Have you ever asked your parents or grandparents about the family history only to find they’re just not in the mood? Often, you have to catch them at just the moment, when they’re feeling nostalgic or sentimental. Asking about the family heirlooms can be a great way to trigger their memories and get the stories flowing.
Storytelling is not something you can simply turn on and off like a water facet. Stories are more like a waterfall that changes depending on the conditions, gushing part of the year and falling back to a trickle at others. To get someone to recount family stories, you have to create the right conditions.
Family heirlooms can often spark those sentimental feelings and jar loose priceless details from the memory bank. Consider pulling down that old trunk from the attic and sifting through the treasures with a family member. As they revisit those forgotten objects, you’re certain to hear stories complete with rich and vivid details!
So, the next time you visit Grandma, ask if you can see the treasures in her jewelry box or display cabinet or what heirlooms she may have inherited from her grandmother. Ask Uncle Billy if he’ll show you the tools he inherited from his dad. Seeing these heartfelt objects will bring back memories where they can be accessed in the form of the great oral tradition of passing down family history. The family heirlooms provide the spark.
If you want your a parent to share stories of their childhood, ask if they still have any toys or dolls from when she was young. Or look through the old photo albums together. Did your parents or grandparents inherit any furniture, china, or silverware? If so, offer to help them clean and polish it and wait for the stories to pour out while you do!
Exploring heirlooms with older family members is a great way to discover your family history.