Buying ‘stuff’? Try an alternative this season

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Director

When I was younger — particularly in college — I used to think the greatest thing in the world was the dollar store. After all, where else could you buy a grocery cart full of household supplies and groceries on a budget?

Need bathroom cleaner?


Peanut butter and jelly?


Cheap plastic gadget I thought was so cool and so essential that I had to buy it, but was forgotten about by the time I got home and was either given away or tossed in the garbage (and eventually the landfill) within a year?


This isn’t a post to bash dollar stores. On the contrary, discount stores are an essential component for many people looking to save a buck on vital household items.

Rather, this is a request to stop and consider what we choose to consume because ultimately it does matter. Regardless of your position on global warming, the environment or everything in between, I think we can all agree that waste is never a good thing.

no more stuff, #nomorestuff

Last year, we ran a holiday campaign that encouraged people to re-think the relationship they have with the objects and things that surround them before they head out shopping for things they may not really need or even truly want.

The campaign’s name: “No More Stuff/Preserve. Conserve.

Preserve, conserve, #nomorestuff

We’ve gained a lot more followers since that initial campaign, so instead of repeating what I said, I’ll simply direct you to my words from last December. I would encourage you to take a look.

Then, let us know what you think.

Do you agree? Is too much stuff a problem? Do you believe that we are over-hyping this? Let’s have a conversation.

Houstory Deals of the Week: Nov. 25

Just in time for the holidays, this is our first installment of the Houstory “Deals of the Week.” Make sure to check back weekly for more deals. Simply click on the image below to be taken to our storefront. From there, enter the discount code in the image to take advantage of these special savings.






House History? Family Heirlooms? Not This Week

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Director

Before there was Houstory, the Home History Book archival journal and The Heirloom Registry, there were only ideas. And the man behind these ideas — the company founder — is a guy named Mike Hiestand, who also happens to be my big brother.

Mary Beth Tinker, Mike Hiestand, Tinker Tour, Houstory

Mike and Mary Beth — aka The Tinker Tour — visit Syracuse University in October.

Before we officially launched Houstory in October 2011, both of us were involved in journalism: myself as a reporter and editor, and Mike as a media law attorney. We both believe firmly in the importance of a free press and the power of a well-told story, and have dedicated much of our professional lives to these causes. Admittedly, Mike has been at it a lot longer than me and in a much more targeted way.

Namely, he has spent 20-plus years affiliated with an organization called The Student Press Law Center (SPLC). During his award-winning career, he has provided free legal assistance to nearly 15,000 high school and college journalists/students and advisors in relation to laws regarding a variety of topics, including freedom of information, copyright, censorship, and the First Amendment. In other words, he has empowered a whole lot of young people with a civics education that they were able to take with them into adulthood and beyond.

Including me.

Now, you’re not going to catch me gushing about my brother very often in public (after all, he is my brother after all, right? That’s against unwritten brotherly code.) But this is one of those rare occasions.

Simply put, Mike is an inspiring guy. He’s not a person who likes the limelight, but he likes to know he is making a difference. He let this passion guide his professional life. And for him, that passion was empowering high school and college journalists and advisors with their rights.  The SPLC– a nonprofit just outside of Washington, D.C. — was his first job. It was also, as he says, his “dream job.”

Over the years, he became a prominent figure in the student press community. In fact, just last year, the Society for Professional Journalists named him the recipient of the prestigious SPJ First Amendment Award ”for extraordinary efforts to preserve and strengthen the First Amendment.”

Mary Beth Tinker, Mike Hiestand, Tinker Tour, Houstory

The Tinker Tour at the Journalism Education Association/National Scholastic Press Association convention in Boston last week.

Yeah, I’m proud.

So, what’s all this about you ask? Well, Mike is on the tail end of an historic civics education tour with American free speech advocate Mary Beth Tinker.

The pair have teamed up to travel the country in an RV on what has been dubbed The Tinker Tour — which officially started on Independence Mall in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center in mid-September and wraps up Nov. 25 in Kansas City, Mo. Working together, Mike and Mary Beth have reached out to colleges, high schools and other groups to “promote youth voices, free speech and a free press.” To date, as part of their fall tour east of the Mississippi, they have traveled more than 10,000 miles and have a couple thousand more to go.

As it states on their Web site: “The goal of the Tinker Tour is to bring real-life civics lessons to schools and communities through (Tinker’s) story and those of other young people.”

Mary Beth’s story started when she was a teenager in the 1960s and later became the basis of a Supreme Court decision (Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District). This decision set the legal standard for student free expression for many years.

“It’s been a dream come true,” said Mike. “Mary Beth is truly a rock star in the world of student free expression rights, and this tour is helping to inspire a lot of kids and teachers.”


So, there you have it.

It may not be house history, family history or family heirlooms this week — but it is important. After all, Houstory is Mike, and Mike is Houstory. I think it is safe to say that as genealogists and family historians, we all have a vested  interest making sure the information we seek remains accessible.

Mary Beth Tinker, Mike Hiestand, Tinker Tour, Houstory, Heirloom Registry

Houstory’s Heirloom Registry: A proud sponsor of The Tinker Tour


Mary Beth Tinker, Mike Hiestand, Tinker Tour, Houstory, Heirloom Registry


Please take a moment to check out the Tinker Tour Web site at, and consider donating to the West Coast leg of their tour in 2014.

