The history of our families comes down to us through documents that we may need to seek out, through memories (our own and those of others), through places and through objects. Many of these artefacts are only significant if their stories are known, preserved and perpetuated. You may be aware of the significance of various ‘heirlooms’ but do your nearest and dearest? Items that may seem of no value, financially or aesthetically, become precious if their background is recorded. Do therefore take time to make a note of why objects in your possession have a family significance. At least then, when you are no longer their custodian, your descendants will be conscious of what they have inherited. Any decision that they then make to keep or discard items will be an informed one.
I am fortunate enough to have inherited two patchwork quilts, neither of which is quite complete. One was made by my mother in the early 1960s. It contains many materials that I remember from my early childhood. The other is much older, begun by my great grandmother in the 1880s. Most of the fabrics are tiny, floral, Victorian prints. Some of the papers are still within the hexagons; these have been cut from an exercise book of a similar era. My grandmother and mother also contributed to this quilt and I have begun to finish it by hemming round the edges. I shall deliberately leave a little undone, allowing my children and grandchildren (okay so the grandchildren have to get a little older before we trust them with a needle!) to work on the quilt too. That will make six generations working on one object and providing I record its story, it will be a true heirloom.