Home History Book to be donated as prize during Connecticut house history workshop

Houstory is very proud to be a part of the festivities at an upcoming presentation/workshop by house historian Marian Pierre-Louis. Below is a press release outlining the event. Thank you, Marian, for all your help!

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Simsbury, Conn. — Houstory Publishing, LLC, publisher of the original Home History Book™ archival journal, an heirloom-quality house history book, will donate a copy of the book as a door prize during an upcoming May 1, 2012 talk by house historian Marian Pierre-Louis at the Simsbury Free Library. The book, which retails for $300, will be custom engraved for the winner.  Audience members will be able to use the research skills learned during the house history talk and then record the information they uncover in a book such as Houstory’s Home History Book.

Marian Pierre-Louis

Thanks to the program being offered by the Simsbury Free Library (SFL), Bob Maxon, weatherman for the local NBC affiliate has enlisted the help of house historian, lecturer, and writer Marian Pierre-Louis.  In a special evening event at the SFL on Tuesday, May 1, 2012, Pierre-Louis will use Maxon’s home to demonstrate how to conduct house history research, including where to find deeds, how to chain a deed, how to locate other sources of information such as US Federal Census records, as well as teach some tricks to help people get the most out of house history research.

The program begins with a reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by the presentation at 7:00 p.m.  Pre-registration is required.  Cost for the event is $5 for members; $10 for non-members.  Memberships are available for $20.  Call (860)-408-1336 or email simsburyfreelibrary@gmail.com to register.\

About Houstory Publishing, LLC

Believing that every house has a story, Houstory Publishing — started in 2007 by brothers Mike and Dan Hiestand — has designed its book to serve two important functions: First, it provides homeowners who wish to research the history of their home an attractive and lasting medium to record and share their findings with others. Second, it helps them document and record their own stories — their living history. This includes information about both the home’s physical structure and changes that may occur over the years and — perhaps more importantly — about their own family’s time in the home. It is this personal history — the stories of a family’s everyday life and/or significant events that occur while living in the home — that give a home its unique character and feel. Unlike a family’s personal scrapbook or photo album, the Home History Book is meant to stay with a house as a permanent record of its past history and present stories.

About the Simsbury Free Library

The Simsbury Free Library (the Simsbury Genealogical and Historical Research Library) opened on the second floor of the Hopmeadow District School in 1874.  In 1890, the Library’s collection was moved to its present location at 749 Hopmeadow Street in Simsbury.  Today the Simsbury Free Library (SFL) seeks to promote interest in genealogy and history by providing access to research material and expertise, artifacts, and educational and cultural programs.  It seeks to help patrons connect with the past and to learn from and be inspired by those who have gone before them.  The SFL provides a relaxed setting in which people can pursue family research history at their own pace.  For everyone from seasoned genealogy veterans to beginners, the SFL has the staff and resources necessary to help visitors develop the skills required to create family trees, search local histories, look up census records, explore vital records, etc.

The Simsbury Free Library – the Gracious Yellow Lady – is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and the second and fourth Saturdays of the month from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. as well as by appointment.  For more information, visit www.simsburyfreelibrary.org or call (860) 408-1336.

About Marian Pierre-Louis

Marian Pierre-Louis is a house historian, lecturer and writer.  Specializing in the histories of New England homes, she frequently speaks at libraries, societies, and conferences throughout New England on house history and genealogical topics.  She is the author of the popular blog, The New England House Historian (NEHouseHistorian.blogspot.com).  For more information about Pierre-Louis and her work, visit www.FieldstoneHistoricResearch.com.

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.

Yes, it’s true: Not every house has a happy story to tell

By Rick Read — Special to the Houstory Hearth

Last week, genealogist Rick Read shared his insight into how to effectively take “then” and “now” photos of your house using an older home in Bellingham, Wash. as the example. This week, he returns to tell us about the heartbreaking story behind those photos.

Rick has nearly 40 years of experience as an award-winning TV producer. He is also an avid still photographer and genealogist and was, for five years, the research aide for theWhatcom Genealogical Society (Washington state).

