Houstory Herd: Looking Ahead Edition

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

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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.”

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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.”

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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? 

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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.”

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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.”

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Until we “Herd” again…

HoustoryHerd: NoMoreStuff Edition

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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!

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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!

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Until we “Herd” again…

The Houstory Hearth Herd – May 2014

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

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When my father-in-law recently passed away, it took a considerable amount of time to sort through his online accounts. His Facebook page had to be closed, e-mail correspondence had to be attended to and online passwords had to be changed.

According to  Sue Doerfler of The Arizona Republic, these were, in effect, his “digital heirlooms.” She recently wrote about the topic.

I’m not sure if I’d call them “heirlooms,” but I understand the sentiment and these are things that need to be considered as we get older. This month’s Herd includes an interesting take on this subject.

The Herd also includes two submissions from Houstory Hearth reader Joan Hostetler of Indianapolis (see the really cool photo below). She put together two interesting pieces dealing with house histories and vintage photographs I encourage you to check out.

And then there are The Simpsons. TV’s No. 1 name in animated families. Did you know that I live in the city that inspired the Simpson’s Springfield? No joke. They’ve been around so long they have their own extremely detailed family history, and a book detailing their family tree will be coming out in September. Check out the link below. After you’ve read yourself blind, please let us know what you think with a short comment. We’d appreciate it!

house history, Indianapolis, photography, family history

Photo courtesy of Joan Hostetler.

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: Joan Hostetler, Heritage Photo & Research Services and a Houstory Hearth reader

Title: “Indianapolis Then and Now: 1939 and 1945 N. Pennsylvania Street

Herd-Worthy Because: Big thanks to Joan for contacting us and contributing this fantastic article that is both heirloom and house history. Our kind of story!

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Author: Joan Hostetler, Heritage Photo & Research Services and a Houstory Hearth reader

Title: “Indianapolis Then and Now: The Ryan/Gasaway Home, 1103 E. 9th Street

Herd-Worthy Because: The history of a modest frame cottage and the political occupant. Every house has a story. And this is an especially good one.

HERD-FamilyHistory,etc.Author: Jess Gilley, Technology Tell

Title: “The Simpsons Family History is hitting shelves this year

Herd-Worthy Because: Who doesn’t at least appreciate The Simpsons. And like I said, I’m Springfield Proud!

HERD-FamilyHeirloomsAuthor: BBC News (contributed by the New England Historic Genealogical Society)

Title: “200-year-old recipe book heirloom given to family

Herd-Worthy Because:  Flummery. Calves head hashed. Shrewsbury cakes… Handwritten recipes, given to the author’s great-great-great-grandson. What’s not to like?

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AuthorMaureen Taylor (aka “The Photo Detective”)

Title: “Saving a Slice of Family History“;

Herd-Worthy Because: Sometimes, family history is deliciously edible.

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Author: Sue Doerfler, The Arizona Republic

Title: “Estate plan should pass down digital heirlooms

Herd-Worthy Because: “Digital-asset planning is a fairly new concern for consumers as well as estate planners.” Sounds like it’s right up our alley.

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Author: Viralnova.com (referred to by Dick Eastman)

Title: “After His Death, This Grandpa’s Family Found a Trunk He Left Behind. What’s Inside is Fascinating

Herd-Worthy Because: A trunk proves to be a connection to the past. Unfortunately, as the article points out, much of the stuff — artwork, books —  left his heirs guessing. Every time I see or hear a story like this I think about what a gift an Heirloom Registry tag and just ten minutes of time to share the story behind the things he felt important enough to save in a special trunk would have meant to his family.

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Author: Jill Scharr, Tom’s Guide

Title: “3D Printing Recreates Long-Lost Family Heirlooms

Herd-Worthy Because: As the author states: “Have you ever wished your family still had that old necklace your grandmother was wearing in her wedding photo?” CRAZY!

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Author: Bustle

Title: “These Stilettos That Will Last 1,000 Years  Are Your New Family Heirlooms

Herd-Worthy Because: Even we don’t guarantee 1,000 years for our Home History Books (only several centuries). I wonder if the future will have any use for stilettos?

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Author: Dale Hrabi

Title: “The Instant Family Heirloom

Herd-Worthy Because: “”What if you could buy new furniture that’s practically guaranteed to become a timeless treasure?

 

Until next month’s herd…

 

 

The Houstory Hearth Herd – April 2014

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history bookI consider myself a pretty organized guy. In fact, after several adolescent years spent making fun of my dad for his almost religious dedication and interaction with his Day-Timer Planner, I am a slave to The To-Do List. I’d go so far to say that if I didn’t have access to my Google calendar, I’d likely forget to wear pants or that I need to eat. 

Now, playfully fulfilling the role I once held opposite my pops,  my wife makes fun of the multiple lists I have laying around the house on a regular basis. (On a separate note, it’s amazing how much you become like your parents as you get older. But that’s another story.)

What does this peculiar set of facts have to do with you, the members of The Houstory Nation? Hopefully, a lot.

interview, family history

Photo by Maggie Fimia, My Edmonds News

I’ve been working on developing an editorial calendar so that my fellow Houstorians know what they can expect (generally speaking) moving forward at The Hearth. As an example, we are going to have a deals of the month post every month, as well as house history research tips, among other editorial features.

