The Houstory Hearth Herd – July 2014

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

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I’m curious: Were you born before 1946? In other words, are you a “pre-Baby Boomer?”

During the past few years, there have been an array of reports that have attempted to grasp how much wealth pre-baby boomers — those born before 1946 — are going to pass down to their kids and grandkids.

While all agree the number will set a new record for “intergenerational transfers,” the estimates are surprisingly varied, ranging from $25 trillion to $136 trillion according to one study.

Chances are, if you are in that pre-’46 demographic, you are not only passing down money, but also valuable possessions — including family heirlooms. And if you are not passing them down, you may be — gasp! — trying to sell them for a profit, or simply giving them away.

This month, I’ve included a link to a radio interview that discusses how challenging the market for selling and even giving away old furniture has become.

Now, I’d like to present my case for how The Heirloom Registry can help increase your odds of successfully parting with your treasured — but now unneeded — older furniture.

* Imagine a future Saturday spent antiquing with a friend or spouse. You are looking for a table. You see three tables, all essentially of the same look and quality. But one has an Heirloom Registry ID tag. You pull out your smart phone (or simply jot down the ID number), go to and pull up the story behind the table. In a few seconds, you see this particular table was owned by a family in Central Texas that used to invite single war veterans over for Sunday dinner during the early ’50s. After eating dinner on this very table, they would often play cards, the registration says, “well into the night.” In fact, I don’t have to imagine: That is the story behind our table. And, after I spoke to the owner we bought it from, it’s all documented. If I had pressed (and I probably should have), perhaps the owner could have provided a black and white photo of the table — circa early 1950s — showing one of these gatherings. Perhaps with some of the people in the photo identified. It took me under 15 minutes to permanently tell the story of my table, which now includes a couple sentences — and a 2011 photo — about how it made its way to Oregon with my wife and I.  As you look at my future table on consignment in some future antique store full of people that care about history do you think my table — which otherwise looks just like the others — might have an edge? I’ll let you answer. 🙂

With that said, I know not everyone cares for stories. In fact, I’d say most people don’t. But for the few that “get it,” it makes a big difference. I’m guessing you care, or you probably wouldn’t still be reading.

Take the poll below, and let us know what you think.

online poll by Opinion Stage

Now, on to The Herd….

What is “The Hearth Herd.” It’s simply 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. The Herd’s content will be confined 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


Author: PreservationNation Blog

TitleCityLove: Meet Seattle

Herd-Worthy Because: Just showing my hometown some love. I’ve got a lot of pride in the Emerald City. This just gives me another reason. “Seattle really is green…Thinking about green in a preservation context, Seattle also has some great examples of medium- and large-scale adaptive reuse.” Oh, and “Go Hawks!”



Author: NPR’s Tell Me More

TitleIn a Tough Market for Old Furniture, Manage Your Expectations

Herd-Worthy Because: Hmmm, so it’s tough to sell your old furniture? And you need every advantage you can get to make it special? Sounds like a job for The Heirloom Registry. If people know the stories behind your items, that may be the difference bringing home the green or not.


Author: Monsters & Critics

TitleBob Dylan’s Musical Keepsakes Worth Millions

Herd-Worthy Because: The answer, my friend, is somewhere underneath your bed. Or maybe stuffed into the closet. Perhaps the attic?


Author: The Smithsonian

TitleThe Descendants of Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison Donate Family Heirlooms to the Smithsonian

Herd-Worthy Because: Apparently, some pretty amazing Civil War-era objects spent about 100 years in an attic. And now, their storied past will give them a new life in a very public space. Umm…cool.


Author: (Alabama)

TitleIdeas for Heirlooms: Wedding planners offer unique ways to incorporate something old into your big day

Herd-Worthy Because: For anyone who loves family heirlooms and is planning for that special day…


Author: The Huffington Post

TitleA Dying Man’s Touching Farewell

Herd-Worthy Because:  A man, dying of cancer, sends a farewell e-mail to friends and family as he tries to get his affairs in order. As someone who believes very strongly in living obits, and taking care of family heirloom designations and stories while you are still alive, this story struck me. Find out what happened.


