Thursday, July 26, 2012

Documenting the Story Behind Family Heirlooms

When I was a kid, my mother would take my three brothers and I to visit her paternal grandfather, Daniel Allen Robertson.

My grandmother, Bessie Jane Downey, shown above about 1935 with Grandpa Robertson, died shortly before i was born, so I never knew her.

My great-grandfather lived in a small house in Bethany, Missouri.  He was a very kind old man, and I remember three things most about those visits:  1) he had a clock that struck the hour and half hour all night long, so none of us ever got any sleep; 2) he loved to sit in an old rocking chair and rub his thumb into the armrest; and 3) he always had frosted oatmeal cookies in a pink depression glass cookie jar on his kitchen table.

When Grandpa passed away, there was an estate sale and unfortunately, the rocking chair left the family.  However, my mom was able to purchase her grandfather's cookie jar, which has since been passed down to me.

Unfortunately, I'm one of those people who doesn't like to use heirlooms for the most part, so it's now sitting in my china cabinet.  One of these days I am going to take it out, fill it with oatmeal frosted cookies, and let my own grandson take a cookie from the jar.

Another heirloom I have is a small covered bowl that was owned by my great-great grandfather, Wilfreda Reece Gannan.  I never knew this item existed until I went to a family estate sale, and one of my step-cousins brought the bowl out and said that my great grandfather, who had long since passed away, had wanted my mom to have it.  Since she died in 1974, they had held onto the bowl for many years, waiting for the right moment to give it to me.  I was overwhelmed that my step-cousins has saved it for me.

I have started taking photos of the heirlooms I want to pass down to my son, grandson, and nieces and nephews.  Along with each photo, I plan to write a small story about each item, where it came from, and why it holds special memories for me.

How have you been documenting the story behind your family heirlooms?

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