Always wanted a Home History Book? Now is your chance…

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

Since 2010, Houstory’s Home History Book archival journals have helped Real Estate agents, bed and breakfasts and homeowners around the world tell the stories behind their homes.


Now, we want to say “thanks” for your support while clearing out our inventory.

Now for a limited time, we have drastically reduced the cost of all original Home History Books in our Deluxe line. Regularly $300, all Deluxe books are just $149. This includes free shipping in the U.S., a free bookstand and a personalized brass address plate.

Quantities and styles are limited. When the original Deluxe books are gone, they’re gone.

Order yours HERE!


White Friday anyone? Try an Alternative to Stuff This Holiday Season

By Mike and Dan Hiestand, The Houstory Brothers


no more stuff, #nomorestuff

Instead of waking up earlier and earlier on Black Friday (or increasingly never going to bed as more stores compete to open their doors first), battling the traffic and fighting the crowds for more stuff, what if you gave White Friday a try instead?

For the past few years, we’ve run our “No More Stuff” holiday campaign that encourages 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.

This year, we’re giving the campaign an official kickoff day — the day after Thanksgiving. Yes, we know we have some competition — so we’re calling ours White Friday.

Here’s how White Friday works: You sleep in as long as you need to. You sip your tea or coffee and bask in the memories of family and Thanksgiving the day before. Maybe you have a bit of breakfast. And then — when you’re ready — you take a leisurely stroll around the house taking notice of — and being grateful for — a few of the important pieces of “stuff” you already have. Maybe it’s an old family clock. Or a table that’s hosted family gatherings (such as dinner the day before). Or a treasured family photo. Or a special family cookbook. Or the crazy doo-dad sitting on the shelf that’s been in your life for as long as you can remember. And you write down their stories. (We call the things that you choose “heirlooms” here at The Heirloom Registry — but it’s really anything — old/new, expensive or “price-less” — that holds meaning for you.)

If you’re traveling and you’re waking up at your folks’ house (or grandparents’ — or some other relative) all the better! Let them choose the things that are important and whose stories they feel are worth sharing. You walk around with them, listen and take some notes. Maybe snap a photo or two of your family member in front of things he/she is talking about.

Here’s what I promise:

  1. You will learn something memorable you didn’t know before.
  2. You will smile.
  3. In years to come, you (and your family) will appreciate this simple gift more than almost anything else you could buy at 4 am.

It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated

To make it easy, we are gifting you this free, downloadable form that will help you collect some of the more pertinent information. When you finish you can simply attach the form to the back of the “heirloom” or file it with your important documents.

You can also try out The Heirloom Registry — for free — by signing up this holiday season for a complimentary registration number when you visit our Web site. (If you want to get a bit more fancy by ordering a permanent registration label or plate, we can help you with that.) But you don’t need to.

The important thing is that you do it. Because the stories of our family heirlooms usually disappear with our family members. And an heirloom without a story is — as we say — just more stuff.

We know it might sound crazy. And if you genuinely need that digital bathroom scale and can get it for the insanely low price of $9.99, go for it. (We all need things. That’s life on Earth.) Heck, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a mixture of both Black and White Friday. A Shade of Grey Friday feels like a step in the right direction.

But be the change you want to see in the world, right? We’d like a world that  makes room for a White Friday.

And we’d like to sleep in.

Happy Holidays!

Mike and Dan


Preserve, conserve, #nomorestuff


Happy Birthday Houstory!

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Founder/President

So I’m filling in this month as my brother Dan takes a well-earned summer break from the Herd.

Dan will return in the fall to remind you that you’re going to die — yes, it could be next week — and yes, a living obituary is a wonderful idea and loving gift for those you leave behind.

[Shameless Promotion: So is snapping a few pics with your smart phone and spending 15 minutes with your dad while he tells you the story of that interesting knick-knack that has sat on his shelf for as long as you can remember. It’s a part of his life and he’s around to tell you about it now. (Do it. Just do it!. We’ll even give you a free registration to get you started.) That is all.]

houstory, heirloom registry, birthday, home history book


As substitute editor, however, I thought I would take a break from Dan’s healthy and important DeathTalk to do a little celebrating.

Yes, Houstory officially turned 8 years old in June. Unofficially, we’re closer to 9 years old as the company was actually “born” the night of October 29, 2006. (In my my hot tub. Keep reading for details….)

