#NoMoreStuff: 5 Steps to Conquer Thanksgiving (and Holiday) Tension

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Sales and Marketing Guy

Well, it’s that time of year again: Our 2016 #NoMoreStuff Campaign kickoff! What is the #NoMoreStuff Campaign, you ask?

Simple: Our effort to encourage people to re-think the relationship they have with the objects and things that surround them before they head out holiday shopping for things they may not really need or even truly want. Things like, I dunno, family heirlooms.


no more stuff, #nomorestuff

Last year, our official kickoff was #WhiteFriday (the day after Thanksgiving). This was our direct response to #BlackFriday. As part of our message, we encouraged people to stay home with family and chat about family history (with actual family!) instead of getting in hand-to-hand combat over “Little Live Pets ‘Snuggles My Dream Puppy’ Playsets.”

So, let’s fast forward to 2016.

This year, it’s safe to say Thanksgiving dinner in the U.S. will be pretty interesting for many families. Lots of important conversations to be had.

And quite honestly, I hope you all have deep, challenging interactions with friends and family because we absolutely need meaningful, authentic conversation that include lots of listening and throughful dialogue—now more than ever.

However, it can’t all be serious stuff, right? If you want or need a break—if even for a few minutes—we have a possible nonpartisan solution: focus on family history.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Eat.
  2. Clear the table.
  3. Place five (5) family heirlooms in the center of the table.
  4. Share all the information you can about each heirloom. Go around the table and join forces in this effort.
  5. Then, document these stories using our free Heirloom Registry Registration Sheet. If you want to save these stories permanently online and label each object with a unique Heirloom Registry ID number (and even take a picture of the people sitting at the table that you can attach with the online entry), purchase these at www.houstory.com.

For extra credit: take pictures of doing #NoMoreStuff-y like things and post them online using the #NoMoreStuff and #WhiteFriday hashtags. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, too.

And remember: one thing that will always bring families together, regardless of differing beliefs, values and vision is…family.


At least it’s worth a shot, right?

If you want to learn more about the origins of our #NoMoreStuff campaign, I invite you to check out our post from December 2012. Thanks!


Memories, Memorial Day and Stuff – Including One Very Used Pasta Pot

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Founder

Dan and I are both in transit this week. Dan is setting up a new home in Portland, Ore., where his wife will begin another temporary assignment as a traveling speech therapist and I’m in Miami where I’m helping my daughter create a new home from scratch after being accepted two weeks ago from a wait list into the physical therapy program of her dreams – with the provision that she be ready to start class five days later. If you look at a map of the U.S. and put one finger on Miami, Fla., and the other on Ferndale, Wash., – well, you’ll see that creates quite the adventure.


Uncle Tom

But given it’s Memorial Day – and Houstory is a company created to honor and preserve memories and home – I thought I’d share just a few words about the powerful memories created by stuff.

My uncle, Thomas Walsh, is one of those we will be remembering this Memorial Day. He was killed in Vietnam in September 1966 when the plane he was piloting was shot down. He had just arrived in Vietnam a month or so before. He was my mom’s older brother and her only sibling. In addition to my mom and her family, my Uncle Tom left behind four of my cousins and my aunt, who was pregnant with my fifth cousin. My uncle was 27.

I was 2 ½ when died and have no real memory of him. But I’ve heard lots of stories, of course, and seen lots of photos. He loved baseball and golf. He was a great big brother to my mom growing up in Bellingham, Washington.

Stories are important and photos are great, but there is one thing in particular that helps me regularly remember my uncle (and also his mom and dad, my grandparents, who are also now both gone): their pasta pot.


