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Exclusive articles, interviews, and insights covering downsizing & decluttering, genealogy, photos and other media, aging well, travel, and more. We’re here to help you capture the big little moments and stories to bring meaning and even order to all of life’s collections for generations.
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A Family History in Five Artifcts

Reading time: 4 minutes

It’s family history month, and if you had to, could you tell your family history in five Artifcts or less? Sound impossible? We weren’t sure, so we decided to put it to the test. 

We reached out to one of our super Artifcters, @Grandmom and asked her, if she had to choose just five Artifcts to tell her story, could she? And if she could, what five would she choose?  

Thankfully, Grandmom was up for the challenge, although she did preface it by saying “Are you sure, just five? That’s all I get?” Yep, that all you get, at least for this ARTIcles story. “Well, good thing I have my timeline, at least I know where to start!”

Over to you @Grandmom to walk us through your family history, Artifct by Artifct. (The below excerpts are from an interview we did with Grandmom; the words in quotes are direct from the source!)



Artifct #1: The Beginning

The Milking Chair My Grandfather Built

“Well, I guess I better start at the beginning, sometime in the 1860s. One of my oldest Artifcts is the milking chair my father’s father made his wife. They lived on a farm in southern Georgia. He built it for her because she was so short, that none of the regular chairs were a good fit. He built it right after the Civil War, I don’t think he used a single nail, only pegs. You don’t see that these days.” 

Artifct #2: Childhood in Rural Georgia

Mother's and Grandmother's Wash Boards

Next up? “Well, that would have to be Mother’s and Grandmother’s wash boards. I still have them after all my moves. We grew up in rural Georgia, and we didn’t have much back then, but Mother always made sure we were well dressed and presentable. I still remember her using these boards to do our laundry. I even used them when I was younger! It’s just what you did back then. I can’t imagine what the kids would do today if they had to use washboards. I can tell you; they probably wouldn’t do laundry!”   

Artifct #3: Traveling Far Far Away

Snake Tales

“The next one is one of my favorites—my snakeskin! I still remember [my friend] Shirley’s reaction, ‘I’m not going to do it Martha, you do it, you shoot the snakes!’” What makes the snakeskin so special? “It reminds me of all the crazy adventures and travels that Bobby [my husband] and I had when we were first married. I never could have imagined living overseas, or going on safari, or doing all the crazy things we used to do. I was telling [my granddaughter] about what we did back then, and she didn’t believe me at first. I had to show her the pictures AND the snakeskin. I was something back then!” For the record, we still think you’re something @Grandmom!   

Old photo of a group of people standing around a large dead snake

If ever there was a moment to be glad to have the story behind the photo, it's this one!

Artifct #4: Family Time

Our Trusty Station Wagon

“I guess my next Artifct would be our old station wagon, and the photo of the three boys [our sons] in the back. [It's a private Artifct.] Back then we didn’t use seatbelts; I’m not even sure if we had them in the way back! But man, those boys loved that station wagon; Bobby and I did too! We took it everywhere—Brazil, Europe. I still remember I once got a speeding ticket in Rio while driving the station wagon. I had never gotten a ticket before in my life! So many memories. I can still hear Bobby yelling at the boys to quiet down back there or else. The boys remember too!”  

Feeling inspired? Create a new Artifct!

Not a member yet? No problem! Sign up free to start Artifcting.


Artifct #5: Small Momentos of a Life Well Lived

International Spoon Collection

Sounds like travel and all your adventures overseas are a big part of your family history and story @Grandmom? “It was our life back then. We didn’t think twice about it when we were doing it, but it was what our family did. It’s what our boys remember. Living overseas teaches you so much. So, I guess my last Artifct would have to be my spoon collection.

I have one from every place I’ve ever lived or visited! I have at least two hundred! The one spoon I didn’t have until recently was Monrovia. I couldn’t find one when we were living there, but then Joy [my daughter-in-law] found one on Ebay and now my collection is complete! It’s amazing to think that had life been different, we could have stayed in Georgia. I know my boys are thankful we did not do that.” 

