Legacy through the stomach: Family cookbooks and family recipes as family heirlooms

This post originally ran Aug. 1, 2012. It details the importance that family cookbooks play as family heirlooms — and in turn as vital parts of family history.

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Marketing Director

For the better part of two decades, my grandparents lived in paradise. To find this “Eden,” pull out a map of the contiguous United States, and let your fingers inch up, up, north to the Canadian border; then left, left, west to the Pacific.

You’ll know you’re in the right place when you reach the part of Washington state that isn’t there. Or rather, only bits of land are visible  — tiny dots amid the cold, salty waters of the Puget Sound. It was on one of these specks, among the San Juan Islands on a place called Lopez Island, that I spent some of my most memorable childhood days.

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Gommy in the garden on Lopez Island.

Lopez is a little less than 30 square miles in area, and is a biker’s paradise because of its relatively flat landscape. During the ’70s and ’80s, when my grandparents Tom and Gerri Walsh lived there, it was still a relatively unknown place compared to the vacation home-laden landscape of today — a retirees’ paradise where everyone (quite literally) waved to everyone they might pass on the road.

For me, what defined paradise as a kid was simple: spending summer days skipping glacier-flattened rocks on Fisherman’s Bay; upturning boulders to search for scurrying rock crabs; sailing to town for warm french fries and cold cokes with my brothers; hot dogs by the fire on the beach…you get the picture.  

Food, of course, was a centerpiece of my memories. I suppose that’s what having fresh Northwest berries with nearly every breakfast (picked straight out of my grandparent’s garden), or dining on crab caught just an hour earlier will do.

I still remember, very clearly, Gommy (“grandma,” for our audience) baking bread in the kitchen, and Gompy (grandpa) picking long, fresh green beans for the night’s dinner.

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What brought all this up for me was a video I recently watched over at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel. In the piece, genealogist Lisa Louise Cooke interviewed Gena Philibert-Ortega, who authors the blog “Food.Family.Ephemera,”which looks at how food history and family history intertwine. You can hear the full interview at the Genealogy Gem’s podcast page (episode 137).

As Gena and Lisa discussed, knowing what past generations incorporated into their meals brings a family’s history alive in a way other bits of data (such as census records and obituaries) simply cannot. The “Rhubarb Torte” recipe that Gommy submitted to The Lopez Island Cookbook — a 189-page community effort flowered with the dishes of the island’s citizens — is now my “Rhubarb Torte.” Anytime I want to take my taste buds back to the driftwood-lined beaches of Fisherman’s Bay, I’m but a few ingredients away.

Through her palate and her cookbook, a vital part of my grandma’s legacy is alive. Now, it’s up to me to make sure my heirs receive this message.

It’s been more than 20 years since Gommy and Gompy sold their house on the island, and the Lopez of today has a much different feel than the one I grew up with. I think it simply doesn’t feel quite as small as it once did.  I’m glad I have my grandmother’s cookbook to remember it the way I want to.

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The back page of my Lopez Island Cookbook.

For Gommy’s “Lopez Island Cookbook” Rhubarb Torte recipe, as well as some more photos, please visit our Facebook page. Do you have any family cookbooks that have been passed down, or you plan on passing down to your heirs? How about any family recipes? Please share it with our readers, and let us know what you think of our blog. Thanks!

Rowhouse Tour: ‘Four Homes for the Holidays’

This week, The Houstory Hearth welcomes a holiday-themed guest post from DIY Del Ray.

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Photo courtesy of DIY Del Ray

According to their Web site: “DIY Del Ray, a blog founded by Leslie, Katie and Sara, celebrates the art of small-space living and the creative spirit. We talk about interior design, unique storage solutions, living with kids, home improvement and craft projects, entertaining, and all the charming features of Del Ray, a neighborhood in Alexandria, VA.”

We first came across the blog a few weeks ago, when we found this great story they penned on using family heirlooms to tell your family’s story.

This week, DIY Del Ray takes a peak inside four, holiday-decorated rowhouses in the Del Ray community, and we wanted you all to come along. It’s title: “Four Homes for the Holidays.

