Question of the Week: What are some of the most treasured mementos you've been able to collect?

+29 votes

How did these heirlooms or mementos come to you? Were they passed down through the family?

Have you ever found anything at a flea market or garage sale that you were able to return to the family it came from?


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asked in The Tree House by Julie Ricketts G2G6 Pilot (252k points)
retagged by Keith Hathaway
My grandmothers Five Star Flag - see CAIN-1185
The Mourning Veil of my Great-great-grandmother and a picture of her wearing it. Each one came from a different branch of the family.

Also a piece of linen woven for the shroud of my great-great-great grandmother from the flax grown on her son-in-laws farm.

My 4th Great grandmother's Bible presented to her at the time of her husband's death in 1839.

All precious to me.

My great grandfather, the old west confidence man "Soapy" Smith (Jefferson Randolph Smith II) saved most of correspondences, business and personal, so I have about 160 documents. In 1974 some of his belongings were auctioned off in Seattle after the Harriet Pullen (Skagway, Alaska history) closed. My father bought Soapy's roulette table and his 2nd grave marker from 1898. He missed out on buying Soapy's shoulder holster. I now have the grave marker, and as luck would have it, that shoulder holster and other smalls came up on eBay a couple of years ago. I knew it was the same holster as the original auction stickers from the auction house were still on it! I was lucky to get it at a "reasonable" price.

When me and my grandma were cleaning out my great grandparents home after their deaths I found an old tequila box that had some old photos in it. My grandma told me to throw it away. I didn't, I kept it because I tend to hoard old things. I went through them and found a ton of baby pictures of the great grandfather from the mid 20s and pictures of my great great grandmother and her father, aunts, and brother. Along with newer pictures including ones of my great grandma with me as a baby showing me her yarn. Which was my favorite picture in the box since she taught me to crochet and I've always told people she had yarn in my hands before I could walk!
I have so many...I love walking through my house and touching the Furniture that both my Grandfathers made. I have a Spindle from Laurens Mill, that sits on a shelf in my office to remind me of the years my grandfather was a plant Engineer there. Both of my grandmothers Genealogy papers? A Satin & down comforter my grandmother made me? My Mothers Hope chest? Family Photographs? I guess it would be what ever one is engaging my interest at the time.
I have a copy of the book that my G-G Grandfather wrote in early 1800.  "The Horseman's Practical Guide"  The care and training of horses.  It has been handed down from him to G Grandfather, Father and myself.  He as a Farrier for the US Government during the Civil War.
I have my Grandmother's rosary. She gave it to me when I was about 6 years of age. I had been at the dentist and had been particularly brave by all accounts. The rosary will be given to one of my Grand-daughters in time, as it was to me.

43 Answers

+26 votes
Best answer
My mom wrote poems about everything... her grandparents, the long forgotten coal mines where her family lived, the day she told me about my first experience with Jack Frost, how our cat lost his tail, the beautiful Christmas tree on the courthouse lawn, the night she ran a red light (a funny one), the river that ran past the house, the two trees that looked like they were dancing with each other, my brother's first bike, her Indian heritage,  love poems to my dad, the poem after his death, ....I could go on and on.... About 100 have been typed and put into a home made book and there are probably 200 more.  She also write the stories told to her by her grandmother that were told to her by HER grandmother....thus, we have family Civil War stories.
answered by Sharon DiLuvio G2G6 Mach 1 (16.4k points)
selected by E Childs
I should have also mentioned that my mother collected the photos of the family and many family the railroad chants her grandfather shared with her and funny stories about his hearing loss in old age.  But, best of all, she collected the large wall photos that her grandmother hung in her home for decades.  Because of that, I have female portraits for many generations in a row...the oldest one of Sarah Jordan is a very early primitive photo in the early years of photography.  This has stirred my passion for collecting family photos.
+21 votes
Awesome Bibles that come from Family Members.
answered by Sally Stovall G2G6 Mach 8 (87.7k points)
+21 votes
The item that helped me connect my parents to the Cavanaughs was my mother's bible that was given to one of my aunts after she passed away. In it was the names of the witnesses and the dates of my parents marriage which triggered the search for the Cavanaugh connection including phone calls to my older brother who confirmed the relationship. That lead to the finding of my father's own mother's connection and the eventual connection to the overall WikiTree family tree.
answered by Dorothy Barry G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
+18 votes
Letters my Mom and Dad wrote to each other while they were getting to know each other.