This is Dan: I don’t know why the picture shows up sideways but you get the point. 🙂

They had a metal pot – which includes a fitted inner strainer – made specifically for cooking pasta. My mom tells me it was in their family kitchen for as far back as she can remember. My grandma used it pretty much every week, my mom says, to prepare dinner for my grandpa, her and her brother. It’s nothing fancy and — if you saw it in garage sale you’d probably feel taken if you didn’t barter the price down to less than a couple bucks. After my grandma quit cooking, I received the pot. I’ve now had it for well over a decade and — like my grandma — I’ve used it almost once a week to create meals for my family. And while I certainly don’t get all mushy every time I pull it out (unlike my pasta sometimes when I get distracted), I love that banged up pot and the memories that it holds.

My grandma filled that pot and my uncle washed and my mom dried that pot — it was pre-dishswasher days — over and over and over. I’m sure they weren’t thinking they were holding a family heirloom at the time, they were just scrubbing a dirty pot. Nevertheless, that’s what it is today. It is an irreplaceable piece of our family’s history that will one day be passed on — and used (because it really works well) — by my daughters. Stories are wonderful and photos are great. But it’s also hard to beat holding that one very used pasta pot.

Happy Memorial Day.

4 Easy Steps to Prepare for Your Death, Family History Style

Someday—I hate to break it to you—that “loved one” who passes away will be you. Family history prep starts now.

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

I’m guessing there are probably more than four steps that you can take to prepare for your death. In fact, the list is pretty much endless. For example, unless you die naked, who is going to clean the clothes you are wearing? What about the enormous pile of dishes you may have left in the sink? Do you have someone lined up to destroy your gutty attempt at a novel? In reality, none of us can fully prepare to die, right? But what about preparing to die when it comes to passing down family history?

Unique Obit

Luckily, there is some pretty low-hanging fruit out there that you may want to consider if you have a little time on your hands. And by “a little,” I mean a few hours.

I can hear you already: “But Dan, I don’t have time. I mean there is some much going on with the kids and work. Plus I need to take out the trash.”

I hear you. Don’t worry: what I’m proposing will not get you in trouble with Child Protective Services, your boss or the local sanitation department. As you’ll see below, following these steps take less than a sliver of time. The best part is that once you finish these tasks, you’re done for the most part. And trust me, you family will be really, really grateful that they don’t have to go searching for your legacy when you’re no longer around.

As a point of reference, I’m going to throw out this number:


That’s the number of hours in a normal year. Each task will take time off this total. So, let’s do this thang. No better way to kick off the new year then to write about death, dying and all that jazz!

(1) Write you own obituary (2 hours)

This is perhaps the lowest hanging fruit of all. Creepy? Maybe. Important for passing on your family history? Definitely! Who better to write your story then… you? Hopefully, if this finds you in good health and you’re not risking your life on the job, this obituary will be very incomplete. In other words, you’ll have a lot left to write and you’ll likely need to update it in many, many moons.With that said, even if you were to take two dinky little hours this year to write down just a few basic details, such as where you had lived and what work you had done during your life, imagine the value that would provide for your loved ones. Not everyone knows your story, and don’t assume they do. Once you are finished, store it with your other estate-planning documents (life insurance, will, advanced directives, etc.). As someone who knows, having to scramble for obituary information about a recently departed loved one in the hours, days and weeks after they die is rough. Someday that “loved one” will be you.

Extra creditAnd if you get swept up in the idea of telling your own story, record a video/audio file talking about your life: How do you want people to remember you? Do you have life lessons, advice and stories you would like to pass on to family and friends? Doing this well takes time, so plan it out. Much of the time allotted for this task is pre-planning: decide what you want to say and what order you want to say it in. Keep it clean and simple. Otherwise—like a friend returning from an overseas trip in which they decide to share 1,700 photos of their trip to Turkey with you— this might be painful for people to watch. Make sure you designate where this personal history is stored and who is in charge of presenting it to family members and friends. You can also hire someone, too, like these guys.

(2) Gather your vital records (birth & death certificates; wedding & divorce records) (1 hour)

Just good practice, people. And easy peasy. Store them in a safe place and make sure your loved ones know where they are.

