POLL: When was the last time you received a handwritten letter?

How would you feel if one day, wandering around your home’s attic, you stumbled upon a box full of documents belonging to the home’s former owners?

Inside the box: plot maps, deeds, census records and stories – documented in handwritten letters (revealing a cherished piece of the author’s personality) – of what life in the home was like day-to-day, as well as significant events that may have occurred.

Handwriting: An endangered species?

Most would call this discovery a treasure — particularly the handwritten letters. In this age of digital media, tweets and blog posts, the simple beauty and depth a handwritten letter conveys is in many ways priceless because of how seemingly rare it is.

One of the things that makes a Home History Book archival journal different from digital media, such as software and Web sites, is the ability to display the handwriting — and in turn — the personality of the people who use it. While raw genealogical information in the form of spreadsheets, digital records and maps are fascinating of course, there is an added dimension of personality and texture that handwriting conveys.

In honor of National Handwriting Day earlier this week (Jan. 23), we are asking you a poll question. We’d be very interested to see what you have to say.

Houstory heading to Williamsburg & Philadelphia; Twitter time; baby, it’s cold outside

Before I begin this post, I first want to say I hope our readers in the Pacific Northwest are staying warm. My niece posted on Facebook that it was 17 degrees where she was in Ferndale, Wash. Ouch! Looks like I got out just in time.

It's always sunny...in Texas.

Until recently, I was living at the ‘Houstory World Headquarters’ in Ferndale with my brother Mike (the Houstory Publishing founder) and his lovely family — but in late December I moved back to Austin, Tex., to be with my beautiful wife and to start the ‘Lone Star’ division of our company.

As I look outside my office window (it’s a rather pleasant 76 degrees and sunny) I have to say I think I made a pretty good decision to skip winter. Sorry, that was just cruel. At least you folks up in Washington state don’t have to deal with ‘Cedar Fever‘ — a gem of an ailment I’m suffering from that strikes Texans during the middle of winter. I suppose that’s justice, though.

One more thing before I get to the news: If you are not following us on Twitter, I would recommend you do so. Lots of great info is being shared there by genealogy experts from across the world (stuff that you’re not seeing if you are only following us on Facebook or reading our blog).

Additionally, we will no longer be updating our Facebook page with tweets. As I’ve been learning, the two platforms are truly apples and oranges. Twitter will be a more ‘real-time’ resource — with a lot more conversational tone and a steadier stream of updates — while Facebook will include more substantial posts (but not as often).

You can find us at http://twitter.com/houstorypub

Tweet tweet.

Now the big news: We are very excited to announce that we will be attending our first two trade shows in March. The first one will be in Williamsburg, Va., at the Mid-Atlantic Innkeepers Trade Show and Conference (March 4-6). It should be a lot of fun, as relatively very few people have had a chance to see our books in-person. My wife Tasi will be joining me for that trip.

The following weekend, Mike and I shall be in Philadelphia at the Historic Home Show, sponsored by Old House Media Group. That show runs from March 10-11. If you are in the area, or know anyone who would like to see our offerings, please stop on by.

We have several more trade shows to attend throughout the year, so we will keep you guys aware of things. Well, thanks for reading, and hope ya’ll have a great week! (See, I’m becoming more and more Texan every day.)

Is it okay to use ‘fake’ Facebook profiles as a history lesson?

We recently came across this article on University of Nevada librarian Donnelyn Curtis, who created two fictitious Facebook profiles to help local history become “a little more relevant” for students.

Curtis manages the profiles of Joe McDonald and Leola Lewis (former University students who married in 1915), for whom she posts status updates, photographs and wall comments – all attempting to be historically accurate.

According to the article, Curtis gleaned her information from the University’s research collection, as well as writings by McDonald and Lewis. Using this information (and apparently with the blessings of the couple’s families), she posts things about their interests and their activities – all reflecting the time period in which they lived.

Now, putting aside the question of whether this violates Facebook’s terms of service on creating such accounts – which it most likely does – we applaud Curtis’ well-intentioned, transparent effort to make history more meaningful to the social media generation.

It seems to us that Facebook should consider creating loopholes for such occurrences – perhaps even creating a separate category of profile, clearly labeled with a title such as ‘educational history’ – so that users know exactly what they are perusing.

Not everyone enjoys – or makes time – to delve headfirst into the library archives to learn about the past.  But using social media in such a manner may help to light that fire of genealogical interest in those who would otherwise let the past slip away.

1/11/12 UPDATE: Just in the past day, it appears the Facebook profiles of both McDonald and Lewis have been taken down. Sorry for the links, which appear to be dead. Just in case Facebook puts them back up, we’ll leave them in the article.

We’d love to hear your comments on this topic.

And the winner of a free Home History Book archival journal is…

Like we’re actually going to tell you in the first paragraph!

After a slow start, we had a respectable turnout for our first book giveaway. We didn’t realize how challenging it would be to actually give away a $300 product that will last for many years. But, we can’t say we blame people — the digital universe is full of big promises with lots of red tape, and companies in your face about how “special” their product or service is — even if it is being given away and it’s not that special. We normally just blow by giveaways ourselves.

Houstory Publishing thanks you for your support!

For those who entered the giveaway, we appreciate the support, so cheers to you all. We also hope you’ve received some useful information along the way. We want to sell books, of course, but we also want to inspire the ‘houstorian’ in all of you and we hope it shows.

Well, let’s get to the main course. The winner of the first Houstory Publishing Home History Book archival journal giveaway is…

Sara Vandepas of Portland, Ore. Congrats to Sara! We hope you enjoy your Home History Book for many years to come, Sara. Thanks to everyone for entering the competition and supporting Houstory!

And if you haven’t “liked us” yet, now’s the time. Today we’re happy to announce that our next drawing for a free Home History Book will be on Leap Year Day: February 29.  It only happens once every four years, so don’t miss out!