A TikToker says an old photo album she found at a flea market led her to her distant cousin
- Interior designer Chelsey Brown collects
antiquesand tracks down the families they came from.
- Brown told Insider an old photo album she found at Chelsea Market led her to a distant cousin.
- Finding the people in the album on Ancestry.com, Brown learned the family-tree owner was her cousin.
Chelsey Brown says she has been going to thrift stores and flea markets for years to find unique antique items - and then return the heirlooms to the families they came from.
The New York City-based interior designer started documenting her finds on TikTok in July, and told Insider that at the time of writing she has returned more than 200 antique items to the families of ancestors who owned them.
Brown, 28, says she tracks down the descendants of the antiques she finds using Ancestry.com as well as her own knowledge of genealogy; she said she learned about the subject from her father and hopes to get formal training in genealogy studies soon.
"Since my dad is a genealogist, aside from decorating, family history and ancestry have always been important to me," Brown said. "Now I try and thrift at least three items per week that I can trace back to a family member."
One of Brown's recent antique discoveries led her to a distant family member of her own, she said.
Brown said she discovered that she was distantly related to someone whose family photo album she found at Chelsea Market in New York City.
After hours of searching, Brown said she found the name of someone in the family album: William Fenning.
Only his first name was in the album, Brown said. To find his last name, Brown said she searched for first names in the book in every early 1900s census until she found a William as a head of house along with other names mentioned in the album. Fenning's family was mentioned in a census report from the 1930s, she said.
When she popped the name into Ancestry.com, she said she discovered that the owner of the family tree was somewhere between her fifth and eighth cousin.
"It was wild to see," Brown said, adding that she has kept in touch with her newfound distant relative since making the connection.
Brown has since returned the album to her distant cousin, who asked for her name not to be mentioned for privacy reasons. According to Brown, her cousin told her that she is excited to have the family heirloom and grateful to Brown for returning it.
"I love that I'm able to use what I know about genealogy and thrifts and be able to return items to families," Brown said. "There's literally no greater feeling in the world."
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