Namesake Heirloom

by admin on March 7, 2013

I was named after my grandmother (my middle name is her first name), who was named after her grandmother, who was named after her grandmother. We share a lovely, if uncommon, name. When I was a child, my grandmother showed me a lovely pendant inscribed with our shared name. She told me stories about the other women who shared our name, and I always looked forward to the day that it would be mine. Four years ago, on the eve of my wedding, my grandmother gave me the pendant. I wore it under my dress as my ‘something old’.

Sadly, my grandmother passed away two months ago. One of my cousins is pregnant and has just found out that she is expecting a daughter. She has announced that she is naming the child after our grandmother. The issue began when she approached my grandfather and asked for the pendant, claiming that it was her child’s birthright. Grandpa mentioned it to my mother, who helped go through grandma’s things after she passed. My mother was initially too surprised to respond. It came up a few days later when my mother and father were visiting with my cousin’s parents – my mother informed my aunt that the pendant had been given to me years ago. My aunt said something like, ‘Well, she will give it to the baby, it’s the right thing to do.’

My cousin then contacted me directly to ask for the pendant. I refused to give it to her, explaining its meaning to me. She accused me of conning our grandmother out of a priceless piece of jewelry. (The pendant is not particularly valuable – I had friend who works with a jeweler examine it, just for kicks; it’s worth a few hundred dollars at most.) My cousin then said that I had no right to the pendant; when I told her that I was named after our grandmother, she accused me of lying. After I texted her a picture of my driver’s license, she stopped responding. About an hour later, she posted a terrible diatribe against me on her Facebook page, claiming that I lied about my name to cheat her daughter. My mother called me later in tears; my aunt called her and screamed at my mother for raising such a selfish, cruel daughter who refused to return a stolen heirloom to its rightful owner.

I don’t see the point of responding to any more of my cousin’s insanity, but part of me has to shake my head at the absurdity. I cannot think of another way to prove what my middle name is, and I don’t think it would matter at this point. It has all gone too far. My mother tells me that my cousin is considering changing the baby’s name now, which makes me sad. I know that I don’t own the name, but I do own the pendant.   0226-13

When people yield themselves to unbridled greed, they become loony and there are no facts, no documentation, no substantive testimony that will convince them they are not owed what they selfishly want.  It’s like arguing with an insane person.

You have no obligation to give up a wedding gift from your grandmother to someone who hasn’t even given birth yet.   At the first request (um, demand) for the pendant, I would have responded, “The tradition is to pass the pendant to the next generation’s namesake at adulthood. I will do so when a child is of an age to appreciate it and when I am ready to do so. “

{ 125 comments… read them below or add one }

Merrilee March 8, 2013 at 8:32 am

Similar thing happened to me when my mom passed away. She had a lovely white gold and sapphire ring that she treasured very much. She never took it off and wanted me to have it if she passed, which she told me many times. After she died, my dad started dating someone and actually asked me for the ring back so he could give it to her.

I refused. And still have the ring to this day, though it doesn’t stop him from asking me for it.

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Yarnspinner March 8, 2013 at 10:26 am

*sigh* Twice in my lifetime, my uncle has cheated me out of things an elderly relative told me were mine, claiming that those things either didn’t exist or were things he had purchased and they had no right to gift them. Or he would sell something saying “Well, Lily lives in a little apartment, she isn’t going to want THAT.” (He was correct, but it would have been nice to be asked.)

When one relative passed on, there was a “break in” at the house and lots of brass light fixtures disappeared. (Curiously, none of the jewelry or antique furniture was missing.). Not much later, my Mom was stopping in at a local antique store and noticed all these new brassing finishings that were being sold. She recognized them and asked about who brought them in.

“Oh,” said the store owner “I guess your brother in law forgot to tell your husband that I was going to buy them for sale in my store.”

My parents, in the interest of keeping the peace (there had already been several other ugly episodes over this house) decided to just back off and never brought it up again. Except when talking with other relatives….