“Living on a street of typical 1950s identical rowhouses, it’s always interesting to see how people decorate the inside of their homes — their paint choices, furniture arrangements and at this time of year, how they decorate for the holidays,” they write. “There isn’t much wiggle room in these houses – every last inch serves a purpose for something – but that hasn’t quelled the festiveness or desire to create a warm and cozy haven at home.”

To take the tour, read on. Thank you to DIY Del Ray for sharing your story with Houstory. Speaking of Houstory, Mike and Dan wish all of our readers a happy and safe holiday!

 

Do you use any holiday heirlooms to decorate your home? Do you decorate your home in a unique way? Share your photos at our Facebook page — we’d love to see them!

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Photo courtesy of DIY Del Ray

How do you know you’re ‘Home?’

“On the path of awakening or the journey to Self, finding home and living there is the goal, for once we are home, we are in Truth and in love. When we are home, everything feels different, but in essence nothing has changed, for we are simply remembering who we really are.”

—  Sara-Jane Grace

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Founder

“So where’s home?”

Simple question, right? Not for me, a military brat, who “lived everywhere and nowhere” and whom researchers have identified as part of a distinct, 200 year-old American subculture, with millions of members. And not for an increasing number of people in today’s highly mobile society.

I just counted — as I can never remember — and I moved 9 times, attended 9 different schools and had 11 different “homes” while growing up as an Air Force brat. At 18 I headed out on my own and, since then, added another 7 cities and probably another dozen “homes” to the list (though calling some of my living situations in college “home” would, admittedly, be a stretch.)

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Bartlett High School (Anchorage, Alaska) Senior Prom 1982. The author (the one with his eyes closed) and his ever-lovely date, Kelli, who helped the author create the The Home History Book™ archival journal.

So when that question “where’s home” comes up, I have to pause and think. If they mean “home” as in hometown, where I grew up, I usually end up just saying Alaska. That is where I was fortunate to string together four very important years in a row and attend and graduate from the same high school. And because of that, I do feel a stronger tie there than to the other places I lived.

On the other hand, if they mean “home” now, that’s easier. I’ve lived with my family in Northwest Washington state, in a home we built, for about nine years. So it’s definitely where our home — the nice building that contains our stuff — is located. But I’ll be honest, as beautiful as it is around here (and it’s breathtakingly beautiful), as many good friends as we’ve made and as comfortable as we are, I’m not sure it’s completely felt like home for some reason.

And, in fact, my wife and I frequently talk about where — if anyplace — we might like to move when our youngest daughter graduates from high school in a few years.

We moved here from Washington, D.C., where we lived for about a decade, to be closer to family. As a military kid, I never lived here permanently, but my parents were raised in the Pacific Northwest, my grandparents lived here and a couple of my brothers have now settled nearby. So if home is where most of your family is — a sentiment that resonates strongly with my wife — I guess this is home.

But, for us, the grey weather can be downright depressing for half the year, sapping energy and making for a long slug. Natives, on the other hand, actually feel “off” if an odd patch of sunny days sticks around more than a few days.

Culturally, we also feel a bit out of it sometimes, having moved to a more rural area. In that way we felt much more at home in D.C. than here. And while we can get a major city-culture fix with a 90-minute drive to either Seattle or Vancouver, BC, or  a nice taste with a 15-minute drive to the “City of Subdued Excitement,” Bellingham, Wash.,  those places – for now – aren’t home.

So all that begs the question: How do you know you’re Home?

Is there a place that has all the things you’re looking for. Or is the goal finding a place that has all the things you’re willing to accept? And can home be permanent? Or does it need to change as you change?

Home for me always suggested permanence, a place of one’s roots, a place where as Sarah Jane Grace notes above, you live in “Truth and love…(and) everything feels different.”

“There’s no place like home,” Dorothy says in the Wizard of Oz.

But maybe home is not a place at all but a state of mind.

It’s a question that continues to befuddle me. Which, of course, often makes me wonder why I — a person whose ties to “home” are confused at best —came up with the idea for the Home History Book, a product intended to permanently record a home’s unfolding story and share it with everyone who lives there.