(3) Register 5 family heirlooms (1 hour)

Yes, this is a direct call for you to buy our stuff. But it’s only because we believe in the service and there is no one else out there doing it. There is a reason we’ve been around for nearly a decade. We’re serious. When you mark heirlooms with physical ID numbers, the story and the family heirloom stay together so that anyone can understand the item’s significance and look it up at any time, now or in the future. Don’t you want your kids to appreciate the items in your house as much as you did while you were not dead (i.e. alive)? Hint: It’s not as overwhelming if you start one room at a time. Make it your modest goal to take a walk through your house and pull aside five items that matter to you. 

(4) Make a favorites/dislikes/hobbies/day-in-the-life list (1 hour)

It may seem boring to you, but imagine if you recorded in writing or audio just one day in your life. Sure it may seem dull that you spent the first half of a Saturday in your boxer shorts making breakfast while listening to This American Life on NPR, then went to the grocery store to pick up groceries for the week that cost $53 (including $4.89 for a gallon of milk) and then came home to take a walk around the neighborhood before eating a dinner. But imagine how gold these details will be to your great-great grandkids.

Or, if you don’t like angle, make a Top 10 list of your favorite books, movies or food. For those with darker dispositions, you can do the same thing with dislike lists.

It’s all about hidden insight that people can’t derive from genealogical records alone. Time capsules baby!

Extra credit: Write some Love Letters. Death, I believe, is much, much harder on the living than on the dearly departed. Hopefully, all of your significant others already know how much they mean to you. But that’s not always the case. And certainly, putting those thoughts down in writing now—and tucking them away—would make for a beautiful, comforting and lasting gift right when they need it the most and for years to follow.

That’s it! In just 5 hours (.0006 percent of the year’s total) you’ve now prepared a SUBSTANTIAL gift to the future.

And great news! You still have 8,755 hours remaining that you can waste or use in whatever way you’d like. The nice thing is you can spread it out. There will be plenty of rainy weekends or times when you don’t want to deal with other humans. By going through this list, you’ll have a little fun traveling down memory lane; you’ll make life easier for your family who have to clean up after you (it doesn’t matter how great you think you are, it’s a pain); and you’ll effectively be able to share and save a family history that will live on well after someone has cleaned your last load of laundry.

Now, on to The Herd for this month…

“The Hearth Herd” is a roundup (or “Herd”) of a few stories we’ve seen recently that we feel our fellow Houstorians would be interested in. The Herd’s content will generally focus on three things: 1) House and property history; 2) Family heirlooms; 3) Environmental sustainability. If you see something that you think belongs in The Herd, we’d love to hear from you!

Family History

Author: MyHeritage blog

Title: Create a Family Memory Jar for 2016

Herd-Worthy Because: “What is a family memory jar? It’s a glass jar or any container in which you can store family memories. It can be filled with short messages, everyday moments, photos or just about anything you want to preserve.” What a wonderful idea! Essentially, this is “Houstories” in a jar and an instant family heirloom. The day-to-day things are what makes a house a home.


Family Heirlooms

Author: Ancestry.com, The Family Curator

Title: Plan Ahead: Protect Your Genealogy from Disaster

Herd-Worthy Because: Our good friend Denise Levenick wrote this last spring, but it’s still pertinent. Also, we appreciate her mentioning a certain service that we happen to be big fans of. “Digital images of photographs, family letters, and treasured heirlooms will never fully replace a lost keepsake, but pictures and stories can preserve the memories of a special piece of furniture, a quilt, or a framed photograph… After you’ve assembled your heirloom history, share it widely with family, friends, and other researchers. Consider uploading images and stories to genealogy sites such as Ancestry.com or to the online heirloom history site The Heirloom Registry.”

Let us know what you think. If not us, then let that guy next to you in bus know what you think. After that, call your mom and tell her how great the Houstory Hearth is. Or you can just leave a comment. 