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Taragail March 8, 2013 at 10:36 am

After reading all these comments, I think I’d better have a sit down with my folks, find out what goes to whom, and plan on posting a guard at the house during the funeral (hopefully many years down the road).

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Justin March 8, 2013 at 11:33 am

It is unfortunate people become so greedy over simple material possessions, in this case as in so many others the sentimental value outweighs the material value for the OP. Keep the pendant until you have a family member you share the same relationship with that you had with your grandmother and then pass it on in the same spirit of love and generosity that it was given to you in.

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The Elf March 8, 2013 at 11:33 am

My parents called the kids over one day (separately) and asked us to list things we wanted in their house so that they could call it out specifically in the will. We got lucky – there was only one item contested in the whole house! When I found out, I let my brother have it; it’s not worth fighting about and it was top of his list and only half-way down mine. I just thought it was so strange that we liked such different things. We even both listed clocks, but picked different ones. That’s the whole idea behind the stickies – resolve the fights before they become fights. They’re still alive, so we’ll see how it plays out afterwards.

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SuzieQ March 8, 2013 at 12:17 pm

One of the replies reminded me of when DH and I were dating. He gave me his baby ring and I wore it on a chain around my neck. It was very sentimental to me.
His Mom saw it one day and demanded it back. (which I can understand – what if we broke up? I would have given it back but she had no way to know that).
However, it has since disappeared. I gave it to her, when it rightfully belonged to DH and was his to give to me as he wished, and now that lovely little ring is gone. If it was so special to her, you would think she would have taken better care of it and not lost it.

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Angel March 8, 2013 at 12:26 pm

This story makes me so mad–I am outraged on your behalf, OP. Before my grandmother passed away 21 years ago, she started giving away most of her possessions that she wanted her grandkids to have. None of them were worth a lot monetarily but had sentimental value to all of us. Her wedding ring was supposed to go to her oldest granddaughter, my cousin who is 5 years older than I. After her death, our aunt (my grandma’s daughter in law) stole the ring from the house. We know she has it but everyone in the family has tiptoed around it. For 21 years! But never in a million years would we post on Facebook that she stole it. And the crazy thing is, my cousin still affords our aunt a hell of a lot more respect than she deserves. My cousin is one classy lady. She is actually holding out hope that the aunt will one day return the ring to her on her own. I suggested going over to aunt’s house and trying to find it–but I doubt we’ll ever do it.

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JeanLouiseFinch March 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm

LW, once your grandmother gave you the pendant, it became yours, indisputably to keep, sell or give away to someone else. If your cousin persists, tell her you have always wanted a _____________ (some prized possession of hers), so she should just give it to you because you named your cat “______________.” I would also ask her if she names her daughter “Mercedes” whether you should buy her a car! Further, what if she has a boy? Finally, since she now wants to name the baby something different, you should ask her was the only reason she was going to name her daughter after your grandmother a ploy to get the pendant? Y

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JeanLouiseFinch March 8, 2013 at 12:39 pm

LW, once your grandmother gave you the pendant, it became yours, indisputably to keep, sell or give away to someone else. If your cousin persists, tell her you have always wanted a _____________ (some prized possession of hers), so she should just give it to you because you named your cat “______________.” I would also ask her if she names her daughter “Mercedes” whether you should buy her a car! Further, what if she has a boy? Finally, since she now wants to name the baby something different, you should ask her was the only reason she was going to name her daughter after your grandmother a ploy to get the pendant? Your cousin and aunt are crazy and greedy. Even if your name were different, your grandmother loved you and wanted to pass on the pendant to you.

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Drawberry March 8, 2013 at 1:14 pm

@Taragail: It’s really not a bad idea to consider. It might feel morbid to some folks but having an up-to-date last will can help maintain sanity in the event of your death and hopefully ensures that what you want will be fulfilled. That said, no amount of legal matters and signed paper can stop greed. But it certain’y doesn’t mean one shouldn’t prepare for things.

