White Friday anyone? Try an Alternative to Stuff This Holiday Season

By Mike and Dan Hiestand, The Houstory Brothers


no more stuff, #nomorestuff

Instead of waking up earlier and earlier on Black Friday (or increasingly never going to bed as more stores compete to open their doors first), battling the traffic and fighting the crowds for more stuff, what if you gave White Friday a try instead?

For the past few years, we’ve run our “No More Stuff” holiday campaign that encourages 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.

This year, we’re giving the campaign an official kickoff day — the day after Thanksgiving. Yes, we know we have some competition — so we’re calling ours White Friday.

Here’s how White Friday works: You sleep in as long as you need to. You sip your tea or coffee and bask in the memories of family and Thanksgiving the day before. Maybe you have a bit of breakfast. And then — when you’re ready — you take a leisurely stroll around the house taking notice of — and being grateful for — a few of the important pieces of “stuff” you already have. Maybe it’s an old family clock. Or a table that’s hosted family gatherings (such as dinner the day before). Or a treasured family photo. Or a special family cookbook. Or the crazy doo-dad sitting on the shelf that’s been in your life for as long as you can remember. And you write down their stories. (We call the things that you choose “heirlooms” here at The Heirloom Registry — but it’s really anything — old/new, expensive or “price-less” — that holds meaning for you.)

If you’re traveling and you’re waking up at your folks’ house (or grandparents’ — or some other relative) all the better! Let them choose the things that are important and whose stories they feel are worth sharing. You walk around with them, listen and take some notes. Maybe snap a photo or two of your family member in front of things he/she is talking about.

Here’s what I promise:

  1. You will learn something memorable you didn’t know before.
  2. You will smile.
  3. In years to come, you (and your family) will appreciate this simple gift more than almost anything else you could buy at 4 am.

It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated

To make it easy, we are gifting you this free, downloadable form that will help you collect some of the more pertinent information. When you finish you can simply attach the form to the back of the “heirloom” or file it with your important documents.

You can also try out The Heirloom Registry — for free — by signing up this holiday season for a complimentary registration number when you visit our Web site. (If you want to get a bit more fancy by ordering a permanent registration label or plate, we can help you with that.) But you don’t need to.

The important thing is that you do it. Because the stories of our family heirlooms usually disappear with our family members. And an heirloom without a story is — as we say — just more stuff.

We know it might sound crazy. And if you genuinely need that digital bathroom scale and can get it for the insanely low price of $9.99, go for it. (We all need things. That’s life on Earth.) Heck, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a mixture of both Black and White Friday. A Shade of Grey Friday feels like a step in the right direction.

But be the change you want to see in the world, right? We’d like a world that  makes room for a White Friday.

And we’d like to sleep in.

Happy Holidays!

Mike and Dan


Preserve, conserve, #nomorestuff


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.

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 http://tinkertourusa.org/welcome-aboard/, 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.

Road trip to Oregon’s Elvis shrine, historic bridge house

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory

So, a few weeks ago my wife and I hopped in the car and took a drive from our home in Eugene, Ore. to the sandy — and much chillier — Oregon coast. Our destination was a sleepy town called Florence, a seaside community as well as a tourist destination for many in  the area. Situated at the mouth of the  Siuslaw River, Florence was the site of a barbecue competition my brother-in-law Eric was competing in.


DESTINATION: FLORENCE, OREGON. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Along the way, my wife Tasi and I were met with several welcome distractions — including a stop at Shake, Rattle & Roll Record Shop in Mapleton, Ore., and a photo op of a bridge house just outside of Florence at a place called Cushman Bridge.

