Family Treasures


Fam’ly history—I am doing it (Children’s Songbook, 1995 edition, page 94).

Do you have any heirlooms—treasures—in your home? Do you know what an heirloom is?

An heirloom is something special that has been passed down from one generation to another within a family. An antique is something that is merely old, but an heirloom is an item—such as a quilt, a watch, or an old ceramic doll—that is not only old but has belonged to one of your ancestors. Heirlooms are valuable treasures to a family not because they are worth a lot of money but because they are priceless in making us feel closer to the people they originally belonged to.

Look around your home, ask questions, and discover if you have any treasures that belonged to your grandparents or great-grandparents. Maybe you are already aware of some heirlooms in your home—a ceramic doll that your grandmother hand-painted, or the Book of Mormon that your great-grandfather used on his mission. There may be others, however, that are still hidden in closets, attic, or cellar.

It is their history that makes your family treasures interesting. Find out what part each played in your ancestor’s life, and learn how your ancestor’s life was different from yours. Your great-great-grandmother probably needed her butter churn and press in her kitchen tasks, but your mother probably does not need them. A stereopticon that belonged to your grandmother provided visual entertainment for her and her family long before the days of movies, television, and videotapes.

After you have checked your home, visit with your grandparents in person, by phone, or by mail, and ask them if they have a favorite heirloom whose history they could share with you. Have the questions you want to ask written down beforehand, such as: What is the heirloom? Where did it come from? How old is it? Who owned it first? What was it used for? Why is it special now?

Write down the information you have learned about each family treasure and keep it in your journal or family history. Draw a picture or take a photograph of the heirloom and put it with the story.

By discovering some of your family treasures, you will be able to get better acquainted with your ancestors. Just being able to hold or see something that actually belonged to one of them will help you to understand a little more about what their lives were like and to appreciate and love them.

Isn’t it fun to wonder which of your own belongings might someday become heirlooms for your children and their families?

[photos] Illustrated by Shauna Mooney Kawasaki; photos by Lana Leishman