Souvenir spoons hanging on a wooden display rack

One of these is not like the other. Is that a spork in the spoon collection?

And there you have it! Five Artifcts; five stories; five memories of a life well lived and well-traveled. If you had to choose, what five objects would you Artifct to tell your story? You can write to us at and let us know, we’d love to hear from you! 


A very special thank you to @Grandmom for sharing her Artifcts and story with us. For those of you curious about this amazing woman, she is in her 80s, has three grown sons, 10 mostly-grown grandchildren, and has lived in six countries and traveled to well over 50. She was married to the “love of her life” for over 40 years and is proud to be her family’s keeper. Why does she Artifct? “To tell the histories and stories behind all my stuff. If I don’t the boys will have no way of knowing what is what.”

© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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What is a Family Keeper, and Why Should I Care? 

Have you heard of a “family keeper?” We meet so many through Artifcts that we discuss them quite often and with deep fondness. But it’s only recently that we discovered there’s more than one definition for a family keeper, and the definition you know may influence how you interact with the keeper in your family, too. 

In Artifcts parlance, a family keeper is a positive, warm concept. A person becomes the family keeper by default or by choice. By default are those who gain keeper status through (a) accident of proximity—living closest to a family member with items they wanted to pass down and the stuff had to go somewhere—or (b) by legal right as the heir. In contrast, by choice are the keepers who are sentimental, family historians or genealogists, or perhaps simply collectors. 

How do you recognize a family keeper? They are your family members who save the old photos and heirlooms, write down the stories, and create (or suggest) the family cookbooks and scrapbooks. Who is the family keeper in your family? (Maybe thank them with a gift membership to Artifcts.) 

Now, a family keeper from the viewpoint of genealogists can be a bit different. As it turns out, many professional genealogists view family keepers as more like overly protective stewards who attempt to control the fate of the family’s heirlooms, historical research, and the like.  

Professional genealogist Thomas MacEntee, that "Genealogy Technology Guy" and founder of Genealogy Bargains, explains it best this way: “[Family keepers] think they ‘own’ their ancestors and don't tend to work well in collaborative environments such as FamilySearch where anyone can modify a family tree.” 

So why again should you care about family keepers? 

No matter how one defines a family keeper, as a group, keeprs are under a lot of pressure, and we guarantee you that they feel it. When we ask folks, “Got stuff?” family keepers are quick to say, “Oh, yes, more than you can imagine.” And that’s typically followed with something like, “And I don’t know where it will go next! I don’t know who cares. I can’t get them to listen.” 

Listening in this increasingly digital age is really challenging. It’s partly what inspired our piece “Storytellers, Beware.” Digital life complicates matters in a variety of ways, but topping our list are these two key points:

1. We are printing out fewer documents, photos, newspaper articles and the like.  

Remember what it was like to sit and chat through someone’s photos from a recent trip? Or to share the story behind a collection of family photos that caught your eye? That’s how family stories lived on: access and repetition.  

Three little girls in pjs in a kitchen looking up at the wall

What are these sweet girls gazing at? A collage of photos of their parents when their parents were as young as they are now!
Real. Printed. Photos. The adult taking the picture filled in the stories, verbally.

2. We consume information differently than in the past.

Why do the algorithms that make and break “influencers” thrive on video content? The youngest generations are subsisting on sound bites, DIGITAL sound bites, that they can access on a daily basis when and where they please. That simply is not a photobook, scrapbook, or any trove of physical documents or photos. It’s just not. Family keepers have to adapt and meet their loved ones where they at … in the digital universe.

If family keepers are left hanging, the likelihood that family stories and history and the family heirlooms will disappear forever increases dramatically. And then you’ll have to wait for the next family historian to come along and do their best to recreate it all, all being the stories and maybe even the genealogy. 

The heirlooms? They’ll be long gone. And with them could be a surprising amount of generational wealth, too. One Arti Community member told co-founder Ellen Goodwin recently that growing up he pushed his parents constantly to declutter. He went so far as to haul off items that in his view were unused, uncared for, and or broken beyond reasonable repair. One day he got rid of a wobbly table that his father refused to fix. As it turns out, repairing an antique table from a famous designer is costly and hard to come by. So his frustration wiped out not just the family history behind the table, but several thousand dollars from his one-day inheritance. Ouch! 

