This woman reunites families with lost heirlooms
“I don’t keep count but I have returned a lot. I think it will be about 500."
By Emma Dunn via SWNS
Meet the woman who spends her spare time reuniting unsuspecting families with lost heirlooms free of charge.
Chelsey Brown, 30, trawls flea markets and thrift shops for interesting items.
She then uses her genealogy skills to trace the history and tries to find the owners.
Chelsey, from New York City, claims to have returned 500 objects to thrilled households in the last two years.
And she does it all for free - working as an interior designer to pay the bills.
Chelsey said: "These items often end up at flea markets and thrift stores because of family dramas.
“I don’t keep count but I have returned a lot. I think it will be about 500.
“All of the Holocaust items I have been able to return have been special. It’s such an emotional return.
“But I love the thrill of the chase; I love to close out the mysteries. It’s insane the things I have found.”
Chelsey decided to follow in the footsteps of her dad - a genealogist in 2021.
She starts by looking in the genealogy record by using information from an identifying mark on the object.
This usually brings up a marriage certificate or another distinguishing legal document.
She is then usually able to track down the owner - and contacts them about their artifact.
Chelsey says most people think she is a “scam” at first.
But she has only had one person turn away their artifact since becoming an heirloom detective in mid-2021.
She said: "I started using what my dad had taught me.”
"To find the owner, it depends on each artifact but I always look for an identifying mark to put into the genealogy record.
“This will pull up a marriage certificate or something like that and I can track down the owner from there.
“I contact them via social media or email usually.
Chelsey has found hundreds of interesting items - including love letters from decades ago.
And she says "love bombing" and "ghosting" - mooted as new terms - were just as prevalent then.
Love bombing is a controlling tactic characterized by excessive attention and affection.
Ghosting is when someone ends a relationship suddenly without an explanation and communication.
Chelsey said: “Love bombing was a thing 200 years ago. I keep the data from my genealogy research.
“Heartbreak, affairs and family drama were all still happening then.
“I think it comforts people to know if they are don’t get any contact with someone after going on a date that the exact same happened to some in 1850 – but with letters.”
Chelsey has also been able to reunite a family with World War II love letters after they were passed onto her when they were found during a house renovation.
She’s also been able to find many Holocaust items, of which she says the returns are “emotional.”
And Chelsey loves finding teenage diaries and finding out what happened to the authors after the diary was written.
She said: “I found this amazing one written by a woman who was in a long distance relationship. It was full of love letters and poems.
“They decided to end the relationship but then I found out they got back together years later and are married with six kids. It’s really exciting returning them to the families.”
Chelsey says she finds it fascinating how much hasn’t changed in hundreds of years.
She said: “Red flags haven’t changed for hundreds of years.
“And female friendships – they craved a feeling of belonging and of being wanted as we do now.”
Chelsey is releasing a time capsule book this spring - and has no plans to stop reuniting items with families.
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