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Abby March 8, 2013 at 4:47 pm

@The Elf- when my grandma died, all eight kids went through her stuff together. She didn’t have a lot of money and none of her possessions were expensive, but she had a lot of stuff everyone wanted (a grandfather clock, her wedding ring, a chair, a pitcher, her hope chest, etc), so all the siblings did a drawing. But they threw all interested parties’ names in a hat for each item, which meant the same person could “win” multiple things, which did end up happening. My mom’s oldest sister ended up winning like 3 of the 8 popular items. No one wanted to be the heavy and ask her to remove her name from the drawing after she won the first item, and she did not offer. That was really fortunate it worked out so well for your family, as I think even 15 years later some people are a little disgruntled with how the drawing shook out.

After reading this entry and all the comments, I am, for the first time in my life, grateful to be an only child.

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Kate March 8, 2013 at 9:16 pm

The thing that really upsets me about situations like this is that the people involved are basically dismissing the wishes of their recently departed loved one, just to satisfy their own needs. Unless there are extenuating circumstances – for example, somebody has dementia and an unscrupulous relative is taking control of their will – I think people should accept their loved one’s decision, even if they don’t understand or agree with it.

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Wren March 9, 2013 at 10:55 am

OP, I am sorry this whole mess has happened to you. It must be very hurtful. I hope you are able to enjoy owning the pendant, given by someone who loved you, for the rest of your life, regardless of how those relatives of yours behave. In a similar vein, when my grandfather-in-law died, we gathered at his home after the funeral. One of his daughters angrily asked me why I had scratched my name onto the side of Grandpa’s grandfather clock. Bewildered, I said I didn’t know what she was talking about. I got up and looked at the clock and there were some numerals scratched into the wood. Turns out Grandpa had scratched his SSN onto the clock to deter theft. Aunt X really got boiling mad when it turned out that Grandpa had stated in his will that my husband should inherit the clock, which is now in our front room.

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kingsrings March 10, 2013 at 5:21 pm

My immediate family grew up with a beautiful china set that we always used for special occasions. My mother had plans to pass it on to me eventually should I ever buy a home. Well, one day a few years ago, my aunt (who is very materialistic and all about having as much swanky stuff as possible) saw the china set and demanded that it be given to her immediately. This was after we’d had it in our family for some 40 years! Why was she just now wanting it “back”? My aunt claimed that we had never been given the china, that she had, and that we were just keeping it for her and had never given it back like we were supposed to. Funny that she’s the only one who remembers being told this. Because my aunt can be extremely forceful, my mother handed it over in order to keep the peace. To this day, it devastates me that we no longer have that china which is so sentimental, and that my aunt only wanted for selfish, materialistic reasons.

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Jenn50 March 10, 2013 at 10:32 pm

TheElf, I’m running with “Violet”, personally. :-)

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Roslyn March 11, 2013 at 6:52 am

A will is only as iron clad as the people willing to go to court and pay lawyers to battle it out. A friend of my mother’s died suddenly and he had clearly written down everything to keep his then girlfriend of many years in his home and financially secure. He was a professional that drew up these papers for others, so he knew everything he needed. He was planning on marrying her, but he died before it happened very suddenly and unexpectedly.

His first wife and two sons, who he had no contact for more than 20 years swooped in and kicked her out, took his business papers and personal client information, took the house, cars, motorcycles, everything. She has the paperwork, but she isn’t one to fight, so she complied and has nothing. It was just a twist of fate that my mother’s paperwork for her taxes for 20 years, investments, trusts, wills….everything was in the hands of his new partner at the time of this man’s death and so she was able to get her info. He was planning on slowly bringing this man into his business so that he could retire and marry and enjoy the rest of his life when he died. The many clients that had their paperwork etc in the house now have to fight to get it back from people who live in another state. It’s a nightmare.