What do you think of the Tinker Tour? Do you think civics education is strong in the United States? Do you think its dangerous to empower kids with their rights? However you feel, let us know.

Is the family heirloom dead?

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Director

Are family heirlooms still important?

This week, the Houstory Hearth examines two pieces of evidence — ironically discovered on the same day in a batch of Google Alerts — that contradict one another when answering this  question. It got me thinking: I should take the temperature of the family heirloom movement.

houstory, family heirlooms, heirloom registry

2 articles, 2 viewpoints.

First, the side contending that family heirlooms are a thing of the past for many.

According to an article at United Kingdom online lifestyle magazine Female First, the family heirloom may be on life support.

That Web site cited a survey released by, a moving company that recently reached out to 1,456 people (18 or older)  from around the UK to ask them what their “highest safety” priorities are during a move.

To that end, the company furnished  participants with a list of items they consider to be valuable items typically found in a home.  The wide-ranging catalogue included everything from computers to clothing to furniture, and, yes, family heirlooms. The big winner was — drumroll please — the television! Approximately 52 percent of respondents said they considered the television to be the most important item in their home, primarily due to high replacement cost. Not surprisingly, the PC/laptop came in second at 48 percent. Admittedly, if my house was burning, my laptop would be right up around No. 1 on my list, too.


family heirlooms


Family heirlooms didn’t even crack the Top 10, coming in at the No. 11 spot with 14 percent of the overall vote.

According to Female First, “Respondents to the study were given a list of potential items with the following question: ‘What items would you consider to be Family heirlooms?’ This revealed antiques to be the top heirloom at 51 percent , followed by jewelry at 48 percent and silverware at 36 percent.”

The article continued: “Brits were then asked: ‘Do you own anything that you would consider to be a family heirloom?’ to which the 59% of participants said ‘no’. The remaining 41% said that ‘yes’ they did own a family heirloom. When asked if photographs were regarded as heirlooms, 62% of respondents said that they ‘treasured’ photographs but didn’t consider them to be heirlooms. However, 46% of these said that they wouldn’t be ‘too concerned’ if they lost their photos as a large number were still available on social media.”

Even the study’s author,, seemed surprised.

“It used to be the case that the family silver came first,” said Daniel Parry, spokesperson for as quoted at Female First. “Now it seems that it’s the family television. Or possibly the laptop. It’s probably a modern take on society; priorities change over time, but it’s sad to think that we’ve gone so far that family heirlooms are no longer regarded as something precious.”

I would be curious to see the demographic information on the study, as in how many males were asked vs. females; how many 20-somethings were asked vs. 50-somethings? Let’s face it, often times the closer people are to facing their own mortality, the more important things like legacy and family heirlooms become.

So, there is that side, which highlights the naysayers who believe family heirlooms have little to no importance when it comes to family history.

The second article is much more anecdotal by nature. But I think it shows that asking that question, “Is the family heirloom dead,” completely depends on the respondent. If I were to ask my 16-year-old niece if she values grandma’s quilt as a family heirloom, she might say “yes,” — but probably for reasons that have much more to do with aesthetics than with sentimentality. You know why? Because legacy — and thankfully, the great beyond — don’t really matter as much to her right now as much as the latest iPhone apps, or filling up her car with gasoline.

Fast forward 50 years, and you’ll likely be singing a different tune. Developing legacy in kids is — much like forcing them to eat vegetables — something they may not like now, but something they will be thankful for later.

Which brings me again to the second article in The Guardian newspaper, entitled, “My family heirloom project.” The project, undertaken by a photographer named Joakim Blockstrom, attempts to catalog family heirlooms through story and photo (sound familiar?)

According to the article, the project has grown in popularity and scope, transitioning from a photographic endeavor to something about family history.

The article stated: “As word spread about Blockstrom’s project, he began to hear from strangers who had objects for him to photograph and their own stories to tell. Gradually, he concluded that we all have heirlooms, though they are not always what you would imagine. ‘I have one person who has nothing from her dad except for one of his teeth. It’s a bit gory, but does an heirloom have to be beautiful?'”

To see some of these stories, visit the article. To me, his project shows that interest in family heirlooms is a passion that exists, and can be tapped.

I can’t tell you how many hours Mike and I  have spent listening to stories about family heirlooms — told by complete strangers — at trade shows, local antique stores or genealogical society meetings. Coupled with hundreds of registered users at our own company, The Heirloom Registry, and shows such as Antiques Roadshow on PBS, and it’s clear to me that there is a large contingency of people who hold passion for provenance.

Family Heirloom

So, there you have it: two opposing views on family heirlooms, captured on the same day. I have my own opinions, but we want to hear yours.

What do you think — are family heirlooms dead? What are the factors that play into whether or not family heirlooms are important (age? gender?) 




Family History, Pacific Northwest Style

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Director

I guess when you reside in a coastal state, you tend to go the coast a lot. And I guess when you live near your family, your likely to run into some family history from time to time. Well, family history and the beach came together recently when I visited Seaview, Wash., and Astoria, Ore. for a weekend getaway. Take a look below at some of the highlights.

Do any of you have pictures of your grandparents’ house? Share them with Houstory nation at



Jake the Alligator Man, a feature of Marsh’s Free Museum in Long Beach, Wash. A MUST SEE!