Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tossing Grandma's Antique China in the Trash...

Or instead of in the trash.. A Yard Sale!

This Spring, I've been enjoying the weekend past time of garage sales! As a collector, who also dabbles in resale, I'm always on the lookout for antique or retro collectibles.

8 pieces of Mickey Mouse china that belonged to the
sellers Mother, when she was a child.
Twice now, while purchasing items, the seller has shared with me-- "these were my Mother's toy tea set" and "this cream & sugar belonged to my Grandma"

Personally, I can't image selling my Grandma's antique glass cream & sugar on a garage sale for $1.00. Perhaps it's because I come from families that were poor as church mice, so that "family heirlooms" are few and far between--- and the few things that do exist, are treasured!

This pretty blue glass Cr & Sugar belonged to the sellers
Grandmother... The sellers Daughter was also there and
didn't bat an eye at the sale of the Cr & Sugar that belonged
to her Great-Grandmother!
Any regular readers here will know that I enjoy rescuing lost photos & other family memorabilia and trying to reunite it with interested family members. So it's extra hard for me to hear an actual family member getting rid of a family piece.

All of these items items were purchased from older women, who offered up the history, openly-- and the women were in the company of their own daughters, who showed no interest in the family heirloom that was walking out the garage door before their very eyes!

This interesting plate is German and the seller, who was an
older lady, told her Daughter as I was buying it that they had
gotten this plate after her Husband's Grandma passed away.
I suppose it is possible that Great-Grandma had a large Victorian home loaded with treasures, and maybe the sellers I encountered were just thinning out a large collection of items, leaving many more to be passed down! 

I say this, as it is possible in some circumstances... 

I don't believe it was the case with the people I encountered... just from the way they spoke of the items... But anything is possible.

I'm very fortunate to be in the possession of a number of great family heirlooms.. In fact, a couple of years ago I spotlighted a few of my favorite items in some posts on this very blog... and am including links here, in case you'd like to see what I consider "heirlooms"

I understand that people can't keep everything! I'm not suggesting that they should! I'm only saying that when something belonged to a long departed relative... we should respect it, and try and find an appropriate home for it. Because usually, once discarded... these things are lost.

A few years ago, I was at a large antique show... and there was a postcard dealer there that I had known for some years... and I was looking through her postcard offerings for my small home town... and I noticed one of a local church, it was priced $3... once I flipped it over, I saw that the person it was addressed to was the oldest sister of my Great-Great Grandfather! I thought it'd be fun to have something that was sent to her, and purchased it... without reading the rest of the writing on the card.  Later that night, I read it in its entirety.. and it was signed "Your Loving Mother S.M"... which was my Great-Great-Great Grandmother, who died in 1913. I have no idea why that card ended up being sold... but I'm just glad I was able to get it!! It's one of my prized pieces of history. To have a letter written in the hand of my 3x Great-Grandmother... it is priceless.

I'm pretty sure most genealogists aren't going to be tossing Grandma's china in the trash-- but tangible heirlooms need to be organized & documented just like our photos & death certificates! And future homes for these heirlooms should be thought about...

And if the day comes that we are tired of Grandma's cream & sugar in our china cabinet-- we should see if there isn't someone in the extended family who might treasure it-- before hocking it on a yard sale for $1.00-- because now it is gone forever!  
And what a shame that is.


  1. Nicholas,

    Wow! I can only imagine how thrilled you were to realize what an awesome family history treasure you held in your hands when you read the back of that postcard! That's fantastic!

    It's so sad that people were getting rid of their own family history treasures at those garage sales. I would absolutely love to have dishes, etc. that belonged to my ancestors. I found out recently that the trunk that my grandparents used as they traveled from Brazil to the United States was sold or given away some years back. I so wish it hadn't been. Oh well.

  2. Nicholas,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2014/06/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-june-13-2014.html

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    1. Thanks so much, Jana! Appreciate the support & love your blog!

  3. I've had similar thoughts - how can people just pass this on without batting an eyelash?! And then I realize I'm growing older and my possessions are not yet growing fewer; with only 2 daughters, where will everything go, I wonder. And then I think about extended family who have the same ancestors that I do..... Still, I would love to have pieces of the lives of my ancestors.

    I think it's positively amazing that you found a postcard of your home town and that it turned out to have been written by your 3g-grandmother. That's definitely a treasure!

    1. Thanks for the note, Nancy!
      I don't know how techno-savvy you are, but their are some "heirloom" apps out there where you can organize yours possessions & essentially create a "will", for what happens to them after your passing. It's an idea for the "extra's" that might not otherwise find a home.

      I wish the people I met selling "Grandma's china" would have asked other family members... sometimes people assume no one is interested, when in reality there is someone who would love & treasure the items.

      Yes! The postcard is one of my favorite things, it's great to have a piece of history written in Grandma's own hand.... and I really appreciate the 'journey' it took getting back to the family. One of these days I'm going to a little story here with scans of it.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

  4. I read this blog post the other day and then saw the following quote in an article in the Michigan Genealogical Council Newsletter (Spring 2014) by Shirley Gage Hodges on Artifact and Document Conservation. The article can be found on p. 12 here

    "Family heirlooms are becoming a thing of the past as
    more and more of what we own becomes cheap and
    disposable. The things we own now just don't seem to
    mean as much to us as the things our grandparents
    worked so hard to acquire. There has been so much
    wealth in our country that we just don't have the same
    sense of value as our ancestors."

  5. The url: http://mimgc.org/newsletter/MGCv38n2.pdf

  6. One of my cousins grew up in and inherited property that had been in the family since our great grandparents' time. She has a true treasure trove of memorabilia, including an extensive photo collection, as well as items collected by our grandfather when he was in the navy and touring the Pacific, which she displays beautifully on shelves and in curio cabinets; her displays rival those of many museums. She has told me that she believes that her children will not value these things and are likely to put them on the curb after her death, yet she is unwilling to make any specific arrangements to pass these items on to one of the family members who would treasure these items. It's frustrating and, frankly, a bit frightening, to think that these treasures might be lost.