24    Oct 201332 comments

Competition: Family Heirlooms

Congratulations to Sharon Black, winner of last week’s competition, who won a free data subscription for her and for her friend who helps with her research.

Today is our last competition in honor of Family History Month and we want to hear about your family history finds.

We all keep vintage treasures which carry exciting stories about our pasts. Regardless of whether it is a photo, a piece of jewelry, a family document or historical record, our family heirlooms are keys to our family history.

What are the most precious family heirlooms in your family? Do you have your grandmother’s antique hairbrush? How about a silly family photo?

Comment below - by October 31, 2013 - with the most unique heirloom you have, and we’ll choose one winner to receive a a free PremiumPlus and data subscription.

Remember, we’re looking for the most interesting, creative and original heirlooms.

Good luck!

Search for your ancestors:

Comments (32) Trackbacks (1)
  1. When I started my family history research I wanted to start on my Faher's side. We had no information on his family. He never spoke about them. I went to Athy Heritage centre and asked where would be the best place to start. I mentioned my Father's name and his Father's name. There was a guy in the centre at the time, he does a lot on Military research. He approached me and said I know that name, your Grandfather was in the Boar War and WW1. He won 4 medals and I know where one of them is today. I was flabbergasted, I said to this man, I'd say you are mistaken, there are a lot of Kavanagh's in Athy, must be someone else. He said I will check it out and ring you, he took my number. Before I left Athy that day, I got a call from this man. He said yes it was your Grandfather and I have one of his medals. This mans gran-aunt had one of his medals. She did not know why or how she came to have it. It was the Great War of Civilisation 1914-1919. I am so proud to posses these medal. I have since purchased replicas of the other threee medals. I intend to frame these medals and a photo of my Grandfather. I never thought I would have found anything belonging to my Father's family. It was amazing the way I found out this information and thanks to the man who has helped me with most of my informatiobn to date.
    Regards
    Rosie Nolan
  2. My Dad died when I was four, in 1965. In recent years I have become obsessed with trying to find out more about his life, his family in Italy and his loves. The youngest of nine, many of my siblings had told me that he loved to play the round backed mandolin that had been passed down to my brother. I had seen it once but have no memories of my father playing it, holding it. In April last year, I asked my brother if I could visit and take photos of it and when I arrived he handed it to me telling me I could keep it. I was so grateful. I've since found out that my father had sponsored an Italian Friend to come to Australia from Italy and this gent had brought the mandolin for my father as a thank you gift. My plan is to get it restrung and to learn to play one of the songs he used to play on it. When I hold it now I wonder how it looked in his arms...whether he strummed it hard or plucked it gently and if it looked tiny against his hands. I often embrace it, closing my eyes and try to feel my fathers presence. It's precious to me and the only thing of my father's that I have.
    Liz
  3. I have a trunk that came out to Australia from Cornwall in 1873. My great great great grandmother Nannie Leverton nee Snell ,brought it with her when they first settled in New Zealand . In 1889 she brought it with her to Sydney with her large family including my great great grandmother Nellie Leverton. I have a photograph taken when I was 5 with Nellie, my great grandmother , my grandmother and my mother . Sadly I am the last one left. The family heirloom might well be the trunk but the 5 generations photograph is priceless .
  4. I have the home made down pillows and a wedding plate that was given to my great great grandmother by her mother Martha they where in a cedar chest from 1932 and tagged by my aunt as to who made them. I was given the cedar chest after she passed in 2007 at the age of 90. The plate is gorgeous and gold plated very unusual and well over a 100 years old . I feel very blessed to have these items from my Ancestors.
  5. The most unique and precious (to me) heirloom I have is an original tintype of my great-great grandfather that I received in 2011 from his 3x great niece after mutually discovering our connection via findagrave.com! However, the story, connections and valuable information I received when I received the actual tintype is priceless to me. So needless to say I was ecstatic to SEE an image of my 2x great grandfather as a young man (circa 1870) as up to that point only one photo of him (in his late 60s) was known to exist in my paternal grandfather's family, in part to his Mennonite religion.
    When she offered to send me the actual tintype I was beyond thrilled and blessed! To have a piece of history from my grandfather's family is very precious as both his parents passed away when he was 13 and so he did not know much about his grandparents, either maternal or paternal. My new friend (and cousin) was just as thrilled to give the photo to my great great grandfather's family. It had been in a very well documented photo album of her grandfather's (my 2x great grandfather's brother). So not only did she send me the actual tin type but a CD full of photos she had scanned from her grandfather's album with photos of relatives I had not even known of let alone seen their pictures! In addition, there were a couple other photos of my great great grandfather with his brothers through the ages. Truly a priceless heirloom and connection! We have since enjoyed sharing our research and family stories as well as discovering possible genetic predispositions in that family to autoimmune diseases.
  6. Inside one of my grandfather's briefcases we discovered a brown metal tube. Inside that tube was a Doctor of Dental Surgery Diploma that was awarded to my great-grandfather on April 2, 1896 by the Western Dental College of Kansas City Missouri. This large diploma is 117 years old and is in remarkably good condition. I wrote a blog post in which I shared a scanned image of this diploma. If you'd like to see it, here's the link ~ http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2013/02/treasure-chest-thursdaythe-big-reveal.html

