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.
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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.


RootsTech 2018

RootsTech 2018 was a great success! Over 14,000 genealogy enthusiasts attended this year’s conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, with hundreds of exhibitors marketing their innovative products and services in the Expo Hall. Products and services ranged from genealogical society memberships, to pedigree charts, DNA testing, genealogy software and photo storage, to name a few.


It was so fun to meet up with friends and family, including my Aunt Jane (left) who was a first time attendee. And what a treat to make connections with my 5th cousins, sisters Judy, Sharon and Karen, on my Grandpa Guy Roberts Wallin’s line! (Sharon and Karen pictured below). We are related on the Lane Line with common ancestors John Fuller Lane (1727-1785) and Elizabeth Cloud (1730-1788).


Some of my favorite presentations were:

Rebecca Whitman Koford, CG: Missing—Presumed Dead: A Case Study of Civil War Records.” Rebecca inspired me to bring to life the story of our Civil War ancestor, Thomas Jefferson Stokes. Rebecca is a Maryland researcher and can be found at the Association of Professional Genealogists:

Diana Elder, AG: “Getting Organized One Paper at a Time.” Diana gave practical tips and strategies for organizing your research. She has her slides posted at her blog: and her profile can also be found at the APG site: :

Nicole Dyer: “Research Confederate Soldiers Online: Nicole covered many great sources that will help me in my Civil War research of Thomas Jefferson Stokes. Nicole has these online sources listed at her blog:

If you missed RootsTech, here is the link to watch recordings of more than a dozen “live streaming sessions” and keynote addresses by Brandon Stanton, Scott Hamilton, Natalia LaFourcade, and Henry Louis Gates:

Mark your calendars for RootsTech 2019 February 27- March 2, 2019 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. See you there!

Lisa Stokes, AG®




I have been doing family history research for 16 years. My paternal roots come from Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia and I love the research challenges the southern states pose. I hold the Accredited Genealogist credential through the International Commission of the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists internationally known as ICAPGen℠. My specialty is in the Mid-South Region of the United States which includes Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and Missouri.  Although I am an experienced Southern researcher, I am proficient in other areas of U.S. research as well.

I have a Bachelor of Science in Education from Brigham Young University and love to teach classes, lecture, and coach others in overcoming research challenges. I am a member of The Association of Professional Genealogists, the National Genealogical Society and the Utah Genealogical Society. I lead the ICAPGen study group for other genealogists earning their credentials.

I have access to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and the Brigham Young University Library in Provo to help with my research. I also conduct lookups at both of those libraries for other professional genealogists and family historians.

You can contact me by email at

Please visit my YouTube channel to view my genealogy tutorials that I have created to help you be successful in your research: