Hunting Family Heirlooms in Obscure Places

When thinking of inheriting family treasures, family bibles, antiques, photos, and jewelry are the first items that come to mind. Some people are recipients of heirlooms during the giver's lifetime, learning its history from a first-hand account.

Not that lucky in having been gifted or inherited treasures? The ideal place to start hunting heirlooms is in your parent's or grandparents' garage, attic, or basement. For some, keepsakes are more difficult to come by. In that case, think outside the box and discover other outlets for hunting down heirlooms.

Toni is a great example of a successful family heirloom hunter. As an experienced genealogist, she discovered a clue in her 3rd great grandfather, John Cook Swearingen's 1933 will. This led her on a 20+ year quest to build an amazing collection of products produced by Pittsburg, Pennsylvania's J. C. Swearingen Ink Company.  Her source is eBay. She's purchased ink bottles, wooden boxes, advertisements, and receipts and displays them proudly in her home.

A less obvious source for vintage photographs is Etsy. After a Rockbridge, Virginia research trip, I discovered late 1800s/early 20th century photos of Kerr Creek's Ebenezer ARP Church and Old Monmouth Meeting House on the site. Our Harper family was founding members of both and are buried in the associated cemeteries. Hanging the "then" and "now" photographs in a prominent place in our home will make an interesting conversation starter when friends visit.

Family Bibles might be located on eBay as well. A recent search of "Family Bible Genealogy" produced 169 results. Prices vary from a very reasonable $7.00 to $20,000 for an 1870s Hendrick family Bible which includes vintage photos.

A variety of Facebook groups focus on reuniting families and their heirlooms. Family Bibles - Genealogy, Heirlooms Lost, Found & Returned, and Lost and Found Vintage Pictures. These type sites generally don't expect payment for their return..

A great way to pay-it-forward is to uploads heirlooms and photos that you have in your possession or find at thrift/antique shops, and yard sales. Returning a treasure to family is very rewarding. Recently, I've been able to reunite a 1900 family group photo and a Polish man's citizenship paper and lock of his hair to heirs. Give it a try, and find home for those photos that you can't throw away, but haven't a clue who is in them.

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