Houstory Herd: Cabin Fever Edition

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

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It’s hard not to feel bad for our U.S. eastern seaboard readers, who are currently buried under piles of snow, enduring frigid temperatures and likely experiencing cranky moods — and perhaps at touch of cabin fever. I grew up in Alaska, so I can relate.

I still remember the sun coming up around 10 a.m, and sinking below the frozen horizon just a short five to six hours later during the dead of winter in Anchorage. And of course we had snow. In fact, this state of affairs — which started in late October and continued well into April, sometimes later — literally made people want to kill themselves.

Hopefully, you’re not quite at that point yet. Rather, I hope you’re taking advantage of your cabin fever to work on family history projects. Here’s an idea: Take some time to document your family heirlooms. And do you have kids? Then take time to properly designate who gets what when you are no longer around.

You might as well be productive with all that extra energy, don’t you think? If it makes you feel any better, I had to wear a light jacket because it was only 61 degrees today in Oregon at the beach. Brrrr!!!

What is “The Hearth Herd.” It’s simply a roundup (hence the name “Herd”) of a few stories we’ve seen recently that we feel our fellow Houstorians would be interested in. The Herd’s content will be confined to three main categories: 1) House and property history; 2) Family heirlooms; 3) Natural Resource Conservation. 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: Nicole Anzia, Special to The Washington Post & DelawareOnline.com

TitleHow seniors and families can cut the clutter

Herd-Worthy Because: “We have all picked up an old black-and-white photo at some point and been unable to identify the people staring back at us. We’re left wishing we had asked someone who knew when we had the chance. The same goes for that piece of artwork, jewelry or furniture. Learning the history of items makes it easier to decide whether to keep or discard them.” Yep. And keep those stories attached to the heirlooms by labeling them and registering them online.



TitleL.B. Antiques sells quality pieces with interesting back stories

Herd-Worthy Because: “Many times the back story adds more value because people love hearing about the how and when the antique was used throughout history.” If you live in Minnesota, give them a visit. I know we will. Right after we visit Matt’s Bar for a “Juicy Lucy.” Ever had one? Genius baby! Genius!


Author: Curbed, by Jenny Xie

TitleStudents Scraped Together a Small, Functional House for $489

Herd-Worthy Because: “Everything we used was on its way to the landfill…” Inspiring on multiple levels. Whether it’s re-purposing your unused family heirlooms or unused lumber in the garage, I challenge you to look around your own house, and imagine how these items can be utilized in a creative and useful way.


Until we “Herd” again…

Houstory Herd: Death and Tea Edition

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

Connect with me on LinkedIn!

Have you ever sat down with a small group of people — strangers, actually — over a warm cup of tea and a slice of delicious cake, and talked about death?

Well, after last week, I can check this off my (kick the) bucket list. I attended my first “Death Cafe,” a worldwide “social franchise” movement that started several years ago. The group I participated in included about 30 people who were there to talk about anything and everything that had to do with death and dying. As someone representing The Heirloom Registry, one topic included family inheritance — an important part of the death process.

dementia, houstory

Source: The New York Times

A future blog post will be dedicated to this important movement, which is very much in line with what Houstory stands for: planning for the future and protecting your family by preparing for the inevitable now.

During my Cafe experience, I was part of a smaller, four-person breakout group that talked about death for more than an hour — specifically on advanced directives and end-of-life medical decisions. We actually had to pause the roundtable just as we were getting started, but it initiated a very healthy conversation.

In fact, earlier today, one participant of the group (a stranger no more) e-mailed me this recent New York Times story that discussed the complexities of having dementia and facing end of life decisions. The common theme to all of this: plan for your “finish line” scenario now. After all, death is always toughest on those who are left behind.

Check out the Death Cafe Web site to find out about groups near you.