Now that you know, what will you do next?

If you're a family keeper, Artifct to preserve and share all those stories and all those items. Give family members the opportunity to surprise you with both what they may know and what interest they may have in the items for “someday” when you may not want to hold onto them anymore. Or maybe they can borrow them!

If you know a keeper, introduce them to Artifcts to ensure the family history lives on. Don't want to pay for yet another app? At the bare minimum use your five free Artifcts to tell your family story using a few choice photos, heirlooms, snippets of family videos, … the possibilities are endless.

Happy family history month. Happy Artifcting!


Eager for more? You might also enjoy:

Additional ARTIcles related to Genealogy & Family History

Artifcts Genealogy Gems Checklist

© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Stuck in the Middle, With Stuff: The Sandwich Generation

Reading time: 4 minutes

Got stuff coming at you from both ends – kids and parents? Feel like the peanut butter and jelly mushed in the middle of a generation sandwich? 

Well, I do. I’ve got stuff coming at me from my mom and dad80 years of collections and counting—as well as stuff I still can’t shake from 26+ years of parenting. Bottom line, it’s a lot of stuff.  

Until recently, I felt that having lots of stuff required having bigger spaces and storage, lots of storage. The responsibility fell on me to keep it all and be ready to receive more if or when my parents are gone and as my kids move out but are not yet willing to “receive” their stuff. 

Times and circumstances changed quickly for me, however, and my “storage unit” mentality shifted from “more is better” to “why do I have all this stuff, and do I really need it.” I have moved and downsized twice over the past three years, forcing me to take a hard look at what I have, what I need, and what I want to keep for my kids. Thankfully for me, Artifcts came into being just as I was embarking on my first downsize.    

What I See Now When I Look at My Parents’ Stuff 

On my mom’s side of the fence, she has lots of stuff. Some of it is really important—mementos of her early days with my father, pieces of family history she’s carefully curated over generations. She is certainly the family-keeper. Other things are, well, I assume just things. The problem is sometimes I’m wrong.   

Take for instance a brick that was tucked in the back of her hutch. Family heirloom or home improvement project gone awry? Family heirloom! Turns out it is a brick from the church she and my father were married in way back when. HOW was anyone supposed to know? Even she admits that she only told me the story when I had the brick in my hand, ready to put it in the garbage bag. Family history crisis averted. Family history Artifcted. 


Family history, Artifcted!

I’ll give my mom a lot of credit—she’s Artifcted over 200 items, a lot of them we’ve done together, or she’s done with her grandkids. She’s led the way in capturing and sharing our family history through Artifcts. I know she has a lot more to do, and I am hoping to get other family members involved in helping her in the months ahead. 

My older brother retires in a few months, which I think makes him the perfect person to pass the baton to as our family history documenter/Artifcter. As he combs through the generic and obvious stuff, I’ll ask him to put aside anything with a possible story or deeper meaning. The 12-year-old food cans in the cupboard are trash. But what about the vintage kid art (did I make that?), the scraps of cloth in a bin (unfinished baby blanket?), or gold Egyptian hieroglyphic pendant (travel memento?). Those unknowns must have a story behind them. We are lucky that our mom is still with us, and that she is there to tell us the stories as we decide what to the keep, toss, or donate.  

The Kids’ Items Got Some Tough Love, Too 

On the kid’s side, oh – that’s the guilt factor! I have those odd drawings, the report cards, the clay ceramic blobs shaped like an abstract [insert word here]. The kids just look to their futures and walk out of their rooms without even dusting. After months, you go in and look around and find things that you wish you hadn’t found. Then, you realize they’re not coming back to clean it out. Then you realize you’re moving and they’re still not coming back to help.   

For me, I packed up what I thought was important and then started Artifcting the things that I knew were important but would sit in a box FOREVER if I hadn’t Artifcted them. What’s the point of boxing things up if you’re never going to look at them again?   