The concept of home is clearly an important one. In fact, some people, seem to just know when they’re home. Either they grew up someplace and never left, which, of course, generally bypasses any confusion when asked “Where’s home?” Or circumstances (a vacation, a job, a significant other) brought them to a place that they immediately recognized or felt as “home” and so never left.

Let us know!

How do you know you’re Home? Is it a place? Is it a feeling? Is it a sense of community? Is it genetic? Is it permanent or changing? I think it’s an important question. It’s one that many have looked into and one I plan to examine further. If you are “home” and would be willing to share a few ideas about how you know that or “tips” for those who may still be searching, we’d love to hear from you.

Happy Birthday Houstory Publishing!
Our first year in photos

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Marketing Director

I was talking with a friend the other day about our business, Houstory Publishing. As we were chatting, a couple of things dawned on me during the conversation: (1) Houstory was about to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the “official” launch of our business  (more on that later), and; (2) Just how fortunate I have been to be able to follow my dream with my best friend — who also happens to be my big brother and Houstory founder, Mike.

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Mike and Dan Hiestand, taking a break while attending the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree this past June.

Okay, before you break out the tissue and think this is a, “Hallmark moment,” it’s not. I sincerely mean what I write. I just genuinely like the guy. What can I say? When we first started the company way back in 2007 (wow, starting a business takes ages!), and I heard his idea for the Home History Book archival journal, I was hooked right away. A couple of years later, when he came up with The Heirloom Registry concept (yes, I didn’t come up with that idea, either, darn it!), again I became a believer. A big believer.

Essentially, our roles are these: He is the visionary. I am the implementer. This arrangement has actually turned out to be a great match. You never know what it’s like working with a best friend or a family member until you do it. That’s not to say it hasn’t been an at-times stressful year, or an experience  filled with steep learning curves and unforeseen circumstances. But, looking back at how far we’ve come, it feels darn good to know we made the right decision.

We have wanted to go into a family-style business for as long as I can remember — ideally with our three other brothers in the mix as well — and we floated many ideas around (remember the bagel shop, Mike?) before we hit the jackpot with Houstory. It just felt right. And it still feels right today, more than ever. In fact, over the next couple of weeks, we are going to be rolling out some big announcements which we are very excited about.

Much of our success, we owe to you, our supporters and customers. We really couldn’t have made it this far without your help, so thank you! We hope you stay with us for the ride. We think its only going to get better.

And finally, thank you Tasi and Patty, — our understanding, courageous and supportive wives — as well as Mike’s daughters, Jessica and Ally. We love you all very much!

After more than four years working on weekends and weeknights to turn our “dream” into real-life products that we’d be proud to stand behind,  we “officially” opened for business on Oct. 18, 2011, when we launched our social media. Below is a look at some of the highlights from that time until now. It’s been a very busy but exciting year!

After a year in business, I believe in two things more than ever: historical preservation, and conservation. What we do is steeped in these concepts. My belief is this: The more people know about something, whether a house or a family heirloom, the more likely they will take care of it. This means both the priceless stories and histories, as well as the physical materials, won’t just be discarded with trash. These are the things that drive me. Let us know what you think, and thank you again!

 

Study: ‘Family stories’ more important than inheritance

There have been a number of studies over the past several years that have tried to get a handle on how much wealth pre-baby boomers — those born before 1946 — are going to pass down to their baby boomer and post-baby boomer heirs.

In fact, while all agree the number will set a new record for intergenerational transfers, the figures vary widely, ranging from $25 trillion to $136 trillion. The specific number probably isn’t that important to most of us since any number followed by a trillion — with a “T” — is a lot.  Perhaps surprisingly, however, a study found that amount is also of less interest to the boomers themselves.

In a 2005 study commissioned by the Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, 86% of boomers named “family stories” as the most important part of their legacy — ahead of possessions and inheritance.

The study, which consisted of interviews with more than 2,600 seniors and boomers, also found that non-financial items that parents leave behind — like ethics, morals, faith, and religion — are 10 times more important to both boomers and their parents than the financial aspects of inheritance.

The parents, however, aren’t buying it.

