The Houstory Hearth Herd – April 2014

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history bookI consider myself a pretty organized guy. In fact, after several adolescent years spent making fun of my dad for his almost religious dedication and interaction with his Day-Timer Planner, I am a slave to The To-Do List. I’d go so far to say that if I didn’t have access to my Google calendar, I’d likely forget to wear pants or that I need to eat. 

Now, playfully fulfilling the role I once held opposite my pops,  my wife makes fun of the multiple lists I have laying around the house on a regular basis. (On a separate note, it’s amazing how much you become like your parents as you get older. But that’s another story.)

What does this peculiar set of facts have to do with you, the members of The Houstory Nation? Hopefully, a lot.

interview, family history

Photo by Maggie Fimia, My Edmonds News

I’ve been working on developing an editorial calendar so that my fellow Houstorians know what they can expect (generally speaking) moving forward at The Hearth. As an example, we are going to have a deals of the month post every month, as well as house history research tips, among other editorial features.

Today’s post is our first in a series which we call “The Hearth Herd.” It’s simply going to be a roundup (hence the name “Herd”) of a few stories we’ve seen in the recent past that our fellow Houstorians would likely be interested in. On a related note, I just finished a Louis L’Amour book that had to do with a cattle drive. I’m not sure if that informed my series name decision or not. I’m also a huge fan of alliteration, which is sometimes a problem.

Anyhow, we will focus the Herd’s content to three main categories: 1) House and property history; 2) Family heirlooms; 3) Environmental sustainability issues. Basically, the things you’ve come to expect when you visit our blog.

This is where you come in: If you see stories you think would make our monthly collection, please shoot me an e-mail to info (at) houstory (dot) com, say hello on our Facebook page or send us a Tweet

Now, on to the April 2014 Houstory Hearth Herd.


AuthorLisa Louise Cooke

Title: “It’s the Little Things: Family Heirlooms are Family History

Herd-Worthy Because: Speaks for itself, doesn’t it? In fact, it’s safe to say this article illustrates why we are in business. If you haven’t listened to Lisa’s podcast and you appreciate family history, do check it out.



Author: The Washington Post

Title: “Guess who lived here? Tenants embrace D.C. homes with famous history

Herd-Worthy Because: House history, with a twist. Our good friend and house historian colleague, Paul Kelsey Williams, was mentioned in the article. If you like D.C. house history, you know what you should do.


Author: Gannon Burgett

Title: “100-Year-Old Negatives and Camera Found Inside Oklahoma City Time Capsule

Herd-Worthy Because: Genealogist, family historian and technology guru (and our good friend) Caroline Pointer provided us with this story. The concept of a time capsule is truly at the heart of both The Heirloom Registry and The Home History Book archival journal. Plus, it’s pretty darn cool.


Author: Good HouseKeeping

Title: “13 Things That Make a House a Home

Herd-Worthy Because: As the article states, “Here are a few of our favorite things that transform a mere shelter into a safe haven.” Spoiler alert: this list includes family heirlooms!



Author: Maggie Fimia, My Edmonds News

Title: “Family History: Tips for informally interviewing your relatives

Herd-Worthy Because: Stories, baby! If you don’t take time to sit down and listen, your family history will slip away. Family historian Maggie Fimia has great tips on how to prevent this slippage from happening.


Author: The Modesto Bee

Title: “Modesto (Calif.) dry cleaner has collection of abandoned heirlooms

Herd-Worthy Because: One question: How in the  heck would you forget to pick up your wedding dress?


Author: The New York Times

Title: “With Granda’s Ring, I Thee Wed

Herd-Worthy Because: Reusing and recycling family history is not such a bad thing! The article examines how many young people are using family “heirlooms or other vintage rings for more affordable, often more meaningful, alternatives to new diamonds and wedding bands.”

Until next month’s herd…

Do you have family heirlooms that have a dark side?

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

The family heirlooms universe is an interesting one. The stories behind these objects elicit a wide range of varying emotions — including some that fall on the “not-so-good” side of the ledger.

mein kampf, adolf hitler, family heirlooms

Some family heirlooms have very complicated histories.


I recently came across a dramatic example of this darker side of family history. Instructor Hinda Mandell, Ph.D., a Boston native, who teaches in the Department of Communication at Rochester Institute of Technology, recently wrote an article about a family heirloom that was potentially disturbing: a copy of Mein Kampf.