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 recently that we feel our fellow Houstorians would be interested in. The Herd’s content will be confined to three main categories: 1) House and property history; 2) Family heirlooms; 3) Natural Resource Conservation. 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: Marla Jo Fisher, Orange County Register

TitleGrandpa’s old radio leads to intriguing questions about family history

Herd-Worthy BecauseAfter my grandparents passed away, my other relatives went through their tiny clapboard house like a pack of ravening wolves, taking everything of value. But they ignored the radio, probably sensing it was nearly worthless.”


Author: Matt Gurney, National Post

TitleMatt Gurney: A solution to the hard cull of family heirlooms

Herd-Worthy Because: “(The solution) struck me as a thoroughly 21st century solution to the problem; effectively, you outsource the emotional impact to someone who won’t feel it the same way that you would.


Author: Catherine E. Shoichet, MarketWatch

Title1795 time capsule opened, centuries after Revere and Adams buried it

Herd-Worthy BecauseMore than 200 years after Samuel Adams and Paul Revere first buried it in Boston, it took an hour to remove all the objects crammed inside a tiny time capsule.


Author: Anna Rumer, Times Recorder

TitlePair preserving history one memory at a time

Herd-Worthy Because: “Sometimes, however, because of their size or location, smaller pieces of history can be overlooked. But people such as Nancy Ranck and Mary Flanagan are refusing to let those things pass them by…”


House History

Author: Megan Turchey, Times Recorder

Title3D Laser Technology Recreates Historic Homes

Herd-Worthy BecauseThe Paul Revere House in the North End has already used their 3D model to do renovations on the house, keeping it as authentic as possible.


Author: Justine Hofherr, Boston.com

TitleStaff Book Picks: What Makes a House a Home?

Herd-Worthy Because: “Some of our choices are practical – about construction or decoration. Others are non-fiction narratives about building or creating a home. And we threw in a few fiction stories in which characters struggle with their own ideas of home.”


Until we “Herd” again…

Houstory Herd: Looking Ahead Edition

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

Connect with me on LinkedIn!

This year, as you gathered with family, did you get serious about your family history? As you kicked back the eggnog and knocked back the ubiquitous holiday treats (my lord, my office is bombarded!), did you take this precious time to gather stories? Did you sit with your brothers and sisters, your moms and dads and your grandparents, and simply ask and listen?


#NoMoreStuff, family history

Dan with much better half, Tasi, during the holidays.

Obviously, I hope you did. But no worries if you didn’t. That’s what New Years resolutions are for, right? Looking ahead, let’s make it our goal to record these stories. Let’s also get serious about getting ready for the great beyond. Many discussions about estate planning and delegating family heirlooms will likely start with family history conversations.

Don’t be afraid of it. Do it. You’ll be thankful you did.

family curator, family heirlooms

Thank you Family Curator for supporting our #NoMoreStuff campaign!

Before I get to the “meat” of The Herd, I want to thank those of you who supported our #NoMoreStuff campaign. Mike and I, the Houstory Brothers, are appreciative. As a token of our gratitude, please check out the attached (goofy) video that details a free gift we’d like to give you.

We look forward to celebrating the New Year with all of you!

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 recently that we feel our fellow Houstorians would be interested in. The Herd’s content will be confined to three main categories: 1) House and property history; 2) Family heirlooms; 3) Natural Resource Conservation. 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: connectmidmissouri.com— Referred by  The New England Historic Genealogical Society

TitleTreasure the Heirlooms in Your Family Tree

Herd-Worthy Because: “The mere sight of the trunk served to remind my grandmother of where she came from, and the details of her life -sometimes sad, sometimes happy, always emotional.”


Author: MarketWatch

TitleThis Thanksgiving, share your family’s ‘money history

Herd-Worthy Because: “For many households, the coming weekend offers the best, and perhaps only, time this year when everyone will be together to tackle family finances and long-term planning decisions. Here’s how to do it—without spoiling the holiday.” Also, as an added bonus (aren’t we generous?!) check out this article on how, “Discussion might ease transfer of family heirlooms.”


