Maybe it's because I really don't have any family heirlooms from my father's side of the family that I am attracted to items discarded by other families who don't seem to know what treasures they have. Case in point is this chalk portrait I picked up for just $6.00 as a bid item at Deseret Industries years ago. I look at that little face and think, "Gee, someone ought to love you." So, I do. It is obviously old; even the little square nails in the frame attest to that.
Then there is this old quilt top that I found just last weekend in an antique shop in Colorado for just $20.00. It is unquilted and hand stitched- no sewing machine stitches at all. The fabric is vintage, and a little stained like someone left it in the sun and spilled something on it. Since I'm a quilter myself, I know how much love goes into a quilt top, and again, someone ought to love it.
Last but not least, is this little toy china cabinet made from a crate. I first saw it thrown in a heap with a bunch of junk. When I asked my neighbor about it, she told me it was made by her brother-in-law before World War II. He served in the Navy and died when his ship was sunk during the war. Several weeks later my youngest son pulled it out of the dumpster and brought it to me because he loved old things, just like me.
So, where am I going with all of this? I guess I'm saying take care of your family treasures. Collect everything you've got, be it documents, photos, letters, or objects. Assess and archive those items as to purpose, for research or as part of your story. Then write the story, so that your treasures don't end up at my house.