“Boomers,” the study found, “indicate they prefer to preserve their parents’ memories than receive a financial inheritance, while elders believe their boomer children are more interested in money.”

The study concluded that this disconnect, which is part of what the authors referred to as a “Legacy Gap,” needs to be addressed by parents and their children. To do so, the study identified “4 Pillars” that it suggests should form the basis of a meaningful conversation. Those included having discussions about: (1) values and life lessons, (2) instructions and final wishes and (3) financial assets.

A fourth pillar was a discussion of “personal possessions of emotional value,” or what we at Houstory simply like to call “heirlooms.”

Specifically the study urges heirs to ask their senior family members:

  • Are there items that document your life and/or family’s life that you would like to see passed on to future generations
  • Where do you keep your family photos – in albums or saved electronically, or other
  • Do you have any journals, diaries, scrapbooks, family history, or other important documents you would like to pass on?
  • Do you have household items that hold significant emotional value, but do not have much financial value?
  • Do you have toys, books, or mementos that you’d like to pass on to your children or grand children
  • Are there items like art, crafts, or furniture that evoke fond memories for you and your family?
  • Have you planned for the distribution of these items?

Of course, it’s these very questions and a desire to create an easy, effective and inexpensive way to address them that inspired the creation of The Heirloom Registry.

Giving one’s senior parents or relatives a handful of registry stickers or tags — or better, taking a couple hours to walk around their home with them to hear and help record stories about a few special items — can be both tremendously satisfying and a big step in helping close the legacy gap.

The Heirloom Registry: A Gift from Grandpa

The grandfather clock that inspired The Heirloom Registry

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Founder

Between 2006-09, I was presented with two gifts that would change my life.

The first was the simple, but now seemingly “obvious” idea for the Home History Book.

A “baby book for the home,” we call it in our elevator speech. An archival-quality book that tells the story of how a house becomes a home, written and shared by those who have lived there. A book that belongs to and is supposed to stay with the home.

It was, I think, what Oprah would call an “Aha moment”: An experience of quiet clarity, seemingly from out of the blue, that — if you are open to it — you cannot ignore.

I don’t know for sure from where that idea came. It was, however, a profound, even magical moment that I knew was life-altering as soon as it entered my consciousness.

The second gift came a couple years later: The idea for The Heirloom Registry. And for this one, I know exactly who to thank: It was a gift from my grandpa.

I grew up a military brat. My dad was career Air Force. There are lots of pluses to growing up a military kid. I got to experience lots of different places and lots of different people living in lots of different ways. But there are also some downsides: mainly, your “home” changes every 1-4 years.

It was the lack of permanence that probably explains the particularly strong attachment I had to my grandparents’ homes. They didn’t move. Their homes stayed the same. The look, the feel, the unique smell — those were soothingly constant during my childhood.

My paternal grandparents lived in the seaside town of Astoria, Oregon. Their home, like many in town, was high on the hill overlooking the Columbia River. As we ate breakfast, we would look out the window and watch cargo ships, fresh from the Pacific Ocean, tie up before venturing further inland to Portland or being piloted back out to sea.

It was an older home, whose windows were filled with ripply glass and whose floors creaked in all the right places.

The author (bottom left), brothers, mom and grandparents, John and Mildred Hiestand, in Astoria, Oregon. (c. 1970)

My grandparents were fairly old, and while we certainly felt welcomed, it wasn’t — simply because it wasn’t — a home made for kids, and particularly not young boys. Certainly not for five young boys — my four younger brothers and I — who visited for a week every summer or so. So we spent most of our time outside. Or reading.

Fortunately, I loved to read. Even more than I loved to play, truth be told. So I’d often have the living room to myself during the day while my brothers hit the nearby park or late at night, after they were made to go to bed earlier than I. And that’s where I got to know — and love — the clock.

The clock is a beautiful, noble grandfather clock, built in the late 1800’s. It truly is grand. No-frills, other than the movement of the simple moon dial at its crown. It rings on the hour. It doesn’t play around with fifteen-minute or even half-hour increments. The sound is bold and deep. You can feel it. It sat in the corner of the living room, next to their one TV (that I remember was almost never on) and across from the sofa, my usual spot.