Yes, the kids may get upset that I didn’t keep their heartthrob concert poster signed by [insert name of a not so famous side-stage performer], but a quick Internet search revealed it would cost more to buy a poster tube than the poster was worth. What to do when faced with such a tough decision? Well, Artifct it and be done with it! If the kids complain, I’ll show them the memory, have them add to the story, and make a real moment out of it. 

The moral of this tale is simple: sandwich life is tough enough without all the stuff weighing you down. Artifct! Artifcting has enabled me to document our family stories, enjoy reliving moments with my family, and most importantly, let go of the stuff that doesn’t matter! Well, at least not all of the stuff. My wife likes to remind me that we still have bins that have not been opened since the last move, but that’s another story and task for another day.  


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Genealogy for the New, the Frustrated, and the Reluctant: Our Conversation with a Professional

Reading time: 7 minutes 

We see you! You’re curious about something in your family history but are no genealogy pro. You are strapped for time and fear the complexities and cost involved in getting started and doing the research right.

The good news is that you do not need to become a genealogist to benefit from the voluminous records available online and via traditional hardcopy archives of old. We always encourage you to start “old school” with what you may have at home. Check out our Genealogy Gems checklist.

Notebook paper with list of genealogy research items in your home

In today’s conversation, you’ll learn about how professional genealogists can support your efforts to gain new information no matter if you are a highly experienced researcher or an amateur family historian who loves a good story. Who doesn’t after all? Myths, legends, campfire tales are all about good stories. Even better when they stories are your family’s stories!

Genealogy Research with the Pros

Sheri Bennett, a professional genealogist and project manager with Legacy Tree Genealogists, knows a thing or two about genealogy. A practicing professional for nearly two decades with a degree from Brigham Young University (BYU) and first-hand research experience in Mexico and Chile, she’s seen a lot. Enjoy our chat with Sheri as we explore what professional genealogists bring to the table to resolve your family history puzzles and curiosities. 

Ellen Goodwin: It’s not every day I get to chat with a professional genealogist. I’m hardly even a hobbyist. More an admirer! And you have a deep professional background and interesting specialties, too.

Sheri Bennett: Well, you’re in good company with Legacy Tree Genealogists, because we work with all types of people interested in genealogy. But, yes, you gave my technical background, and that’s been bolstered by my own family research while I was at BYU and over the course of my career. My dad was from Tennessee and my husband the south as well, so between researching their ancestry and my own time in Chile and Mexico, I have developed specialties in the US South and Midwest as well as supporting Spanish-language research.

Goodwin: In your experience, is there a common theme as to why clients hire professional genealogists?

Bennett: The specifics vary but, in general, they simply want to know – what are our stories, who were my people, where did they live and work, why did they move? They want concrete answers.

Sometimes to get these answers you need help that stretches beyond a passive hobby, because as we all know, not all information is created equal. I was shocked when a professor once told me that all those many many many family trees out there are only ~40% accurate! People think they are related to people they are not related to if they accept others’ trees.

Goodwin: That sounds … messy. Does that mean you spend a lot of time correcting trees?

Bennett: A lot of time, no, not necessarily, but it is a very common request from clients. We use two documents per relationship to validate and/or correct a relationship. One document is never enough. Someone else’s tree is never enough.

Goodwin: I think that’s a major draw for people like myself: In seeking these answers, you offer reassurance. Your work meets standards that mean your clients have concrete answers and can avoid passing down inaccurate information.

Bennett: As professional genealogists, the genealogical proof standards from the Board for Certification of Genealogists are the cornerstone of our work and our core values at Legacy Tree Genealogists, too: Care – Cooperation – Accuracy – Respect – Efficiency.

We have an obligation to undertake “reasonable exhaustive research.” The key word being exhaustive. What record could contain the needed information? Tax records, probate, … may all be relevant. And what archive, where, would hold that document?

Goodwin: I love how excited and passionate you get about this work as we’re chatting. Even a document is not just a document to you. For so many, it’s hard to breathe life or context into a piece of paper.

