‘Corner Houstories’ is our attempt to reach you, The Houstory Nation, on the street and communicate your stories of home. With your help, we can also inspire others to save their stories and remind them why it’s important to do so. Oh—and I think we can also have some fun!
Yours truly at Antiques Roadshow,when the PBS TV program visited Corpus Christie, Texas, in 2012. Man, look how excited I was to be there!
When we say, “the stories of home,” we mean it. What makes a house a home? When was it built? Who has lived in it? What has happened within its walls? What do you know about the precious belongings—the family heirlooms—within its walls?
Unlike single-dimensional, statistical information such as dates of birth and census information, these physical elements—the places we live, the walls we build and the objects we touch—have clear and powerful connections to our past.
In other words, to know grandma was born in Pittsburgh in 1911 is important.
To flip through the kitchen-stained pages of grandma’s favorite cookbook with her handwritten notes is transcendental.
The object, whether it’s a house or a family heirloom, is a connection point.
With that in mind, our new project, “Corner Houstories,” is about as simple as it gets: We are going to randomly ask people on the street—maybe even on street corners—about the stories of their homes. Everyone has them, no matter how boring they think their lives may be. You just need to ask the right questions
Q: What is something now in your home that your mother gave you?
Q: In which room do you spend most of your time in your home? Why?
Q: What’s one item you no longer have that you wish you still had?
Q: Do you own a chair in your home that someone famous sat in?
Q: What’s an item you would like to get rid of but can’t or won’t because of guilt?
These questions will spawn more questions and more answers. These are the stories of home.
It never ceases to amaze us how often we hear people say that their stories are either nonexistent or not worth sharing. We beg to differ.
To kick things off, I’m posting a video I took when Antiques Roadshow visited Corpus Christie, Texas. It was 2012 and I was living in Austin at the time. What you’ll see are some of the stories of home that people shared with me about the family heirlooms they brought to the event.
We were in Texas, right?
World War II memorabilia, carved monkeys, antique tables, china sets, swords…it was all there. And so were the stories. Stayed tuned for more Corner Houstories.
Let us know what you think. After that, fax your aunt and uncle and tell them how the Houstory Hearth changed your life and helped you lose more than 30 pounds in just six months. Or you can just leave a comment.
On this this third episode of “Houstories: The Stories of Home” podcast (entitled “Origins”), we pack up for a weekend trip. Not just any trip, though: My first hunting trip. Initially, my goal is to discover the origins of the food I eat by going to the source (in this case small game in Central Oregon). However, along the way, I discover the origins of a unique family cabin constructed with nearly 100 percent recycled materials!
A shell casing near the homestead.
Sense a theme here? Make sure to check out the pictures later in this post to see images from a very interesting weekend.
Paul Bloom spoke of, “The Origins of Pleasure” in a TED Talk several years ago (see video link in this article). In it, he talked about the pleasure — and often monetary value — associated with knowing the story behind objects.
“So one reason why you might like something is its utility,” he said. “You can put shoes on your feet; you can play golf with golf clubs; and chewed up bubble gum doesn’t do anything at all for you.But each of these three objects has valueabove and beyond what it can do for youbased on its history.The golf clubs were owned by John F. Kennedyand sold for three-quarters of a million dollars at auction.The bubble gum was chewed up by pop star Britney Spearsand sold for several hundreds of dollars.And in fact, there’s a thriving marketin the partially eaten food of beloved people.(Laughter)The shoes are perhaps the most valuable of all.According to an unconfirmed report,a Saudi millionaire offered 10 million dollarsfor this pair of shoes. They were the ones thrown at George Bushat an Iraqi press conference several years ago.”
Without a doubt, origin stories are powerful (and often times valuable) things.
We also asked our good friend Denise Levenick, aka The Family Curator, five questions that have nothing to do with family history, genealogy, family heirlooms or house history. The way she performed, I’m pretty sure she’s done this before. Well played, Denise!
Denise Levenick, The Family Curator
Mike also told you of his “Tinker Tour” adventures, and his eventual path to the Playboy Mansion, where he hand-delivered a Home History Book to one of the most famous homes on Planet Earth. You can read about both of these here.
Finally, if you like what you hear on our podcast and you have a spare moment, would you mind giving us a good review on iTunes?
LISTEN HERE! WELL, NOT HERE. JUST BELOW. YOU GET THE POINT.
View of the “Outhouse Resort” homestead from afar…
A view from the outside…
Up the ladder to the…outhouse?
Vegas in Oregon…
Saturday night hunting…
Back-to-school ideas for budding family historians
If it’s September, it’s back to school: learning new things, meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, it’s also the beginning of the end of long summer days and the return to more indoor activities.