First, Shake, Rattle & Roll: Not that I’ve been actively seeking an extensive collection of Elvis collectibles and memorabilia, but if I were this seems like a pretty good place to start. Darrel Dixon, the shop’s proprietor, was a super nice guy for starters. He said he got most of the collection “7 or 8 years ago” from an Oregon woman. She obviously really dug on The King, because the place is a shrine. Two rooms full of stuff. Personally, I have two  obvious connections to Elvis. First, my I share his birthday (Jan. 8). Second — and this is what drew me to the store — is my niece (and goddaugher) Jessica’s affinity for the man, which started when she was probably three or four years old. In my opinion, Jessica is an “old soul” in a lot of ways, which I completely love. Now at the age of 20, she still maintains a mini Elvis altar herself, so whenever I see a chance for her to add to the collection, I let her know about opportunities.

elvis, memorabilia, collectibles, antiques

Elvis Heaven


The second stop along the trip was a picture I snapped of an old swing bridge — unofficially known as Cushman Bridge — crossing the slow-moving Siuslaw River. According to information I could find (but not officially substantiate), it was built in 1914 near the unincorporated community of Cushman. On top of it is a house-like structure, which I thought made for an interesting house history shot — even though it was likely never used as a permanent residence.

house history, oregon, siuslaw, swing bridge

The historic bridge house.


The final leg on the trip was the barbecue competition. My brother-in-law is a genius when it comes to all things smoked, and his ever-expanding barbecue competition trophy case is a testament to that. This time, he placed first in the rib competition.  And yes, they were tasty. To visit his barbecue world, check out his Facebook page. But don’t blame me if you get slobber on your keyboard.


Yes, I got free barbecue. It pays to be a relative.

barbecue, Florence, Oregon

Eric (right) with my father-in-law Jim, showing off his first-place trophy.

Heirloom Registry Scavenger Hunt: ‘A grown-up scavenger hunt focused on celebrating…heirlooms and antiques’

Houstory’s Heirloom Registry Scavenger Hunt is next week. Are you ready to take advantage of your chance to win more than $500 in great prizes?

scavenger hunt, houstory, heirloom registry, family history

For those interested in genealogy, family history, family heirlooms, historic preservation or antiques, it should be a lot of fun. For more on the hunt, including a schedule, visit the official scavenger hunt  page.

Make sure to follow Houstory at Facebook and Twitter (#HoustoryHunt) for current scavenger hunt updates. In the meantime, here are few comments from those involved in the hunt. Houstory thanks all the sponsors and participants!

“When Houstory asked me to participate in his Scavenger Hunt, of course I said yes. What genealogist doesn’t love a scavenger hunt? It’s what we do, except I’m doing the hiding this time.”  — Caroline Pointer, founder, 4YourFamilyStory.com

“Be it a flour sifter, slide rule, quilt or grandfather clock, preserve the story of your precious heirlooms with HeirloomRegistry.com. It’s easy to order the registry stickers, then snap pics and upload to this innovative site. I won’t always be around to tell the history of our family pieces. My 8-year-old grandson can search by the registry number and read about his second great grandmother’s red ceramic pitcher just like that!” — Pat Richley-Erickson, author of the DearMYRTLE Genealogy Blog

“The Heirloom Registry takes documenting family keepsakes into the 21st century with its simple and inexpensive method for recording heirloom histories. It’s a perfect fit for the mission of The Family Curator blog – ‘Preserving and Sharing Our Family Treasures’ – and I am delighted to help share this great program with readers of my blog through the Heirloom Registry Scavenger Hunt.” – Denise Levenick, The Family Curator

“We are thrilled to be participating in this special event. What’s not to love about a grown-up scavenger hunt focused on celebrating, researching and preserving heirlooms and antiques? It’s an honor for us to be one of the ‘stops’ in this adventure, which includes so many companies we admire for their devotion to helping people learn from and commemorate the history of their own lives.”– Antoinette Rahn, Antique Trader editor

“Isn’t genealogy just one big scavenger hunt? So if you enjoy ‘the hunt’ like I do, take a break from your family history research and try your hand at this fun online activity. Who knows? You could win something that will help take your genealogy to the next level!” – Thomas MacEntee, founder of GeneaBloggers

“We hope being part of the Heirloom Registry Scavenger Hunt will inspire family historians to preserve information about those treasured objects.” — Diane Haddad, managing editor with Family Tree Magazine

“I’m excited to participate in this fun hunt that will get people excited about their family history, help them learn more about The Heirloom Registry and give them opportunities to win great prizes.” – Janet Hovorka, President Utah Genealogical Association, author of Zap The Grandma Gap

