Sunday, February 25, 2018

52 Ancestors: Heirloom

This week’s prompt is HEIRLOOM.

Because my parents, their parents (mostly my paternal grandparents), and their parents (mostly my paternal grandmother’s parents) were packrats, I have A LOT of heirlooms.  They all are so special to me, which makes it hard to pick a favorite, so I’ll focus on a few.

As a young child, I remember my grandmother (and parents) telling me that when Grandma was no longer with us, I would get her mother’s diamond bracelet.  That’s a heavy thought for a young girl so I put it aside and went about my childhood.

It came up several times over the years when I heard “you get the bracelet, your sister gets a diamond watch, and your brother gets the silver flatware since he’s the only grandson and it is engraved with the letter L on it”.  I guess everyone assumed that none of the granddaughters (four of us) would marry someone with the last initial of L (we didn’t) so again, I went about my childhood.

And then in 1982, it happened – Grandma was gone.  And the family met to split up her things.  There was lots to divvy up and, sadly, my memory of that night is not a great one but it was over and I walked away with “the bracelet”.  Did no one know what the significance was or did I just not ask?

Bertha's bracelet

I wrote about the bracelet a couple of times but the post that really explains the significance of the bracelet is HERE – it was given to my great grandmother, Bertha Schwartz, on her high school graduation in June, 1890.  And I even have a photo of her wearing it – see it on her left arm?

Bertha Schwartz 2
Bertha Schwartz, June, 1890

Just so you can really compare, here’s a close up.

Bracelet on wrist

I put the bracelet in a safe place and the next memory I have of it was a couple of days before my oldest daughter was married when we pulled out the bracelet so that she could wear it on her wedding day.  As we opened the delicate clasp….SNAP!  It broke!  What to do?  Fortunately, there was a local jeweler nearby and when we rushed it to the store, we were thrilled to know he could fix it in time for the wedding!  I remember my dad feeling so proud to see his granddaughter walk down the aisle wearing her 2x great grandmother’s bracelet from more than 100 years before.

And then 5 years later, we pulled it out of the safe deposit box so that daughter number two could wear it and once again, Dad was proud.  And to be honest, so was I.

I think what is so special about this heirloom to me is the fact that it was given specifically to me.  It wasn’t something that was sitting in a stack of things to be divided but meant for ME.

A couple of new heirlooms came to live with me after my mother died and everything needed to be split up.  There was some special jewelry that is tucked away in the safe deposit box keeping the bracelet company but some other very special things found a place in our home.  I feel the presence of my ancestors in every room (and every closet) but these stand out.

The curio cabinet that I remember from my grandmother’s living room which later moved to Mom & Dad’s house.  That thing was always so packed with ‘stuff’ that I never really appreciated what was in it.  It must have meant a lot to Dad, though, as I found a photo of it in the hundreds of slides that were scanned.

My beautiful picture

And after splitting up the ‘stuff’ with my brother and sister, it now holds a special place in our home.

You’ll note a few other heirlooms.


This is a water color painting of my grandparent’s home!

Front_side 1982

I have such vivid memories of that house.  The large window upstairs on the right was my uncle’s room and where my sister and I slept when we went for a visit.

And then there’s a few things from my 2x great grandparents, Louis and Rebecca (Steen) Schwartz.

An engraved sugar and creamer set from their 25th anniversary celebration.

It’s hard to see but it has the initial LS and the date October 15 underneath.  And on the left it says 1865 and on the right 1890.

And I always remember this old tea pot set sitting on the hutch in Mom & Dad’s kitchen – see it on the left on the middle shelf?


I’m not 100% sure but I think this also belonged to Louis and Rebecca Schwartz, then Bertha Schwartz Gunzendorfer, and then to my parents.

As we started the arduous task of cleaning out our childhood home, I spent some time snapping photos.  I’m not exactly sure why I felt compelled to do it but I sure am thankful that I did. 

Excuse the mess (remember, they saved everything) but check out the fireplace screen in the back right corner behind the chair. (pay no attention to my brother-in-law in the doorway).  At one time this lived at Grandma’s house before it moved to my parents’ house.


And now it’s in my house!  Since my grandmother apparently enjoyed needlepointing, I wonder if she had a hand in this.

And last but not least is the drawing of my grandfather, Sig Levy, and his two older brothers that my parents found in the basement of Grandma and Grandpa’s home in Fresno.  They rescued it, had it framed, and it hung over their living room sofa for 30+ years.


And here it is in my house!

That’s my grandfather on the left.  The date would have been about 1889 or so, before baby brother Ben was born.  I am SOOOO thankful that my brother and sister graciously allowed me to give this a special place in my home.

Who knew I would end up with all of this stuff?


  1. Great job sharing many of the heirlooms that you've acquired over the years. I focused on one box of items from my grandfather, but this post reminds me of many other items that I have which I should write about for my descendants!

    1. I've written about the bracelet a few times - it makes me smile every time I do.

  2. My 96 year old friend has a picture of her father (I think) and two other children, maybe his siblings. She thought they were drawn by a traveling artist. Do you know anything about yours? Hers would have been that time period in Iowa.

    1. Unfortunately, I don't know anything about it. It seems to have been drawn in pencil and it was rolled up in the basement of my grandmother's home. I have some actual photos from what looks like the same "sitting" so I'm guessing someone just drew it from a photo.

  3. You are so fortunate to have all these heirlooms and even better, some stories about them. The bracelet is a true treasure. Hope your daughters don't fight over it someday!

    1. Funny, my husband just asked me which daughter I would give the bracelet to and I couldn't answer the question. I have several other pieces from my grandmother so I'll have to make some decisions and let them know.

    2. It makes me realize how wise your grandmother was to make her wishes clear---even if it must have seemed a bit morbid or scary to you as a child.

    3. She made a few different 'lists' over the years - I think depending on who she was mad at - which made it difficult to know which was the most current. But, my name was always next to the bracelet!

  4. LOL! Yeah, that sounds like family stuff! :)

  5. Recording the story of the heirloom is just as important as the heirloom itself. Well done! You got some goodies.

    1. I have a whole lot more where those came from :-)

  6. You are fortunate to have those heirlooms, especially the beautiful bracelet.

    1. Thanks for the reminder, Colleen. Sometimes I look at all of the "stuff" and sigh.

  7. I love the bracelet story and photos! What wonderful heirlooms you have inherited!