Documenting Heirlooms

Reading lamp from my husband’s Grandma Mary Carney Stokes, a doily tatted by my Grandma June Hinman Forsyth, antique books from my parents and mother in-law and a decoy duck that I painted.

My niece Tayler, a professional photographer, took these wonderful pictures of our family heirlooms. We had so much fun setting up the shots. For some shots, we mixed some of my own old items with the heirloom items in my possession. Unfortunately, many of the items were handed down to me years ago and my memories of who some of the original owners were have faded. I’m in the process of asking relatives to help me identify these items. Here are some tips to help you preserve a record of your heirlooms:

TIP #1: When an heirloom comes into your possession, ask the giver questions about the item. Then write up a label for each item answering these questions: Who owned the item, the year the item was most likely created, a description of the item, stories about the item, the provenance of the items (who it was handed down through) and where the item is stored. Keep the label with the item and/or take a picture of the label with the item. I also keep all the descriptions together on a Word document within my genealogy files entitled “Heirloom Descriptions.” You could also add a thumbnail to each description in your Word doc so future generations don’t get confused. Below is one of my descriptions.


TIP #2: Take an individual snapshot of each heirloom item. Cluster items for fun and get creative with the background and arrangement of items. Try finding a pleasing light source and turning off the flash.


This a collage of my husband’s Grandmother Mary Cecile Carney Stokes’ oil lamp, my Grandmother Weltha Eliza Hartley Hinman’s bread pan and my Grandmother June Hartley Forsyth Hinman’s canning jars.

TIP #3: Take time to record information about the item in the metadata and file name of the photo. Add thumbnails to your master document.

Doily with meta data
This a a photo of a doily that my grandmother June Hartley Hinman Forsyth tatted for me in the early 1990’s. We have used it as a decorative display in our home ever since.


TIP #4: Share the photos with your family on a Google Drive, in an email, on your blog, as printed photos or even a scrapbook. Ask family members for help identifying items if needed.

This crazy tube of lipstick is either from my Great Grandma Huskinson or my Great Grandmother Hinman. Hopefully family members can help me figure it out.


TIP #5 Store delicate heirlooms in a cool dry place, out of direct sunlight and preferably in dark conditions. Photos should be stored in acid-free protectors. Read the following blog by Archival Methods for more detailed information about heirloom storage:

I hope these tips have been helpful in inspiring you to create a record of your family heirlooms! Thanks again to Tayler for taking these wonderful photos for us. Check out her website at

Here are some of my favorite shots:

This pitcher was given to Charles White Hinman and Weltha Eliza Hartley as a wedding present in 1916. The doily was tatted by June Hinman Forsyth.
_MG_0285c (1)
Some of these tins belonged to June Hinman Forsyth.
This button jar belonged to my husband’s Grandmother, Mary Cecile Carney Stokes.
This set of doilies was made by Hulda Caldwell and given to George Kenneth Forsyth and June Hartley Hinman at their wedding.
My Grandma June Huskinson Wallin’s silver pitcher.
This is a box of items that I’m trying to identify. The beeswax is the only item marked and belonged to June Huskinson Wallin.
These marbles were my husband’s when he was a child. The stuffed dog was my daughter-in-law’s when she was little. The antique book My Book House was given to me by my parents. We acquired the Games for Boys book while my husband was working in Cub Scouts.


The blessing/christening  dress on the left was worn by my nieces and my daughters. The blessing/christening dress on the right was worn by my mother.

This was my husband’s Grandpa Edwin Guilford Stokes’ pipe tray. My husband remembers walking through Grandpa’s pipe smoke while he was smoking because he liked the smell.
June Huskinson Wallin’s trunk containing old scrapbooks, documents and photos.


3 thoughts on “Documenting Heirlooms”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s