April 2012 Archival Answers: Heirloom Inventories

By Sharon DeBartolo Carmack Premium

Q. I’m making a list of our family heirlooms for our children. What should I be writing down about them?

A. It’s a good idea to inventory your family artifacts to preserve their stories, communicate their importance to your relatives and assist with your estate planning. Catalog heirlooms that are in other relatives’ possession, too, to keep track of their whereabouts.

You can start with our free, downloadable heirloom inventory forms, or create your own inventory. For each keepsake, include as much as you know about it, such as:

  • a full description, including a photograph if possible
  • who owned it originally
  • how it came into your possession
  • when it was made and by whom
  • what family stories are associated with the heirloom

You can even inventory missing family heirlooms, which could help you organize your search for them. Write a description that’s as complete as possible, for example:

Unfinished and unsigned needlework sampler, probably stitched by Ellen M. Lorah, daughter of Mary (Rhoads) Lorah, Broomfieldville, Berks Company, Pa., who attended the Linden Hail School for Girls in Lititz, Po., in 1860, when she was 16. Floral decorated, about 6×18 inches. Last known owner, Jeanne Mae Smith, 123 Main St., Springfield, Ohio. Current owner. unknown.

Make at least two copies of your heirloom inventory and any pictures: One to keep with your genealogy files, and another to file with your important papers. Give copies to your children, too. If you have a family history website or publish a family newsletter, you might want to post the list of family heirlooms, especially if it includes unidentified or lost items.

From the March/April 2012 Family Tree Magazine