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!

Looking for the perfect gift for person with everything? Help them honor the stuff — and family heirlooms — they already have

Looking for a unique gift idea that’s not just more clutter? Help your loved ones save the stories behind their family heirlooms, add texture and color to your family history and help conserve natural resources — all at the same time.

11/19/12 UPDATE: Would you like a special gift from Houstory (in addition to the gift mentioned below)? “Like” us on Facebook for a special offer, which we will make available soon!

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Founder

I’m sure you know a person (probably more than one) who genuinely appears to have everything they need from a material goods standpoint. Both sets of my pre-Boomer parents fall into this category. Often, when you ask what they need from Santa, they honestly, sincerely and kindly tell you “nothing.” Because the truth is, we all reach a point — some much sooner than others — where we really don’t need more stuff. But do we listen? No.

We buy them something, perhaps out of guilt (which you already know is not a good reason), but more often because we genuinely feel love and affection for them. Exchanging gifts — even something very small, which they really don’t need (they told you!) — is one of the ways our culture expresses those feelings during the holiday season.

So, rather than fight the system, here’s a perfect, outside-the-box — and brand new — gift idea for 2012: Rather than buying them more stuff, help them honor some of the stuff they already have.

Show you care by helping them identify and share the stories of the things already in their lives that are genuinely meaningful to them (and probably to you as well), such as a family quilt; the dining room table that has been the center of family gatherings for generations; the cheap, funny looking lamp that your dad loves and your mom hates; family photos; a toy train; Bibles and scrapbooks — basically anything that might fall into the general category of a “family heirloom,” whose background and story make it more than just regular old stuff.

And while we understandably think The Heirloom Registry is an easy, simple and inexpensive way to accomplish this, we’re also on a two-part, nonprofit mission. And both are time-sensitive.

First, we want to stop the stories from disappearing. The interesting — and often magical — stories that can, for example, transform an otherwise ordinary, musical trinket into a priceless piece of family history, often disappear with the storyteller. And if its story disappears, the musical trinket — like Cinderalla at midnight —  changes back into just more stuff to get rid of at a garage sale — or to add to the already-stuffed landfill.

What a terrible, sometimes tragic, shame.

So, whether you permanently register the items on the Registry or not, please download the following free offline registry worksheet where your loved one can record the story of their most important things. They can just leave the completed form in the heirloom’s drawer or attach it to its underside where it can later be found. (It was such a wonderful note, written by my grandpa and left in his grandfather clock, that sparked the idea for The Heirloom Registry,  after all.) This is a simple gift from Houstory we sincerely hope you’ll use this year. Especially if it means preventing even one more story from being permanently lost.

Even better: Make it a stocking stuffer. And while the Christmas ham is baking, spend a wonderful hour with your folks or other gift recipient walking around their home, listening to their stories and taking notes. It is truly a special gift for everyone — and one that will keep on giving as future generations enjoy pieces of family history that they can actually touch. Safe from the landfill.

Which brings up the second part of our mission at The Heirloom Registry: natural resource conservation.

I’m a believer, but without question it has been my brother Dan’s passion about environmental issues and his unwavering commitment to growing a sustainable business that has guided much of Houstory’s growth and business philosophy.

We think of The Heirloom Registry as not only a useful, meaningful genealogy product, but also as a way to encourage better stewardship of the stuff we have. (And, if you think about it, our Home History Books — which tracks the story of what is usually our biggest heirloom — are just bigger, more beautiful versions of the stickers and plates we use with the Registry.)

The more you care about your stuff, the less you’ll probably want to replace it with something “new” and the more likely it avoids the landfill.

So this holiday season, give the perfect gift to the person who has everything. And feel great about it for years to come.

Houstory reviews Flip-Pal: Mobile scanner with many tricks and treats for home genealogists, family historians

In our never-ending world of gizmos, the Flip-Pal portable scanner is one that actually can make your life easier

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Founder

First off, Happy Halloween everyone!

So, today we are talking Flip-Pal because we have been considering joining the Flip-Pal affiliate program.

In the off-chance you haven’t heard of it, the Flip-Pal is a compact, purely portable (no computer or extra cords required) scanner that has essentially taken the genealogy community by storm. “Simple” is the description that seems to come up most often in reviews of the product, and – from the buzz it has generated – it clearly fills a need.

But before we jumped on the rapidly growing Flip-Pal affiliate bandwagon and recommended it to our customers, we felt it important to test drive one ourselves. Flip-Pal agreed to send us a test model.