I remember watching my grandpa wind it. Slowly. My grandpa was a retired mechanics shop teacher. He knew his way around metal parts. You never wanted to turn the key all the way, he would say. So he’d feel the spring tightening up and stop just so. Before closing the cabinet, he’d reach down into the bottom of the clock where he’d pull out a small tin in which he kept a rag soaked in kerosene. The kerosene vapors, he said, provided just the right amount of lubricant for the clock’s gears.

I don’t recall his ever adjusting the hands on the clock. Over the years, he’d obviously found the “sweet spot” on the pendulum adjustment; the clock kept perfect time. It still does.

I don’t remember when I first noticed the piece of paper tacked inside, in the back and out of view except for when the cabinet was open.

The only known photograph of the Astoria, Oregon, living room where the clock resided for many years. (The photo was taken from about the vantage point of the clock.)

Note inspiring The Heirloom Registry

Note tacked inside clock’s cabinet and written by author’s grandpa providing history of the clock

On it, in my grandpa’s writing, was the story of the clock. The clock, it said, was a wedding gift for his mother given by her father (my great grandmother and great-great grandfather, respectively). They lived in York, Pennsylvania, and the clock, the note said, was purchased from the “John Wanamaker store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the late 1880s’….”

My grandpa died in 1983. And the clock has been at my parent’s home in Washington State since the mid-1980s. Which is where I was, during a 4th of July get-together in 2009, and where I was with the clock again, by myself, when the idea for The Heirloom Registry was given to me. Once again in true “Aha” fashion, compliments — whether “real” or simply because of all that he did creating that precise moment — of my grandpa.

Of this I have no doubt.

The clock will always be a beautiful clock. But it is the story of the clock — an ongoing story — that makes the clock what it is. If my grandpa’s now somewhat crackled piece of paper were ever lost, and if those of us with memories of its history were not around, it would no longer be the same clock. It would just be a beautiful clock, perhaps in a great grandchild’s home — or for sale in an antique store.

I didn’t want that to happen. Neither did my grandpa. And I knew we weren’t alone. Everyone has a clock or a table or a mirror or a photo or painting or special book or quilt or something — sometimes old and passed down through the family, sometimes not so old. Sometimes expensive and sometimes not worth a nickel on eBay — but whose story makes it irreplaceable. A story that makes it unique in all the world. A story that should never be lost.

The Heirloom Registry makes sure that won’t happen.

So thanks grandpa. You wanted our clock’s story told. And now it always will be. Along with many, many others.

 

Mike Hiestand is the president and founder of Houstory Publishing.

The Heirloom Registry Presents: ‘A Three-Minute Love Story’

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Marketing Director

I’m not going to write a whole lot this week. I’ll let the video do the talking.

Special thanks to Angela Compton  (www.comptondesign.com), a great friend of nearly three decades and an incredibly talented artist who helped the little family and table come to life; and Matt Read (www.mattreadfilm.com), a gifted producer who tied it all together. Mike and I truly appreciate your hard work, and your willingness to put up with our nit-pickiness (is that even a word?)

The story follows the life of the table, from its discovery in a shop to becoming a family heirloom that is deeply loved.

We hope this is the start of something bigger than us. Save your legacy now. Your kids and grandkids will thank you later.

And please, if you believe in what my brother and I are attempting to accomplish — pass this video on to loved ones, both friends and family. We’d appreciate it, and we believe they will, too. Enjoy!

PHOTOS: The Heirloom Registry spends a Saturday outside an Antiques Roadshow event

The Seattle Times estimated that 6,000 people attended the Antiques Roadshow event on Saturday in Seattle. During the day, representatives of the Heirloom Registry spoke with several hundred of them about their family heirlooms and family keepsakes— and the stories behind them — as the lucky ticketholders to the event made their way to and from the Washington State Convention Center.

Heirloom Registry friends and family members drove about two hours south from company headquarters in Ferndale, Wash., to help pass out free registry stickers and let attendees know a little about how The Heirloom Registry works.

