Thursday, February 9, 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday, meet Abundant Genealogy: Family Heirlooms

This is Week 6 of Amy Coffin's Abundant Genealogy series.  The topic is Family Heirlooms.  Questions to consider:
For which family heirloom are you most thankful?
How did you acquire this treasure and what does it mean to you and your family?

I've been thinking about heirlooms for a while as I considered future blog posts.  When I read this week's topic, all kinds of ideas popped into my head:  my paternal grandma's kitchen ware, Uncle Jack's old fishing mug, the stuffed barn owl shot by Uncle Albert's father about 70 years ago,  my maternal grandmother's salt & pepper shaker collection. 

But as I looked around my house, two things really stood out:  the loose photos and photo albums currently on loan to me from Mom.  Need I say more than they are priceless!  They tell the story of so many lives, not to mention the history itself--look at the clothing and hairstyles for an idea of the 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and beyond.  I'm scanning these to share with my family and of course for my own research and pleasure.

Remembrance of Holy Communion
The other heirloom that probably means the most to me is my dad's First Holy Communion and Confirmation certificate.  It's titled Remembrance of First Holy Communion, which he received on May 18, 1930.  He was confirmed two days later; that's also on the certificate.  This document is about 8.5" x 14" in color.  It's really beautiful, even though it is somewhat faded with age.  It has one small tape mark on it.  He or my grandma probably taped it on a wall or in an album at some time. 

Mom passed this to me after Dad died.  My two brothers, two sisters and I each received a document that was important in Dad's life. 

Here's the story:  After Dad died, Mom of course eventually got around to cleaning out his papers, where she found the five documents given to us.  She didn't tell any of us that she was planning this for Christmas.  She got the documents professionally matted and framed, they all look very nice.  She wrapped them in Christmas paper and numbered the back of each.  She wrote the numbers on pieces of paper, and on Christmas Day, had each of us pick a number.  Then she brought out the gifts.  I can tell you, my siblings and I were certainly curious about what Mom had up her sleeve.  Once everyone had their package and Mom gave us the green light to unwrap, the room fell silent as we examined our treasures.  Moments latter the noise level went through the ceiling as we all realized what we had and began chattering, "What's yours about? What do you have?"  Just thinking back to that day makes my eyes tear up!

My sister Diane received my father's hiring letter from Glen L. Martin, (later Martin Marietta and now Lockheed Martin), dated October 2, 1940. The letter says he is accepted for employment and gives the reporting date and place, along with proof of citizenship. The letter clearly states he would be earning 50 cents an hour with no chance of overtime.  His hours were 12:15 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Diane recently told me she always wanted this letter before Dad died but never mentioned it to our parents.  When she opened her gift on Christmas, she felt like it was a miracle that she was the one to receive this letter!  

Sharon received Dad's Certificate of Promotion to High School, issued June 1937, from St. Stephen's School.  Dad attended St. Stephen's for a few years when the family moved from the city to their grandparent's farm in the next county, about 30 miles away.  Now that area is strip malls and housing developments, but in the late 1930s, it was truly considered country.

Ed received my father's baptismal certificate, which is in Polish!  Ed lives in Dallas, so as he spelled words into the telephone, I typed into Google Translate.  We not only determined that my dad was baptised just one day after he was born (they didn't mess around in those days!), but the church (St. Casimir's in Baltimore), and his grandparents, his aunt and uncle (his mother's sister and brother).  Best of all, in the course of that conversation, a brick wall came tumbling down!  (More on that in a future post!)

Mike has Dad's State Department of Education high school equivalency, dated July 14, 1955.  As the second oldest son, like many young men during his time, Dad dropped out of high school to work and help support his family.  By the time he received this document, he had been married 12 years. 

It's very difficult to pick just one item, photo, or document that could be most important, that I value the most, that means the most to me.  These documents tell the story of my Dad's life.  His Polish Catholic upbringing, the family moving to the country, leaving high school to help the family, the beginning of a 42-year career at Martin's.  Even though I hold but one of five documents, the collection is special to me.  It connects me to my siblings, my Mom and my Dad in a special way.  And I'm pretty sure that my siblings and even my Mom feel the same.  I know one thing for certain, when they are at my home, I always catch at least one of them looking the Certificate. 


  1. I love the artwork on your dad's First Holy Communion and Confirmation certificate. It is truly a treasure!

  2. My favorite family heirloom is a family photo album which noone in my family ever knew existed. It is dated in 1884 and has all kinds of unmarked family members within them. Someone rescued the album and was looking for a direct descendant. I turned out to be the lucky descendent. I've been trying to identify the pictures with varying levels of success. You can follow this progress at Photo Genealogy at Hidden Genealogy Nuggets .

    Regards, Jim