Author: NPR’s The Takeaway

Title: Student Pallbearers Serve the Underprivileged

Herd-Worthy Because: “Burying the dead, these students learn that every person is worthy of dignity and care, a lesson that makes them more conscious of how they treat the living.” In our opinion, dignity starts with story. And every person has a story.


Author: Dick Eastman

TitleHow They Made Books in 1947”

Herd-Worthy Because: This video reminds me of the process we use for the Home History Book. What can we say?We like well-made books.


Author: Dick Eastman

TitleUSGS Historical Topographic Map Explorer

Herd-Worthy Because: If genealogy guru Dick Eastman says,” This has to be one of the best tools I have seen for finding old maps,” then we in the Houstory Nation are paying attention. Sounds like a great tool for house history, eh?


Referrer: Megan Smolenyak

TitleBBC’s The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window of Britain’s past

Herd-Worthy Because: Here is the synopsis of this BBC series: “Whether exploring London or Scotland, the series does an incredible job of connecting people to places, of teasing out emotions from architecture, of reminding us that buildings and streets are the locations for our own happiest and saddest moments.” Sometimes, I wish I had cable. Or, more specifically, the BBC. One of our favorite UK architectural historians, Melanie Backe-Hansen, is also mentioned prominently in the article.


Until we “Herd” again…



The Houstory Hearth Herd – June 2014

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

Connect with me at LinkedIn!

As a kid, I remember we’d often go to my grandparent’s house on Lopez Island in Washington state. It was a magical place. Sometimes, to save money, we’d leave our car and go on foot. When we arrived at the ferry landing after an hourlong ferry ride from the mainland, my grandparents — who lived about 20 minutes away on the shores of Fisherman’s Bay — would be there to pick us up, and off we’d go.


family heirlooms, Jewish Daily Forward

Photo courtesy of The Jewish Daily Forward

My grandfather was a fantastic driver and wasn’t afraid to whip around the winding corners of the island in a spurt of Volkswagen Rabbit-powered speed. Along the way, not far from the landing, I remember an old, wooden, graying house rotting in a vacant, grassy field.

Because of its state of disrepair and isolated location, it was a property that inspired conversation that often was saturated with ghosts, dead bodies and terror of all kinds. I don’t know if that house is still there (as of eight years ago, it was), but I will always regret not peering inside to seek out clues as to what stories it held.

This week, one of our stories — a radio show called “House on Loon Lake” by This American Life — features the story of kids who did go into “that house.” Not only is the house history revealed, but also the stories of the former residents — as relayed through abandoned family heirlooms.

This month’s Herd also includes a number of stories from the United Kingdom, some tragic and some that make you cringe.

Finally, make sure to check out the Jewish Daily Forward article that traced the stories behind 15 truly interesting family heirlooms.

On that note, we challenge you to consider if you are saving these stories for the future. After all, legacy is not about you. It’s about who comes after. Because if you don’t, who will? Am I right or am I right?

Ned Ryerson, Groundhog Day (:55 seconds): “Am I right or am I right? Or am I right? Am I right?”

What is “The Hearth Herd.” It’s simply 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. The Herd’s content will be confined 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

HERD-HouseHistoryAuthor: Mail Online (UK)

TitleLand a D-Day home: Historic houses are being sold on the strength of their wartime connections

Herd-Worthy Because: Where do you fall? Do war stories sell properties? This article seems to hit folks the wrong way. What do you think?


Author: PreservationNation Blog

TitleMilk Bottle Buildings of Southeast Massachusetts

Herd-Worthy Because: Oddly shaped buildings of yesteryear combined with dairy product culture…what’s not to like?


AuthorNick Barratt

Title: “How to research the history of your home (UK)

Herd-Worthy Because: Great tips from a well-known house historian on the other side of the pond from Houstory.


AuthorThis American Life 

TitleHouse on Loon Lake

Extra: For photos, visit this Flickr Page!

Herd-Worthy Because: One of my favorite TAL episodes that was recently re-aired. How can it not be with quotes like this? “I was 13 years old and I had a crush on a house.”


Author: Asbury Park Press (NJ)

TitleNew exhibit – The History of Houses and the Things that Make Them Home

Herd-Worthy Because: This could have been in either the family heirloom section, or the house history section. Either way, it belongs.