My previous blog entry focused on creating a “then” and “now” display of old and recent photos of your home.  What I did not talk about in that article was why the original “then” photo was taken in the first place.

Credit: 1995.0001.019938 Photo by Jack Carver Courtesy: Whatcom Museum

Jeff Jewell, Whatcom Museum photo historian (Bellingham, Wash.), asked me to research the photo, taken by veteran Bellingham Herald photographer Jack Carver. The photo was catalogued into the museum collection with a one-sentence description that included a surname (that I will not reveal for privacy reasons); a time frame (“spring 1958”); and a word (“murder”).

Not much to go on. So, how to proceed? With an approximate date, I could have simply looked through three months of newspaper microfilm to find the event. My experience has been that, depending on the magnitude of the event you’re researching, it can take up to an hour to scan through a month’s worth of newspapers. OK, so I could have found the article in about three hours. Fortunately, there was a quicker method.

The surname mentioned in the photo description was more uncommon than common – a big help. The event in question was a murder, so I knew I could check the state death index to find that surname. That would lead me to a first name and date. That would cut my research time considerably. But was there any quicker method?

If your subject was born, married or died in Washington state, the answer is “yes.” The Secretary of State’s office has created a wonderful online resource – the first of its kind in the country – called, “The Washington State Digital Archives” (http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov). By entering a first and/or last name, you can find birth, marriage and death records – as well as additional information – for almost anyone who was born, married or died in the state.

In this case, I did not have a first name, but I did have an unusual surname and an approximate date. So, I entered the surname, clicked on “Death Records,” then sorted the records by clicking on “Death Year,” and up popped a single death record for 1958. Suddenly, I had the victim’s full name, date of death, and even the names of her parents.

Minutes after arriving at the Bellingham Library, I was looking at the reason why Jack Carver had taken that photo back in the spring of 1958. Turns out it was front-page news.

Background: Sam and Ethel had lived with their three children at the house on “I” Street for three years (I found this information by researching their name in the city directory). On the night before Father’s Day, Ethel walked her daughter to a babysitting job just a few doors down the street. When Ethel didn’t return promptly, Sam became concerned. He went outside and discovered his wife, beaten and unconscious, lying alongside their home. She passed away the next morning. An 18-year-old man was arrested later and he confessed to the random killing.

This turned out to be on of those “be careful what you wish for” stories. It can be a fascinating process to research the stories associated with your home. Just keep in mind that not all of those stories may be happy ones.

Editor’s note: While it is true not every house has a happy story to tell, we still believe it’s important to document the past and present. After all, history is not always pleasant — but it does help to give us context and insight — which is why it holds value. 

For more on disclosure of your home’s past, Inman News — a great resource for independent real estate news — recently published an article on the topic entitled, “Disclosing crime when selling a home.” 

We’d love to know your thoughts! Let us know — would you want to know the full history of your home, warts and all? 

If you have knowledge in a topic our readers may be interested in — such as historical preservation, home genealogy or homes in general — and are interested in writing a guest column for us, please let us know! Contact us at info@homehistorybook.com.

Bring your home’s history to life using these simple photo tips

By Rick Read — Special to the Houstory Hearth

Occasionally, the Houstory Hearth will feature guest authors who have knowledge and expertise related to the world of Houstory Publishing. This week, we feature Rick Read. Rick has nearly 40 years of experience as an award-winning TV producer. He is also an avid still photographer and genealogist and was, for five years, the research aide for the Whatcom Genealogical Society (Washington state).

One of the great aspects of the Home History Book archival journal is that it encourages you to take note of the changes that occur in your home over time. And what better way to demonstrate those changes than to compare old and recent photos – “then” and “now” photos. You can make the comparison even more dramatic by taking your “now” photo from the exact location at which the “then” photo was snapped. I will refrain from becoming too detailed here.

If you want the details, check out this great Web site.

I am using a “then” photo furnished by Jeff Jewell of the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Wash. (There’s an interesting story about this photo – I hope to share it with you in the future.) The first thing you’ll want to do with your “then” photo is to scan it and print a large black and white “work print.” This print will become your guide for lining up your “now” photo. Printing in black and white will also help you focus on the details of the photo.

