A family heirloom isn’t worth nearly as much without the story that goes with it. This seems to be the notion behind The Learning Channel’s Top 10 list of the most common items passed on to the next generation. Jewelry leads the list in the #1 spot, but is nudged by Stories as #2. After all, unless the item is valuable itself, why would someone save and cherish anything at all?
It’s all about the stories. . . which got me thinking about the jewelry I’ve inherited from my ancestors. . . funky 30’s costume clip-on earrings from Grandmother Arline, designer costume bracelets from Mom, and ropes of polished amber from my mother-in-law. None of the pieces are especially valuable, and none were itemized in a list of personal property to be distributed to certain heirs. Do most people inherit valuable jewelry, or is it more the everyday bits and baubles that find their way into our jewelry boxes?
I found this sweet brooch in Arline’s trunk, mixed in with letters, photos, and documents. There’s no identification, but I know the photograph is Arline’s first child, Lucile Mae Paulen, my aunt. She must have been four or five years old at the time. By then, Arline and her first husband Roy were divorced and Lucy was living with Roy and his parents. Arline was heartbroken by the court’s custody decision. Great story.
What other things do people tend to save and pass on from generation to generation? Almost all kinds of memorabilia are included in TLC’s list, and each one depends on the story behind the artifact:
- Letters and Diaries
- Musical Instruments
I think a few popular categories are missing from this list, especially the proverbial Family Bible. Here’s my version from Bible to Christmas baubles, with the reminder that each one needs a story to become an heirloom.
Top 15 Family Heirlooms
- Photos, Albums and Scrapbooks
- Letters, Diaries, Datebooks
- Clocks and Watches
- China and Silver
- Military Relics
- Quilts and Samplers
- Dolls and Toys
- Musical Instruments
- Christmas Decorations
What do you think? Have you inherited something that should included in the list? Check out The Heirloom Registry for a great place to identify your family treasure and record its story for the next generation, and receive three free Heirloom Registry stickers with our special partnership when you purchase The Family Curator’s new book, How to Archive Family Keepsakes. Click here for details of this offer.