Author: The Spectrum (Utah)

TitleHow to monetize your heirlooms

Herd-Worthy Because: “Whether you want to get rid of it all at once, or little bits over time, selling some of your items now might be a good option. This may give you a modest financial bump, make it easier for your heirs to manage your property, make it easier to move or declutter your retirement home.” We would add: register them at The Heirloom Registry to add even more unique value!


Author: The Star (Toronto)

TitleI don’t have any heirs. So what do I do with my stuff?

Herd-Worthy Because: “There are stories attached to all these things — funny, sad, ironic and occasionally downright weird. But without a younger generation to tell them to, the clock, the gun and everything else I’ve salvaged just become so much … stuff.” I really couldn’t say it any better myself.


Author: The Star (Toronto)

TitleFamily Heirlooms: The Ultimate Holiday Regift

Herd-Worthy Because: Our good friend Denise Levenick (aka “The Family Curator”) wrote some nice words about our #NoMoreStuff campaign, and even developed a handy-dandy form that you can use to save the stories behind your family heirlooms. Check it out!


Author: NPR (and thanks to my wife, Tasi, for passing this on)

TitleA Premature Obituary Can Be A Sweet — If Strange — Gift

Herd-Worthy Because: “Maybe it would be a good exercise — even a gift, in the holiday season — to help write a brief obituary for someone you love while they are still vibrant, alive, and able to appreciate it.” Doesn’t this sound familiar? 


House History

Author: Los Angeles Times

Title“ Piatigorsky House is Gone, but Pieces of History Were Saved

Herd-Worthy Because: “‘The Piatigorsky house is being demolished,’ she said. ‘We were their neighbors for 60 years.’ Los Angeles was losing part of its cultural history.”


Author: Times of Trenton (New Jersey)

TitleBuoyed by memories after home sweet home is sold

Herd-Worthy Because: “The places we grow up never really leave us. They sit at our core and shape who we are. They are, as my mother wrote, the anchors for our childhoods.”


Until we “Herd” again…

HoustoryHerd: NoMoreStuff Edition

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

Connect with me on LinkedIn!

A few years ago, my family recognized that gift-giving during the holidays was really becoming more of a burden than a pleasure.

This was a pretty big shift, because my side of the family is not small. In addition to my parents, I have five brothers, two sister-in-laws, three nieces and a wife. We are all extremely fortunate to have roofs over our heads, food on the table and plenty of creature comforts that make life not only easier but enjoyable, such as the laptop I’m using to compose this.

In other words, we are not for need of anything.

consumerism, #NoMoreStuff, heirloom registryAround the same time, we also realized we were also not for want of any things, either. Rather, we all seem to prefer experiences (such as eating out, traveling or simply getting together) as the activities we liked to spend our disposable income on. For many folks, I think this is a common theme. Buying less “stuff” (everyone probably has their own definition of what that means — I just know it when I feel it) and choosing to re-invest those funds into non-material items can be both more memorable and meaningful than a great Black Friday deal.

In response to this evolution, my family developed a lottery system where we would pull names out of a hat and purchase a gift for that person. One gift per person. Now, as we all get older and fully realize the significance and importance of family connection, we concentrate our efforts and funds on simply getting together to enjoy each other’s company. I’m not saying we don’t give gifts. If I see something that I know a family member will truly appreciate, I won’t hesitate to purchase it, and vice versa. But there are no expectations.

thanksgiving, holidays, family history, #NoMoreStuff

As an example of a non-material offering that I consider absolutely priceless, last year — as a special gift — my mom and dad walked around their house and documented  the family history behind several key family heirlooms in their home. Now, those precious stories are safely recorded online at The Heirloom Registry, and accessible to our family, both now — and long into the future — after those stories can no longer be shared in person.