Bennett: Documents are so exciting. It’s a connection! They aren’t just paper – if you know how to interpret them, they can tell a story. Where they were born, to whom, was dad not even listed and was that normal for the time? If you’re lucky, like in some Latin countries, even grandparents are listed in a birth certificate, and you get three generations in one document!

Audio icon on beige background labeled "Listen in!"

Stories are there, hidden in those documents.

Goodwin: I’m excited just imagining what all that information you research could mean for today’s descendants. I can picture it: here's the city so-and-so was born and raised in, and the church where she was married—see their signatures on the marriage license—and the location where the bakery she and her family operated once stood, and so on.

Bennett: Yes, seeing it all in black and white, it’s amazing. And to your point of envisioning it, we even map those locations out for clients. You could use it to plan a family heritage trip! It’s another way we can bring the research to life for our clients – real people, real places, real relations and roots of yours.

Goodwin: Your specialties, local knowledge, and archival access across your global team must be an incredible asset to your clients. I know that in my mother’s family, the paternal line was the subject of a self-published book in 1992, but the author mentions at the outset all sorts of gaps where no matter how many letters she wrote to archives in England, Germany, and elsewhere, she never found certain records.

Bennett: Absolutely. We have researchers who specialize in different areas across the world. Often when hobbyists or amateur genealogists hit brick walls like your family member did, it’s because they are working online and cannot access the old churches, tax offices, and other archives where original records are kept.

Goodwin: Thinking about those original records, validating places of birth and marriage, for example, are more black and white sorts of records searches. Surely people also come to you with information more akin to family lore that they want you to explore?

Bennett: Ha, yes. And I’m sure you read a lot of family lore at Artifcts, too. Curiosity certainly motivates people. They want to know if the family legends are true. Do we have a Cherokee princess in the family line? Are we really related to Jessie James? Did my ancestors come over on the Mayflower? They are curious, but they don’t have time to unearth this information themselves.

They want to know, are the legends true?

Goodwin: In seeking these answers, you deliver insights and the proof we spoke about earlier. Clients receive a written report, along with a fan chart, copies of the original documents, and even a data file that they can upload to genealogy software to update their tree. Did I miss anything?

Bennett: All of our findings are delivered in a binder and a password protected website, too. And, keep in mind, it's all the research findings along the way, too.

One of our clients in Cuba was trying to trace his family’s origins back to Spain. But it wasn’t as simple as going one or two generations back. Ten generations back and at last we landed his family in Spain. All of our research discoveries along the way, even the dead ends, were valuable and validating.

Nil results are still progress!

Goodwin: What’s one detail about family history and genealogy research that people might easily overlook?

Bennett: The photos. Often clients want us to find photos of their ancestors, and here there’s an important “yes, but” to consider.

Audio icon on beige background

Was your ancestor in the newspaper? That would help.

Goodwin: I know exactly what you mean about the feeling of connection when you discover new details and context. I Artifcted a family brooch after a lengthy episode of chasing family history and had I known more about it earlier, I would have worn it on my wedding day.

If I were a client of yours, could I share that Artifct with you to support your research? 

Bennett: Yes! We prefer clients to share files with us digitally, if possible, so we can easily access and review them and avoid duplicating any progress they may have already made in their family research.

We certainly do not want you to send us a brooch or original photo or document. If those resources are Artifcted, all the better! We can weave Artifcts into the biography along with the photos and documents within each Artifct, too.

<<End Interview>>

There’s that age old saying, working smarter not harder. And sometimes, yes, that means calling in a professional genealogist for a course correction, powering through a brick wall, or inspiring your search down paths you’ve never even caught a glimpse of. We love that your Artifcts can capture and boost those genealogy discoveries and sharing and hope you’ll have a lot of fun as you continue your family history research!

Happy Artifcting!


You may also enjoy these additional ARTIcles by Artifcts:

Did You Know Great Grandpa was an Inventor?