Part One: Love at first sight — almost

It arrived a few days ago, and I had a quick project for which I thought it might be perfect, so I opened the box.

My first impression: I wish they had used more environmentally friendly packaging. It’s shipped in that PET plastic covering, which I can’t stand. I know it’s cheap and effective, but it’s often not very user-friendly and it’s not great for the environment. I’m not alone in this.  Fortunately, it was a higher-grade plastic which is, at least, recyclable. (That’s not always the case with PET plastic.) That made me feel better.

Interestingly, in discussing this with my brother Dan he mentioned that Gordon Nuttall, CEO of Couragent, Inc. (the maker of Flip-Pal) was recently interviewed by Lisa Louise Cooke on the Genealogy Gems podcast.  Dan highly recommends you listen to it if you are considering purchasing the product yourself as they go into more detail about Flip-Pal’s various bells and whistles.

During their conversation, my brother said Nuttall addressed the packaging issue and pointed out how it is essentially re-usable (and very “shippable,” in his words) if you send the scanner between multiple people because of its durability and the ease with which it can be opened and closed.

I still wish there was an alternative to PET plastic, but “re-usable” is certainly a step in the right direction. (We admit to perhaps being pickier than many when it comes to sustainability issues.)

And definitely no Styrofoam peanuts![1] (SEE FOOTNOTE BELOW)

Part Two: Ready to go

 

So not having seen it up close before, I was a bit surprised by how small it was.  I know its big appeal is that it is small and portable. I’ve worked with lots of scanners and this one, which was about the size of the brand new Apple iPads, really was small.

My curiosity was piqued.

It was, for all intents and purposes, “ready to go out of the box,” as they say. The only thing I had to do was remove a couple pieces of protective shipping tape and then gently tug a plastic tab in the direction indicated by its arrow, which “activated” the four AA batteries, which were thoughtfully included and pre-installed.

Wait a minute: The directions say something about applying some Optional Protector Sheet (OPS). Apparently the OPS came with its own “installation sheet” and I was supposed to read it “for detailed instructions.” Even worse, I didn’t see the aforementioned sheet anywhere. Suddenly the sweet pleasure of this “ready-to-go-out-of-the-box” experience felt like it might be in jeopardy.

But then I remembered– the OPS is optional.

Moving on!

Part Three: Getting to work

So the unit powered up quickly and easily by sliding a single power switch.

Then – a surprise – it asked me to put in the current time and date. You only have to do it the first time you start the unit and then each time you change the batteries. It’s a quick and easy process. Once set up, the cool thing is that scanned information can now be date/time stamped, helping you remember when – which helps greatly with the “where” – you obtained your research information.

 

So today, in putting together a Halloween-themed post, I simply want to scan in an older photo that came before digital cameras and therefore doesn’t yet exist in digital format. Looking at the Flip-Pal Web site, it appears the scanner can be a part of much more advanced scanning projects (specifically, digitally “stitching” together a large document or flat object, such as a quilt, from multiple scans). I’ll test drive those features during future uses. Today, I just need the photo.

To scan my photo I have a couple options. First, if the photo (or document) is 4 x 6 inches or less — and loose — the easiest thing is to simply scan the material as you do on more traditional, larger scanners by putting the photo on the Flip-Pal scanner bed, closing the top and hitting a big green button. Easy as pie.

In fact, I pretty much unpacked the scanner, looked at the instructions and e-mailed the photo off to my brother – using a cleverly designed USB stick, which came with my Flip-Pal and acted as the bridge between my scanner and my computer – in less than 5 minutes. The actual scanning took about five seconds and the quality of the scanned photo was good – it scanned in at about 650KB using the 300 DPI setting. The colors were very close to the original.

However, if your photo is in a book, glued in a photo album or if your document’s location makes it difficult to scan, you can detach the unit’s top, flip the unit over and scan items by simply hovering over them and pushing that same big green button. (See photo). To me, this is what sets the Flip-Pal apart from your father’s scanner (or mine, purchased a couple years ago). It’s more difficult to explain in words than it is to do. Trust me, it was a piece of cake — and very handy and clever. And the quality of the scan was pretty much the same as the first image.

However you position the unit, once the green button is hit, the material is scanned to a removable memory card (a 2GB SD-formatted card ships with the unit), where it is converted into a full-color JPEG-formatted file and can be viewed as a large thumbnail-sized image on the Flip-Pal’s built-in display screen.  You can scan hundreds of images before having to empty your memory card using either an SD-card reader or the Flip-Pal’s cool USB stick. You can then treat the scanned file the way you treat any other photo or image, including playing with it in Photoshop or photo restoration software. As a Macintosh user, I simply put it in my iPhoto folder.

