As the last member of my immediate family, I am concerned about the distribution of my large collection of antique china, glassware, and pottery that I have acquired, some from my paternal grandmother.
I have compiled a scrapbook with a picture of each of my items, along with the history of the company that made it, the bill of sale for the item, and any information about its history that I can acquire from its seller.
I also have it arranged in chronological order and have tried to find similar items on on-line sites with the current value of the piece. This assures me that the owner of these treasures after me will know of their individual values.
I enjoyed your article as I’ve just been looking into my relative who was in the Civil War and is buried near my home. What I didn’t appreciate was your comment about “Nowhere Wisconsin.” I really don’t think any small town should be considered “Nowhere” – that was a very elitist (snobbish) comment and is beneath Antique Trader.
Editor’s note: As a smalltown girl myself, I certainly meant no offense with my comment about Middle of Nowhere, Wis. I was referring to the location of the cemetery and church, likely the only structure remaining in the middle of a 5,000-acre area now dubbed “the barrens,” where my hearty Scandinavian ancestors nearly broke their backs trying to farm the sandy soil. I’m quite proud of that history.
I am so pleased you asked this question. Passing on the history of my family heirlooms has been a project that has consumed over 20 years of my life, and I’m still working on it! I have constructed a family heirloom inventory with photos and descriptions of all the stuff that has been handed down to me from 8 preceding households and 5 generations, as well as the items that I have acquired in my life.
At the urging of family and friends, I have even written and self published a handbook called The Stuff of Life — Creating Your Family Heirloom Inventory about how I went about doing the research and putting it all together. Of course, the real treasures of a family are the people in it. We keep the stuff because we can’t keep them.
Webster’s defines “heirloom” as “Something of special value handed on from one generation to another.” Since “special” is a relative term, anything that means something to you can be considered an heirloom. Maybe it’s something you inherited, like your grandmother’s sugar bowl. Maybe it’s something you acquired, like a trinket from your honeymoon. Its value is decided by you, whether it would get any attention at the Antiques Roadshow or not. Even if your offspring encourage you to hide it in a closet. Hopefully they will come around one day and value it as you do – if only because you do.
To learn more about Karen’s book, visit her Web site, http://home.earthlink.net/~enhance01, or e-mail her at email@example.com.
Your article offered a great idea with the video camera. Another thought: A person could talk through their inventory so the next generation not only has the information, but they can hear the sound of their ancestor’s voice.