“We at Flip-Pal mobile scanner are enthusiastic about giving people greater opportunities to easily capture and share their memories. Sponsoring The Heirloom Registry Scavenger Hunt is a great pairing—not only to easily capture your memories—but then saving your scans in a safe place for future generations to use.” – Diane Miller, Genealogy Account Manager for Flip-Pal mobile scanner

“I am passionate about helping people explore their personal history and that of their house or local town. The Heirloom Registry is committed to preserving the stories behind those histories. Partnering with Houstory on the scavenger hunt was a fun way to get genealogists and historians involved in recording family and house history in a hands-on way.” – Marian Pierre-Louis, author at Marian’s Roots and Rambles blog

“It’s such a treasure to have family heirlooms in our home. I love this opportunity to celebrate and remember those who came before us.” — Katie Briscoe, a founder of DIY Del Ray blog

 “We all have family heirlooms – large or small – that need saving for the next generation.” – Maureen Taylor, The Photo Detective 

Heirloom Registry Online Scavenger Hunt announced; features $500 in prizes

Hey, Houstory Nation: We are going to give you the chance to put your detective skills to good use and win some pretty great stuff!

The Heirloom Registry is overseeing an online scavenger hunt and you are all invited! The hunt — which will run from March 4-10 — will include 12 popular family history, genealogy and antique-related blogs, with approximately $500 worth of donated prizes up for grabs.

This is a fun and exciting opportunity to win yourself a popular Flip-Pal mobile scanner, or even research services provided by professional genealogist Caroline Pointer of 4YourFamilyHistory.com, among many other valuable items.  

There will be more details posted later at The Houstory Hearth. Read on to see participating sponsor blogs, as well as the great prizes winners will receive. 

scavenger hunt, heirloom registry, houstory


A weeklong online Scavenger Hunt (March 4-10, 2013) that will encourage readers to visit genealogy, family history and family heirloom-related blogs they may have never seen before. Contestants will be required to visit each of the various partner blogs to obtain a special code. The code can be entered into the Heirloom Registry and will pull up a record that contains one of the “Words of the Day.” Every contestant that correctly sends all of the “Words of the Day” back to Houstory by the scheduled deadline will be entered to win the daily prize and be eligible for the grand prize drawing at the end of the contest.


The following blogs are sponsoring the hunt, and will be stops along the way. We are grateful for their support!

* GeneaBloggers

* Flip-Pal mobile scanner

* The Family Curator

* Marian’s Roots and Rambles

* 4YourFamilyStory.com

* DearMYRTLE’s Genealogy Blog

* DIY Del Ray

* Antique Trader

* The Chart Chick

* Genealogy Insider

* Revolutionary Voices

Flip-Pal mobile scanner

The Flip-Pal mobile scanner.


* Flip-Pal mobile scanner

* 4YourFamilyStory.com Research Plan Package (U.S. only)

* Zap the Grandma Gap (Book & Workbook), by Janet Hovorka

* Preserving Your Family Photographs, by Maureen A. Taylor

Antique Trader Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2013

* Warman’s Antiques & Collectibles 2014

* Family Tree Magazine 2012 Annual CD

* Plan Your Way to Research Success – Webinar-on-CD, with Marian Pierre-Louis

* How to Archive Family Keepsakes (electronic version), by Denise Levenick

* Heirloom Registry Standard Stickers (5-Pack)


There will more updates here in the coming days! Don’t miss out.

Access to Vital Records for Genealogists, Family Historians: Who, How and When to Ask?

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Founder

The following is the second part of a two-part series written by Houstory founder Mike Hiestand. Mike’s background in open records law is extensive: He worked as an attorney for more than two decades, helping journalists with their questions about access to government records and meetings.

In last week’s post, he provided general information regarding vital records research. This week, he’ll touch on the specifics of tracking down this valuable information for family historians and genealogists.

vital records, genealogy, family history

The first thing to know is that there is no national set of rules when it comes to vital records.