With this in mind — and the perfect “genealogy weather” on the horizon — Mike and I thought it would be a good time to see what sort of educational resources exist (particularly those aimed at kids) that might spark an interest in learning about their family history, helping them feel connected to the bigger picture and their place in it.
As the folks at Family Search note, “Many people desire to know where they come from, but a sense of belonging is especially important for children and youth. A knowledge about their family history gives children of all ages a sense of their place in the world.”
Not surprisingly, Family Search is one of our favorite resources for inspiring budding family historians. While the site is large and contains a number of helpful resources, a good starting place is their Youth Wiki Page where they’ve listed several activities and loads of resources. Many of the activities are aimed at stimulating discussion between generations while such sharing can still occur. It’s a theme we talk about frequently at Houstory. It includes such things a list of basic questions a young person can ask when interviewing an older ancestor.
Another useful site is Family Tree Kids!hosted by our friends at Family Tree magazine. The site includes a “Junior Toolkit” with links to basic family tree forms that kids can use to trace their roots and instructions, tips for making a family reunions “kid friendly” and — as Halloween approaches — instructions for creating a tombstone rubbing. The site also includes information about resources aimed at parents and teachers.
And since we’re all about telling the story of important family stuff (aka family heirlooms), we especially liked the “My Family! My Story!” Genealogy Project Series created by the Victoria Genealogical Society, which includes tips for preserving the stories of family keepsakes. As FamilySearch notes, for young people especially, “holding something that once belonged to an ancestor can be a powerful experience. Pictures and heirlooms make the past come alive.”
Send us your obits contest!
Finally, we still challenge listeners to send us a paragraph of your own obit! Yes, your living obituary — just like the one I penned for my father-in-law. If we read your words on air during our next podcast, we will send you a pack of Heirloom Registry labelsso you can preserve and pass on the stories of your family heirlooms. Send those entries to info (at) houstory (dot) com. (If you just want to inspire others, but would prefer we not use your real name when reading it, let us know.)
Herd-Worthy Because: Planning ahead isn’t just about end-of-life care or estate planning. Think to the very end and become plant food! “Composting makes people think of banana peels and coffee grounds..(but) our bodies have nutrients. What if we could grow new life after we’ve died?”
Herd-Worthy Because: Family stories connect us to loved ones, the past, and each other. The New England Historic Genealogy Society invites you to Share the Story of a Lifetime at our 2015 Family History Day on Saturday, October 3, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sheraton Boston Hotel. This day of lectures, demonstrations, and consultations with genealogical experts will help you learn about essential resources and delve deeper into your family history. Visit AmericanAmerican.org/FHD to register and learn more about the day’s events. Special offers available for members, students, and groups. Presented byAmerican Ancestors(NEHGS), with the special participation.
Author: The Weekly Genealogist, a publication of the New England Historic Genealogy Society
Herd-Worthy Because: “Mayes came up with his 14 reasons by making site visits to historic places, reading articles and books on the subject and conducting interviews with people outside the preservation field — people such as archaeologists, architects, historians, artists, developers, writers and businessmen.”
So we’ve been getting a few questions regarding our podcast. Specifically, how often episodes will be produced and when they will be released.
We are planning on coming out with new episodes about once every three months (quarterly). The next episode is scheduled for early-mid September 2015. On a related note, we are happy that we’ve gotten good reviews so far, and really do appreciate the kind words! If you like what you hear and you have a spare moment, would you mind giving us a good review on iTunes?
And please, let us know if you have a family heirloom or house with a story. Or maybe you know someone else with these types of stories? We’d love to chat with you (or them) on our podcast. Your words may inspire others to save the stories that are so important to family history.
P.S.: Good news! There is still time to enter our multiple contests (if you are reading this before June 1, 2015). For more details on how to win, visit last month’s Herd.
So I belong to a local Toastmasters group in Eugene, Oregon. I joined the club to work on my communication skills (giving speeches, making presentations, producing podcasts, etc.).
The meeting allows members a chance to speak on a variety of topics in an effort to improve, and one subject that was recently presented to me was this biggie: “What is your favorite place in the world.” Well, I could list off a lot of places I love, but the one that came to mind was a location that held an important place in my family history called Granite Creek Campground, near Anchorage, Alaska. It was an oasis for me growing up, a campground that brings back memories of catching my first fish and action-packed getaways with my family.
Dan and Dad in Klamath Falls, Oregon.
To me, I remember Granite Creek felt like home. If you want to know more about me and my life path, you need to know about Granite Creek and its importance in my personal history.
