I am blessed: my great-grandmother's family left behind a number of instruments that they played - a mandolin, a banjo (an 1889 Fairbanks & Cole parlor banjo that I recently had refurbished), and a violin. When I wanted to learn guitar, my mother took me to the attic to show me these instruments (point of information: never store instruments in the attic unless it is climate-controlled), along with her ukulele from her youth. I selected that one, but later dabbled with the mandolin and learned the banjo. When I play the mandolin & banjo I think about my great-grandmother and her music background (she was raised in a family where there was a conservatory in which the family entertained and enjoyed music events). Maybe it's hereditary.
I was talking to my friend, Diane Wright, about knowing what musical instruments were in the family and she shared the following with me about her own grandfather:
How great to have the photos of George's instruments. If you don't have the instruments of photos of them, you might still be able to learn what instruments your ancestors played by checking the tax lists and/or estate inventories. Because music can be very personal to people, their instruments are also likely to have been cherished elements of their lives, so learning about them may cause us to feel that much closer to these special people.
If you have a story about your ancestors' musical background & would like me to share it here, send it along (especially welcome are photos of old instruments . . . and even more welcome if they are shown in the hands of the musicians).
Best wishes in your roots pursuits!