Never did I imagine when I asked the question, “What’s your favourite heirloom?”, Just how popular this would be! I have received so many wonderful new photographs and stories about your ancestors’ family heirlooms that it would be remiss of me, not to share them all with you!
These heirlooms really are as diverse and individual as each and every one of us and completely unique to the families they belong to. They also form a connection across multiple generations and create memories and stories for the families that own them, to share and pass down.
My good friend Marian Burk Wood, recently told me how, at family gatherings, she shares with her family, a few objects that are connected to her ancestors, to spark conversations about the items and who they belonged to, which is a great way to encourage younger members of the family to become interested in their past. It can be anything from Great-Grandad’s War Medals to Grandma’s necklace, or even a family piano! What we choose to treasure and keep will be different for us all.
Marian’s blog can be found here:
Without further ado, let me share with you some more fascinating heirlooms, artefacts and treasures from your family history collections and some of the stories behind the objects.
Kim Brengle starts us off with this absolutely wonderful robe from the “Scottish Arab” side of her family, which has been worn in as far away places as Lebanon and Massachusetts!
Anne Taylor told me about a delightful weighing machine that although it’s not in her possession, she knows exactly where it is! It’s in the Calderdale Industrial Museum in Halifax. The weighing machine with the Clough name on it, was made by her 2 x Great-Grandfather, Benjamin Clough’s Company. Benjamin Clough lived between lived 1824-1866, he was born in Bradford, but spent most of his life in Halifax.
Kris Milstead has inherited a pile of letters from her Great Aunt during her time in Korea in the WAC during WW2. These give a real insight into life during WW2, they also give a glimpse of normal life and also show us how we need to maintain a sense of humour, at the toughest moments we face. Kris has kindly transcribed an extract for us:
“…I may be able to fly home and it would only cost me $1.00 for a parachute and if I didn’t have to use it, I would get my money back.”
“I don’t know what will happen to the German people this winter. There will be no food for them and no heat. I don’t even know where all the thousands of people in Berlin will live. They seem to like the Americans, they even tell us that.”
Janice Ciletti’s Son has a cut-throat razor from the 1860’s and also a copy of a letter from an ancestor who inherited it, stating that his father carried it during the Civil war. One letter mentions an Uncle who was captured and released after signing the oath of allegiance. Janice also has a copy of a ship’s manifest ledger with an ancestor’s signature on it, dated from 1764, the ship was called The Chance. The ancestor mentioned was Johannes Michael Habluzel who was born in Baden in Germany and was a potter by trade. Johannes also served in the Revolutionary War for PA, Westmoreland County Militia 1776 and Rangers on the Frontier, Westmoreland County, 1778-1783. Sadly, at the moment, Janice doesn’t have access to the photographs of these precious items, but hopefully I can add these in at a later date.
Stacy Hawks from Dividing Ridge Genealogy sent me this beautiful picture of her maternal grandmother’s necklace, which has a mustard seed encased inside what Stacy believes is glass. You can find Stacy at the Dividing Ridge Genealogy website and the link can be found below:
Elaine Jackson has shared with me two delightful and totally different heirlooms from her family history collection. We have a walking stick that belonged to her Great-Grandad, James Kinghorn Thomson and a portrait of her paternal Great-Grandad, Frederick William Creasey.
The walking stick belonged to Elaine’s Great-Grandfather James Kinghorn Thomson, who was born on 16th February 1873 and he was the youngest child of a Scots Farm Bailiff, John Thomson (1819-1887) and a Hampshire Blacksmith’s daughter, Louisa Freeman (1835-1929). After his father died in 1887, the whole family moved down to Chelsea and Fulham in London, where Louisa’s sister Emma (1844-1910) was living with her husband David Vigo (1840-1908) who owned and ran a very prestigious business, selling fish and poultry at 163 Sloane Street. James went to work for his Uncle David and every census thereafter records him as being either a ‘fish salesman’ or a ‘fishmonger’. He married Martha Evans (1869-1959) of St Brides, Pembrokeshire in June 1900, and they had five children, the first of whom died as an infant, leaving Elaine’s Grandfather John William Thomson (1901-1970) as the eldest son. James apparently liked to shoot pigeons and squirrels in the London parks, at least until the day Martha apparently put all the guns in a sack and dumped them in the Thames!