Today’s post is our first in a series which we call “The Hearth Herd.” It’s simply going to be 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. On a related note, I just finished a Louis L’Amour book that had to do with a cattle drive. I’m not sure if that informed my series name decision or not. I’m also a huge fan of alliteration, which is sometimes a problem.

Anyhow, we will focus the Herd’s content 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

Now, on to the April 2014 Houstory Hearth Herd.

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AuthorLisa Louise Cooke

Title: “It’s the Little Things: Family Heirlooms are Family History

Herd-Worthy Because: Speaks for itself, doesn’t it? In fact, it’s safe to say this article illustrates why we are in business. If you haven’t listened to Lisa’s podcast and you appreciate family history, do check it out.

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Author: The Washington Post

Title: “Guess who lived here? Tenants embrace D.C. homes with famous history

Herd-Worthy Because: House history, with a twist. Our good friend and house historian colleague, Paul Kelsey Williams, was mentioned in the article. If you like D.C. house history, you know what you should do.

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Author: Gannon Burgett

Title: “100-Year-Old Negatives and Camera Found Inside Oklahoma City Time Capsule

Herd-Worthy Because: Genealogist, family historian and technology guru (and our good friend) Caroline Pointer provided us with this story. The concept of a time capsule is truly at the heart of both The Heirloom Registry and The Home History Book archival journal. Plus, it’s pretty darn cool.

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Author: Good HouseKeeping

Title: “13 Things That Make a House a Home

Herd-Worthy Because: As the article states, “Here are a few of our favorite things that transform a mere shelter into a safe haven.” Spoiler alert: this list includes family heirlooms!

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Author: Maggie Fimia, My Edmonds News

Title: “Family History: Tips for informally interviewing your relatives

Herd-Worthy Because: Stories, baby! If you don’t take time to sit down and listen, your family history will slip away. Family historian Maggie Fimia has great tips on how to prevent this slippage from happening.

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Author: The Modesto Bee

Title: “Modesto (Calif.) dry cleaner has collection of abandoned heirlooms

Herd-Worthy Because: One question: How in the  heck would you forget to pick up your wedding dress?

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Author: The New York Times

Title: “With Granda’s Ring, I Thee Wed

Herd-Worthy Because: Reusing and recycling family history is not such a bad thing! The article examines how many young people are using family “heirlooms or other vintage rings for more affordable, often more meaningful, alternatives to new diamonds and wedding bands.”

Until next month’s herd…

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?

Check.

Peanut butter and jelly?

Check.

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?

Check.

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.

It’s not often a story about a piece of furniture waters the eyes

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory

A few weeks ago, True Value Hardware released a video story on YouTube, simply entitled, “Table.” I didn’t really know what to expect when I watched it — aside from knowing it was at least loosely related to family heirlooms. Upon hearing the narrator’s first sentence about his grandfather going hungry around “this table” during the depression, I knew I was in for something special. I urge you to take 1:30 seconds to watch this beautiful, moving video.

Okay, I didn’t cry. But, under the right circumstances…

Then I encourage you to think about the “tables” in your own life — the things that matter to your family history — and to save them properly (stories and all). By the way, if you have another couple of minutes, take a look at a video The Heirloom Registry produced about a table. Notice any similarities?

 

 

What are the things that matter in your life? Do you have an old table or another piece of furniture with a story? 

Service links ‘orphaned heirlooms’ in antique stores with families who cherish them

Just for a moment, think about all the items (and potential family heirlooms) that could be floating around out there that may have something to do with your family. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all donated things to the local Goodwill or sold items on the lawn during a Saturday morning garage sale, so your presence is likely out there in some capacity.

I’m guessing these items were distributed with some degree of thought and didn’t hold a particularly lofty status in your collection of belongings. What about your parents, though? Or your grandparents? Or your great, great grandparents? How can you be sure they took the same care you did when you were downsizing? (You did take care, right? Of course you did!)

What if Grandpa gave away that  early 1900s family photo? What if your aunt decided the only copy of the 1958 yearbook your father appeared in wasn’t worth holding on to? How do you get those items back?

justajoy, heirlooms

Joy Shivar, founder of JustaJoy.com with Dan Hiestand of Houstory at FGS 2012 in Birmingham, Ala.

Enter JustaJoy.com Family Heirloom Exchange.

Joy Shivar is the owner of the company, and is a frequent vendor at family history, genealogy, and antique shows around the country. I first met her during the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree in June 2012, and re-connected with her at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference last fall. Joy’s service is a valuable one for those who seek to add texture to their family trees.

According to her Web site, JustaJoy.com Family Heirloom Exchange is the link between “orphaned heirlooms” in the hands of antique dealers (and collectors) and the families who would cherish them. The service is $20 per year, and includes:

* Complete information about thousands of family-related items listed by quality antique dealers associated with nearly 50,000 families

* E-mail alerts when new items are added related to your  family  (Up to 20 surnames)

* Members can list, buy and sell for free

* No buyer’s premiums, commissions, listing fees or final value fees.