AuthorGreen Building Press

TitleHistoric house cuts energy consumption by 90 percent

Herd-Worthy Because: Older doesn’t have to mean inefficient.

HERD-FamilyHeirloomsAuthor: Associated Press

TitleHeirlooms’ value shifts from sentiment to cash

Herd-Worthy BecauseFolks just aren’t holding on to family heirlooms the way they used to. Do you agree?


Author: Post-Bulletin (Rochester, Minn.)

TitleBasement treasure needs a home

Herd-Worthy Because: I just thought it was kinds of a cool classified section advertisement found within the confines of the newspaper. I wonder if anyone ever acted on it?


Author: Newcastle Herald (AUS)

Title: “Keepsakes for lost babies

Herd-Worthy Because: A touching, gentle reminder of young lives lost.


Author: The Jewish Daily Forward

TitleThe Things We Carried – The Heirlooms That Tell Our Stories

Herd-Worthy Because: Family heirlooms. 15 stories. Soup spoons, candlesticks and Torrah Scrolls…


Until we herd again…




Washington coast antique store full of stories

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

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I went to a presentation a few weeks ago that featured Annie Leonard, author and founder of The Story of Stuff.  The Story of Stuff, if you haven’t heard of it, is an organization that effectively uses video to examine the ways we, as a culture, manufacture, use, and often throw away stuff.

The Story of Stuff message, while perhaps not as personal, is very similar to what Houstory is trying to convey. The Story of Stuff looks at issues from a much more global perspective, examining not so much the individual stories associated with the things we manufacture and buy, but the systemic environmental and economic burdens our throwaway culture places on the planet.

Interestingly, Annie said she can’t look at simple objects anymore without thinking of their provenances.  For example (and I’m paraphrasing), a simple faucet has myriad parts. The handle, the stem, the screws that keep it together. Where was the brass mined? In which factory did the threaded spindle get manufactured? These stories are ever-present in how she views the world and objects within it.

In much the same way, I ponder the stories of the things I see everyday as well. For example, I can’t walk down the street without seeing a house and wondering who lived there. Or if I’m visiting a friend’s house or browsing through an antique store, I can’t help but question who owned the objects I’m seeing, and what their stories were?

the simpsons, antiques

Who once owned this Chia Homer? A mystery remains…

Recently, I visited an antique store on the Washington coast. And, as per norm, I saw history and stories everywhere I turned. Today, I’m going to share a small glimpse of what I encountered in the form of a short video. For purposes of time, I focused on popular culture-type items. I hope you enjoy!

Do you ever wonder about the stories behind your stuff? Let us know what you think. Leave a short comment, send an e-mail to info (at) houstory (dot) com, say hello on our Facebook page or send us a Tweet.

Junk vs family heirloom: How do you determine?

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

This week, I’d like to open up the floor to ask the question: How do you filter the clutter from the keepsakes?

I’ve seen this topic posted many times around online family heirloom communities, most recently in December in Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. (On a VERY related note, check out the Family Curator blog after you read this article. Denise Levenick has lots of great tips related to this).

For me, growing up as an Air Force brat, I moved three times. Compared to the transient nature of my four other brothers -— and particularly my oldest brother (and Houstory founder) Mike — this was nothing. He’s lived in more than a half dozen states.

My list was short: Alabama, Alaska, Washington state, done.

Since then, I’ve made up for lost time, living in a variety of places throughout the country and in Asia. Because of the lifestyle my wife and I have chosen (constant travel, shallow roots), moving has been both an expectation and a challenge.

However, one thing we both have no interest in is accumulating a lot of stuff. Our life plan is to move every few years, dabbling with new experiences and new locales. The last thing we desire is a bunch of items we don’t really need, want or have room for in the moving pod.

clutter, keepsake, family heirloom houstory, heirloom registry

Take a picture of your little “items.” This will save space, but the memories will be intact.

This has been a constant challenge because I’m the sentimental type, and a big fan of nostalgia. Every time we re-visit a town where we have lived, I have to go back and see the “old apartment,” or check out the corner grocery store where we shopped. My wife? Not so much. I’m the same way — to a degree — with my personal possessions. Particularly the ones with stories.