    Thanks,

    Jana Last
  7. Recently I was fortunate to receive a box of journals & other memorabilia relating to my grandfather. In the late 1920s he spent several years in Canada - firstly as an accountant, but later joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In this box of 'goodies' I have the good fortune to find all of his badges, indicating the different areas in Canada he served. But maybe even more special is a collection of perfectly preserved & pressed maple leaves - still with beautiful colour, which are dated pre-1928, which was when he returned to New Zealand. Having items such as these just confirms the importance of holding onto things for future generations - to add richness to the stories.
  8. When my Boer War grandfather Hendrick Weideman jnr. Died, I was 11 years old, but I will never forget his vibrant story telling about the Anglo Boer War (1899 to 1902 when the British declared war on South Africa after the discovery of gold in the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg region).

    My grandfather grew up on the family farm Knapdaar between Groenvlei and Twisrandjies near Lindley in the Free State, South Africa.

    His father was on commando (on patrol), and his mother, Ouma (Granny) Sannie, with her five young boys and a daughter had to run the farm with the assistance of a farm worker, old Amos , who was her trustworthy right hand.

    One day, a heavy battle broke out between Boer and Brit and their farm was transformed into a battlefield. The excessive bombings resulted in the kitchen stove bursting in half; and the petrified children hid under their beds together with the family dog.

    A Dutchman, uncle Piet Koornhof, operated a single horse ambulance to bring the wounded civilians to Ouma Sannie’s house. Sheets were torn into strips to serve as bandages.

    The children had to run through the enemy fire to fetch water from a spring - half a mile from the house - for the thirsty wounded.

    Later that day when the battle subsided, British soldiers searched the farm house. An original oil painting of President Jan Brand (elected President of the Free State in 1863) was proudly displayed in living room.

    A British officer took his bayonet and pierced the heart of the President in the painting with the words: "Every damn Boer should be treated like this."