Providing specific information about access to vital records that applies across the board — in every state or territory — is simply not possible. Nevertheless, here are a few points to keep in mind:

Who to Ask

Requests for most public records can generally be made to the place where you think the records are kept. For example, if you’d like to see a copy of the health inspection of a particular restaurant in your town or an environmental impact study affecting your neighborhood, you should request those records from the County Health Department in the county where the restaurant is located or the state or federal agency that conducted the environmental tests. The same is often true for vital records — but not always. If you’re looking for a marriage certificate and you live near where you know the marriage was performed, it’s probably worth a phone call to that county clerk’s office. While they may not keep the record you’re looking for they should be able to direct you to the appropriate office (for example, a county court clerk.) However, a number of states have created Vital Records Offices or Agencies that are now responsible for collecting and managing access to vital records — either separately or in addition to the local record-keeper. A good resource for determining where vital records in a particular state are kept is maintained by Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Alternatively, you can just enter “Vital Records” and your state name (or you can even try your county name) into an Internet search engine to track down more information.


How to Ask

In many states, public records must be made available when they are asked for, either by mail, by phone or in person. Verbal requests in some of these states are valid. Other states require that you submit a written request. (You can find a nice, free automated form for requesting many public records here. (Full disclosure: I can say it’s nice because I helped create it years ago.)

Once again, however, obtaining vital records often requires you to play by different rules, which frequently includes requiring that you complete a specific agency form or that you provide specific identification that, as discussed above, proves you are someone with a direct and tangible interest.

While an increasing number of government agencies now offer online ordering services for vital records, in many cases states have made the private company VitalChek the authorized agency to provide such service. If you go the online route, just be aware that VitalCheck charges a service fee for the convenience, which is in addition to the regular fee charged by the state or local record-keeper.

Other companies are also stepping into the vital records business, so you may want to do a bit of research if you expect to need such information on an ongoing basis.


When to Ask

This is particularly frustrating as states truly are all over the map in establishing waiting periods — or not — when it comes to accessing vital records. Most states have waiting periods specified in their statutes for how long after an event you have to wait to request access to birth certificates and death certificates — but not all. A fairly common waiting period for birth certificates (unless the record is your own or you are the minor subject’s parent/guardian) is 100 years after the birth. Twenty-five years after death is a common waiting period for death certificates. Waiting periods for adoption records are even more varied, and frequently combined with other various exceptions and requirements. Waiting periods are less common for marriage and divorce records.

Still, trying to provide “standard” general information in this forum is an exercise in futility. In 2009, the Records Preservation and Access Committee of The Federation of Genealogical Societies and The National Genealogical Society compiled a list of states and their respective waiting periods, which may provide some help. Unfortunately, because state laws often include a dazzling array of exceptions and other stipulations, the list might not be the end of your research. A visit to your state’s Vital Records Office is probably the best first step.


How much does it cost?

You should expect to pay a fee to obtain a vital record. Open record statutes will either establish a standard fee schedule or, alternatively, allow an agency to charge a “reasonable fee.” One thing is clear: Providing public access to public documents is not supposed to be a money-making venture for the government. Unfortunately, as state and local governments have seen their budgets shrink, there has been an increasing tendency to raise fees for public records. Still, the law demands the fees be reasonable — which generally means the agency is entitled to recoup its actual costs for producing the record — and courts have sometimes stepped in to strike down particularly high fees as unreasonable. Vital records generally do have set fees, but those fees have also been rising in some states. The CDC Web site, mentioned above, includes some fee information.

Vital statistics records are part of the bread and butter of genealogists. While the rules can be frustrating, the information is generally available.

Navigating the Law: Access to Vital Records for Genealogy, Family History Research

gavelBy Mike Hiestand, Houstory Founder

The following is the first part of a two-part series written by Houstory’s Mike Hiestand on access to vital records for genealogists and family historians. Visit here for part two.

Mike’s background in open records law is extensive: He worked as an attorney for more than two decades, helping journalists with their questions about access to government records and meetings. He has spoken all over the country, written a book and produced various other resources to help journalists and others navigate state and federal freedom of information laws that, when used, can be highly effective tools for accessing government records and meetings.


