Thrift Store Detective Reunites Lost Family Heirlooms with Their Owners

NEW YORK -- Chelsey Brown is an author and self-proclaimed 'Heirloom Hunter' on a mission: To reunite long-lost family heirlooms with their owners.

"Basically, what I do is find lost family heirlooms and I return them to their rightful families using genealogy," says Chelsey, who often spends her days walking through New York Citys many flea markets and thrift stores on her quest.

From beloved family photos to touching love letters from the world wars, she says it's not unusual to find these very personal heirlooms at the flea markets, but not for the reasons you would expect.

"There is this myth that when you see items at the flea market, they're just thrown away," she says, noting that simply is not the case. "These items end up at the flea markets and thrift stores because of family drama, ninety-five percent of the time."

Once Chelsey finds an heirloom, the true work begins. She uses her knowledge of genealogy and online tools like MyHeritage.com to track down any living owners or decedents of the items. Then, she reaches out to the families she can find, hoping to reconnect them with their heirlooms.

"I have to say some of my favorite items to return have to be the love letters," she says, "Because they tell you not just about the person, but about the couple. Love letters just tell you something about the people and the family that no record could."

Chelsey often encourages others to go to their local flea markets to see if they can help find lost heirlooms. "Genealogists and researchers are not the only people who can do this," she notes, "You could do this too."

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