Sure, you can make wills and legal documents, but unless people have the means to go to court with them, they mean nothing.

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J March 11, 2013 at 1:56 pm

This is so similar to something that happened (and is, in a way, ongoing) in my family. Before the stock market crash, my Grandmother’s family was quite wealthy. On her wedding day, my Grandmother received a beautiful, jeweled silver hair clip from her mother. It had been passed down by her mother’s great-great-grandmother (that’s my great-great-great-great-great grandmother, I believe…), who had received it as a gift from her fiance, a very wealthy oilman and mine owner, when he proposed. The tradition was to pass it to the eldest daughter on the day of her marriage.

When I turned 15, I stayed with my Grandmother for a few weeks in the summer, as I did every year. She sat me down and told me gently that she knew the end was near, and there were things she wanted to do before she died. She then gave me the hair clip and told me its history. She had saved it, hoping that her eldest daughter — my aunt A– would marry, but A had not and to this day remains single at nearly 70. Grandma told me that she always felt like I was very much like her, and though my mother was her next-to-youngest child, since I was the first girl born to one of Grandma’s daughters, she wanted me to have the clip.

My Grandma passed on only about nine weeks later, and for nearly a year none of her things were touched, as we were all in mourning. Finally, my uncle received a call that the property taxes on Grandma’s house were due, and many of us made the trip to start sorting through her things and preparing the house for sale. Everything was done very peacefully; those who wanted certain items took them home, and anything without sentimental value was appraised and sold. It was several weeks later, when we were having a family lunch, that the aunt who took most of Grandma’s jewelry — aunt K — mentioned the clip was not among the items.

“Oh,” my mother spoke up, “Mom gave that to J before she went into the hospital.”

Aunt K gave me a bit of stink eye and said, “but it’s supposed to go to the oldest DAUGHTER,” and cut her eyes to Aunt A, who said nothing.

My uncle jumped in and changed the subject, but every few months at one of the family events, Aunt K will say, “I wonder what could have happened to that hair clip?” while she stares me down, though both my mother and I have reminded her several times that I have it placed away in my safe. Aunt A has told me that she understands why Grandma gave it to me, and she wants me to have it, but Aunt K…who by her own reasoning isn’t even entitled to the clip herself…can’t seem to leave it alone, and the youngest — Aunt B — is on her side.

It gets very tiresome, but I have no intention of giving over this sentimental heirloom to Aunt K or Aunt A — who doesn’t even want it! — and I hope to wear it soon on my wedding day and to one day pass it down to my daughter.

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Ellen March 12, 2013 at 12:34 pm

The most generous possible interpretaion you could put on this, is that grief, the maternal protective instinct, and pregnancy hormones have made your aunt and cousin take leave of their senses. (I have had 2 kids, and it can make you crazy). By posting insane diatribes in social media, your aunt is revealing her own condition – it has nothing to do with you, and anyone who knows you will realize it.

Stay out of it, do not try to “prove” anything, and treat the subject as closed. If you must interact with your aunt and cousin, be as gracious as possible and pretend the whole thing never happened.

If that fails, ignore them until they come to their senses.

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Molly March 12, 2013 at 5:34 pm

If she’s changing the baby’s name just because of your refusal to turn over the piece of jewelry, I am suspicious of her motives for naming the baby in the first place.

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Mae March 15, 2013 at 10:40 am

I agree with previous posters who say the actual name is not the issue here, nor an any traditon that may or may not exist. It is very simple: Cousin wants pendant. OP has pendant and will not give pendant because it is hers. Cousin whines to Aunt (her mom) and Aunt takes up Cousin’s cause. Cousin and Aunt try to bully OP into giving up pendant. Bullying is not working so they take it to the new court of public opinon: FaceBook.

OP- it is your pendant. Keep it, pass it on, take it to the afterlife with you. Your Cousin and Aunt are purely bullies and that is my number 1 pet peeve.