That’s pretty much it. I wish I’d had it sooner. This summer I completed a basic house history of my sister-in-law’s summer cottage in Lake Elmo, Minn. I was in a number of libraries, the courthouse and the local historical society. In most places, I was left to take handwritten notes and, if available, pay for photocopies of photos in books. The Flip-Pal would have nicely avoided that. Instead of putting a bunch of photos, books and documents in a pile to copy or process – and then later taking them back to be filed —I could have simply seen something I wanted to make a record of, flip my scanner on top of it and hit the green button.

The Flip-Pal is not going to replace traditional scanners. If you have a big scanning job, with lots of full-sized pages, you’ll probably want to keep using the bigger flatbed. But for genealogists, family historians and house history researchers – who are often researching on-the-go and have perhaps more modest scanning needs – the Flip-Pal is an impressive tool. I am happy to recommend it to the Houstory Publishing community.


[1] You know, most things being fairly equal, I have intentionally passed on doing repeat business with vendors that ship using those expanded polystyrene “peanuts,” or “Styrofoam” as the product is officially known. I can only conclude that a company isn’t thinking of me, their customer, when it ships me a carton full of non-biodegradable, toxic carcinogenic, petroleum-based packing material that — no matter how painfully careful I am in opening the box — tumble forth into my office and home where — thanks to the static charge they often come with — they evade capture. Such companies also clearly aren’t thinking of how their decision to go “cheapo” with the peanuts also means it is now my responsibility to reuse (trust me, I’ve got bags of peanuts now cluttering my basement), recycle (according to the search engine on the Plastic Loose Fill Council’s Web site mine have to go to a special recycling facility that requires a half-hour trip from my house) or somehow dispose of in an environmentally friendly way. Thanks!

 

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!

 

Study: ‘Family stories’ more important than inheritance

There have been a number of studies over the past several years that have tried to get a handle on how much wealth pre-baby boomers — those born before 1946 — are going to pass down to their baby boomer and post-baby boomer heirs.

In fact, while all agree the number will set a new record for intergenerational transfers, the figures vary widely, ranging from $25 trillion to $136 trillion. The specific number probably isn’t that important to most of us since any number followed by a trillion — with a “T” — is a lot.  Perhaps surprisingly, however, a study found that amount is also of less interest to the boomers themselves.

In a 2005 study commissioned by the Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, 86% of boomers named “family stories” as the most important part of their legacy — ahead of possessions and inheritance.

The study, which consisted of interviews with more than 2,600 seniors and boomers, also found that non-financial items that parents leave behind — like ethics, morals, faith, and religion — are 10 times more important to both boomers and their parents than the financial aspects of inheritance.

The parents, however, aren’t buying it.

“Boomers,” the study found, “indicate they prefer to preserve their parents’ memories than receive a financial inheritance, while elders believe their boomer children are more interested in money.”

The study concluded that this disconnect, which is part of what the authors referred to as a “Legacy Gap,” needs to be addressed by parents and their children. To do so, the study identified “4 Pillars” that it suggests should form the basis of a meaningful conversation. Those included having discussions about: (1) values and life lessons, (2) instructions and final wishes and (3) financial assets.

A fourth pillar was a discussion of “personal possessions of emotional value,” or what we at Houstory simply like to call “heirlooms.”

Specifically the study urges heirs to ask their senior family members:

  • Are there items that document your life and/or family’s life that you would like to see passed on to future generations
  • Where do you keep your family photos – in albums or saved electronically, or other
  • Do you have any journals, diaries, scrapbooks, family history, or other important documents you would like to pass on?
  • Do you have household items that hold significant emotional value, but do not have much financial value?
  • Do you have toys, books, or mementos that you’d like to pass on to your children or grand children
  • Are there items like art, crafts, or furniture that evoke fond memories for you and your family?
  • Have you planned for the distribution of these items?

Of course, it’s these very questions and a desire to create an easy, effective and inexpensive way to address them that inspired the creation of The Heirloom Registry.

Giving one’s senior parents or relatives a handful of registry stickers or tags — or better, taking a couple hours to walk around their home with them to hear and help record stories about a few special items — can be both tremendously satisfying and a big step in helping close the legacy gap.