Below are a few photos of their visit. To read the entire story, see The Heirloom Registry’s latest press release.

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Houstory Publishing President Mike Hiestand with Maggie McLaurin, Jessica Hiestand and Gabby Hall, outside the Antiques Roadshow event at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.

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Maggie McLaurin passes out Heirloom Registry samples to those outside the Antiques Roadshow in Seattle.

Jessica Hiestand talking with attendees of the Antiques Roadshow outside the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle on Saturday.

Patty Hiestand (left) and Maggie McLaurin (right) distributing samples of The Heirloom Registry to attendees outside the Antiques Roadshow appraisal event, which was in downtown Seattle on Saturday.

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Attendees of the Antiques Roadshow leaving the Washington State Convention Center on Saturday.

Your house is burning! What family heirlooms or keepsakes — if any — are you going to grab?

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Marketing Director

A quick post this week asking our readers a very simple question: If your house was burning, what would you take with you? It’s not my question. Rather, it comes from The Burning House blog. It’s kind of my latest obsession, as it allows you to examine — in a very personal way — the lives of people who choose to respond to the query. Would you choose a family heirloom or keepsake with sentimental value — helping to document family stories and precious memories — or that Gucci handbag?

Answers are posted from around the world, and are succinct: photos, with a brief explanation of the chosen content.

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What would you take with you? — Posted from The Burning House blog

There is also a book for sale with the same name.

“Of all the things you own, what is most important to you?” says the book description at Amazon.com. “The practical? Your laptop, your smartphone, what you need to keep working and stay in touch? The valuable? Your money, your jewelry, the limited edition signed poster in the living room? The sentimental? The watch your late grandfather gave you, the diary you kept as a teenager? What you choose to bring with you speaks volumes about who you are and what you believe in—your interests, your background, your view of life.”

What would you take with you? Does anything come to mind immediately? If you had to choose between the designer shoes purchased two months ago and that heirloom quilt handed down from grandma, what are you snagging? We’d love to know what you have to say!

Houstory® Publishing is the creator of The Heirloom Registry™ and the Home History Book™ archival journal.  If you have knowledge in a topic our readers may be interested in — such as historical preservation, family heirlooms, antiques, home genealogy or homes in general — and are interested in writing a guest column for us, please let us know! Contact us at info @ houstory.com.

Saving legacies: How to document the stories behind your family heirlooms

Last month, Houstory® Publishing, creator of the The Heirloom Registry™,  was an exhibitor at the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree.

While there, we were fortunate to meet lots of folks who were passionate about the importance — and joy — of discovering, preserving and sharing family stories. Additionally, after reading their blogs and listening to their podcasts, it was fun to meet genealogy “powerhouses” such as Thomas MacEntee, Lisa Louise Cooke, Caroline Pointer, Drew Smith and George G. Morgan, among others.

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Another name on that list is Denise May Levenick, also known as The Family Curator. We met Denise while behind our booth at the show, and we’re glad we did!

Denise is a writer, researcher, and speaker with a passion for preserving and sharing family treasures of all kinds. She is the author of How to Archive Family Keepsakes (Family Tree Books, 2012) and creator of The Family Curator blog, voted one of the 40 Best Genealogy Blogs in 2010 and 2011 by readers of Family Tree Magazine.

Recently, she penned a fantastic article for Family Tree Magazine — where she is a frequent contributor — about keeping family heirlooms’ legacies from getting lost by documenting the stories of their pasts. Obviously, as creators of The Heirloom Registry™, this idea resonated deeply.

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In the piece, she gives simple, clear steps on how to do this — and even provides an example of what a finished provenance, or heirloom history, might look like. She calls these stories, “Treasure Tales.”

“Unlike letters or documents with names, dates and places, family artifacts are often left unlabeled and their histories get lost,” Denise wrote. “Without a past, that treasure and its untold history may be tossed out. Time you spend today to identify and record the history of your treasures will give them a better chance to survive into tomorrow.”

Obviously, if you have a passion for historical preservation, the power of story and conservation, we encourage you to follow The Family Curator. She may help you — and future generations in your family — view your precious belongings as far more than just “stuff.”