Oddly, when giving a talk to folks on freedom of information law, some of the most frustrating questions I would receive concerned the particular subcategory of public records of most interest to genealogists: vital statistic records (or vital records). That is, records that document the important milestones that make up a person’s life: their birth, adoption, death, marriage and divorce. A person’s military service records are also sometimes lumped into the category of vital records.

Answering questions about vital records is frustrating because access to such basic public records should be so much simpler than it is. Increasingly, states are stepping in to implement rules they claim are meant to protect against fraud, identity theft or, in recent years, terrorism. The dangers vital records actually pose and the efficacy of the laws intended to curb such nebulous risks are matters of hot debate. The undeniable casualty of lawmakers’ meddling around, however, has been a user-friendly records system. Rarely does the current system lend itself to a quick answer. Unless you’ve memorized the rules of a particular state, you always have to look them up because there is not a lot of rhyme or reason — and certainly not a lot of consistency — that informs those rules.

The first thing to know is that there is no national set of rules. Vital records are local records that are governed by an individual state’s open records law. That means that while another person’s birth certificate might be available to you today in state “A,” that same record could be off limits in state “B.” (The rules for getting a copy of your own vital records are less stringent.)

According to a 2009 survey by the Records Preservation and Access Committee of The Federation of Genealogical Societies and The National Genealogical Society, “Birth record release dates range from 72 years [after birth] in Delaware (the same restricted period as the U.S. Census) to 125 years in Alaska. Death record release dates range from 25 years [after death] in Alabama and Texas to 50 years in a majority of states.”

As for adoption records, whose rules can get particularly gnarly, the same Committee found “nine percent of the states…allow access to this information for adoptees between eighteen and twenty-one years of age. Four states have open access with either higher year age restrictions or other regulations.”

Many state laws include rules about who may obtain a copy of a vital record. State laws often restrict access to those with a “direct and tangible interest.” (Or language similar in effect.) Way too often, the statute leaves that term undefined, which means it’s up to the government record-keeper (or eventually a judge if a dispute arises) to interpret and determine who has a direct and tangible interest.

Fortunately, lawmakers in other states have at least taken a stab at clarifying what the terms means. Hawaii, for instance, defines someone with a direct and tangible interest as including the following:

  1. Registrant
  2. Spouse of the registrant
  3. Parent of the registrant
  4. Descendant of the registrant
  5. Person having a common ancestor with the registrant
  6. Legal guardian of the registrant
  7. Person or agency acting on behalf of the registrant
  8. Personal representative of the registrant’s estate
  9. Person whose right to inspect is established by an order of a court of competent jurisdiction
  10. Adoptive parents who have filed a petition for adoption and who need to determine the death of one or more of the prospective adopted child’s natural or legal parents
  11. Person who needs to determine the marital status of a former spouse in order to determine the payment of alimony

Points (4) and (5) would cover the work of most individual genealogists researching their own family, but could leave genealogists and historians without a direct family tie scrambling.

Next week, Mike will discuss the specifics of tracking down vital records information for family historians and genealogists — including who, how and when to ask for the information.

How to Archive Family Keepsakes Blog Book Tour: Caring for Heirloom Clocks

Guest Post by Denise May Levenick, The Family Curator, author of How to Archive Family Keepsakes (Family Tree Books, 2012).

It’s not surprising that The Heirloom Registry was born when Dan and Mike Hiestand wanted to share the story of their heirloom grandfather clock. Watches, clocks, and timepieces of all shapes and sizes have been favorite family keepsakes for generations.

family heirlooms, family keepsakes, blog book tour, denise levenick, houstory, heirloom registry, family history, heirloom clocks, antique clocks

Denise Levenick, The Family Curator

Houstory Publishing and I share a common interest in preserving family treasures, and I’m delighted to share a few tips for clock care from my new book How to Archive Family Keepsakes with readers of The Houstory Hearth Blog.