Let’s face it, the holidays are often one of the few times we are able to bring family members together at one time. Depending on the family — and I understand some family dynamics are a little more stressful than others — this is an extraordinary opportunity. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to choose how you spend these few, fleeting moments. I’m just asking you to recognize that each year that goes by is another opportunity to connect with those you love on a deeper level.

This year, as during the past two years, we are urging you to say, ” NoMoreStuff .” Share your photos and stories of family heirlooms, family histories, house histories, etc., that show you’ve decided to say “yes” to deeper family connections, and “no” to the rat race.

Simply tag them #NoMoreStuff on social media. Spread the message — join us in our No More Stuff Revolution!

Happy Thanksgiving!

PS: I’m informing this week’s poll with help from PBS NewsHour, which recently posed a great question that directly relates to the theme.

thanksgiving, black friday, shopping

Thank you, PBS for the screen shot!



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 recently that we feel our fellow Houstorians would be interested in. The Herd’s content will be confined to three main categories: 1) House and property history; 2) Family heirlooms; 3) Natural Resource Conservation. 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: connectmidmissouri.com— Referred by  The New England Historic Genealogical Society

TitleA priceless family treasure

Herd-Worthy Because: “Sara realized if she didn’t get the pictures back, ‘That would have been a large portion of our family’s history gone for three dollars.'” Whoops!


Author: Al Jazeera America

TitleHomeless dragged down by belongings, as cities view keepsakes ‘trash

Herd-Worthy Because“(Items like family keepsakes are) garbage, as far as the cities are concerned. This is trash and an unsightly mess. If you can’t lug it when you take off, it’s going in the trash. Period.”  Imagine if you had to haul your entire world — including your family heirlooms — with you every day. And you had no permanent place to put them. All while living on the streets.


Author: Eastman’s Online Genealogy Letter

TitleMake a Google Will

Herd-Worthy Because: “Many of the online services we use every day have no contingency plans for a deceased customer’s heirs to take over the account and save whatever is online for posterity.” Getting your affairs in order for the great beyond. Yes Dick Eastman, you’re speaking our language!


House History

Author: connectmidmissouri.com— Referred by  The New England Historic Genealogical Society

TitleThe Schoolhouse from The Birds Is Now a Beautifully Restored (and Haunted) Private Home

Herd-Worthy Because: Remember when actress Tippi Hedren’s character Melanie Daniels asked this question? “Have you ever seen so many gulls? What do you suppose it is?” I’m thinking it may have been tainted salmon, but those were some angry birds! But this isn’t about that. It’s about an iconic schoolhouse-turned-private house.


Author: The Guardian

TitleThe Making of Home review – Judith Flanders’s history of how our houses became homes

Herd-Worthy BecauseA fascinating 500-year history charts the transformation of our houses from uncomfortable workplaces into cosy sanctuaries


Natural Resource

Author: Eastman’s Online Genealogy Letter

TitleCreate a Permanent Living Legacy that Memorializes the Passing of a Loved One

Herd-Worthy Because: “The goal is to directly rehabilitate and rebuild the dying ocean reefs and, in turn, add new habitat to the marine environment. For families and individuals that choose cremation, Eternal Reefs offers a unique memorial choice that replaces cremation urns and ash scatterings with a permanent environmental living legacy.” Hmm, environmental protection plus family history. We likey!


Author: Story of Stuff

TitleBuy Less, Live More

Herd-Worthy Because: From now through the end of December, the Story of Stuff is on a mission to collect pictures and stories from supporters who believe there is more to the holidays than shopping and consuming. Sound familiar? Check out their cool campaign!


Until we “Herd” again…

Houstory Herd: ‘Mourning’ Edition

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

Connect with me on LinkedIn!

Guess what? You, me, and we are all going to die. In case you didn’t know: There is one finish line for everyone, and we are all going to cross it. We don’t know when or how, but it’s going to happen.