    The painting is still in our possession; it still has the bayonet piercing through the heart as it would not be right to have it restored - because it has a story to tell. My family had the painting researched through Sotheby’s, and it transpired that it was painted by a Dutch student from Leyden University in the style of the famous Dutch painter, Jan Vermeer.
  9. I have a beautiful hand-stitched full size quilt top that my great-great grandmother made. I don't know when she made it; I never met her, as she died in 1944 just before her 106th birthday, so it's very old. I'm in the process of figuring out how to finish it so I can display it and show off her wonderful work!
  10. A few years back, my father gave me a box of his belongings. In this box is a scrap book that was put together in 1940. It is all the birthday cards that were given to my great great grandmother- with this information I've been able to find great aunts and uncles. In this box is also my dad's baby shoes and christening gown. It is really special.
  11. There is also photos from the early 1900s. And my great grandmother's personal bible. I feel really lucky to have these things and cherish them so much.
  12. The birthday cards are old and some are hand made. But they all have given me insight on my father's family of which we had no clues beyond his grand parents. Since he is the oldest living relative on his mother's side of the family. It has been great.....
  13. As a child I used to take pleasure looking through small bits and pieces from my fathers memorabilia of his family. One was an engraved silver wax match box. As a child it was interesting to look at but I didn't read the engraving and didn't ask my father about it. That was 60 years ago and as I grew older I was involved in other things. About 7 months ago I got interested in genealogy and my father had long died. I joined My Heritage and also had DNA tests through National Geographic and My Family DNA. Through these tests I found DNA connections to a person in USA and we are closely connected though we haven't made the paper trail connection yet. About 4 moths ago he sent an email saying he had found my Gr gr grandfather in Glastonbury, UK and he had two sons who went to USA. This twigged my memory and lo and behold the engraving was A Booth, Chicago. A connection had been made!!! and I had a great uncle I knew nothing about.
  14. My great-uncle Gerhardus Andries Gouws made a beautiful hand carved wooden box. He made this while in a POW camp during WWII. The box was handed down to my mother from my grandfather, and since handed down to me.
    All the carvings must have taken many many hours and I marvelled at its simple beauty from a young age. I cherished this box even more when I was told he died alone and homeless as he was unable and unwilling to live with anyone. His experiences during the war damaged him so, he preferred to be completely detached from the world at large.
  15. I have two large thick cardboard awards with pictures that were presented to my Grandfather by King George V for his work with the King's breakfast for the poor .
  16. My grandfather (1893-1985) played a 10 strings lute (6/4, build before 1900) since he was a youngster. I can remember me, this lute was always in the living room of my grandparents.
    During our discoveries we did found some old photos: Grandfather on a family photo with his brothers and parents, as a member in a big mandolin orchestra, as a member in small orchstra and alone with his lute during the time he romance my grandmother.
    4 years ago, when we (my wife and me) was visiting my cousine to talk about our family discoveries, I ask her, if she knows what happend with this lute. She left the room, came back with this instrument and she gave it to me as a present (She knew, that I'm a guitarist ;-)
    Ok, this lute isn't playable at the moment and has two nonprofessional, but effective reparation. But, it is the original lute of my grandfather!
    Actually, I'm looking for a good old instrument maker, to help to restore it into a playable one.
    Best regards
    Remo
  17. My paternal grandfather was a prolific photographer while serving in the British Army (Military Works Dept) in India until 1923. Many of the photos were of buildings that he was personally involved in their construction. In 1910 he was posted to Ambala Cantonment, Haryana, in north India (where my father was born). There were a series of photos detailing the construction of what he named as the new Presbyterian Church.
    Earlier this year I fulfilled a life-long dream to visit India and tread in the footsteps of my ancestors (several generations on my paternal grandmother's side). Prior to my trip I tried to locate the church on the Internet, but could find no record of it On arrival in Ambala I hired a taxi for the day, and armed with copies of 1910/1911 photos of various buildings, I asked the Sikh driver if he could locate any of them. We were successful, but locating the church took the longest time. Externally, it has changed very little over the past 102 years. It is now used by the Mar Thoma Syrian Church which has a tiny congregation. They were overwhelmed to see the old photos as they had no knowledge of the history of the building, and had often wondered how it came into being. It was a very emotional time for both them and myself, and it shows that heirlooms can be priceless to both family and strangers alike.
  18. This is probably going to sound weird, and/or disgusting, but we have a a skull, we don't know for sure whose it is, but we think it belonged to a great grandfather of ours, it's encased in glass and I don't have a picture (or access to it, since my nan who lives in Scotland has it), but I figured it counts as unique *shrugs*
