Crossroads of Culture 200 Years of Canadian Immigration (1800-2000)
Introduction Objects Photos & Papers Themes Kids & Teachers

Personal Mementos

Immigrant experiences are often difficult to trace, but a cache of letters from the family left behind in the homeland, often with photographs, and other documents are a valuable and exciting find. Equally important to emigrants were items such as jewels, gold, securities, and British pounds or American dollars. These were emergency assets to be used if needed, readily convertible into local currencies to sustain and speed the family along its migration.

Official papers can remain in a family's possession for generations. They pinpoint dates, people and times, and thereby help validate the right of successors to citizenship. Heirlooms such as jewelry, wedding dresses, military medals, works of art, letters, photographs, and other portable items, also tend to remain in the family. For myriad reasons - bequests, gifts, auctions, loss of interest - family heirlooms are normally reduced in number over time and find their way into other hands. If, however, they are acquired by archives or a museum, and clearly catalogued to document their historical links, these objects live on and help tell many stories.

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