Homesickness and the natural longing for all things “home”

It’s about a month into the new school year. Which, according to those who track such things, means homesickness among college freshman is now hitting its peak.Home embroidery

Homesickness is the topic of a fascinating book, Homesickness: An American History, published late last year by historian Susan J. Matt, in which she knocks down some of the stereotype beliefs associated with homesickness. While Americans like to portray themselves as optimistic adventurers, always ready to wave goodbye to the past, pack up the car (or wagon train) and boldly blaze their trail into the unknown, Matt found that the evidence actually makes it pretty clear most of us are — and always have been — sentimental homebodies.

In fact, Matt found that the attempt to disguise or hide homesickness, for fear of being seen as weak, is a fairly recent societal phenomenon.

She found that homesickness was a tolerated part of life well into the 19th Century.  For example, during the Civil War, soldiers openly wrote about their longing for home and family. The Surgeon General’s office actually listed “nostalgia” — which was believed to be a severe case of homesickness— as the official cause of death for 74 Union soldiers. Immigrants during that time shamelessly recreated home in their new communities.  She found that homesickness among women, longing for a return to hearth and family, was even popularized by the press as a virtue.

With the industrial revolution and the advent of Social Darwinism, however, the tolerance for homesickness started to change. Homesickness was viewed as the inability to adapt, a mark of inferiority. Men, especially, were castigated for wasting time reminiscing about home or openly expressing their emotions. Beginning in the 1920s, experts warned parents of the dangers of coddling their kids — a parenting no-no some labeled “momism” — and told mothers to refrain from hugging and kissing their kids too much. Leaving home and not looking back was promoted as an important rite of passage, with those who remained behind frequently dumped into the “loser” camp.

While steering clear of more direct displays of homesickness, Matt said that modern society has tried to soothe the lost feeling of family and home with mementos of the past, or “nostalgic indulgences,” such as the purchase of retro homes, retro cars and a fascination with the toys, clothes, entertainment and brands of our childhood.

But the pendulum may be swinging back. Matt points to statistics and changing demographics that indicate a growing nostalgia for the past and desire to recreate “home” through — or, never leave it all. A 2008 Pew study of census data found that Americans today are settling down and are more likely to stay in one place than any group since the government began tracking the trend in the late 1940s.

In a radio interview with Wisconsin Public Radio’s Jim Fleming, Matt said that moving back towards an acceptance our natural call to home is probably a healthy thing.

“I do think that a lot of the alarm we hear today about children being too connected to their parents, all that discussion, and boomerang kids, helicopter parents, that there isn’t enough distance between them is based on a mythic view of our past that somewhere back in a different century we were more individualistic than we are…. I don’t think we’re that much different from earlier generations and I don’t think we should perhaps worry that we’re becoming soft or less independent, or less individualistic because I’m not at all convinced we were that individualistic 100 years ago, 150 years ago.”

Home is Where the Heart Is: Alaska Edition

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Founder

So Dan and I just returned from a week-long cruise to Southeast Alaska where we had a truly wonderful time with family and friends celebrating our folk’s 50th wedding anniversary.

In addition to the “normal,” and amazing wild Alaskan fare of spouting whales, seals, bears, glaciers we also took in some of Alaska’s wild and equally amazing homes. Having spent my formative years in Alaska and being a bona fide recipient of the state’s permanent fund dividend checks for several years (look it up — no taxes and they pay you), I feel I have the right to speak frankly: Like its extreme weather and everything else about our 49th state, Alaskan homes have a style all their own. Enjoy!

The Heirloom Registry: A Gift from Grandpa

The grandfather clock that inspired The Heirloom Registry

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Founder

Between 2006-09, I was presented with two gifts that would change my life.

The first was the simple, but now seemingly “obvious” idea for the Home History Book.

A “baby book for the home,” we call it in our elevator speech. An archival-quality book that tells the story of how a house becomes a home, written and shared by those who have lived there. A book that belongs to and is supposed to stay with the home.

It was, I think, what Oprah would call an “Aha moment”: An experience of quiet clarity, seemingly from out of the blue, that — if you are open to it — you cannot ignore.

I don’t know for sure from where that idea came. It was, however, a profound, even magical moment that I knew was life-altering as soon as it entered my consciousness.

The second gift came a couple years later: The idea for The Heirloom Registry. And for this one, I know exactly who to thank: It was a gift from my grandpa.

