Lost Family Photos

I enjoy walking through flea markets, consignment shops and thrift stores and attending Estate sales.  You just never know what vintage treasure can be found.  But there is one thing which I often see that saddens me deeply.  It never seemed to bother me before, but recently it has.  I often find old family photos in a box for sale.  I sift through those images and see handwriting from someone who has written the date, names of individuals and/or special events/holidays.  Why on Earth would anyone want to sell those family memories!

I recently read a story about someone who purchased a Soldier’s Purple Heart at a Good Will-type thrift shop for $4.00.  That is reprehensible.  There is no excuse for that Purple Heart to end up in a thrift shop.  Are individuals so irresponsible that they would throw their family member’s Purple Heart into a box of clothing/items to donate to their local thrift shop?  I compare that act to the action of selling vintage family memories for a quarter a piece.

I know what some may say.  Maybe those individuals have no one else in their family to pass on their memories.  Even if that is the case, wouldn’t their be someone else whom they feel close to who would take those family memories to pass on to their family members?  They could remind their children/grandchildren about their good friend Mary and pass on other memories of her time here on Earth.  That would be much better than selling her memories to complete strangers who don’t even know her story.  I now worry that my photography/family images and heirloom pieces will end up in a consignment shop in 75 years or on someone’s yard sale table.  It seems like many younger generations don’t seem to have the decency to keep their grandparent’s images and heirlooms in the family.

Thankfully, the individual who bought that Purple Heart for $4.00 has morals and they took time to research and find family members of that Soldier.  They returned that Purple Heart and didn’t want a $4.00 refund for doing it.  I just pray that the family has learned a lesson from all of this; that they will keep it safe and become more responsible and it won’t be thrown into a box for the thrift shop.


9 thoughts on “Lost Family Photos

  1. I used to live on an island, and would go to yard sales every Saturday morning. It was heavenly. I don’t think anything had left that island in 100 years! One day I found a box of stuff – cards, letters, all sorts of ephemera – relating to one person, a man who apparently had been a minister. At the time I thought it was a crime … did his family not want these things? Why were they in a yard sale? I was fascinated by that box, and by the man I didn’t know. (This was before the internet when anything could be looked up online.) I’m not sure what happened to the box – maybe it’s still in my attic – but this is exactly the kind of thing you’re talking about, I think. It left an impression on me. Like you, I am hoping that my very important stuff doesn’t end up this way. How do we keep it safe?

    • I’ve been thinking about your question, Paige. I believe that teaching the foundations of family values and family legacy are the key to helping to keep heirloom and other valuable pieces within the family. I think those two things are what made the Greatest Generation the Greatest Generation! They didn’t have much but what they did have meant the world to them and keeping those things to pass onto their children’s children was very important. In current times with the push to buy more, more, more it seems that the values of family heirloom pieces are lost to today’s youth, from my perspective. I see this in my husband’s nieces/nephews; they just don’t value the things that our generation does. I know that I’ve been getting more sentimental in the last few years and thinking about all of this stuff; I guess it is all a part of the aging process. I think it is important to teach kids that they absolutely should NOT sell their great, great grandmother’s vintage dressers “just because,” the bank account is a little low or they may get a nice sum of money for it; they will certainly regret doing it once they get older. They should be taught the true meaning of “priceless.”

      • I agree – and I think core family values are probably the best answer. I also believe in “honor thy father and mother” and I have tried to do that in many ways, including documenting family history. I’ve become the unofficial family historian and some of that has come with age, some of it was always in me. I don’t know what age group you’re in but its nice to see that this is important to you. It’s true that we all have too much and it’s probably hard to know what’s important and what’s transient. I’ve been thinking about that myself recently and thinking I need to sort that out. Family, really is everything!

  2. Many times, the individual in charge of someone’s estate is too overwhelmed or too distant to the source to understand the value of certain artifacts. It’s a tough nut to crack – I feel as though the regret would kick in after a generation or so have passed, when younger ancestors start to think about their own mortality and develop a curiosity about how different generations lived and loved. I don’t know what the solution is…keep everything just in case? Sometimes that’s not sustainable either. Puzzles…..

    • I think that as I get older, I will begin to give important heirlooms to other family members. Then they will know the importance of it. Even writing a list of items with recipients and keeping it with important papers for someone to see upon your death is a good idea. At least they will know what was once important to you.

    • my thinking, exactly. Not everyone had or (even has) luxury of taking time to sort things and or even a place to store them. Perhaps they live in a distant city and only come back for this last gathering. Only thing that I will be upset over is that IF I did know that these folks just didn’t want to ever fool with items and wanted to ditch them ASAP.. I still can be little more forgiving IF they did give them away, even selling in Estate Sale, as that has good possibilities that someone will come along–may take years–and have a great interest.

    • I read your post and I hadn’t thought of your suggestion before. So much to think about in terms of preserving family history. Thank you for stopping by.

      • I hadn’t thought of it either, Mary, until my cousin told me she’d done it. It’s a solution I’m keeping in mind, since I’m not sure any of my descendants will be interested in taking over the responsibility of maintaining our stuff. I don’t want it to end up in a thrift shop!

~Speak to me~

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