I recently visited my mother in southern California. Each time I go to see her, she asks me to bring an empty car so she can fill it with the family heirlooms to send home with me. During this visit, my mom’s sister died. Hitting pretty close to home, and recognizing her own inevitable demise, my mom stepped up her gifting, and did indeed fill my car. It will take a while to sort, preserve, and catalog this haul. I will do it, because it’s important to me. I AM the family historian.
Are you the family historian? Each family usually has at least one who cares about the family tree.
It’s a blessing to be the designated family historian. You have the great opportunity to recreate the family tree and bring the stories to life that would otherwise be lost.
It’s a great opportunity to share with others. Family historians have stuff others would love to see, and other descendants have stuff the family historian has not seen. For example, a distant cousin revealed to me that she possessed a Maltese Cross handed down through the family from a soldier who went with Clive to India, but I never even saw a photograph of it. In another instance, I heard my Eastman family had a first edition copy of the Book of Mormon. The Eastman’s were Baptist preachers in central New York during Joseph Smith’s time there. I never viewed that either. I would have loved to have been able to examine these things myself.
It’s also a great responsibility and challenge to catalog, organize, and preserve the family heirlooms. Many of us have paper files, digital files, multiple family history databases, notebooks, boxes, framed family photos, family jewelry, family china, silver, antique furniture, etc.
How we protect and preserve these things is challenging because:
- Most of us don’t have unlimited space to store the family heirlooms indefinitely.
- Each type requires a different method of preservation. They don’t all fit nicely into the same size box.
- Family heirlooms may become damaged or destroyed from natural disasters, fires, floods, moving, or decay.
- We need to find a good “home” to pass the treasures on when they can no longer care for them, but it is rare to find another family member who will give these items the same protections.
In his Genea-musings Blog, Randy Seaver presented what he plans to do with the “stuff” he’s inherited or found. This blog is titled, “Dear Randy: What are you Going to do with your genealogy stuff?” Randy gives some great ideas of things he is doing or plans to do.
In addition to Randy’s ideas, I have a suggestion.
I think it would be a good idea to take a digital photo of the china, the silver, the jewelry, even the framed family photos. Next, write the family history as much as you currently have researched and attach the photos. Then, post your contribution on the Internet at a site that will not disappear when you die. That way, everyone who is interested would be able to see the family heirlooms and benefit from knowing about the family.
If you’re heading to a relative’s home for Thanksgiving, keep an eye out for the family heirlooms, then whip out your digital camera, take a picture, and make a note about the item while you can interview the owner of the object.
What are you doing to preserve, protect, and pass on your family files and heirlooms?