But even I have limits. You can only fill so many shoeboxes with knick-knacks before you have to say “enough is enough.” The main reason I like to preserve items is because they trigger memories (and I have a HORRIBLE memory), which explains why I was one of the founders of The Heirloom Registry. The true value in family heirlooms, in my opinion, are the stories they are associated with and the family history they help to draw forth.

So, what to do? One little trick I’ve turned to is taking pictures of things I don’t really have room for, but still want to remember. This saves space, but also keeps my  sad excuse for a memory from failing.

What do you do to save space? Do you even have this problem? Give others Houstorians who may be drowning in possessions advice!

Holiday houses, holiday heirlooms

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory

A few weeks ago, we asked you to send in photos of your favorite holiday heirlooms, or smartly decorated holiday houses. The following is a sampling of a few submissions. If you want us to add a few more, simply e-mail photos to info (at), or post your image to our Facebook page.

christmas, holidays, family heirloom

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NPR’s Planet Money: ‘Stuff’ has a story

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory

Despite the rain, cold and touch of snow that have set up shop in my community of Eugene, Oregon over the past month, I still enjoy a good bike ride. It was on one of these recent treks, zipping along a trail that shadows the snow-fed waters of the Willamette River, that I heard an fascinating story on National Public Radio’s Planet Money.

Planet Money, T-Shirt, NPR, Houstory

Now, I’m the first to admit that the show’s major topic — the economy — is not typically something I’m interested in. Investments, taxes, mortgages…these are all a great big “yuck” in my book. However, the program has turned these seemingly mundane subjects into ear candy by revealing the hidden stories within the stories. In a lot of ways, I think of it like Freakonomics for your ears.

And like any good storyteller, they put a digestible (human) spin on complex issues. The program segment that recently grabbed my attention was a piece about the manufacturing of a T-shirt. Interestingly, the story protagonist was the T-Shirt itself: Planet Money ordered two sets of the shirt adorned with the show’s logo, and followed the garment’s creation from start (cotton fields in the southern United States) to production (factories in Columbia and Bangladesh) to finish (the customer). One shirt was made for men, the other for women.

Preserve, conserve, #nomorestuff


The story is laden with on-the-scene anecdotes, and peppered with astonishing facts, including:

* 13,000 bales of cotton is the equivalent of 9.4 million T-shirts.

* There are 6 miles of yarn in a single Planet Money T-shirt

* The workers who made the Planet Money T-shirt in Bangladesh were making about $80 a month

* 32 people make about 80 shirts per hour in Bangladesh. One sewing line in Colombia had eight people and made about 140 T-shirts per hour.

These facts, coupled with personal, insightful interviews with folks who work the production lines, provided a reminder that essentially everything we own has a creation story that includes actual human beings. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s way too easy to forget that.

What does this have to do with Houstory, The Home History Book archival journal and The Heirloom Registry? Well, nothing and everything.

The nothing is pretty obvious, so we’ll skip that.

Now, onto the everything. This month, as part of its  “No More Stuff/Preserve. Conserve” campaign, Houstory is asking you to slow down, and truly consider what you buy during this season of consumption and giving because not all products are created — or valued — equally.

As this story suggests, product manufacturing is a complicated business. Good (job creation, increased economic opportunities) combines with bad (environmental degradation, unsafe working conditions) more often than not.

I am not proposing that all consumption is bad, or that consumers should dump all that modern life offers and live in a Hobbit Hole. What I’m saying is that this complicated relationship should, at the very least, make us pause before we simply make a purchase online or at the store.

Well, enough about Hobbit Holes and T-shirts. Check out the Planet Money show, and let us know what you think!

Want to make your grandma mad at you?

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Director

Below is a picture of my grandma. We called her Gommy. Some of you may remember her from a post I wrote about a cookbook that was handed down to me that she was featured in. I thought this picture was priceless.

I’m encouraging you to heed Gommy’s words: Save the stories behind your family heirlooms. Take advantage of being around family members during the holidays who can fill in the blanks regarding the precious pieces of your family history. Your distant heirs will thank you for it someday.

grandma, heirlooms



Need to get in grandma’s good graces? Simply follow the recipe below.


family history, heirlooms, family heirlooms

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.

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!