Join the Blog Book Tour for How to Archive Family Keepsakes January 10-26, 2013 for author interviews, book excerpts, giveaways, and more. Visit the Blog Book Tour Page at The Family Curator website for the complete schedule.


Saving Time: Caring for Heirloom Clocks

Timepieces are one of the most popular family heirlooms passed on from generation to generation, and with proper care and regular maintenance you can help keep your keepsake watch or clock ticking well into the next century.

Most clocks consist of two distinct parts, the clock itself and the outer case. Grandfather clocks, cuckoo clocks, and mantle clocks are often made of wood and metal parts. Decorative clocks may be constructed from brass, bronze, marble, plastic, or other materials. Wristwatches, pocket watches, and ladies’ brooch watches are usually cased in silver, gold, or a combination of materials.

Denise Levenick, The Family Curator, Houstory, Heirloom Registry, family history, family heirlooms, family keepsakes

If your antique clock isn’t working or keeping the correct time, don’t try to repair or clean the interior workings yourself. Clock repair and maintenance is a specialized skill, and your local jeweler should be able to refer you to a certified clock repair shop. They can also show you how to wind the clock mechanism and recommend a routine for maintenance that will keep it good working order.

Many antique clocks and watches require daily attention to keep running, and this is often the best way to keep the timepiece in working order. Clocks should be cleaned and oiled every two to three years to avoid undue wear of moving parts. If your clock needs replacement parts that are no longer available, or the cost makes repair impractical, enjoy it as an heirloom decorative object.

Care for your clock will depend on its construction material:


Wooden Clocks

Like any fine wooden furniture, wooden clocks, are especially susceptible to swelling and shrinking from extreme fluctuations in temperature and humidity. They will do best in a room that is comfortable for everyday living, not too hot, too cold, nor too damp.

Treat wooden clocks as you would fine wooden furniture. Do not use aerosol furniture polish or waxes; instead dust regularly with a soft cloth and use solid paste wax annually to keep the wood clean and supple.

heirloom clock, family heirloom, family history

The grandfather clock that inspired The Heirloom Registry


Metal and Stone Clocks

Care for metal and stone cased clocks by dusting and polishing with a soft cloth.

Keep china figural clocks in a glass cabinet if possible to minimize dust and potential damage.

Most clocks contain metal working parts, and will benefit from a clean dry environment.

The best housekeeping is often a routine that is regular and minimally disturbing to the item itself. Keep your heirloom clock in a location where it can be enjoyed, yet is out of the path of likely damage. A living room or dining room can be a better choice than a family room filled with active children and pets.

Working or not, clocks are time-honored family heirlooms and a wonderful reminder of a family legacy.

Find more ideas for sorting and organizing inherited family treasures in How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia & Genealogy Records by Denise May Levenick (Family Tree Books, 2012).

Guest Post from How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia & Genealogy Records by Denise May Levenick (Family Tree Books, 2012). Copyright, 2012, Denise May Levenick. All Rights Reserved. 

How to Archive Family Keepsakes (Family Tree Books, 2012) ISBN 1440322236
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Join the Blog Book Tour for How to Archive Family Keepsakes January 10-26, 2013 for author interviews, book excerpts, giveaways, and more. Visit the Blog Book Tour Page at The Family Curator website for the complete schedule.

Proceeds from the sale of How to Archive Family Keepsakes during the Book Tour will help fund the 2013 Student Genealogy Grant founded in 2010 in honor of Denise’s mother, Suzanne Winsor Freeman.


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Each blog tour post comment gives you one chance to win; one entry per post per day, please. Leave a comment at each stop on the blog tour and increase your chances of winning. The lucky names will be announced each Saturday during the tour at The Family Curator.


About the Author

In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” Denise May Levenick is a writer, researcher, and speaker with a passion for preserving and sharing family treasures of all kinds. She is the creator of the award-winning family history blog, The Family Curator www.TheFamilyCurator.com and author of the new book How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia and Genealogy Records, (Family Tree Books, 2012).

