Tuesday, March 31, 2020

What Does an Heirloom Look Like? Not Like This!

This is NOT a family heirloom!
Devon Noel Lee of Family History Fanatics was the guest expert for a recent #Genchat, all about downsizing with #FamilyHistory in mind. (You can learn more from her book.)

Devon posed thought-provoking questions about how to decide what to save for future generations. Judging by the relatively few heirlooms that I've inherited, clearly my ancestors did their own downsizing, starting with decisions about the handful of items they brought from Eastern Europe to America. My husband's family has been in America much longer and has had much more storage space, which is why so many interesting items have survived over the years.

It's so hard to say goodbye

During #Genchat, we had a lively discussion about how difficult it can be to let go of inherited items, especially if they provoke strong emotions about people, places, and events from our family's past.

Still, if we downsize thoughtfully and carefully, we can focus the next generation on items of special significance to our family.

Also, there was a lot of conversation about photos. My take-away: I have to get back to scanning, captioning, and dating as many photos as possible now. Otherwise, descendants may never know who's who.

My little red bench

I do have a number of heirlooms to pass to the next generation. That doesn't include the item in the photo at top. It's a wooden bench about 6 inches high and 12 inches long. Originally, the bench was red with some cutesy saying or song on the top.

As toddlers, Sis and I each had one of these benches, which we put next to the sink so we could reach to wash our hands. This bench has been repainted more than a few times during its long life, moving to ten different homes with me over the years. I'm not particularly attached to it. It just takes up little room and is handy to use whenever I need a step up.

However! No matter how many years it's been with me, I definitely don't consider this bench to be a family heirloom. It has no special significance, other than being a useful little bench. After I join my ancestors, someone else can repaint and reuse it or retire it--guilt-free.


  1. For families that have many heirlooms, whether sentimental or valuable, this might not be considered worth keeping. However, for those that have few, this little bench might well be treasured by descendants, just knowing that it has passed down through X number of generations. :)

    1. Linda, that's a really good point. I have so many other heirlooms that this is definitely not in the "top tier" of things to be passed down, but at least it has survived for many decades already and now the story is known. TY for reading and commenting!