  19. My most pleasant surprise, so far, has been the discovery that my grandfather, Arthur Hume, who fought in the first and second world war, was in the Battle of Bathsheba in Palestine. That was the key battle that turned the tides on the Turks and Germans and won the territory for our allies. I've read about it before, watched films and thought that it must have been the bravest and most heart-wrenching battle I'd heard about: to charge on horseback directly into firing cannons and bullets, then gallop straight over the top of the enemy positioned in their trenches! After finding his details in online war records, then researching the territorial wars in Palestine, I can say, yes, he was in the Fourth Light Horse Brigade during the battle. He was transferred from the Imperial Camel Corps, which disbanded due to weather and losses. He never spoke about the war when he returned, my mother said, except to say that the saddest event was to have to shoot their horses on command when they left, as the local Arabs were known to mistreat them badly at the time. He played the piano accordion to the troops. I remember his rendition of 'Old Jiggly Bones' making me collapse in a fit of giggles as a child, especially when he pounced at the last words, 'get me'. He was a courageous man. He re-enlisted in WW2 and was taken in Athens by the Germans. Again he entertained the troops and learned German to be the translator for them. He also treated many injured US troops and was recognised for it with a letter from the US government, which is in his war records. A swimmer and sportsman from youth, he would use his physiotherapy skills to rehabilitate the hopeless; and it worked. Now I'm being led up his family line towards a possible link with the nobility of Scotland, direct ancestors of the Queen Mother of Elizabeth II, the Humes of Edinburgh. Wish me luck.
  20. As a teenager I as given, by my father, an old worn english brown leather wallet. He said it belonged to my great grandmother in Engalnd. As I never knew her, and my grandmother (her daughter) died when I was quite young, I cherished it. It is small, unique in its design and now lives in my china cupboard as the stitching is coming undone. I used this wallet for many years. It was the wallet I was using when I went to college, and when I had my first fulltime job. It’s the one I carried in my bag on my first date. I was still using it at the time I married and I still have my fake finger nails in it from when they started to come off on my honeymoon!! I have other heirlooms now, my Nannas watch, a teapot, even some earings, but this wallet would have to be my most cherished. I didn’t know my great grandmother, I haven’t even a photo, but I have her wallet!!
  21. A few years ago I was given my grandmother's accordian,which had been left to my cousin when my grandmother died but was left at my aunt's house when my cousin moved out. I was told that it had gotten quite a bit of use,and that my grandmother used to play it for my grandfather when there was a thunderstorm. I was born four years after my grandmother died,so I never knew her;but the accordian helps me be a bit closer to her.
  22. The most unusual piece of history came from my husbands Grandfather. It is a celluloid letter opener shaped like an alligator.
    In the mouth of the alligator is a pencil with the head of a black man. I've always been fascinated with the historical implications.
    Grandpas family did live in Alabama for a while.
  23. My family is rich in heirlooms, but one of my most precious is my Granny Grace's spooner, which was given to her by her Grandmother. So it actually belonged to my G-G Grandmother, although she never told me which one. Or possibly I've forgotten because when she gave it to me, I wasn't really into genealogy. Now it's a treasure!
  24. When my mother passed away one of my daughters went to the nursing home to get the few of my Mom's remaining possessions (as I traveled in from out of state) and divvied them up between me and my siblings. Silly as it may sound - I was given my mother's false teeth to pass along to whomever wants them after I am gone. Probably beats my brother who got a can of coffee she had hidden underneath her bed ...
  25. This heirloom comes from my husband's family. It is a leather photo album that has tintypes and cabinet cards. The oldest cabinet card is dated 1874. One of the tintypes is about 1" square. I scanned the tintypes in so I could see the features. It has been a challenge discovering who these people might be. I may never know all of them. The album is tucked away out of the light now, but the search goes on to put names to these faces.
  26. Not many thiings warm the heart more than sharing a cuppa with those you love. How much more does it warm the heart when the old English Swan brand teapot being used belonged to a great grandmother and the leaf tea is scooped into her pot by the use of her old australian tea measure. At the moment these are ‘heirlooms to be’ as they now grace my mothers shelf but I’m looking forward to the day when I can reign queen over the teapot. I have enjoyed researching my family with my mother and I often look at the teapot and imagine my G-Ggrandmother Mitchell maybe sharing a last cuppa with her mother just before coming to Australia. The tea measure is definitely Australian as it has a teapot handle with a kookaburra on it, the bowl has a clock face showing 4:00 o’clock . On the back it says ‘Made in Australia’ and has a registration number. I’m not fond of black tea but I’m sure the tea measure won’t mind scooping Nettle tea into the teapot!
  27. There was a magic box on my mother's dressing table.It was sort of black and white with a slide on lid.Mother or Father would take the lid off and extract a picture and then proceed to tell a story about it.
    There were post cards from Egypt,Jimmy Macs first indoor photo,Titch on a donkey. So many stories about our family -Two days before my father died he gave me a parcel wrapped in newspaper and it was the box. I found out it was made of porcupine quills. At 74 it is now wrapped in newspaper... waiting
  28. Recently I started doing a family tree for my mother's 94th Birthday and through the generosity of a genealogist in Texas, United States - HenkDuval.com, was able to trace her direct ancestors back to 1580 in a heartbeat ! Having got this information I learned that her 8 x Great Grandfather - Jacob Willemszoon de Wet 1609 - 1672 was a great painter influenced by the works of Rembrandt. His son, Jacobus de Wet 1640 - 1697 also a great painter, became more famous than his father. "The Great Gallery of the Palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh was decorated with his portraits of Scottish monarchs, from legendary King Fergus to Charles II, produced to the order of King Charles". Then came the skeleton in the closet - HIS son Jacobus de Wet (Immigrant 1693) 1673 - 1710 had a relationship with one Josina Pretorius 1673 - 1711 and they had a son Jacobus de Wet 1696 - 1758, but they were not married at the time and it is from this son that most of the de Wets in our Family Tree are descended. Nearly all of us are therefore the progeny of an illegitimate patriarch !