It has been quite the ride. Quite the ride indeed. Marked, most recently, with my hand-delivering one of our Premier Home History books – one of just a handful handcrafted by the oldest custom bindery in America — to The Playboy Mansion, one of most famous homes on the planet.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…. Let’s start from the very beginning. It’s a very fine place to start.


Continue reading

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…




Bald and Bold: Just who are the Houstory brothers?

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

I don’t know about you, but I like to know who I’m doing business with whenever I have the opportunity. I try to choose companies that align with my values (although it now seems like there are only a handful of companies in the world, doesn’t it?) A proven track record of a business operating with decency, trust and generally living by The Golden Rule is important.

houstory, marian pierre-louis, maureen taylor, home history, house history

Mike, Maureen Taylor (aka The Photo Detective), house historian Marian Pierre-Louis and Dan a couple of years ago.


Are you the same? I’m guessing you are.

So, without further blah blah blahing, let me introduce a brand-spanking new, short video of who Houstory is — even beyond the baldness. Can you tell I miss my hair? Although I must say not having to visit the barber in over a decade has had its perks. I’m blah blahing again, aren’t I?

Is it important to know who you do business with? Do you even want to know? We’d love to connect with you. 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



House history: How to research architecture

Our last house history post examined the “How to hire a house historian.” This week, we step back and look at architectural elements as they relate to a home’s history. If you like what you see, please let us know with a comment and spread the word about us. We sure would appreciate it!

What good is architectural information?: Architectural drawings can reveal a lot about your home, such as specific measurements of rooms, home mechanics and even hidden details you may not be aware of. Additionally, they may provide insight into materials used on your home, floor and electrical plans and even design techniques used to build your house.

house history, home history book, architecture

Finding the architect: Building permits can be a valuable source of information. If the records have not been discarded, they might be found at a municipal or county agency, such as the building inspection department, the planning commission’s office, or the city engineer’s office. They will often contain contact information for the architect.

Finding the layout of your home: Architectural drawings can be found in a myriad of places, such as with the current owner, in a storage space, in a library or archives, with the descendants of the original owner, or perhaps even with the family or alma mater of the home’s builder or architect.

Historical archiving: The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) was established in 1933. For Houstorians™, this is a good thing, as survey holdings include drawings, photographs and even building histories of selected structures around the U.S. Much of the survey data is permanently on file at the Library of Congress, and provides a database to compare building characteristics. Catalogues based on the HABS collection have been produced for some local municipalities. Historical societies or museums and libraries — in addition to preservation associations and city and state historic commissions — may have information about the HABS project. For more information:

For more information on how to research your home’s history, visit the Home History Book archival journal Research and Preservation Center at

Are you a house historian? Or, as we’ve cleverly coined, a “Houstorian.” Or maybe you’ve worked with one you can recommend? We’d love to connect with you. 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

Houstory Deals of the Month — May 2014

Finally, it’s getting warmer outside. We don’t know about you, but we’re ready for a little sun after a very cold winter. Well, we suppose that depends on where you are in the world, right southern hemisphere Houstorians?

For the rest of us, while it is still a bit rainy and before you get too carried away with all the fun that gardening, camping, biking, swimming and generally relaxing outside has to offer, you may want to take care of a little spring cleaning in the form of family history documentation. This month, we are giving you a chance to save the stories behind 10 family heirlooms with a 25 percent discount on a 10-pack of our Heirloom Registry Standard Stickers. The stickers work with all sorts of furniture, clocks, and lots of other objects.

And for those who are sprucing up the outside of their homes, make sure to document these “before” and “after” shots in a new Home History Book archival journal Premier Classic. This is the top of the line as far as our Home History Book archival journal product line goes. It’s a book that was actually made at the oldest hand bindery in the country in Boston, Mass. For those who invest in the book, it will last the residents and homeowners in your house centuries. This month only, we are offering 25 percent savings on the Premier.

Enjoy your spring!

heirloom registry, houstory, may 2014 deals of the month

home history book, houstory, may 2014 deals of the month

Once per month here at The Houstory Hearth, we are giving the Houstory Nation a chance to save big on our product line. Each of the two monthly discounts will represent our two product lines: The Home History Book archival journal, and The Heirloom Registry. For serious family historians, house historians, real estate agents, bed and breakfast owners, antique dealers, and family heirloom aficionados, the “Houstory Deals of the Month” should be a regular stop on your online itinerary. Make sure to stop by on the second Wednesday of every month to find out what the latest deals are. Questions? Thoughts? 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.