Grandma's Secret, Not-So-Secret, Coin Collection

She's the Last of Her Generation


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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How Two Sisters Overcame the Guilt to Lighten the Load of Family Heirlooms

Reading time: 6 minutes

Up until a few years ago, Rachel Donnelly, founder and CEO of AfterLight, and her family owned their old family home that had been in their family since 1890. Imagine the history those walls could tell! This home, in Eastern Tennessee, was where Rachel’s great-grandparents lived, where her grandmother was born, and where her mother was raised.  
After Rachel’s mother died, the family made the difficult decision to sell this beloved turn-of-the-century Victorian home that was in Rachel’s words “slap full of absolutely everything from our family's life. China, silverware, crystal, knickknacks, handwritten letters, newspaper clippings, coin collections, and of course, countless pieces of big brown furniture. You name it, it was in this house.”  
Buckle up, ladies and gents, we're going on a guilt trip. 
Rachel and her sister grew up with the expectation that the items filling this family home would one day fill their own homes, including the big brown furniture. Their mother made them swear they'd never get rid of these items that, in her mind, were priceless and irreplaceable. So, for years, Rachel and her sister were on a never-ending guilt trip.  
Fast forward, and the sisters’ homes have indeed become orphanages for the big brown furniture and knickknacks that their mother passed down. But guess what? Guilt be darned - the sisters are fed up! The time has come for them to unload the stuff of generations past to homes where families will cherish the pieces of their mother’s estate that simply do not fit with their own lifestyles. 

The sisters’ homes have become orphanages for the big brown furniture and knickknacks that their mother passed down.

We can all do better for the next generation.
What if we skip the proverbial guilt trip we create by unloading our stuff on our family, intentionally or not, and instead make a plan that will allow everyone to enjoy a trip down memory lane instead? At AfterLight, Rachel guides her clients down these planning paths every day. In honor of Make-A-Will Month this August, read on to learn some ins and outs that may help you on your way.   
Ellen Goodwin: I imagine that based on that fun introduction to our conversation, people can easily picture you and your family in good ol’ southern U.S.A. And that’s really important context for our readers. Our family relationships as well as the types of ‘stuff’ we tend to collect and pass down as family heirlooms often differs by region. 
Rachel Donnelly: Even though dealing with it was quite burdensome, I feel so fortunate to have had this family home as part of my childhood. This home was beloved by generations of my family and was full of so much history. The town in which the home was located was referred to as the "Utopia of Temperance," as it was a planned community where alcohol (aka the Devil's Drink) was strictly prohibited and any trace of liquor would lead to the property's confiscation by the city. Well, if walls could speak, they'd have tales to tell! I've always cherished the stories behind the various items in the house and what they symbolized in our heritage. My grandmother was an incredible cook and one of my prized possessions is her index box of recipes.  
Goodwin: What is universal in life is loss. And you are at the very forefront of helping people in modern times get through the planning and after-loss realities. It’s complex! Please help our readers understand the “why” and “what” of AfterLight. 
Donnelly: I like to say I received an immersive MDA (Master of Death Administration). After my own experiences with loss, including the death of my parents, and serving as the primary caregiver for and eventual executor of my uncle’s estate, I struggled to manage all the unavoidable administrative tasks that accompany aging, end-of-life, and after loss.  
It can take over 500 hours of effort and 100+ tasks for an executor to settle an estate. And executors are expected to complete these tasks, which are for the most part ones they have never done before, all while trying to grieve, work, take care of their family and/or prioritize their mental health. 
I searched for help with the tasks, paperwork and logistics in the weeks and months after my losses but struggled with where to turn. I experienced this struggle personally and noticed that there was a gap in the market of businesses meeting this need. 
They say that need is the mother of invention, … At AfterLight, our goal is to provide overwhelmed executors with practical, personalized support. We’re on a mission to help the living deal with dying, fostering lighter hearts and lighter loads. AfterLight assists clients in managing the unavoidable administrative tasks associated with after loss and legacy planning. Whether you’re facing an unexpected loss or want to prepare your legacy so your family can grieve in peace and settle your affairs with ease, AfterLight is the answer to your overwhelm. 

After my own experiences with loss, [...] I struggled to manage all the unavoidable administrative tasks that accompany aging, end-of-life, and after loss.