    On my wife's side - her father passed down a hand made bag which came through "The Great Trek" and which was used by the women when going to church". Beautifully made, it has two pouches, the larger one for a handkerchief and the smaller one used to carry money for the church collection plate. This is one of her greatest treasures.
  29. I have, handed down to me from my uncle Pearson Jones, a small, ornate pewter mug such as one which would be used by a child. It is inscribed "to Pearson from Uncle Jack Xmas 1900". I didn't know who uncle Jack was but heard that his last name was Malin. It turns out that he was my maternal grandmother's brother. This got me started! I have now found that his grandfather, great-grandfather, maternal great-grandfather and maternal great-great-grandfather were all soldiers in various regiments of the British Army serving in Canada from the post American Revolution to the mid-1800's, patrolling the corridor from Windsor Ontario to Quebec City to quell rebellions on the border. Uncle Jack himself with his cousin Tom Jones (both great- uncles of mine) served in the 2nd Canadian Special Service Force in the South African (Boer War) 1899-1900. I am currently working on a shadow box to display all these relatives who served in or for Canada. The pewter mug sits on our fireplace mantle.
  30. I have another, I guess you could call it an heirloom, and that is a photo. When my daughter and I first started researching one of the first things we found was a photo of my grandfather Mitchell’s headstone. He died when my father was only seven so neither he nor I knew much about him. The reason this photo means so much is because it really spured us on in our researching. The inscription on the headstone ended with the words, “but will not be forgotton”. We have kept this motto foremost in our minds as we have researched – wanting to make sure that my grandfather and others are not forgotton. It is a photo that has come to mean a lot to us and the lesson learnt from it will hopefully be passed down for generations.
  31. What are the Most Precious Family Heirlooms for Me & My Family?? Just hearing those words I get Flashes of Great Memories & My Heart Flutters at the images of all the things that I Believe Qualifies as The Most Treasured Item in My Family!
    The Top Candidates for Most Treasured Family Heirloom in my East Tennessee Family COULD BE.... The Clay Bowl Made by My Cherokee, 4xsGreat-Grandmother OR a Cast Iron Pot that my 2xsGreat-Grandmother used to cook Sunday after Church Family Dinners OR the Patchwork Quilt that my Great-Grandmother made using pieces of fabric from all of their clothing, which Always left me feeling as if I was Wrapped in Family Love & Protection OR my 5th Great-Grandfathers (Revolutionary War Soldier, & Circuit Riding Methodist Preacher) Bible printed in 1790, which was found in 1990 in a chimney that still remains from the old family home where it has been hidden(yet remarkably preserved) for over a 150 years!
    As priceless as ALL These things Truly are to Our Family, in My Heart & Soul there are yet 2 more things that triumph them all! Both of which would not be considered Heirloom to most!
    My Father suddenly passed away in a car wreck when I was just 2 & His Mother gained full custody of me. Because of that I was raised on the Land that My Father & My Grandmother was also raised on. The land which My Grandfather farmed His whole life & then passed on to His children. There's no place like home & this place has always held a special place in my heart! I have always considered it a Family Heirloom Rather than a "piece of real estate" with Pride that it has been Preserved in the Family for Over 100 years!
    Already having that Foundation of Love, Honor, & Respect for this 12acre piece of East Tennessee, I could not begin to explain the Excitement & Pride that Grew as I begin researching & working on this Family Tree! Generation After Generation, I quickly discovered, also called this home. I have recently confirmed that this exact soil, which I too shall raise my children on, has been in this Family for a Minimum of 225 Years! The same 5xsGreat Grandfather (who's long lost Bible was discovered) First settled in here years before the Revolutionary War. He enlisted into the Military & fought for the Right for this Country to Exist & its People to be Free. At the end of His service, He returned to His home. After Tennessee became a Sate & in recognition of His Service, He was Awarded a Land Grant legally giving Him Ownership of the 119 acres He had years ago Settled & began to fill with His Descendants. For Over 225 years My Direct Descendant have Walked this Exact Soil, Owned, Cherish, Loved & Preserved this Great Family Heirloom! My Children are to be the 10th Generation to possess this piece of American History! While Jesse Owen Webb and His Descendants may not grace the pages of history books across the World because of The Life He & Many others like Him Lived, the Sacrifices They Made, The Families They Created & Guided & the Communities they Influence America became a Great Nation with Great Family Heritage! That is One the Top Family Heirlooms that is most Treasured within My Families Heart & Soul!