The second episode of our new Houstories podcast examines a similar concept: What places do you connect with family history? For this episode, we travel to Klamath Falls, Oregon., to delve deeper into the topic. That’s where I have a chance find out a little bit more about what makes my dad tick. How? He lived there 60-plus years ago as a little kid, and I recently joined him and his brother (my Uncle John) on a journey to learn a little bit more about their connection to the area.
In this episode, my brother Mike and I also chat about one woman’s unique and humorous approach to preserving her legacy in the face of battling a terminal illness.
Finally, we ask Allison Dolan of Family Tree Magazine penetrating questions about life outside of genealogy, including the longest she has gone without bathing. (Thank you for being a good sport, Allison!)
Yes, it is mostly fun and games at Houstory. Speaking of games, Allison has graciously offered to give away Denise Levenick’s new book, “How to Archive Family Photos.” If it is anything like her outstanding book, “How to Archive Family Keepsakes,” you will learn much from The Family Curator.
To enter the drawing for a chance to win her book, send us an email at info (at) houstory.com telling us who taught Dan’s dad to play basketball. [Hint 1: The answer is in the podcast!] [Hint 2: It’s between the 12:12 — 15:15 minute mark.] Winner will be randomly selected from among the correct entries. One entry per person, please. Final entries due May 31.
And for those of you who want to start saving your stories of home, send us your obituary. Yes, you heard that correctly.
Give us one paragraph telling us what you liked to do while you were alive (hobbies, interests, etc.). Yes, your living obituary — just like the one I penned for my father-in-law. If we read your words on air during our next podcast, we will send you a pack of Heirloom Registry labelsso you can preserve and pass on the stories of your family heirlooms. Send those entries to info (at) houstory (dot) com. (If you just want to inspire others, but would prefer we not use your real name when reading it, let us know.)
Finally, make sure to check out the links we mentioned in the podcast with our Herd stories at the end of this post, as well as photos of Dan’s Klamath Falls trip. And of course listen to the podcast, too.
When was the last time you poured yourself a nice beverage, settled into a comfortable chair, turned off all the lights, closed your eyes … and turned on the radio? There is something truly powerful and wonderful about this oft overlooked medium of yesteryear.
Mike (top) and Dan: The Houstory Brothers. Family heirlooms, historic houses, family history and structured goofyness.
In many ways, radio broadcasts free us of the boundaries that television and more visual mediums inherently create. Much like reading books devoid of pictures and art, radio allows us to use our imagination. When you listen to a ballgame, you can imagine what the player looks like when they slide into second base. Or when you tune into a radio mystery, it’s your choice whether the murderer has a mustache or not, or is dark-haired or bald.
Imagination is truly freedom to create entire worlds.
Today, Houstory is proud to introduce the first episode of “Houstories: The Stories of Home” podcast (SEE BELOW TO PLAY FROM ON-PAGE PLAYER). For those of you who don’t know what a podcast is, I think the easiest explanation is this: radio played over your computer (as opposed to, well, your radio). Have a topic you are interested in? There is most likely a podcast about it — including ours.
A description of our podcast:“Ever noticed a house and wondered what it would say if its walls could talk? Been in an antique store and tried to imagine where the object had been previously? This podcast is for you and the voices in your head. Brothers Mike and Dan, founders of Houstory and maker of The Heirloom Registry and The Home History Book, are your hosts. Family heirlooms, historic houses, family history and structured goofyness.”
You can listen below.
For a quick tutorial on what podcasts are and how to access them, check out this video (done by Ira Glass for the incredibly popular “Serial” podcast) for a little more information. It’s kind of awesome.
We are very proud of this effort. However, like any new endeavor, it may take a few episodes to get out the kinks and find our “voice.” Rest assured, we will. I hope you take a few minutes to give it a shot, and then to let us know what you think.
Keep in mind we can only improve with your feedback.
In case you have a fever and the only prescription is more Gamwell House information, scroll to the bottom of the page for 20 more minutes of bonus audio on this beautiful historic home.
Finally, a favor or three:
1) If you like our podcast, please share the link of this Web page with your friends and sign up to subscribe to Houstories by simply adding your e-mail address next to the podcast feed logo (see below for what it looks like) on the sidebar of this blog.
2) Leave us a comment. We need to hear from you if we are going to continue this effort, so speak up Houstory Nation!
Welcome to the first edition of The Houstorian’s Hearth blog, and thanks for visiting.
Let’s just get this out of the way right now: This may be the only posting for a little while, as we are not quite ready to poke our heads out of the door on a regular basis just yet. But, soon enough, we will be regularly updating it with information on all things home genealogy, including but not limited to: historical preservation (specifically regarding property and documents), historical home real estate listings, home genealogy conferences, contests, events, scrap booking, book binding, the latest in home history research information and technology, renovation and construction practices as related to home genealogy…you get the picture.