|Some of my family heirlooms|
We genealogists have always been faced with the dilemma of what to do with our research, but for me an equally important (and perhaps urgent) question is - to whom do I give my family treasures for safekeeping and how do I ensure that any provenance is attached to each one.
One of my readers, Nicholas, made a good point when he stated that the person you choose to receive a specific heirloom should also know about and have an attachment to the ancestor who originally owned it. Otherwise there is no guarantee they will cherish the item.
I agree with Nicholas but we also have to accept that there is no guarantee an item will be cherished and preserved no matter who we choose. For all we know our beloved heirloom will be put up for auction or as my friend and fellow blogger Midge stated sold on eBay. I know - it's a terrible thought! But we do have to realize that could happen.
Another issue is what if none of our children are the least bit interested and our grandchildren are too young for any determination to be made. Do we just go ahead and assign specific family items to individual family members using our best judgement? Or should we assign them all to one person and request that they in turn pass on individual items as they become aware of interest from other family members?
Now for the most difficult determination - using my husband as an example. He has no children of his own. He has no nieces or nephews to leave his family heirlooms to. But he has an incredible wealth of family treasures and intimate knowledge of each ancestor who owned these treasures. He has a huge number of old family photos, all identified. So what happens to his heirlooms?
He could donate his photos to the St. Mary's Museum which is where his family lived for generations. That would be a very good repository. But what about the physical objects? Would the Museum want his great-great grandfather's Baptismal Mug? Would they want his baby blanket crocheted by his great grandmother? Perhaps they would because all the ancestors who made or bought these items lived in St. Mary's their entire lives. But he also owns many items of furniture - a large pine hutch, parlour tables, paintings done by his grandmother and great-grandmother, his great-grandfather's handmade blanket box and so on.
His last recourse would be to leave the items to my children or my grandchildren. But would they really care about the items and their step-father or step-grandfather's ancestors who owned them? I'm sure my children would treasure the furniture as a lovely antique but whether or not the history of the item and the story of the person who owned it would be kept is doubtful. So perhaps that would have to be enough - that the item itself would be treasured as an antique and passed on to the next generation.
What are your thoughts on these issues?