Kingsrings- that story makes me sad for your family. I have awful bullies in my family, too, but fortunately for me, I have no problem saying “No, leave now” or letting people know that practice my second amendment right .

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Mae March 18, 2013 at 9:22 am

I agree with previous posters who say the actual name is not the issue here, nor an any traditon that may or may not exist. It is very simple: Cousin wants pendant. OP has pendant and will not give pendant because it is hers. Cousin whines to Aunt (her mom) and Aunt takes up Cousin’s cause. Cousin and Aunt try to bully OP into giving up pendant. Bullying is not working so they take it to the new court of public opinon: FaceBook.

OP- it is your pendant. Keep it, pass it on, take it to the afterlife with you. Your Cousin and Aunt are purely bullies and that is my number 1 pet peeve.

Kingsrings- that story makes me sad for your family. I have awful bullies in my family, too, but fortunately for me, I have no problem saying “No, leave now” or letting people know that practice my second amendment right .

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Enna March 18, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Evil Enna: I think OP should post a copy of the photo of her ID – black out everything but your photo and name and let mutural friends judge for themselves. Then comment on her post what your name realy is.

Good Enna: be careful about airing your dirty laudry in public like on facebook. You can report it as abuse, she will either get warned or it will be removed. You could try talking to people who have commented or liked the post but it could back fire. Best to report it. Is your middle name on facebook as well? That might highlight what your cousin is doing as unreasonable.

Your cousin might have a boy! That could be amusing. I would be inclined to say to cousin and aunty if they hadn’t made such a big fuss about it the baby might have got it later on in adulthood but since they have insisted it be handed over then the child has lost any chance. Are they naming the child so they can get the pendant? That is a bit selfish.

With some of the stories here, I think it highlights the importantce of making a last will and testement. That way things should go to the people who the deceased wanted them to go to. Then it is theft if someone else helps themselves.

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Bijoux April 10, 2013 at 12:42 am

Man, this sort of reminds me of when my grandma died almost 2 years ago. My aunt, who lived with her, refused to let any family members take just about anything. The only thing that was basically freely given were each child and grandchild got to pick a swan from her swan collection, and before she passed, she made it known that I would get her goblets that were the same patterns as the ones my grandparents had used on their honeymoon. My aunt even went so far as accusing one of us of stealing one of my grandma’s sapphire rings.,, which she ended up finding in her own dresser drawer. It got to the point where I had to smuggle out some early 20th century photos that I wanted for reference (I am an artist of sorts) that were kept in a box for years in my grandma’s closet.

Well, 2 years later, my aunt still has most of my grandma’s stuff and is complaining because nobody wants it.

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Serena June 3, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Wow. This hits close to him. My grandparents were jewellers, and before my grandmother died she gave my aunt a box of jewellery that she was to give to me when I became a teenager. What was worse was my aunt had told me this. And every year for my birthday after I became 13, I expected to receive at least some of this jewellery–Especially a silver charm bracelet which my grandmother has apparently worn ever since she had received it in high school. I’m 21 now, and haven’t gotten any of it. No one can make this woman give it to me.

Luckily for me, the rest my family has tried to make-up for this. I have a silver tea set among a few other things that were my grandmother that I got from other people. Needless to say my aunt is insanely jealous. I have a pretty good feeling that I won’t see any of that jewellery till she’s dead.

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Eva August 5, 2013 at 10:39 am

mmh. I have been given my grandmothers wedding ring before her death and frankly, I am very unsentimental und not valueing it as much, as I most likely should. I am starting to consider gifting it to my sister who has a rather lovely collection of grandmas old pictures. Thanks for making me think about this.

I am really sorry about reading how greedy people can be. And after a death, were they should be grieving and respecting the deceased ones wishes. I may be not the moste etiquette-educated person myself, but I hope I shall know better.

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