 2018

52 Ancestors #8: Did They Ever Think These Would Be Heirlooms?

Over time, so many of the items left to me or given to me by relatives and ancestors have become treasured heirlooms, valued not for financial value but for emotional and sentimental reasons. This week's #52Ancestors challenge by Amy Johnson Crow is a great opportunity to think about accidental heirlooms, not just those intended to be special.

Above, the silver napkin ring awarded by my mother's Farkas Family Tree association to each newborn child, male or female. For years--seriously, years!--one of my aunts tried to get the tree to give a different gift to baby boys (like her son, my 1st cousin R). She was voted down every time. This napkin ring was an honored gift tradition for decades.
Above, another item that was an heirloom even in its own time. My grandma Hermina Farkas Schwartz kept this cut glass bowl close to her heart because, if I got the story straight, it came with the family from Hungary to America in the early 1900s. My mother inherited it and now I'm the lucky custodian, keeping it safe for the next generation.

But other heirlooms were surely not intended or appreciated as such. At right, a velvet banner used by my late father-in-law Edgar James Wood to promote his piano trio during 1950s/60s gigs in Cleveland. Did Ed ever imagine this would be an heirloom in the 21st century? I bet the answer is no.

We can never predict exactly what future generations will consider to be heirlooms. So we need to take good care of all these family items, just in case. And--most important--we need to tell the stories of why these are (or should be) heirlooms, so that information is passed down along with the items themselves.

For more about sharing family history with future generations, please check out my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available in paperback and Kindle.


  1. Couldn't agree more! I too have those family mementos.

  2. Some of my favorite heirlooms are my great grandmother’s rolling pin, pastry cutter, potato masher, and her blue Ball jars which still had food in them when I got them. I emptied the jars, thank-you, and use them as canisters. I’m sure NO ONE would have thought these things would become prized possessions.

  3. Agreed! Little did our family know that we would cherish sentimental items to which they likely didn't give much thought. I have cut glass bowls, ceramic cups and some other items that are very special to me, but worth little in terms of dollar value.

  4. My favourites are the two serviette rings from the wedding table of my grandparents from 1909. Each serviette had the bridal couple's initials engraved on them. They are such a treasure to me, my daughters' will have to have one each when I go.:-)