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Memorabilia is link to the past.

COLLECTING and identifying family memorabilia is a fascinating offshoot to your family history research.

It's amazing what you can discover simply by asking members of your extended family if they have in their possession items such as photographs, diaries, correspondence, wartime ration books, birth/marriage/death certificates etc.

A great resource for genealogical memorabilia is the on-line auction sites such as eBay. Books, city directories, diaries, family bibles, genealogy software, maps, old newspapers, military memorabilia, photos, postcards, yearbooks etc are all offered on a regular basis.

You can add reference resources to your genealogy library or learn more about your family through visual representations of their time and place in history. You may even be lucky enough to find specific references to your ancestors, such as maps or postcards which document the family home.

If you set up a specific Google alert about a particular place or family, any new items appearing on the internet will be flashed immediately to your email account.

Search tips for unearthing family treasures online can be found at The most obvious heirlooms are family photographs, and while you may be lucky enough to own some ageing photographs of your ancestors, the chances are that you are more likely to find them in the attic of some other family member.

So the rule is to ask as many relatives as possible the whereabouts of any family albums and photographs.

You never know - they may lead you to the breakthrough you are seeking in your research. I discovered a set of mourning cards from the 19th century in with my old family photos, giving me names and dates of death and location of burials of many family members. Letters and other personal memorabilia may also be lying in a cupboard or drawer where possible, get copies of these, save them digitally and make a note of the whereabouts of the originals. They can include official documents, such as army service books, ration cards, medical certificates and birth/marriage/death certificates.

The more obvious family heirlooms are the ones that appear on TV every week on the Antiques Roadshow. Many such items have a story to tell and, as a family historian, it is your job to tell it - so write down what you know and file it so the story is not lost for future generations.

For many years I was aware of two horseshoes on the wall of our family home. These were not the usual brass souvenirs but proper, aluminium racing plates.

It was only after I quizzed my dad about them that the story behind them was revealed - they were given to him in the 1930s when he was a porter at Aintree station by the trainer of a Grand National winner! In those days the racehorses all arrived by train and it was while my dad was helping load the National winner 'Sprig' into the horsebox that the trainer gave him the actual plates the horse wore for the race.

The horseshoes are now mounted in a frame along with a photograph of my dad on Aintree station.Wills and testaments often contain information about family heirlooms with the testator usually specifying who the heirloom is to be left to, even to quirky, everyday items such as a favourite clock or pewter jugs.

Sometimes you will discover memorabilia belonging to another family - the rule here is to publicise your find, either on one of the genealogical message boards or though a family history magazine.

I can guarantee you will make someone's day!

A useful work which will help you record your family heirlooms is Rhonda R. McClure's: Digitizing Your Family History: Easy Methods for Preserving Your Heirloom Documents, Photos, Home Movies and More in a Digital Format. It is published by Writer''s Digest Books, 2004 ISBN 1558707085, 9781558707085.


HIDDEN: Old family photographs are a real treasure - if you can unearth them!
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Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 31, 2010
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