Goodwin: An interesting parallel between your work at AfterLight and the act of Artifcting is that both are about human behavior and habits. If we want better outcomes, we have to take steps proactively to do something about it, whatever the “it” is. What do you find are the one or two most challenging steps for people to take in terms of planning and preparedness? 
Donnelly: In my opinion, the primary challenge is our discomfort with the fact that we know how this ends – i.e., that we’re all going to die someday. Therefore, many people avoid thinking about it or taking action, as though doing so might somehow become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 
The second challenge is that organizing one's affairs can be overwhelmingly complex, because people don’t really understand how it works and therefore, it's easy to be unaware of all of the steps they need to take to not leave a flaming dumpster fire for their family. Along the same vein, legacy planning is often filled with misconceptions. I've come across various attitudes, from "My kids are smart, they'll figure it out," to "My estate isn't significant enough to warrant planning," or even "I'll be dead and won't care."

I've come across various attitudes, from "My kids are smart, they'll figure it out," to "My estate isn't significant enough to warrant planning," or even "I'll be dead and won't care."

Goodwin: So, it is Make-a-Will month. Obviously, some people don’t even have wills (yet), while others simply need to update their wills. But there are also those of us who have wills that check the box only. Wills can and should do more to help people through grief by very intentionally addressing legacy, memories, and even anticipated points of … ahem, contention … among family members and other heirs. In your view, how can folks take a good, better, best approach to life preparedness this month? 
Donnelly: I believe that approaching life preparedness with intentionality and strategy, rather than simply treating it as a checklist of documents, leads to a more comprehensive and meaningful end-result. 
When working with our clients one-on-one, we take on the roles of accountability partner, coach, and organizer. Our aim is to help our clients to explore critical questions they may not have considered, procrastinated on, or underestimated the importance of. Some of these important questions include:

    • If you do have estate planning documents (such as a will, trust, financial power of attorney, and advance directives for healthcare), does your family know how to access them? Where are these documents located?
    • Have you shared the unlock codes for your phone and computer with a trusted contact?
    • Are your beneficiaries correctly designated and up to date?
    • Do your loved ones know your funeral wishes?
    • Have you communicated with your family about who will inherit specific items of personal property and when? (Hello! Get going on Artifcts!)
    • There’s no better solution to convey what everything is, what it means to you and your family, and WHY you are gifting it to the person you’ve chosen.)
    • Does your family have a clear understanding of your debts and assets, including a comprehensive list?

@rbdonne is a "family keeper" for family heirlooms big and small.

Vintage oak icebox by stairwell in modern home

A vintage oak icebox and cricket cage, each brought forward through generations. Click an image to view on Artifcts.

An antique cricket cage

By addressing these questions and actively engaging in the planning process, we can each achieve a more well-rounded and thoughtful approach to securing our legacies and ensuring our loved ones are better prepared for the future. And who knows, you might even have some fun in the process, especially if you share as you go via Artifcts.


You may also enjoy these additional ARTIcles by Artifcts:

Gift Your Loved Ones a "Why"

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Storytellers, Beware!


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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A Peek Inside the DAR Through Its Myriad of Pins 

Reading time: 4 minutes 

While some little girls are practically born into the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), I was a young adult before I’d even heard of this lineage society.

My greatest familiarity with the DAR came from the TV series the Gilmore Girls. The matriarch of the Gilmore family, Mrs. Richard Gilmore, would often attend DAR chapter luncheons, help organize fundraisers, and the like, and led a life that bore no resemblance to my own.

Years later, even after walking by the DAR headquarters in Washington D.C. on a regular basis during my tenure working in our nation’s capital - and, fun fact, attending a Jack Johnson concert at DAR Constitution Hall back in 2013 - I never considered whether I could join the DAR. I still didn't know anyone who belonged.

Fast forward another decade. This March I joined a small local chapter of the DAR based on my curiosity about my family's history (and the context in which they lived) and to participate in another philanthropic and intergenerational outlet in my local community. I'm too new to the DAR to comment on the experience yet, but I'm eager to learn more about how these women support the community.

