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Reading Relics
5/1/2004
Start investigating the stories behind your family treasures — and preserving them for future generations.
Were you lucky enough to inherit pieces of your ancestors' pasts? If so, how much do you know about those heirlooms? Do you even know what they are? Most of our forebears didn't think to inventory their everyday belongings. After all, hair receivers, sock darners and bed-warming pans were about as exciting to them as curling irons and electric blankets are to us. But these objects can tell us a lot about how our ancestors lived.

Even if you can identify Nana Ferol's ceramic serving platter, do you know how old it is or where she got it? Maybe it was a wedding or birthday present. Perhaps she inherited the platter from her great-grandmother, and it's older than you think. Start investigating the stories behind your family treasures — and preserving them for future generations — by following these six steps:

1. Ask relatives about the keepsake. This is the most important step in identifying an heirloom. Find out who owned the object and when, what it was used for, where it was kept and why it's significant. You might be surprised by what your family already knows about the object.

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