My Dad was at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado, and asked his barracks mates if anyone had a sister he could write to. My uncle showed him a picture of his three sisters. I don't know if Dad ever wrote to the other two but he and my Mom corresponded for about six months.

When my uncle and his wife had the first grandchild, my grandparents and Mom went to visit (North Carolina to Colorado roadtrip in 1954). Mom and Dad planned to be married while they were there but didn't tell anyone. They officially met and were married three days later. My grandparents were less than pleased.

In addition to those letters, there are three stacks of letters my Mom wrote home from all over the world as she and my Dad traveled with the Air Force. They were kept bundled together at the homeplace in North Carolina and my Mom retrieved them after my grandmother died. So much info to mine from those letters. It's a very large rabbit hole but the gedcom cleanup must be finished first.
answered by Debi Hoag G2G6 Pilot (189k points)
+21 votes
4 and 5 generation photos from the 1800s received from the nephew of the husband of the last member of the family in Ohio, as he was cleaning out his uncle's house. I had sent a letter inquiring about some genealogy information. The uncle was a classmate of my father and I had obtained his address from white pages. My father had given me his name and his wife's name as a possible source.
answered by Sue Hall G2G6 Mach 8 (81.4k points)
Wow. Talk about a long shot and pure joy at those photos not being lost. Kudos to the nephew!
+21 votes
I was lucky and was bitten by the genealogy bug when I was 13 and my grandparents supported my interest.

I have all the family photos that my maternal grandparents helped me identify the people in them so I could write there names on the back. They also told me countless stories that I wrote down. I also have a small collection of Old Regular Baptist Church minutes that my grandparents kept for me from their church. In the back of each of them are obituaries written by their families that often list more than 3 generations of relatives, their spouses and where they were living at the time.

I also have a quilt that my grandmother made for me. Hand stitched. my Mother also has the iron kettle that my Grandmother used to make soap. That has special meaning to me since I also make soap.

They even bought me office supplies so that I could take notes about the family stories and I remember going to Family reunions with them because they knew I would be interested in going.
answered by Sharon Ray G2G6 Mach 1 (11.1k points)
+17 votes
Autograph Picture of Pancho Villa given to my Great Aunt.
answered by Joseph Garcia G2G2 (2.6k points)
+17 votes
I am fortunate to have my paternal grandfather's shaving mug and my great grandfather's shaving mug who is my mothers paternal grandfather. I have the President's Thanks and Certificate of Honorable Service for my maternal grandmother's father. There is a stamped signature of Abraham Lincoln in the lower right corner. That's the first item I thought of as being most treasured.
answered by Frank Gill G2G Astronaut (1.7m points)
+17 votes
My great grandmother, Ellen Walter was presented with a silver teapot by her local church congregation in Howlong New South Wales. It is beautifully engraved with the following:

Mrs Robert Walter
In Grateful Remembrance of
Her Loving Devotion to
St Thomas Church Howlong
From the Congregation
March 13th 1925

Somehow it ended up with me. I am delighted.
answered by Gillian Thomas G2G6 Mach 7 (75.5k points)
+15 votes
My great great grandmother's teaset that supposedly came to New Zealand from Somerset on the "Wild Duck" in 1867. It has been passed from mother to daughter since then. I only have a son so I'm wondering where it will go next. My cousin's daughter or my brother's elder daughter are possibilities. I might wait to see who shows more interest a little nearer the time.
answered by Fiona Gilliver G2G6 Mach 5 (59.9k points)
Hi, Fiona, your son may someday be interested in the teapot. My son is only 10 (but an old soul!) and if I had my great great grandmother's tea set he'd love to have it. I don't know how old your son is or where his interests lie, but he may surprise you.
+17 votes
For my most treasured memento is a picture of my Great Grandmother whom I am named after. It was taken with my GGF and the only picture we have even seen of her. Someone in the family who knew her before her early death was able to help identify her.

At an antique store close to us I found some of my husband's family photos. I don't know who they came from and since I already has copies at home I did not buy them.