(James Kinghorn Thomson)
Elaine also sent me a stunning portrait of her father’s maternal Grandfather Frederick William Creasey, in his full dress uniform. He was born in 1857 in Scole, Norfolk and joined the 48th Brigade of Norfolk Volunteers in 1880 at the age of 24 years and 6 months, signing up for 12 years. The 1881 census saw him stationed at Aldershot as a private in the District First Battalion, 2nd Queens Royal Regiment (Royal West Surrey). He doesn’t appear to have lasted the full twelve years though, because by 1891 he was living in Fulham with his wife Emma Buckley and son Frederick, and working for the Railway! By 1901 he was a Commercial Clerk, and by 1911 both he and his eldest son Frederick were working for the War Office, Fred Senior as a Storehouseman and Fred Junior as a ledger keeper.
( Frederick William Creasey)
Isabel Annal also has two truly wonderful family heirlooms, the first is a picture of the view from a window of the family house in Landau in der Pfalz, which was painted by her Oma (Grandmother), Susanne Hulme, in 1980. The window looks out onto the Rathausplatz (the main town square), where there is a market twice a week. The view over the market in 2021 is probably the same as it was when the family bought the house a hundred years earlier.
The painting is currently hanging in that house, where Isabel’s Great Uncle lives.
Isabel also sent me a picture of this delightful and beautiful handwritten recipe book that belonged to her Oma’s Aunt. Isabel wrote a wonderfully researched blog detailing the origins of the book and her life during the Holocaust. This is a beautifully written and thoroughly detailed piece of research and I have included the link here and urge you to have a read.
Fritha Hennessy also has a family portrait which she kindly sent to me of her 3 x Great-Grandmother, Ellen Standley, which is a photo that has in fact been painted over, to make it look like a portrait and dates from approximately 1875. Ellen Standley was baptised in Birmingham, Warwickshire, on 28th May 1854 and her parents were Samuel and Susannah Standley. Ellen married Joseph Hobson on Christmas Day 1872 in Hockley. It’s likely that the photograph was taken around this time, as possibly an engagement or wedding memento. Ellen died in 1917 in Birmingham. Family stories record her as being a midwife and herbalist, which, given her 11 children, seems a logical course. Ellen’s oldest daughter, also an Ellen, married, and moved to South Africa and this picture would have come with the younger Ellen on one of these trips, and has been handed down the maternal line, and has travelled from Cape Town to Pretoria, back to the Cape and back to Johannesburg. It has since travelled back north to the Manchester area, making it a very well-travelled family heirloom!
Kelly Wheaton’s has shared with me pictures of her Great-Grandfather, Justsus Warren Sheldon’s walking cane. Justsus was a man of real prominence in his home county of Eaton County in Michigan, he was the town’s Mayor on two separate occasions. Kelly has kindly shared with me some more details about the life of Justsus and what a truly remarkable and interesting man he was and also the story about the cane and how it has been passed down through the generations. I have included the link to his story and this is really a great read and what an interesting character:
Jane Tunesi’s most prized family heirloom is the band music written by her Great-Grandfather Henry Alfred Sutch which was part performed by her Great Aunt Ada.
This truly beautiful fan was inherited by Barbara Jean May and belonged to her Grandmother, Louise Hampshire May. The fan was made by her Great-Grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Hampshire, who was born in 1855 in Janesville PA. The fan is etched with the name “Bebe” because when she was born, her older brother couldn’t say the word “baby”, so hence she became known to the family as “Bebe”.
( Louise Hampshire May)
Pat Reynolds has a set of six dining room chairs that was shared between family members after a family member’s death. This again shows that the family heirlooms that we inherit really are as diverse as we are. Pat’s cabinet maker father, also made an extra chair to compliment the set that Pat has.
Judith Ross has sent me two wonderful pictures of two precious items that she treasures, both are unique and unusual. The first item is a quilt, which was made by her maternal grandmother and her sister, from bolt ends left in her Sister’s General Store. I had to actually look up what a ‘bolt end’ was and for the uninitiated like me, it’s basically the end pieces and offcuts of fabric. The other family treasure is a small wooden toy rolling pin, which was made for her by her Grandfather. Sadly, he died when Judith was still very young and she was the only Grandchild, so this has remained very precious to her.
We finish with a really beautiful heirloom that Liz Graydon shared with me, which is a family tree cross-stitch that she made for her parents. This beautiful cross-stitch took Liz over 400 hours to complete.
Liz’s beautiful example really got me thinking about what heirlooms we have in our own collections to pass on to our own family? Have we actually made anything from our own hands to pass on? Apart from my own family history files, I am struggling to find anything that I have created myself? We might not all be as creative as Liz, but I am sure that we can be equally as inventive. So why not consider making or creating your own heirloom, or maybe even a time capsule? Something that future generations will cherish and pass down or maybe even write a blog about!
Please drop me a message I would love to hear from you about the things that you have made yourself to pass onto your family, be creative and be inventive and please share with me your ideas!
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