For now, I’m sharing with you, the curious, the historians, the genealogists, a peek into what was the substance of the very first DAR speaker I listened to. She was actually hilarious. Her topic? All that bling, aka insignia, that decorates the ribbons DAR women wear. 

The Ornamental and Patriotic World of DAR Insignia

Hold onto your hats. This stuff is complicated! In fairness, the DAR insignia committee is the oldest of the DAR committees, dating back to the DAR's founding in 1890. That’s 130 years to muse over the artistry and pageantry of pins. Disney pin creators and traders cannot hold a candle to that! 

The world of DAR pins started simply with a largely intuitive pin design representing the DAR itself. While the symbolism has proved timeless over the last 130 years, you can now buy it with diamond as well as ruby upgrades. This pin, and only this pin, is always hung from the bottom of a member’s DAR ribbon, in theory to rest over your heart. A tricky prospect if you choose a 14" ribbon.  

DAR original insignia pin

13 stars for the original colonies, a spinning wheel and flax-filled distaff, blue and white in a nod to the uniforms of George Washington's troops — learn more from the DAR. You can check out this pin Artifcted, too! 

The DAR provides members with a helpful guide to correctly place the pins on their ribbons as well as information about when to wear which pins and ribbons and even sometimes with what. Here are some fun facts and tips I learned from the speaker: 

    • Most members start with the basics: a ribbon, a chapter bar engraved with their chapter’s name, an ancestor bar (also engraved), and the official DAR insignia, over their heart. Second most common are state pins for the state(s) the member’s Revolutionary War ancestor(s) were from and where the member resides. 
    • Consider paying for an upgrade to a magnetized ribbon or you’ll need the "eyesight of our national bird" to be able to get the pins on. Ditto about the eyesight if you want to read the engravings. Upgrading to the black ink laser printing helps a smidge. 
    • Ribbons go from 4" to 14" and from one ribbon to five ribbons wide. Don’t worry, however, because there is a skinnier ribbon version for formal attire. 
    • Members can donate money to the current DAR President General’s special projects funds and qualify to purchase the corresponding pin. Interestingly, the current PG is a jewelry designer from Houston, so I imagine she took a heavy hand designing her official pin. If I ever meet her, I’ll ask.  
    • Members may not wear the pins with denim. Sorry Texas cowgirls and cool casual Californians.  
    • If wearing DAR insignia on a sash, the member must wear a skirt.  
    • As members may only wear DAR insignia to official DAR events, if they have to step out, the advice is to toss a scarf (also available for purchase from the DAR store) over the ribbons. Ta da! 
    • Members may bequeath pins, but heirs cannot wear the service or donation pins until they do the same and they must remove any non-shared ancestors from the ribbons. Pins were originally gold filled and are now generally gold plated. It’s financially wise to know which are which should you inherit any. 

Do you think these rules are bizarre and outdated? If so, take a closer look around you. There are similar rules in the military and even professional sports. From this newbie’s perspective, there is also a simpler reason for many of the rules: Making it easier to decode the insignia of others when you meet. If you know where each pin type is located, you can much more easily and rapidly find common ground to strike up a conversation with anyone. Community is a hallmark of this organization after all!

Artifcting Tips for DAR Insignia

As with any Artifct, the more you record now, the less of a headache later for your loved ones. Artifcting is a way of life; some would call it the means to continuously practice Swedish death cleaning. In these tips we talk about pins, but the same tips apply to any family heritage memorabilia that you Artifct.

    • Description. We recommend for each pin including the name of the pin and any engraved details.  
    • In the Future. What would you like to become of your pins one day? Many people bequeath them to a loved one, but you may also decide to donate them to your chapter or the state or national DAR offices. Capture your wishes in the “In the future” field of your Artifct. 
    • Location. Make note of where you have stored your pins so you don’t send loved ones on a wild goose chase. 
    • Documentation. We recommend privately attaching your membership card with your ID number and chapter name for easy reference in your Artifct's documentation section. For individual pins or sets you buy, you might also want to attach the receipt for insurance and estate planning purposes. 

Happy pinning. Happy 4th of July. Happy Artifcting!


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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