Because of the mystery surrounding the provenance of the item, she was inclined to investigate what could be an important, if chilling, part of her family’s genealogy. As part of that process, her husband made a movie about the experience. Much like houses,  family heirlooms do not always have a pleasant story to tell. However, good or bad, I think these stories are all a part of the human experience. I suppose that’s the journalist in me.

I did try to come up with a dark family heirloom story of my own, but I was unable to do so. Who knows, though? I’m sure there are a couple of objects in my family’s possession that fall in this arena, but I don’t know because these backgrounds have fallen by the wayside with the passage of time. If stories are not documented, they are easily lost.

Do you have any family heirlooms with a dark backstory? Do you think these stories should be documented and shared? Or are they better forgotten? Let us know what you think. Leave a short comment, send an e-mail to info (at) houstory (dot) com, or say hello on our Facebook page or send us a Tweet.



How to hire a house historian

So you’ve decided to enlist some help when it comes to researching your home’s history, and want to hire a house historian.

Surprisingly, house historians — in the purest sense of the phrase — are not as prevalent as you might think. Houstory (fittingly pronounced “House-Story”), has been around several years now (since 2007), and we’ve made it our business to track down a growing collection of house historians to add to the company’s house historian search engine.

house historian, hiring


These are individuals we have entrusted to help owners of our product, The Home History Book archival journal, fill in the details of their home’s past. For real estate agents seeking a unique closing gift, or bed and breakfasts trying to share their historic property’s background, time is often of the essence and help researching this history is well worth the cost.

A house historian can be employed to write your entire home history, track down just your old tax records, find information about a particular owner — or something in between. Before you hire a home historian, do your research. The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) have developed a handy checklist for the hiring process, as has historian Dan Curtis.

Are you a house historian? Or maybe you’ve worked with one you can recommend? We’d love to connect with you. Leave a short comment, send an e-mail to info (at) houstory (dot) com, or say hello on our Facebook page or send us a Tweet.

Houstory Deals of the Month: April 2014

Once per month here at The Houstory Hearth, we are giving the Houstory Nation a chance to save big on our product line. Each of the two monthly discounts will represent our two product lines: The Home History Book archival journal, and The Heirloom Registry.

For serious family historians, house historians, real estate agents, bed and breakfast owners, antique dealers, and family heirloom aficionados, the “Houstory Deals of the Month” should be a regular stop on your online itinerary. Make sure to stop by on the second Wednesday of every month to find out what the latest deals are.

Questions? Thoughts? Leave a short comment, send an e-mail to info (at) houstory (dot) com, or say hello on our Facebook page or send us a Tweet.


Heirloom Registry, Premium Labels, deal of month

Home History Book Deluxe archival journal, deals of the month, Mahogany Classic

Share your family heirloom stories with the Houstory Nation

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history bookSo, a little more than a year ago, I made this video you see posted. It tells the story of a very simple lamp. If you saw this gadget in person, you may think it was nice enough, but you wouldn’t know anything else about it.

It’s not old. It’s not particularly fancy. But it symbolizes an experience  — living abroad in Taiwan as an English teacher — that I think was very important to my life story. This brief tenure (2002-2005) helped to shape a lot of who I am, and how I see the world. For me, it’s a family heirloom.

However, if you saw the lamp, you wouldn’t know that — unless you found its Heirloom Registry registration number, displayed on its underside. Then you’d realize that within my world, this hunk of metal means a lot to me. And because of this significance, it will likely have some meaning to my descendants, whether now or 75 years from now when I’m most likely LONG gone (unless they develop some sort of amazing everlasting life serum. On a related note, where is Steve Guttenberg?)

Its story is safe and intact even if I’m not. For just a moment, I want you to imagine the power of finding an actual item (family heirloom) that once belonged to a long-since-departed relative. As a family historian, I would consider that a gift from the great beyond, and a powerful bridge to the past. By registering an item online and printing out its registration certificate off-line,  I’m trying to do the same for my heirs today.

I don’t have a lot I want to pass on to the future, but the things that truly matter…I’ve registered them safely with the Heirloom Registry.

So, my question to you, Houstory Nation, is this: Have you registered the stories that matter to you? We ALL have at least a few objects that hold more than face value. Take a look around your house tonight. If you were not here tomorrow, would anyone know what these objects symbolized in your life?

Let us know what matters to you. We’d love to share your stories, and you can help us inspire others to save these stories from disappearing forever. Leave a short comment, send an e-mail to info (at) houstory (dot) com, or say hello on our Facebook page or send us a Tweet.