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Memory Keeping Tips,  Preserving Family History,  Writing Family History

5 Tips for Recording the Stories of Your Keepsakes

Do you have walls and shelves filled with family knick-knacks and keepsakes? Do you have attics and closets with heirlooms preserved with bubble wrap and specialty boxes? It’s time you spend a little time thinking and recording the meaning behind each family treasure before they become clutter and junk.

Heirlooms have the power to bind families together across time. But when the details regarding the objects are forgotten the family treasure often head into the trash pile. Prevent legacy loss by recording the unique stories behind the household items in your collection.

In my video, Where is Family History Hiding, I mentioned the four places where your genealogical clues are hiding. Warning: they’re usually not online! If you missed that video, check it out here:

Where is Family History Hiding? - Genealogy Basics

Once you have collected, discovered, and corralled your family treasures, you’ll want to record the stories, memories, and information so that it won’t be forgotten. However, many people, perhaps you, experience writer’s block. What should you record?

Let me demonstrate what you should record with two examples:


If you have a Boy Scout of America membership card that mentions your father or grandfather and it was dated in the 1930s, what information should you record?

First, extract the information from the card and then expand upon that information. Include any stories you’ve heard or were told about your Boy Scout’s experiences. Do a quick Google Search to what the requirements, ranks, and advancement requirements were for a Boy Scout from that time period. See if you can track down information about the council or the troop your ancestor was a member of.  See if the council listed on the membership card has a current office that might have chapter histories. So, record what you know but expand upon it.

Then write a blog post, create a scrapbook page, write a photo journal entry, or record a video about the discoveries.

Book cover for Downsizing With Family History in Mind
Photographing family treasures helps you preserve your family history when you’re facing downsizing situations. To learn more read, Order you copy of Downsizing with Family History in Mind through this link https://amzn.to/2lMAfrD


Perhaps you inherited jewelry from a mother or grandmother and discovered an Eastern Star ring. What should you record? If the owner of the ring is still alive, ask them about their participation in the group, why they joined, what offices they held, what events they enjoyed attending, and who their friends were from the group, If the ring’s original owner is deceased, learn  what events the Eastern Star chapter hosted during the years your grandmother was a member. You may not know for certain if she attended the events, but you should record what was available.

I have five quick tips that will help you record the stories behind your family heirlooms: 

  1. Be Obvious: Who did the item belong to? What is the object?
  2. Identify the Significance: Why do we still have it? What does it tell us about the original owner?
  3. Trace the Inheritance: Who were the curators of these items throughout time?
  4. Explain the Traditions: What traditions were the items involved in? What is the tradition of who owns the item?
  5. Detail the Unknown History: Record if the item was saved from destruction or the funny stories related to this particular item.

The best way to ensure that your family treasures are honored and cared for in the future is to record the stories behind the pieces. Then use the stories about the keepsake and photos of the items in family history projects such as written histories, scrapbooks, or video documentaries. You increase the value of your treasures by showcasing and preserving their stories.

To learn more about how to uncover the stories behind your heirlooms, read this: http://www.familytreemagazine.com/article/six-steps-to-heirloom-history

photo of bluebird family keep sake

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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