    As I have said there is a tie for the Top Heirloom in My opinion. The other is My Family Tree itself!!
    While one may know some of the names/facts/stories in their Family History there is ALWAYS So Much More to Discover! I am Blessed to Experience this Daily, Thanks to Your Site & the all the Great Resource on the Internet. Doing My Family Tree has helped Me realize just how Special the Blood that Flows through My Veins is! From the outside it appears to be just a "Regular East Tennessee Country Family" yet while researching ones Family Roots, You Quickly discover that there is No Such Thing as a "Ordinary Family Heritage"! Each is as unique as a snowflake!
    Although we may have some Precious Heirlooms, They're Value can NEVER Be Recognized Until We Truly Know About All The Lives & Events that Lead to Our Existence Here & Now!!! A Pot that's been the Family for 3 Generations is a Great Item but it becomes even More Remarkable when you find out that it barely survived a great disaster, that destroyed everything but it! What a difference a little knowledge can make. Only Then can one Truly Appreciate what has been passed on to them! A Family Tree IS TRULY LIFE CHANGING!!

    Had I not finally begun researching I never would have understood exactly why I have such a strong connection to this place that I call home! I never would have known that My 3xsGreat-Grandfather Who Served in the Civil War Was in Thomas Legion of Highlanders & Indians OR That the "Pile of Stones" at a nearby Methodist Church was an Alter built by that 5thGreat-Grandfather of mine & that He started that Church & donated the land which it now stands on! I now know the name of the Cherokee Grandmother who made the Clay Indian Bowl & so much more!

    My Family Tree "gave" me My Heritage! It is a "Certificate of Authenticity" Justifying the Love for those Precious Family Treasures! ONLY with a Family Tree can any of these Heirlooms Truly be Appreciated & Understood! Therefore it is My Belief that My Family Tree IS One of the Greatest Heirlooms I Will Ever Possess!!
  32. We have many precious things that bind our predecessors and us, descendants, somehow together. But there is one object or rather the story that goes with it, that will always be kept in mind, and is always told whenever a smaller or larger family reunion takes place.
    It is a piece of bone [more exactly, a part of a horse rib].
    Our paternal grandfather, Gábor, was an archeologist, who led numerous excavations and collected a vast number of objects for his museum that he had founded. Almost everybody in town knew of him that he obsessively wanted to find Attila, King of the Huns. So knew the workers and so did his fellow researchers…
    He happended to dig again on occasion of 'saving findings', and, out of the earth, a piece of bone came across his hand. It had two inscriptions carved in Hungarian Runic lettering: "Attila", and on the reverse side: "To Gábor". Following his first astonishment, he immediately realised that he had been fooled.
    Afterword: Poor grandfather! He was sent up the garden path again, when my elder brother, Attila was born. My father sent grandfather a telegram: "We have got Attila!" He rushed head over heels (from another town) … to find his newborn sixth grandchild!

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