These belonged to your Grandmother, now they are yours!
Has something like that ever happened to you? So what do you do??
I guess it depends on what the items are and how interested in your family history you are, and how motivated you may be to play the historian/genealogist/detective.
In the Alice in Wonderland Challenge I chose to highlight a tea set passed on to me from a great-aunt that was my grandmothers and my Mums sets given to her from several family members. I questioned her about the origins of several sets and put a layout together with a short blurb and photos. That took care of the tea cups. Later, for the Sherlock Holmes Challenge, I featured a Morgan Silver Dollar my great-grandfather returned to Scotland with and had turned into a broach for his wife that has now made its way back to the States. I have several other heirloom pieces that won’t be as easy to tackle, but it yearns to be done and preserve what little story I have and take the opportunity to make use of the internet to try to fit in some of the other missing links.
Somewhere in my younger years I was given several pieces of ‘fabric’ with absolutely no explanation beyond these belonged to your grandmother. Two were shawls; the third piece is still being researched. Into a closet or drawer they went…they were old! Then I decided to bring them out and decorate with them. One shawl was draped neatly over a corner chair near my basket of knitting while the other topped the couch. Then I found out what they were and back into the drawers they went to keep them safe from all the potential hazards of a house full of wee children.
Both of the shawls are Paisley Shawls. My father confirmed that and added, “I’ve no idea how she came to have them!” Years have passed since I first received them and then, as now, they are quite valuable and not likely an item she would have purchased. Maybe they were her mothers, or gifted by someone? Who knows…and there’s the rub! I want to know!
There’s no family left to ask. My grandmother passed away when my father was still a young boy, he and three brothers were raised by aunts and uncles. What makes this treasure so special, like the tea service, one of the great-aunts thought so much of them and held on to these items long after her sister was gone, and passed them on to me.
Why do a layout on these items? They have survived over a century now, and likely will outlive me unless someone doesn’t recognize their value and toss them out; someone just may want to know what I’ve found out about them in a bit more than a word of mouth retelling where details and facts can get twisted. This is a connection to my family, my history. I want the family that follows to know about this.
Scrapbooking Your Heirlooms:
Where Do We Start?
• Let’s begin with photos.
• Take several photos of your heirloom objects from a variety of angles.
• Try to use natural light available to capture the most vivid colors as accurately as possible.
• Don’t forget the details…get in close and photograph something you see, because not everyone will see the same things you do when looking at a photo. Be obvious and point it out to them! Let them share your excitement of your treasure!
• Display your object in the appropriate setting, help explain its function if you can in your photo setting. A Fenton vase or Tiffany lamp might show its best on a wooden side table with a doily underneath it. A stamp collection might do well to have some tweezers and magnifying glass nearby. A collection of 45’s and 78’s need a record player to add context!
• My shawls might show best being worn. A willing model can help me out!
Now For the Story!
• I can assume in the future anyone can use the same resources I have now and likely even more in the future to find out more about my shawls, but not everyone will take the time to look it up, dig further or even care about what you’ve done unless you share information to whet their appetite
• You’ve heard the saying you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink? Well if you salt his oats you will create a thirst and he will drink! Your job is to salt the oats with a story that tells you something that will engage your viewers to spend time looking at the page, not just flipping past.
• Seeing as these shawls belonged to someone in the family I can include a photo of them somewhere in the layout. If you have a photo you may want to consider using it. Maybe even a bit of a family tree to show the relationship. It’s one way to spruce up family tree records by adding a bit of personal information and ‘color’ to the record, bringing the people and places to life!
• A map showing the origins of the item might also be of interest. I could have, but didn’t include a map of the town of Paisley where the shawls were manufactured.
• A blurb about the history of how it came to be mine adds more ‘color’. If you’ve ever watched Antiques Road Show or similar shows, you know they are all about the history of an item, so if you can add that “provenance” and tell how you came to have the item…be sure to get that in here too. If you are the proud owner of a baseball hit off of a Babe Ruth home run…you’ve got a story you have to share, right?!
• Research: what have you learned as you searched to find out more about your object? I remembered a piece Martha Stewart did many years ago on Paisley Shawls and she had one exactly like one of mine. When I went looking for that piece online, I did not find it, but did find another piece that was equally as helpful. I can glean some of those tidbits and weave them into my journaling. Yes, you can do separate bits of journaling that may just include the facts from your narrative. I actually found an e-book with lots of interesting info on how the shawls were made but it is too long to include all of that info on the page. In printed form it will take a place in our family library and has been referenced in the journaling giving someone an idea of where to find it to know more.
• Do you have someone still alive that can provide more details or ‘the rest of the story?’ Be sure to take advantage of what they remember. It may be a bit spotty but keep asking questions and then listen. I was amazed at how much someone can remember once a few questions were raised and then I just sat back and watched my Mum and her sister relive their past. When I would ask my Mum a question she would always say…”I don’t recall” but then my aunt and her together would start in and before you know it…story gold!!
(Tip: if you are doing something like this, be sure to have a tape recorder handy and capture it all. One day you’ll appreciate having their voices to listen to and it’s quite possible you’ll need it to remember, too!)
What about the ‘not an heirloom yet’ category?
Yes! This is one you don’t want to miss. Think of the treasures you own that you hope will be passed down to your children’s children and tell the story of these items. The advantage is you will hold the secrets and it’s up to you to reveal them. You’ll be able to tell why the item is so very important, what it represents and why it is dear to you. Don’t miss out on this type of heirloom because you hold all the keys to a great story. You increase the value of the object by the story you attach to it and this is your chance.
It’s a great time to get started on new projects, why not take a step back in time and learn about that family treasure and then share it with your family, and share it with us! Our Story Board is always available on Journella to post your layouts and our Facebook page awaits if that is easier! Make a resolution to join us this year and share your creative works.