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  • Treasures or Trouble?

We see a lot of family treasures in our work, and some of them cause trouble. They’ve been carefully saved to pass on to the next generation…but in many cases, grown children and grandchildren don’t really want what’s being offered. They are being deliberately rude or uncaring. Chances are they have chosen their own things to enjoy, and don’t have room or interest in anything else. Items we see refused include china, silverware chests, crystal, pianos, sewing machines, ornaments / figurines, and tools.

Not all is lost though, because there are certain things that our families treasure. It may help to think about how you pass along a gift addition to when you pass it along. Wrapping a pretty piece of jewellery or Grampa’s watch and passing it along to a grandchild at their 21st birthday can make for a memorable and treasured gift. When you share the story of the gift by writing it out on a card or special piece of paper, the history can be stored along with the gift, and it’ll be seen each time the item is used.

There are some items that our clients and families tell us they would treasure. This list is a work in progress, but seems like a good place to start.

Photos and photo albums

People of all ages love to see themselves in old family photos, and they are ideal for supplementing family histories. Since so many photos are now digitally stored, you may  want to think about gifting an electronic frame so that the pictures can be viewed any time. I love the recommendations from Ellen, the chief genealogist at Shop the Hound. She emphasizes how important it is to print some copies of your favourite pictures, so they never get lost during the upgrade to a new computer. You’ll also avoid the problem where someone has password protected their computer, and when they pass away no one can get into their files to retrieve photos or helpful information. Depending on how your pictures are stored, you may have to include a slide sorter and viewer, or a scanner, as part of your gift.

Creating an album that can be kept in a bookcase or displayed on a coffee table, and adding some comments or dates to the photos, will help future generations know who is there.

There are lots of options available for archival boxes and printing paper so that pictures will last, and books, blogs, or YouTube videos that do a great job of explaining how to look after them.


Scrapbooking is a great hobby for crafty people to preserve their memories. They aren’t just for photos, but can hold all kinds of treasures carefully tucked into the pages. Scrapbooks, school yearbooks filled with notes and signatures, and wedding albums are getting scarce as people downsize and remove “clutter” from their homes, and so digitizing a scrapbook can be a great way to preserve it, save some space, and make sure that multiple people have copies of the scrapbook.

If you’d like to pass on a scrapbook, check to make sure it’s made of acid-free archival paper.  Look for supplies at your local craft retailer, and watch for deals online. These projects can get expensive, so taking advantage of coupons, sales, and making the scrapbook a gift for a special occasion makes the most of your money.

Letters, Journals, and Diaries

Our journals and diaries tell the secrets and tales of days gone by and the people who lived them. When I read my grandmother’s old letters, I was thrilled to see the stories unfold on old, crisp, airmail paper that had writing in every bit of space available. Documents like land transfers, property maps, immigration records, and birth certificates all add richness to the history. If you have a writer in the family, perhaps they would enjoy turning these letters into a family history that can be shared with future generations.

Creating New Treasures

It’s possible to take a whole collection of things and make something new from them. Costume jewellery that is treasured and yet dated can be turned into a collage shaped like a family tree or an initial, and beautifully displayed in a shadow box. Woodworking tools can be displayed in a tool shed, and sewing supplies can be displayed in a craft room. Large collections – including wedding china, dining room sets, and book collections, are not that popular with heirs, so it’s wise to ask if things are wanted before passing them along. If you have someone who loves to work with wood, they may be keen to refinish old furniture, including chairs, tables, dressers, and pianos.

Large crystal bowlOne of the best gifts I received from my grandmother is an enormous crystal bowl.  She bought it while on a holiday in England, and carried it as part of her hand luggage coming home. It’s big enough to hold two dozen Yorkshire puddings, or a trifle that will feed about 20 people. How she managed to carry it through Heathrow Airport is still a mystery to me. She gave it to me when I started doing a lot of entertaining, and I always got a thrill at putting it on the table and having her see it there because she gave it to me while she was still here.

If you’d like some help sorting out your treasures, let us know! You can reach us through the contact form.

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