New Year’s Resolution: Take Ten Minutes (and Two Bucks) to Preserve Family History Forever

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Founder

I’ve always loved radio. While I missed the so-called Golden Age of Radio in the 1930s and ‘40s, I’ve still always had the radio bug in me. From listening to the CBS Radio Mystery Theater with E.G. Marshall on my pocket transistor in my bedroom as a young boy to still enjoying “appointment radio” most Saturday evenings with Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, the medium has always called my name in a way television never has.
family heirloom, radio, heirloom registry, new year's resolution, houstory, family history

The large floor-model radio operated for several decades in the family-run hardware store in East Chicago.

I think that’s why my in-laws thought about me about 25 years ago when they acquired a 1930s-era radio from my mother-in-law’s grandfather. The large floor-model radio operated for several decades in the family-run hardware store in East Chicago, Indiana where it would have certainly played hundreds of Chicago Cub games, broadcast war news from Edward R. Murrow through Chicago’s CBS affiliate WBBM and alerted shoppers looking for a particular nut or bolt of the death of John F. Kennedy. My mother-in-law, now in her late 70s, says she remembers the radio well from when she was a young girl visiting the store.

The radio completed its service in the mid-1980s and was removed by my in-laws shortly before the old store was torn down.

The radio still works, but since it only plays AM radio well — which I have reason to listen to less and less — I don’t turn it on too often. Still, it is an attractive piece and it has been in our house since before both of our daughters were born.

For my daughters – who I’m not sure even know AM radio exists – it’s simply been a part of their day-to-day lives. It’s a place to drop their books, or to store our outgoing mail as they walk past it every day on their way out the front door.

I’ve touched on the story of the radio a few times, but let’s be honest, when you’re a teenager, family genealogy and stories about relatives — most of whom are now gone and they’ll never met — isn’t a high priority.

But, if they’re like most of us, someday it will be.

And our radio, like all family heirlooms, is a tangible, real — and touchable — piece of family history that brings to life a story in a way that simply looking at a family tree and seeing their great-great grandfather’s name “Joseph Wadas” never will.

Joseph was a first-generation immigrant from Poland who arrived in his late teens.  He is my daughter’s link to a big part of their family’s start in the “New Country,” and this radio came from the store that truly was part of his American Dream.  While I don’t know the exact date the radio was acquired, I presume his fingers worked the well-worn dials and permanent radio presets (it looks like radio station WLS was a particular favorite, as you can barely just make those call letters out.) Over the years, those same dials were definitely much-used by Joseph’s son, Walter, who took over the store when Joseph died and probably touched by their great grandpa and their much-loved grandma as well.

So, for them, it’s not just another old radio. But without its story, that’s exactly what it would be.

Fortunately, I know the story (or at least the parts I’ve been told). So this morning I permanently recorded that story at The Heirloom Registry. First, I attached a durable, permanent sticker to the backside of the radio, which includes a unique registration number and the Registry’s Web address. (You can purchase stickers from the THR Web site or even make your own if you just want to purchase a registration number and save a buck.)

I then spent about ten minutes writing its history — its provenance as they say in fancier circles — and uploaded a couple of photos of the radio showing it in its present location (because that is certainly also part of its story.) I also made a mental note to try and get a copy of a photo of Joseph (and perhaps even the hardware store) the next time we visit my wife’s parents so that I can upload as well.

And, truly, that was that. Once I acquired a registration number and recorded the radio’s story, there was nothing more that I ever had to do and there’s nothing more that I ever have to pay. As long as the sticker (or metal plate, which you can also purchase) is attached to the radio, its story will travel with it for anyone to pull up and see. I actually felt some relief when I finished. I’ve always felt a modest sense of obligation, as the owner of the radio — and keeper of its story — to make sure it was preserved and shared with future generations. And now, with an investment of ten minutes and two bucks, it is.

To see the Heirloom Registry entry, including photos, for the radio, visit www.heirloomregistry.com and enter registration number: SNTS-256-996-3497-2012


In 2013, Houstory’s goal is to tell your stories – the stories of home. Do you have family heirlooms with a story? We want to share your family history with our readers. And make sure to follow us at Facebook, where we will be posting your “Houstories” all year long.  And please comment and share if you like what we have written!