Review family history on holidays

The holiday season is a time for holiday parties, family get-togethers, and open houses. With family and friends gathered to enjoy the season, it is a perfect time to highlight your own history by examining vintage photos and antique objects from days gone by. Use these holiday gatherings as opportunities to reminisce about your family history, through your heirlooms. It’s a great opportunity to teach the kids about their family background, too.

Many of the younger members of your family probably don’t know the tidbits of family history. Those antiques and collectibles that have been passed down through the generations reveal much about your family’s background. To share this history with all of the members of your family, you may want to put on display some of the objects that reflect your history. A photo album is the typical vehicle for conversations about family history at holiday time. I clearly remember my mother’s face when she showed us a picture of herself at age 14 with her new puppy dog, Georgette. She told us all about her family pet and it was a holiday conversation I’ll always remember.

Antique and vintage objects reveal much about how our ancestors really lived. This holiday season, highlight cherished collections, like your mother’s salt and pepper shakers (even examples from the 1960s or 1970s are collectibles), or your grandfather’s tennis trophies. Some antique trophies command $250 to $1,000 each. While grandma’s antique china set typically gets a lot of attention at family gatherings, don’t forget to feature dad’s military uniforms or his old golf clubs. While it is a good idea to know the value of these objects with an appraisal, because these items may have significant monetary value, they also highlight family history.

Portraits (photographic or painted) will spark conversations about generations and how they relate to contemporary family members. It is fun to look at an old painting of great-grandmother and have a contest with the kids to see which great-grandchild looks the most like the person in the painting. Capturing likeness was vital to the success of early portrait painters, and if an artist couldn’t capture a sitter’s likeness, he didn’t get many commissions. Some American oil portraits can be worth upwards of $5,000 to $15,000.

It is common in families for someone to share a similar talent, like artistic or athletic ability, with a grandparent or great-grandparent. These connections help youngsters and even your adult children learn about their heritage. I meet many families as I conduct in-home appraisal sessions, and by discussing their objects, they learn lots of new information about their family history.

This year, as you make your famous pumpkin bread, gingerbread cookies or, dare I mention, fruitcake, with your children or grandchildren, you can show off that old mixing bowl, rolling pin, or Victorian-style blender that belonged to your mother or grandmother. You may want to bring out the old hand crank coffee grinder that once sat on the counter of your father’s general store, just to show the little ones. Whatever your family history, you have heirlooms that tell the story. Use cherished objects to share family history with your family and friends this holiday season.

Ph.D. antiques appraiser and award-winning TV personality and talk show host Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events nationwide. Join Dr. Lori on her next vacation cruise, focusing on antiques and watch her on the Fine Living Network’s “Worth Every Penny” and locally weekdays at 8 a.m. on Fox 4 TV’s ”Morning Blend.” Visit or call (888) 431-1010.

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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