Pay for permanence? Applying Dick Eastman’s logic to The Heirloom Registry

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Director

A couple of months  ago, influential genealogical product reviewer Dick Eastman (whom I’ve had the pleasure of  meeting on a couple of occasions) wrote about a company selling “long-lasting display plates containing QR codes.” These plates are affixed to gravestones, which users can then scan to reveal information about the deceased with data provided by the family that purchased the code. From there, they are taken to a dedicated Web page on the company’s server, where information is displayed.

Dick Eastman, Dan Hiestand, Houstory

Dan with Mr. Eastman at FGS 2012 in Birmingham, Ala.

Sound familiar? If you understand the goal of Houstory’s Heirloom Registry, it should.

I’m not going to get into much of his product review, but I would like to highlight a key point Dick made that I believe may resonate with the Houstory audience and customer base.

 “At first, this sounds like a good idea; but, then I wondered, ‘What happens if the company goes out of business and their web site goes offline?’ I assume the answer is that the customer has wasted the money he or she spent,” wrote Dick. “While I hope this company remains in business for a long, long time, I still don’t like the idea of depending upon any one corporation’s future success.”

This sentiment — or a variation of it — is something Houstory founder Mike Hiestand and I have heard on many occasions about our Heirloom Registry service.

And guess what? We completely agree, especially when a company is selling permanence, which is what we are doing. If the future cannot access the information you’ve taken time, energy and — most importantly — money to compile, what’s the point of the effort? There is good news, though: Mike and I have worked hard to solve this problem, and we believe we have.

No. 1: You are in charge of the information you save on The Heirloom Registry. While your family heirloom records are uploaded, edited and saved on our site, ultimately you can save them to your own hard drive, upload them to a Web site or print them out as a hard copy registry certificate PDF. This ability to save the record on your own is an important distinction. How you decide to make that record accessible is really up to you. Our job is to put that data in a format that is easily readable, logical and probably more attractive than anything you’ll take the time to make.

Registration Certificate from The Heirloom Registry

Hard copy of the Registration Certificate from The Heirloom Registry

 

No.2: Additionally, to ensure longevity, a portion of each registration number fee is deposited in a dedicated fund that will be used to pay for future operation of The Heirloom Registry. Of course, given our ever-changing technology, it’s difficult to predict exactly what form The Heirloom Registry will take in 10 years, let alone 50 or 100, but we are fully committed to our mission and promise to do our level best to ensure that whether “surfing the Internet” or “transbeaming the MetaCosmos,” the purpose and essential function of the Registry as a lasting and accessible source of historical information remains intact.

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No. 3: Here are some hard facts: 1) We can’t guarantee The Heirloom Registry will exist in 100 years. That’s not a promise any company can honestly make.  2) No one else is doing what The Heirloom Registry is doing. 3) Our Certificate of Registration is a way for you to instantly create a physical, lasting record of your heirloom, impervious to changing technology. 4) We have taken concrete steps to protect the integrity of the Registry and the company’s longevity. To be honest, now that all our rather extensive research, site development and upfront costs have been paid, operating the site form day to day is pretty inexpensive. We are proud to say the company is paid for and is wholly family-owned and operated.  5) Your chances of passing on the stories behind your grandma’s handmade quilt, your uncle’s trumpet or your dad’s Brooklyn Dodger’s Louisville Slugger bat are significantly lower if the items are not marked or tagged with identifying information.

 

 

Are you worried about online services and businesses ceasing operation? Do you have any stories of this happening? Let us know what you think!

Happy Birthday Houstory Publishing!
Our first year in photos

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Marketing Director

I was talking with a friend the other day about our business, Houstory Publishing. As we were chatting, a couple of things dawned on me during the conversation: (1) Houstory was about to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the “official” launch of our business  (more on that later), and; (2) Just how fortunate I have been to be able to follow my dream with my best friend — who also happens to be my big brother and Houstory founder, Mike.

family heirloom, family keepsakes, provenances, family stories, family heirlooms, heirloom registry, houstory publishing, house history, home history book, family history, genealogy, mike hiestand, dan hiestand

Mike and Dan Hiestand, taking a break while attending the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree this past June.

