NEW YORK – Chelsea Brown is an author and self-proclaimed “heritage hunter” with a mission: to reunite long-lost family heirlooms with their owners.

“Basically, I find lost family heirlooms and return them to legitimate families using genealogy,” said Chelsea, who often spends her days strolling the many flea markets and shops in New York City.

From favorite family photos to touching love letters from World Wars, she says it’s unusual to find these very personal relics at flea markets, but not for the reasons you expected.

“There’s a myth that when you see things at a flea market, they just throw them out,” she says, noting that it’s just not the case. “These items end up in flea markets and hardware stores because of family drama, ninety-five percent of the time.”

As soon as Chelsea finds the relic, the real work begins. She uses her knowledge of genealogy and online tools such as to track all living owners or heirs of items. She then turns to the families she can find, hoping to connect them with their relics.

“I have to say that some of my favorite things to return should be love letters,” she says, “because they tell you not only about the person, but also about the couple. Love letters just tell you something about people and family that no record could. ”

Chelsea often encourages others to go to local flea markets to find out if they can help find the lost relics. “Genealogists and researchers are not the only people who can do this,” she says, “and you could do it.”

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