Keeping a Family Heirlooms Journal is a great way to record information about special items that have been passed down to you. It’s easy to get started with my free printable Family Heirlooms journal sheet. Read on to see how I used the sheet to record information about an heirloom teacup set I inherited.
The Importance of Family History and Heirlooms
Somewhere around Grade 9, I became fascinated by family history and family trees. A large family reunion was likely the first catalyst that sparked interest. Someone in the family had done a lot of research and shared large binders of information that she had compiled. And around the same time, we had to interview some of our relatives for a school assignment. All the information that I began to discover fascinated me.
Since then, my interest in learning more about my ancestors and their stories has grown. In university I completed more projects about my family tree. And one of my favourite things to do is sort through boxes of old photographs. I love trying to identify people, connecting the dots between them, and learning more about them.
However, life gets in the way and I don’t often have a lot of spare hours to head down internet rabbit holes doing research. So I consider myself fortunate that I have an aunt who loves genealogy. She has done so much incredible research into my paternal family tree. But in fact, I’m lucky that there are enough people alive and interested on both sides of my family tree. This means there is still a lot of information available for me to discover.
Recording the stories of family heirlooms in journal form
Coinciding with my love of antique and vintage items that has grown over the last dozen or so years, I’ve become even more fond of the heirloom pieces that have been entrusted to me. Just like I love researching and keeping records of our vintage purchases, I want to do the same for my heirlooms pieces. I want to know more about both the original owners of my family heirlooms and the history of the pieces themselves.
Recording family history and stories before they are forgotten is so important to me. I used to have a better grasp of my family tree when I was delving into it for school projects. Now that I’ve stepped away from it for a few years, there’s much that has slipped away. This is the biggest reason why I’d like to keep records of what I know about my family heirlooms. That way the information survives too, not just the pieces themselves. This knowledge brings meaning to an heirloom and makes it so much more special than a similar piece you could purchase at a secondhand store that lacks a family connection.
To make it easier to keep records of my family heirlooms, I designed a simple journal sheet. I’m sharing this free printable Family Heirlooms Journal Sheet at the bottom of the post so that you can start your own family heirlooms journal. But first, let me share an example with one of my family heirlooms.
An Heirloom Teacup Trio
When we moved to Ottawa more than a dozen years ago, I learned that my grandmother’s cousin lived south of the city with her husband. They invited us to visit them. At the end of the visit, she gave me a teacup set with two saucers. This set belonged to my great great grandmother, Minnie Victoria Hall. My grandmother’s cousin and my aunt also have teacups from the same set, but I didn’t know anything more about it.
With help from my aunt, I learned that Minnie Victoria Sutherland married Thomas Hall, my great great grandfather. She was born in 1867 and died in 1930. Then I set out to find more about her teacup set.
Pretty blue and white China
The set is a very pretty blue and white pattern. I believe it is transferware because the border overlaps in one place on one of the saucers. They have lovely scalloped edges and gilded rims. Here is the larger saucer:
Here is the smaller saucer that stacks on top:
And finally the teacup has a very pretty pointed handle.
Struggling to identify heirloom China
I did a lot of research to attempt to identify the name and age of the China pattern. This was challenging because of the lack of a very specific maker’s mark on the back of the pottery. The only label is Rd No 100736, followed by the initials S.S. Initially, I struggled to make any progress at all to identify the pattern.
Eventually I found this Kovels page with the different registry marks representing different years. At first, I didn’t understand that the numbers corresponding to years were ranges of numbers. It frustrated me that my number didn’t specifically match any of the years. Finally I realized my silly error. Number 100736 would have occurred between the first 1888 number (90483), and the first 1889 number (116648). But it is my understanding that a number can also have been used after the year it was first used in. So while 100736 corresponds to use beginning some time in 1888, it could have been used after that as well.
After that I spent hours searching blue and white China patterns with very little luck. I did come across a very similar pattern on a cup and saucer that had sold on Etsy. That set had the same identification number underneath, but it too was unidentified. I wasn’t getting very far!
Progress at last!
I felt that maybe I was close to identifying the set based on some Wileman patterns that had a similar feel. Wileman later became Shelley China. I sent an email requesting help to an information email address at Shelley, and I got a very helpful reply back from a Research Officer. He told me that the S.S. on the bottom of the China stands for Sampson Smith.
I was so excited to have heard back and finally be making some headway in identifying this pattern. A quick google search for the terms “Sampson Smith blue and white” led me to this souvenir cup with a similar pattern at the Waterford County Museum. It looks to be a later piece, and the teacup and saucer don’t have the same shape. But the pattern is the same, and the museum also feels that the pattern is likely Sampson Smith. This was exciting!
According to this helpful directory of Stoke-on-Trent potteries, I learned that Sampson Smith operated in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent from 1846-1963. Unfortunately, despite more internet searching, I still haven’t been able to identify the name of the pattern or find any more examples of it. I do not intend to give up though, and I will continue to search. But for now, I feel like I’ve made some progress in knowing more about this treasured family heirloom.
Writing it all down
I recorded all of the information I found onto my simple Family Heirlooms journal sheet. You can find this free printable at the bottom of the post. It is easy to print (double-sided even!) and put into a binder (with or without page protectors). There is space to write about the original owner, how you came to own the piece, information about the piece itself, and any additional research you do.
Maintaining the legacy of your family heirlooms for future generations
All of this information about our ancestors, their histories, and these treasures that have been passed on to us is so important to record for future generations. Whoever inherits these pieces will value having this wonderful information left for them, bringing meaning and history to these items. It also helps to ensure that these pieces are more than just clutter, and that the past won’t be forgotten. I’m excited to continue learning about more of my own family heirlooms and recording their stories on these journal pages.
Get Started With Your Own Family Heirlooms Journal!
Make the first step toward recording your valuable family history and the stories of your family heirlooms and treasures. Get your own copy of the Family Heirlooms journal sheet to start your own journal.
I’d also love to hear from you. Tell me about one of your favourite family heirlooms. Who did it belong to and what do you know about it? Let me know in the comments below.
All the best,