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Posted by on Nov 26, 2012 | 8 comments

Telling Our Story Through Family Heirlooms

Telling Our Story Through Family Heirlooms

I love being able to incorporate family heirlooms in our home. Since this is the season for celebrating family, I thought I’d share the story of one our oldest and most meaningful pieces, my sons’ twin beds, purchased over 100 years ago.

Last year, my youngest son Calvin was ready to move out of his crib and into a bed. He and his older brother Jack share a bedroom, and Jack was using a bed we bought for $20 at a yard sale. It had seen better days. I purchased identical twin beds from Toys R Us for both boys. I loved the white color contrasting with the dark gray walls and the fact that we could bunk them later on. All was good, or so I thought.

twin beds in shared bedroom

This past summer (roughly one year after I purchased the beds), the beds started to fall apart. On Calvin’s bed, the side support that held the slats for the mattress broke away from the frame. I examined Jack’s bed and it too was about to crumble. Who knew cheap particle board would be so flimsy?

When we were at the beach over the Labor Day weekend, my parents mentioned all this extra furniture they had in storage that seemed like a waste of space. One of the items was the twin bed set my sister and I used as kids. Hey, I know someone who needs a bed!

My mom actually used one of the beds when she was a child, and they belonged to her parents before that. About a month later, my dad got the beds out of storage and brought them over to our house. They were a perfect fit.

Calvin has one side of the room.

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And Jack has another.

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Calvin has a little trouble climbing up, so he uses the footboard as a step.

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Jack likes to decorate his side with posters of his favorite sports heroes.

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In our old set-up, we could only fit one nightstand between the beds, but the frames for the “new” beds are narrower, so we can now fit two.

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And like the old beds, there is plenty of room underneath for stashing extra blankets and toys. At nightime, we cushion the hard floor with blankets and pillows to protect against any falls.

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It wasn’t until this past Thanksgiving that I found out from my mother that the original owners of the beds weren’t her parents, they were her grandparents. In the late 1800s, married couples slept in matching twin beds. It was considered “unsanitary” for two people to sleep in the same bed. My great-grandparents married in 1903, so we assume the beds were purchased around that time, making them over 100 years old. Take that, particle board!

The beds have held up well. I love the decorative curves on the headboard.

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Here’s a photo of my grandfather (right) and the person I believe to be my great-grandfather (left), the original purchaser of the beds. My mom never met her grandfather (left) but this man appears in several other old family photos so I can only assume he was a relative, most likely my grandfather’s father.

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But there’s a little more to this story. In 1865, my great-great-grandparents (Charles and Mary Ruby) were sailing from New York to Savannah on a ship called the Star of the South when their son was born. They named him James Star Ruby, after the name of the ship. James Star Ruby also named his son James Star Ruby. When my mom was born, she was named after her grandmother, but when I came along, my parents gave me the middle name Star. My son Jack has the middle name Star as well.

Not only have we been able to pass down a family name from generation to generation, we have something tangible as well. We hope to continue this tradition for years to come.

Do you have any family heirlooms in your home? Are you named after a relative who lived many years ago? What other family traditions do you pass along to future generations?

8 Comments

  1. I enjoyed your post. A fantastic piece about the importance of saving family history. It’s amazing the history we might find right under our noses (or in this case, in storage.) Thanks for sharing!

    Your readers should also check out http://www.TheFamilyCurator.com. The Family Curator specializes in how to preserve family heirlooms, and actually just published a book on the topic through Family Tree Magazine.

    They may also appreciate The Heirloom Registry (www.heirloomregistry.com), a new service that helps people to safely preserve and pass on the stories behind their family heirlooms using marking labels/metal plates and a secure online database.

    Now that you have that precious family history, don’t lose it. After all, it’s not an heirloom without a story. Have a great holiday season!

    • Thank you for reading the post — glad you liked it!

    • Thanks for the mention Dan Hiestand. And, DIY Del Ray, I love your heirloom story, it’s as much a treasure as the beds! I hope you will consider adding it to the Heirloom Registry website, or printing out your blog article and placing it in an envelope attached to the underside of the bedframe. Then the story will follow the beds where ever they may roam. Sweet dreams.

      • Thanks Denise — those are great ideas!

  2. I so enjoyed reading this story! Family heritage is so important and your boys are truly lucky to have a piece of this family history not only in their room but in their future memories of growing up with them. A wonderful gift!

    • Thank you Michele! They don’t quite understand the significance now, but I’m sure they will in years to come. We’re so glad we’re able to pass these on to our kids.

  3. Love the family treasures, Katie!

  4. Family heirlooms are wonderful! Im in my early 20’s and one of the most meaningful pieces I have is my great-grandmother’s jade cross necklace. She passed away 4 years ago but I have a part of her with me.

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