9 Inspiring Stories about Family Heirlooms

By Cheri Peacock

What stories do your family heirlooms tell? Here are 9 that will make you grab a tissue—and your family tree.

Something Borrowed

Abby will be the eleventh bride to wear the dress, which has been passed down over the years on her mother's side of the family

Can you imagine wearing a 120-year-old wedding dress? For a young Pennsylvania bride, her “something borrowed” is a wedding dress previously worn by 10 other brides in her family.

Handwritten Recipe Book

Colin Peal and Bob Watson with 200 year old recipe book

A 200-year-old heirloom recipe book, acquired at an English market in the 1990s, finds its way to the author’s great-great-great-grandson. The housekeeping book, with recipes, tips, stocks, and nutrition in it, was handed down from mother to daughter over generations.

Refugee Heirlooms

A trunk/suitcase, white on top and brown underneath

If you were forced to leave your home, what would you take with you? From class photographs to books and jewelry, read various accounts of family heirlooms, saved by refugees throughout the last century.

Stories Behind the Heirlooms

Series 5, Objects and Heirlooms

From a pearl necklace and letter written in the time of Marie Antoinette to a beautiful hand drawn book from WWI era and audio disks from WW2, learn the stories behind these family heirlooms.

Memorabilia-filled lap desk

Marlee Petroff shows off a lap desk once owned by immigrant George Bremner, whose contents her father had preserved inside through three decades.

A lock of hair, $48 mortgage payment receipts, family photographs. Descendants are reunited with a 19th century antique lap desk filled with memorabilia.

Heirloom exchanges?

Joy Shivar matches items like this 1830s Bible with the relatives of its original owners.

You’ve heard of online dating services, but what about online heirloom matching services? JustAJoy website is a family heirloom exchange for sellers and buyers. From old Army pictures to long-lost family Bibles, owner Joy Shivar connects the dots between the items and family members.

A stitch in time

Few things cover as much family history as the quilt draped over a bed upstairs.

A 19th-century quilt traces family history back to Lake Lucerne, Switzerland.

How a lice comb becomes the most valuable heirloom

How a Simple Family Heirloom Unlocked a Dark Family Secret- WomansDay.com

A lice comb—hidden from guards in a Nazi slave labor camp—is a family’s most valuable heirloom because of the story and character it tells of their ancestor.

Thrifted Purple Heart

A Purple Heart medal found at a thrift store in Arizona was reunited with its World War 2 veteran’s family.


No matter what family heirlooms you have, each one tells a unique story—of the person or place of its origin. These heirlooms, even after centuries, still bring families together as they tell of the past. What neat heirlooms does your family have?


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