Take a close look at the photo. Note the relationships of features that might still exist today:

  1. How the front left part of the porch exposes the house behind the subject house
  2. How the vertical end of the porch railing (on which the young boy is sitting) lines up with the window behind the rail
  3. How much of the building in the back right of the subject house is exposed

You may find it helpful to draw a grid pattern over your “then” photo. The horizontal and vertical lines can be helpful when lining up your “now” shot. Avoid using relationships to transient items, such as the height or width of a tree. You’ll quickly discover that these relationships will only lead to frustration.  Another thing about vegetation: winter can be a better time for taking “now” photos, as any leaves that block your subject will be gone.

THEN PHOTO — CLICK TO ENLARGE 1995.0001.019938; photo by Jack Carver; courtesy Whatcom Museum

Once you’ve made note of several physical relationships on your “then” picture, you’re ready to take your “now” shot. You will find a tripod especially helpful for this process. It’s tough to hold your camera in one hand and your “then” photo in the other, while trying to get the shot lined up properly. Keep in mind, too, that the position from which the “then” photographer took his photo may have changed. He may have positioned himself on a hill that is long gone, or he may have been standing in what is now the middle of the street. (You might want to take a partner with you to serve as a lookout.)

When you’ve found that “sweet’ spot, click away. Take a few shots, move slightly and take a few more. Continue to refer to your “then” shot, as you make adjustments. You can present your finished photos side by side or as a blended image.

Check these Web sites for more examples:

* Leningrad Seige — Then and Now

* Normandy 1944 — Then and Now

NOW PHOTO — CLICK TO ENLARGE

Whichever display method you choose, you’ll have some great images to add to your Home History Book archival journal and to share with future owners of your home.

If you have knowledge in a topic our readers may be interested in — such as historical preservation, home genealogy or homes in general — and are interested in writing a guest column for us, please let us know! Contact us at info@homehistorybook.com.

POLL: Do you have any significant home renovations planned for 2012?

As we progress into 2012, we at Houstory Publishing are curious: What changes do you have planned for your home this year? Maybe you’ll be painting the bedroom, replacing your kitchen cabinets or putting in new wiring? Or perhaps it will be something even more demanding — such as the addition of a new wooden deck, or a comprehensive living room makeover?

We want to know what your plans are, and so do other house lovers! Make sure to take the poll below, and leave a comment with some specifics.

And if you do have renovation plans, hopefully your project won’t end up being a nightmare.

Renovations are important components of your house’s story, so make sure you are safely recording and preserving them somewhere! Take photos (before and after); log key dates; cite materials used (such as paint colors) and document any other information you think may be beneficial for those who may live there in the future.

They will thank you for your efforts later.

 

Need a 2012 resolution idea? Start preserving, sharing your stories now as a gift to the future

The Home History Book™ archival journal is primarily designed for users to fill in the “current” history of what is happening in their home. No research required — just tell your story. In other words, it will be a first-person account — invaluable information for future home historians and homeowners.

The Home History Book™ archival journal Deluxe Mahogany: Built to last

Simply fill in one of the book’s 10 repeating “Our Home’s Stories” sections as often as you like (we recommend once every few years) with photos and information. Essentially, it’s a baby book for the home … that stays with the home. And because it stays behind — even as owners come and go — it allows future owners a glimpse into what happened in the home before they lived within its walls.

Whether you decide to purchase a Home History Book archival journal or not, please start preserving and sharing your home’s stories now. Just keep them safe and accessible! Think of the value these memories will have for those who may live in your home just 10 or 20 years from now.

It is our passion to inspire home genealogy. After all, the more you know of a home’s history, the more likely you are to take care of it. In other words, we hope our product encourages stewardship — both in terms of the environment (caring for what you have, as opposed to simply throwing it away and starting over) and cultural stewardship (protecting stories for generations to come).

For more information — including free research materials that will help you discover your home’s beginning history (before you lived there) — visit www.homehistorybook.com.