Do you have family heirlooms that have a dark side?

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

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The family heirlooms universe is an interesting one. The stories behind these objects elicit a wide range of varying emotions — including some that fall on the “not-so-good” side of the ledger.

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Some family heirlooms have very complicated histories.


I recently came across a dramatic example of this darker side of family history. Instructor Hinda Mandell, Ph.D., a Boston native, who teaches in the Department of Communication at Rochester Institute of Technology, recently wrote an article about a family heirloom that was potentially disturbing: a copy of Mein Kampf.


Because of the mystery surrounding the provenance of the item, she was inclined to investigate what could be an important, if chilling, part of her family’s genealogy. As part of that process, her husband made a movie about the experience. Much like houses,  family heirlooms do not always have a pleasant story to tell. However, good or bad, I think these stories are all a part of the human experience. I suppose that’s the journalist in me.

I did try to come up with a dark family heirloom story of my own, but I was unable to do so. Who knows, though? I’m sure there are a couple of objects in my family’s possession that fall in this arena, but I don’t know because these backgrounds have fallen by the wayside with the passage of time. If stories are not documented, they are easily lost.

Do you have any family heirlooms with a dark backstory? Do you think these stories should be documented and shared? Or are they better forgotten? Let us know what you think. Leave a short comment, send an e-mail to info (at) houstory (dot) com, or say hello on our Facebook page or send us a Tweet.