* Sold items remain on the site for research purposes.  No charge for  printing pictures or documents.  (Individual researchers only. Commercial applications are protected by copyright.)

For more information, check out the video below. Have you ever used Joy’s service or anything like it to find family heirlooms? Do you see any value in a service like this? Let us know what you think!

Instant heirloom: A heartfelt Mother’s Day gift

Mother's Day 2013. Jessica, Gerri and Ally Hiestand.

Mother’s Day 2013.

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Founder 

One of the things we hear from folks when we tell them about The Heirloom Registry is, “But, I don’t have any heirlooms.”

It’s unfortunate that we had to attach a name to our registration service, but we did. And “The Heirloom Registry” just sounded catchier than “The Special Things in My Life Registry.”

But either would work. It’s not the age of an item that makes it an heirloom. It’s the story behind it.

The Heirloom Registry is simply a place to record the stories about the special things in your life. Those things can be old — or brand new. The key is that they have a story that gives them meaning. The Heirloom Registry simply ensures that story will always be easily accessible.

For Mother’s Day, my daughters created and gave their grandma a hand-painted hanging mobile. Of course, my mom absolutely loved it. An instant heirloom! By affixing a small tag and registering it, I was able to briefly tell its story and attach a couple photos (there is room for up to six) of my daughter painting it and presenting it to my mom on Sunday. It took 10 minutes. But now, if my mom would like to show it off to her friends tomorrow — or if my daughter inherits it 50 years from when she’s the grandma who “fills the world with joy”  — the story of how it came to be and the memories of a very special day are as close as the nearest computer.

It is an official, irreplaceable part of Hiestand Family History

An example of the Certificate of Registration — which users can view or print for free after registering an item on The Heirloom Registry — is below.

 

Registration Certificate from The Heirloom Registry

Registration Certificate from The Heirloom Registry

 

Legacy through the stomach: Family cookbooks and family recipes as family heirlooms

This post originally ran Aug. 1, 2012. It details the importance that family cookbooks play as family heirlooms — and in turn as vital parts of family history.

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Marketing Director

For the better part of two decades, my grandparents lived in paradise. To find this “Eden,” pull out a map of the contiguous United States, and let your fingers inch up, up, north to the Canadian border; then left, left, west to the Pacific.

You’ll know you’re in the right place when you reach the part of Washington state that isn’t there. Or rather, only bits of land are visible  — tiny dots amid the cold, salty waters of the Puget Sound. It was on one of these specks, among the San Juan Islands on a place called Lopez Island, that I spent some of my most memorable childhood days.

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Gommy in the garden on Lopez Island.

Lopez is a little less than 30 square miles in area, and is a biker’s paradise because of its relatively flat landscape. During the ’70s and ’80s, when my grandparents Tom and Gerri Walsh lived there, it was still a relatively unknown place compared to the vacation home-laden landscape of today — a retirees’ paradise where everyone (quite literally) waved to everyone they might pass on the road.

For me, what defined paradise as a kid was simple: spending summer days skipping glacier-flattened rocks on Fisherman’s Bay; upturning boulders to search for scurrying rock crabs; sailing to town for warm french fries and cold cokes with my brothers; hot dogs by the fire on the beach…you get the picture.  

Food, of course, was a centerpiece of my memories. I suppose that’s what having fresh Northwest berries with nearly every breakfast (picked straight out of my grandparent’s garden), or dining on crab caught just an hour earlier will do.

I still remember, very clearly, Gommy (“grandma,” for our audience) baking bread in the kitchen, and Gompy (grandpa) picking long, fresh green beans for the night’s dinner.

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What brought all this up for me was a video I recently watched over at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel. In the piece, genealogist Lisa Louise Cooke interviewed Gena Philibert-Ortega, who authors the blog “Food.Family.Ephemera,”which looks at how food history and family history intertwine. You can hear the full interview at the Genealogy Gem’s podcast page (episode 137).

As Gena and Lisa discussed, knowing what past generations incorporated into their meals brings a family’s history alive in a way other bits of data (such as census records and obituaries) simply cannot. The “Rhubarb Torte” recipe that Gommy submitted to The Lopez Island Cookbook — a 189-page community effort flowered with the dishes of the island’s citizens — is now my “Rhubarb Torte.” Anytime I want to take my taste buds back to the driftwood-lined beaches of Fisherman’s Bay, I’m but a few ingredients away.

Through her palate and her cookbook, a vital part of my grandma’s legacy is alive. Now, it’s up to me to make sure my heirs receive this message.

It’s been more than 20 years since Gommy and Gompy sold their house on the island, and the Lopez of today has a much different feel than the one I grew up with. I think it simply doesn’t feel quite as small as it once did.  I’m glad I have my grandmother’s cookbook to remember it the way I want to.

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The back page of my Lopez Island Cookbook.

For Gommy’s “Lopez Island Cookbook” Rhubarb Torte recipe, as well as some more photos, please visit our Facebook page. Do you have any family cookbooks that have been passed down, or you plan on passing down to your heirs? How about any family recipes? Please share it with our readers, and let us know what you think of our blog. Thanks!