There, I said it.

Dying. Death. Dead.

For some of you, this may be uncomfortable to read about. For others, perhaps a feeling of resignation, and for others fear (and/or all sorts of emotions in between). I say all reactions are valid. I also say, “let’s talk.”

When we talk about death, really we are talking about the living. The survivors. The family members and friends left behind to pick up the pieces, to organize the memorials, to execute the wills, to deal with the pain of loss. So if death is really about the struggles of the living, why don’t we do more to prepare for the big finish?

In my universe, death is not an end, but simply a part of the story arc. Take The Heirloom Registry, for example. I consider our service a key part of estate planning. For parents who take the time to jot down a few notes about a family heirloom — how it came into the family, why it’s important to a family’s history, to which family member it’s designated  — death is made a bit easier for children left behind. By taking the time to register what matters in your family, you’ll be helping your family members when you can’t be there.

Register now, rest in peace later.

I may need to work on that tagline, but you get the gist.

So what got me started on death this month? Well, it is Halloween for starters. Zombies. Vampires. Frankenstein. Just seems like a good fit.

I also was inspired by a New York Times article that highlighted three exhibitions of art associated with mourning and memorialization. In the article, the author asked if the topic was a bit too grim.

“I think it’s quite healthy,” said Mary Rockefeller Morgan, a psychotherapist and the author of “When Grief Calls Forth the Healing: A Memoir of Losing a Twin.” “Society is becoming open to the discussion of all types of topics that used to be forbidden, and people are longing to heal naturally in the sharing of grief.”

My sentiments exactly. So get to talking. Get to registering. And get to living.

PS: We are putting the finishing touches on our brand-spanking new podcast, which will be out in November so stay tuned!

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) Natural Resource Conservation. 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: The Fall River Spirit — Referred by  The New England Historic Genealogical Society

TitleGreat-grandfather’s police notebook a window to the past

Herd-Worthy Because: “I get a glimpse of his world every time I pick up his fragile 93-year-old patrol notebook, the one with the frayed binding, yellowed pages and enviably elegant penmanship.” Yep, we’re in!


Author: This Old House — Referred by  The New England Historic Genealogical Society

Title: Look What You Found During Your Renovations

Herd-Worthy Because: “From a homemade mousetrap to a fading Civil War tintype, the oddities readers have discovered in and around their homes surprised even us.” Time capsules are everywhere!


Author: MarketWatch.com

TitleHow to prevent family feuds when it comes to your inheritance

Herd-Worthy Because: Register. Your. Heirlooms. Now.


Author: New York Times

TitleExploring the Culture of Mourning

Herd-Worthy Because: “Death is not going to go away because we pretend it’s not there, and there needs to be a way culturally of dealing with this reality of life…” Or as Woody Allen put it: “I am not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

Author: dallas news

Title“(Rocker) Phil Collins remembers the Alamo with donation of artifacts

Herd-Worthy Because: Have you ever really listened to 1985’s masterpiece, “No Jacket Required.” This was on steady rotation in the Hiestand house at that time. Now that Phil has entered my universe (or I guess I’ve entered his), I have to give the guy props.

House History

Author: House Beautiful

Title:5 Mansions With Major Dream House Potential

Herd-Worthy Because: With listing prices under $100,000, these homes, in our opinion, have major dream house potential.

Natural Resource

Author: DIY * Del * Ray

Title:  Cleaning Out Clutter: Where Can It Go Besides the Curb?

Herd-Worthy Because: Great common sense tips on what to do with the stuff you no longer need or want, especially for people who are downsizing households. Example: “I have a computer hard drive and a Kindle that have died. How can I recycle them without putting myself at risk for identity theft?” These types of questions will become more and more complicated as people acquire more and more stuff. You can recycle or reuse nearly anything if you slow down and take the time — including ideas!


Until we “Herd” again…

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.


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 www.facebook.com/houstorypub



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