Over the last few days, as I was cross stitching a scissors holder in Victorian style, using perforated paper and a variegated floss, I thought about several family heirlooms that were tucked away in my daughter’s bedroom. Initially I had only thought of using the scissors as a prop for a photoshoot for my handmade sewing notions, but as I opened the drawer I knew sharing the story about these special possessions would help to give you with some ideas on passing down your family heirlooms to the next generation.
I was in my thirties when I met my husband and I knew rather quickly that he was “Mr. Right”. Thankfully Dave had the same sentiments. Very early on in our dating life the conversation turned to the names we would select for our children, probably not your typical date talk. I had four very specific requirements for names, the name needed to be one that couldn’t be shortened, it couldn’t rhyme with our last name, the monogram had to look cool and the name had to be classic, with a meaning.
Our attention turned first to chatting about a girl’s name most likely because so many classic boys names had already been used in my family. My poor mother and dad had to come up with seven boys names. After saying a few names out loud along with our last name we selected Hannah and instantly loved that name. That beautiful first name needed a classic and meaningful middle name. I had always been very close to my Grandma Irene. She taught me how to sew and craft, would rescue me from my large family to take me shopping for clothes my mother would never have purchased. She always did all those things that special grandmothers do. Somehow I wanted to include her in a future daughter’s name.
As a young child my grandmother took me to my Great-Grandmother’s house for a visits. She referred to her as my “Great-Grandma Bredael”. I don’t have many recollections of my Great-Grandmother other than she lived in a huge house with a parlor that held a love seat stuffed with horse hair and a dining room with a large round table that always had a tablecloth and linen napkins on it even if a meal was not being served. My grandmother’s maiden name “Bredael” was the perfect way to add the classic touch to the name Hannah. So two years before we married and four years before our daughter was born, we knew if we had a daughter her name would be Hannah Bredael Virlee.
Hannah is very special to our entire family as she came to us as a gift, through adoption. As the nurse placed her in my arms minutes after she was born and I gazed into those beautiful eyes with the longest lashes, I knew Hannah Bredael was exactly the perfect name. Through tears and a shaky voice, I said, I love you Hannah Bredael for the very first time. Imagine my joy when I called my grandmother later that afternoon and told her she could now welcome her newest great-grandchild named for her. My grandmother was so honored and she continued to share that special connection with my daughter in many ways, including passing down family heirlooms that were in the Bredael family.
For Hannah’s third birthday along with a typical kid gift, my grandmother enclosed this silver embroidery scissors, complete with the hand written note describing its connection to the Bredael name and the history of this family heirloom. Not only does my daughter have something her namesake frequently used throughout 48 years of her life, but she has that history written in the script of her Great-Grandma Irene’s hand. The note makes it a historical artifact, including information like the date of purchase along with the price and how it came into the family is such great documentation. The written history along with the history could be framed.
The ruby ring was given to Hannah by her Great-Aunt Lois for a high school graduation gift. My grandmother had given the ring to her daughter Lois in 1981 as a gift. Lois thought it was important for the girl who carried the family name to have this exquisite antique ring in her possession. My grandmother had the history of the ring written, carefully folded and tucked in the top of the ring box. This beautiful ring is 121 years old. Although the ring box isn’t original to the ruby ring, it is another piece of family history. It is beautiful, the blue velvet case has a velvet and silk lining and closes with a mother of pearl knob. Jewelers sure knew how to create beautiful presentations 94 years ago. Read the hand written note to learn how this exquisite box became a family heirloom.
I have begun to write the history and information about special heirlooms in my house and somehow store that information with the item. As I peruse my house there is a lot of writing and documentation that needs to be done. My plan is to do one room at a time. If you enjoy reading about family heirlooms check this post out. Since so many heirlooms have great stories I know I will be sharing information on passing down family heirlooms with you.
Lovely story. Family history often doesn’t get passed down weather it be stories or heirlooms. It’s wonderful that you keep it alive and the handwritten notes make it even more special.
I am so glad that my Grandmother did that and writing this post has reminded me how important the act of writing is.
Hannah is one blessed girl. I love hearing your stories.
Mary, I really enjoyed this story. Family heirlooms are precious treasures. I’m currently in the process of helping my mom record and distribute heirlooms she has. She has taken photos of all the items and put in a scrapbook with written notes. I should be doing this with the items I have from my grandma and grandparents. Thanks for the inspiration!
The photos and scrapbook is a fabulous idea. I think that might be a good thing for me to do for my kids.
Oh my this story touches me in many different ways. I love heirlooms, their stories, their memories, their families and their uniqueness. I love your adoption story too as I worked as a social worker doing adoptions for 26 years. Hearing such a sweet story so far into life is truly a blessing! Those eyes!!!!
The first thing the nurse said, was “this little girl is never going to have to wear mascara”.
We have three children; two boys and a girl. I really enjoyed and appreciated your family mementos and the passing down of them. However, it is more difficult when it comes to family heirlooms and sharing with sons. I know my children don’t really pay attention to my stories about family pieces and I want them to know about them. My children are all adults with their own families and we don’t see them or our grandchildren as often as we did with our grandparents. I have begun taking photos of family pieces (both small and rather large), printing the photos on a Cannon Selphy, writing on a card family stories about the item (the same size as the print), and putting them in a photo album. At least, this way, when I am no longer around to talk about the family pieces our children will have a photo and written history of the piece. Thank you for the wonderful photos of your endeavor. You have inspired me to take better photos of mine.