When we were in Scotland we found a small family cemetery on the side of a hill. I had my hubby take pictures of all the headstones. When we got home I checked on to see if anyone was researching the names. One lady wrote me back and said that was her family that she had been looking for for many years. She lived in Australia and had no Idea the deaths occurred in Scotland. She ended up with about 20 pictures.
answered by CaryAnn Hess G2G6 Mach 1 (12k points)
+19 votes
Momʻs baby shoes, yes. Dadʻs ID bracelet, yes.  But most treasured - DNA.  When I look in the mirror I see Mom a little and Dad a little and maternal Grandma.  My most treasure momento is the blood I carry from all my ancestors and the knowledge that so many contributed along the line.  But mostly it is seeing Mom and Dad in my aging face. Reminds me they are never gone.
answered by Kristina Adams G2G6 Pilot (132k points)
I am with you on this one Kristina. It is a lovely reminder to see my mom in the mirror in the morning and my father younger (before I knew him) all over my sons face.
+15 votes
My paternal grandfathers wedding ring. It was custom made by my father (who had an identical one made) and includes the diamond from my paternal grandmothers engagement ring. Don't fret, she received a much nicer, larger diamond ring as an anniversary gift.
answered by Mark Cordery G2G Crew (890 points)
+18 votes
About ten years ago while cleaning out the attic of the old family homestead we came across a hat box full of letters. We discovered they were letters exchanged between my mother and father during world war 2.Dad was in the navy and Mom was at home with two small children,one of which was me.To hear them express there love for each other and my brother and I was touching,but what warmed my heart the most was a little ritual my mother always added to her letters.she always added a lipstick kiss at the end of each letter.On one letter she added this tiny kiss in bright red lipstick along with hers.Yes this is my most cherished memento a kiss to Daddy from Mommy and me.
answered by Darlene Sreca G2G Crew (740 points)
Tears in my eyes.  That is incredibly precious!
+15 votes
We have my great grandfather's pocket watch.  It is inscribed with his initials and date of birth. We also have the one that belonged to his younger brother.

There was a third brother, but we are still trying to determine what became of his watch.  Each of the brothers received his watch from their father on the date of their 21st birthday. The birthday present included a horse and saddle as well.
answered by Karen Raichle G2G6 Mach 5 (52.1k points)
+13 votes
One of my most treasured possessions is a very old emerald cut aquamarine birthstone ring that was my maternal grandmother's.  It is in a beautiful old setting unlike anything I've seen in modern jewelry.  I'm not sure where she got it.  My mother had it when my grandmother passed in 1976 and she handed it down to me.  I keep it put up for safe keeping and take it out once in a while to admire it.
answered by Amy W G2G6 Mach 1 (15.6k points)
+12 votes
Family heritage, family memories, and lots of new family. Priceless!!!
answered by Cynthia Rushing G2G6 Mach 3 (31.5k points)
+13 votes
A ca. 1900 cloth-covered hymnal that belonged to my mother's grandfather, Rev. Charles Benjamin McDaniel, was passed to his daughter, my grandmother, Winifred. The family had been ravaged by typhoid and tuberculosis, and Grandmother lost all four grandparents, both parents, her stepmother, all three sisters, AND her only brother by the time she was 34. Not only that, but her second husband deserted and left her with three daughters under the age of 12. Grandmother too soon fell ill with t.b., and you would think she would be utterly broken in mind and spirit. Not so. Mother, who was just 7 when Grandmother died, remembered that as long as she had strength to sit up, Grandmother would sing the old hymns, and the one Mother remembered most was "There's Not a Friend Like the Lowly Jesus". Here was Grandmother, knowing that death would soon come, sang these words about Christ : "None else can heal all our soul's diseases." Though yellowed, frayed and poorly repaired, I treasure this hymnal like no other heirloom and look forward to one day meeting the Grandmother I never knew. An image containing the cover and this hymn are on Grandmother's profile, McDaniel-2394, with this URL -
answered by Loretta Layman G2G6 Mach 1 (19.7k points)
+14 votes
My memento:  After my grandfather passed on, I found a tape cassette from the 1970's of a birthday party for my grandfather.  My grandmother had secretly recorded it.  It's him and grandma regaling friends with stories of family and plans for the future.  I can listen to their voices whenever I want and it brings me joy whenever I feel down.

Other memento:  I found a family Bible from the 1870s at Goodwill.  Surprisingly, there was family still around (a couple of counties over) and they were quite surprised to have it offered to them.
answered by Jon LaFalce G2G3 (3.5k points)
+13 votes
Before my Dad, Mike Abell, died 40 years ago, he gave me some items. Among them is a wallet that belonged to my Great Grandfather John M. Abell that has his name embossed on it. I will give it to my son, also named John M. Abell. Also have a carpenters square with initials JMA stamped in the corner.
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