Okay, before you break out the tissue and think this is a, “Hallmark moment,” it’s not. I sincerely mean what I write. I just genuinely like the guy. What can I say? When we first started the company way back in 2007 (wow, starting a business takes ages!), and I heard his idea for the Home History Book archival journal, I was hooked right away. A couple of years later, when he came up with The Heirloom Registry concept (yes, I didn’t come up with that idea, either, darn it!), again I became a believer. A big believer.

Essentially, our roles are these: He is the visionary. I am the implementer. This arrangement has actually turned out to be a great match. You never know what it’s like working with a best friend or a family member until you do it. That’s not to say it hasn’t been an at-times stressful year, or an experience  filled with steep learning curves and unforeseen circumstances. But, looking back at how far we’ve come, it feels darn good to know we made the right decision.

We have wanted to go into a family-style business for as long as I can remember — ideally with our three other brothers in the mix as well — and we floated many ideas around (remember the bagel shop, Mike?) before we hit the jackpot with Houstory. It just felt right. And it still feels right today, more than ever. In fact, over the next couple of weeks, we are going to be rolling out some big announcements which we are very excited about.

Much of our success, we owe to you, our supporters and customers. We really couldn’t have made it this far without your help, so thank you! We hope you stay with us for the ride. We think its only going to get better.

And finally, thank you Tasi and Patty, — our understanding, courageous and supportive wives — as well as Mike’s daughters, Jessica and Ally. We love you all very much!

After more than four years working on weekends and weeknights to turn our “dream” into real-life products that we’d be proud to stand behind,  we “officially” opened for business on Oct. 18, 2011, when we launched our social media. Below is a look at some of the highlights from that time until now. It’s been a very busy but exciting year!

After a year in business, I believe in two things more than ever: historical preservation, and conservation. What we do is steeped in these concepts. My belief is this: The more people know about something, whether a house or a family heirloom, the more likely they will take care of it. This means both the priceless stories and histories, as well as the physical materials, won’t just be discarded with trash. These are the things that drive me. Let us know what you think, and thank you again!

 

Home History 2.0: Genealogy meets technology at RootsTech

One of our self-appointed jobs at Houstory is to appeal to all skill levels of home genealogist — from beginners to seasoned veterans. This week’s entry isn’t so much for the avid genealogist or home historian — who undoubtedly already know about a ‘little’ conference called RootsTech — but rather the aspiring or occasional researcher.

For those not familiar, the RootsTech conference — which started in 2011 and recently completed its second show last month in Salt Lake City, Utah– has already grown into a wildly popular event for the genealogist community. In fact, as genealogist Dick Eastman wrote last month in his newsletter, Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter:”The RootsTech conference kicked off this morning in Salt Lake City with more than 4,100 attendees. No, that number is not a misprint. More than four thousand, one hundred genealogists pre-registered. However, when I walked past the registration desk in mid-morning, I saw a long line of people waiting to purchase tickets at the door. Unofficially, I was told that the number of attendees had risen to more than 4,400 by late afternoon. That number certainly will rise further during the next two days of the conference. RootsTech is now by far the most popular genealogy conference in North America.”

So, after just two years, it’s obvious something is resonating with folks. So, what is RootsTech exactly? And why should home genealogists care?

“RootsTech is a leading edge conference designed to bring technologists together with genealogists, so they can learn from each other and find solutions to the challenges they face in family history research today,” says the RootsTech Web site, http://rootstech.org. “At RootsTech, genealogists and family historians will discover emerging technologies to improve their family history research experience. Technology developers will learn the skills to deliver innovative applications and systems. They will also have the opportunity to receive instant feedback from peers and users on their ideas and creations. Attendees will learn from hands-on workshops and interactive presentations at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced level.”

Obviously, what makes the conference special are the many presenters who shared their expertise. What makes this year’s event even more exciting is that RootsTech has posted these presentations online, free of charge. So, if you have some spare time here and there, we would encourage you to take a look at the RootsTech 2012 Videos.

This marriage of technology and genealogy has grown dramatically in recent years, and — as events like the upcoming digital release of 1940 census records indicates — will only get stronger.

So, why should it matter to you, the home historian? If you think about it — for most of us — researching a home’s history is simply researching another family’s genealogy. Even if you are not looking into your lines, understanding the principles of sound genealogical strategies (or technologies) is more than a benefit. In this day-and-age, it’s a necessity.