davisA few years ago while attending a genealogy conference, I decided to conduct some on-the-fly interviews for the Genealogy Gems Podcast. I asked folks to tell me about the most prized family heirloom that they possessed.  I heard about everything from the door knob of a woman’s parent’s bridal suite, to the bedazzling flapper dress worn by a great grandmother.

All were interesting, but I was stopped in my tracks when one woman looked at me with pain in her eyes and declared “I have nothing. Not a thing. My cousins destroyed everything.”

It was a difficult concept to digest. As the acknowledged “keeper of the family history flame” in my family, I’ve been fortunate enough to have inherited an abundance of family heirlooms from both sides of my parents families. How sad it would be to have nothing concrete to hold in your hand; nothing to help you feel the generations that held the item before.

Since that day I’ve remained inspired to help people find ways to track down information and artifacts that make up their family history. Time and time again, I’ve found that just when you thought there was nothing left to find, an item will resurface. The Galaxy Quest movie quote (surely based on the famous words uttered by Winston Churchill in 1940) is one I cling to when it comes to genealogy: “Never give up! Never surrender!”

This motto has never been so gloriously justified as it was recently when a woman from Indianapolis, Indiana received the surprise of a lifetime this Christmas.  The Purple Heart awarded to Pat Davis’ father, (a father she never met) was found recently and returned to her. Watch the compelling video below where the daughter holds the unearthed piece of family history in the palm of her hand.

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