H for Heirlooms

9 April 2016

Wouldn’t we all like some family heirlooms?! During WDYTYA? Live, there have been a fair few knocking about as Eric Knowles and Marc Allum became ‘Heirloom Detectives’, helping to date family treasures and placing them in their social context. An additional bonus for those attending the show…. along with all the workshops, exhibitors, a Spitfire and more!

Frequently, when we deal with deceased estates, one of the first questions we are asked is, “Are there any personal effects?” More often than not, effects have long since been disposed of (sadly), but on rare occasions, either a sensitive housing association (or similar) may be involved and may have retained pertinent items, or a property might be ‘in situ’. In these situations, if we are involved in the administration of the estate, arrangements are made to keep all photographs and family items so that they can be passed on to family members (if desired).

These items may not be ‘heirlooms’ as such but they hold a far greater sentimental value. A clock, ornament, book or other possession, serves to remind the living of those who are no longer with us. In my own home, I can see around me various objects which tell a tale. Some were given to me as presents from people who have since departed, others have been gifted to me when family, friends and people I have worked with have passed away.

An heirloom, in the strictest sense of the word, is an antique or some kind of jewellery which has been passed down the family line from one generation to the next, several times over. The term, according to Wikipedia, “originated with the historical principle of an heirloom in English law, a chattel which by immemorial usage was regarded as annexed by inheritance to a family estate“. In the wills of today, few people refer to chattels although specific reference is frequently made to particular items which should be passed on to a specified individual. Interesting how times and terms change!

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