Houstory Deals of the Month: April 2014

Once per month here at The Houstory Hearth, we are giving the Houstory Nation a chance to save big on our product line. Each of the two monthly discounts will represent our two product lines: The Home History Book archival journal, and The Heirloom Registry.

For serious family historians, house historians, real estate agents, bed and breakfast owners, antique dealers, and family heirloom aficionados, the “Houstory Deals of the Month” should be a regular stop on your online itinerary. Make sure to stop by on the second Wednesday of every month to find out what the latest deals are.

Questions? Thoughts? 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.


Heirloom Registry, Premium Labels, deal of month

Home History Book Deluxe archival journal, deals of the month, Mahogany Classic

House history: 11 tips to research a home’s interior

Our last house history post examined the “Top 12 House History Research Supplies” for house historians, or “houstorians,” as we like to refer them. This week, we will take a peek inside at what it takes to learn about a home’s interior history. 

Facelifts: Try to notice alterations, such as mixed materials or material scarring that may indicate structural deletions. Finding this evidence can be challenging for Houstorians – especially considering modern construction practices that make telling the difference between an original material and a substitute difficult.

house history, research, home interior

Notice the subtleties: Aside from more obvious modifications – such as new room additions – focus on more minor clues, such as signs of wallpaper replacement. This kind of detail may help indicate a room’s previous use.

Get familiar with interior design trends relating to your home’s beginnings: Houstorians should try to research interior design, using books and older publications, such as magazines and newspaper advertisements, if applicable. For example, advertisements may provide insight into a variety of interior-design issues, ranging from costs of materials and goods to appliances, heating and cooling systems.

Line things up: To get a full picture of a houstory, take a bird’s eye view of how your home’s rooms are laid out. Are the dominant line features curving, horizontal, or are they vertical? For example, many 18th- and 19th-century rooms emphasize vertical design by utilizing high ceilings, towering windows and oversized doors, whereas other styles may have more rounded features.

House plan books: These types of books have been around since the mid 1800s. They contain sketches or photos of homes, complete with floor plans – which can be invaluable from a Houstory perspective. Homeowners would simply send away for blueprints, and give them to their builders to construct. Libraries and some larger bookstores may have copies of the original books. Newspapers — and perhaps even some lumber companies, who produced the wood needed for homes — may also have the information. For example, from 1908 to 1940, Sears, Roebuck & Company marketed and sold approximately 100,000 homes by catalog.

Get in there and get dirty: Get up close and personal with your walls – which may give clues to the timeframes of the building. Houstorians may have differing moldings in the same room for example, which may help to indicate modifications. Clues can be everywhere. For example, holes in walls may lead to observations about locations of paintings or lighting; unusual window shapes and sizes may help to clarify the locations of decorative windows.

Look at things in a different light: Original paint colors and wallpaper can be difficult to ascertain for Houstorians, as rooms can transform shades on a fairly regular basis. Often, outer fabrics – and sometimes even the wall itself – must be removed or disturbed to make these discoveries. However, sometimes – when walls are examined during various times of day in differing lighting conditions — different clues can become apparent.

Look to the pros: While you may be able to discover a lot on your own, paint chip removal should be done with extreme caution by Houstorians – not only in terms of home damage, but also information accuracy. Light, aging, pollution, glazes – all can alter the look of the paint. In many cases, professional conservators are needed for final evaluation.

Clues at your feet: Floors and floor coverings are often pages in the life story of your home. Details about furniture locations and room uses can be revealed to Houstorians by carefully examining floors for things like marks, burns, scars, and water damage. However, sanding, polishing and waxing floors – or replacing older carpet – can destroy or greatly compromise the accuracy of this information.

Apply your knowledge of appliances: Appliance styles – particularly in bathrooms, utility rooms and kitchens – can really help Houstorians gather valuable insight. These rooms are nearly always the first locations in a house to receive the latest and greatest in technology. Leftover clues, such as capped gas lines, electrical outlets, switches and lighting fixtures can also tell a tale.

Using public utilities: If permits are not available or accessible for some reason, public utility connection dates can help Houstorians to verify construction dates and potential improvements that may have occurred. Utility companies may have access to records and maps showing approximate times of when gas lines were laid, or electrical lines were put in place, for example.

For more on how to research your home’s history, and effective ways to make sure these stories are saved for the future, please visit