Thursday, February 25, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - Make an Heirloom Book

Since there are so many heirloom type treasures in our home, it seemed like an heirloom book to record the important information and stories about these items was a good idea.  I can safely say in our family, I am, in most cases, the only one who really knows the "story" of these types of items in our home.  Since I would hate to see many of our heirlooms disposed of without any thought or realization of what they mean, I started an "heirloom book."

I did this a number of years ago, by typing or handwriting the information about our heirloom items on a piece of paper and attached a photo with archival safe photo corners. Now that we are in the digital age, I have started a much nicer one that is not only on paper but backed up on my computer.  I can also share copies of it via CD.  As for the pages in the original book.  I've scanned them and inserted the resulting jpeg into the Word document that is the "master copy."

Here's the basic format of my book.  You will find an example below. 
  • Title which describes the item and who it belonged to
  • Photo of the item
  • When and where the picture was taken
  • Digital file name of the picture (in a tiny font)
  • Provenance
  • Stories related to the item if applicable
I'd like to elaborate a little on the last 2 items.


Most of the definitions I've read state that provenance is the history of ownership of an item.  In this section, I've just tried to write down what I know about who owned the treasure and when.  I've also included who told what to who and when.


This has the potential to be the really interesting section if you have stories attached to your heirloom.  Ask around the family to see what they know.  Don't just ask the senior members either.  I've found out some really interesting things from my brother that I had never heard before! It's funny, you grow up in the same house, at the same time, but we all remember different things.

Right now I'm using a 3 ring binder with each page in it's own page protector.  This way we can easily add new pages and reorder them.  Since it's in a "draft" form, there is no hesitation about having someone write their additions on any of the pages.  I can put the information into Word later and reprint the page.

I've also included pages for items that another member of the family now has.  That way the stories and information is preserved.  Also, if I don't physically have an item, I figure the next best thing is to have a picture!

Here's an example:

Just for fun, I printed a copy of this page and put it inside the butter churn.  When my children look at it in the future, the story will be inside waiting for them.
In summary, I hope you decide to make an "Heirloom Book."  If you do, I'd love to hear about your ideas and what you've done.

Copyright 2010, Michelle Goodrum


  1. Michelle this is a fantastic idea! I have many of my Grandmother's things in my home and I myself have forgotten where some items have come from! This is a must for anyone who hopes to have their family hang onto and hand down all of our 'treasures'.

  2. Thanks for sharing this idea, Michelle. I've often thought (in rather nonspecific terms) of doing something similar with the things I have, but your great example really brought the concept into focus for me.

  3. Cindy - I have items of my own that I am starting to forget the story!

    I had horses for many, many years and used to compete. I display a couple of serving pieces that were awards and are very dear to me but I had forgotten the some of the details of when and what event. Fortunately I had attached a sticker to the bottom with the information. They are now in the heirloom book.

    It would pain me greatly to have my family dispose of them without at least knowing what they were getting rid of!

  4. Michelle,
    What a great idea and post. Thanks for sharing. This is also a great basis for talking to your family, as you mentioned. They may not care about family tree and lineage, but they will have stories that go with objects that were important to them. Good work, keep it up, and continue to share items from your book, from time to time (I hope!).

    Bill ;-)
    Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"

  5. Wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing!

  6. What a wonderful idea...I love it. I have a similar book on Christmas ornaments and decorations I have received from Germany and from my mom who hand carried many of the old ornaments from Germany when she immigrated. Thank you for sharing this wonderful idea.

  7. What a great idea! I'm going do soemthing similar as well.

  8. I have just followed the link from your photograph a day site. What a fabulous idea. This house is full of items inherited from my Grandparents and things that Mum has had and passed onto me. Not to mention things from my husband's side of the family. Signing.....another project! and the brain has already started to race!

    1. I'm glad you like the idea. It's just an ongoing thing for me adding to it as we go along.