I grew up a military brat. My dad was career Air Force. There are lots of pluses to growing up a military kid. I got to experience lots of different places and lots of different people living in lots of different ways. But there are also some downsides: mainly, your “home” changes every 1-4 years.

It was the lack of permanence that probably explains the particularly strong attachment I had to my grandparents’ homes. They didn’t move. Their homes stayed the same. The look, the feel, the unique smell — those were soothingly constant during my childhood.

My paternal grandparents lived in the seaside town of Astoria, Oregon. Their home, like many in town, was high on the hill overlooking the Columbia River. As we ate breakfast, we would look out the window and watch cargo ships, fresh from the Pacific Ocean, tie up before venturing further inland to Portland or being piloted back out to sea.

It was an older home, whose windows were filled with ripply glass and whose floors creaked in all the right places.

The author (bottom left), brothers, mom and grandparents, John and Mildred Hiestand, in Astoria, Oregon. (c. 1970)

My grandparents were fairly old, and while we certainly felt welcomed, it wasn’t — simply because it wasn’t — a home made for kids, and particularly not young boys. Certainly not for five young boys — my four younger brothers and I — who visited for a week every summer or so. So we spent most of our time outside. Or reading.

Fortunately, I loved to read. Even more than I loved to play, truth be told. So I’d often have the living room to myself during the day while my brothers hit the nearby park or late at night, after they were made to go to bed earlier than I. And that’s where I got to know — and love — the clock.

The clock is a beautiful, noble grandfather clock, built in the late 1800’s. It truly is grand. No-frills, other than the movement of the simple moon dial at its crown. It rings on the hour. It doesn’t play around with fifteen-minute or even half-hour increments. The sound is bold and deep. You can feel it. It sat in the corner of the living room, next to their one TV (that I remember was almost never on) and across from the sofa, my usual spot.

I remember watching my grandpa wind it. Slowly. My grandpa was a retired mechanics shop teacher. He knew his way around metal parts. You never wanted to turn the key all the way, he would say. So he’d feel the spring tightening up and stop just so. Before closing the cabinet, he’d reach down into the bottom of the clock where he’d pull out a small tin in which he kept a rag soaked in kerosene. The kerosene vapors, he said, provided just the right amount of lubricant for the clock’s gears.

I don’t recall his ever adjusting the hands on the clock. Over the years, he’d obviously found the “sweet spot” on the pendulum adjustment; the clock kept perfect time. It still does.

I don’t remember when I first noticed the piece of paper tacked inside, in the back and out of view except for when the cabinet was open.

The only known photograph of the Astoria, Oregon, living room where the clock resided for many years. (The photo was taken from about the vantage point of the clock.)

Note inspiring The Heirloom Registry

Note tacked inside clock’s cabinet and written by author’s grandpa providing history of the clock

On it, in my grandpa’s writing, was the story of the clock. The clock, it said, was a wedding gift for his mother given by her father (my great grandmother and great-great grandfather, respectively). They lived in York, Pennsylvania, and the clock, the note said, was purchased from the “John Wanamaker store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the late 1880s’….”

My grandpa died in 1983. And the clock has been at my parent’s home in Washington State since the mid-1980s. Which is where I was, during a 4th of July get-together in 2009, and where I was with the clock again, by myself, when the idea for The Heirloom Registry was given to me. Once again in true “Aha” fashion, compliments — whether “real” or simply because of all that he did creating that precise moment — of my grandpa.

Of this I have no doubt.

The clock will always be a beautiful clock. But it is the story of the clock — an ongoing story — that makes the clock what it is. If my grandpa’s now somewhat crackled piece of paper were ever lost, and if those of us with memories of its history were not around, it would no longer be the same clock. It would just be a beautiful clock, perhaps in a great grandchild’s home — or for sale in an antique store.

I didn’t want that to happen. Neither did my grandpa. And I knew we weren’t alone. Everyone has a clock or a table or a mirror or a photo or painting or special book or quilt or something — sometimes old and passed down through the family, sometimes not so old. Sometimes expensive and sometimes not worth a nickel on eBay — but whose story makes it irreplaceable. A story that makes it unique in all the world. A story that should never be lost.

The Heirloom Registry makes sure that won’t happen.

So thanks grandpa. You wanted our clock’s story told. And now it always will be. Along with many, many others.

 

Mike Hiestand is the president and founder of Houstory Publishing.

The Heirloom Registry Presents: ‘A Three-Minute Love Story’

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Marketing Director

I’m not going to write a whole lot this week. I’ll let the video do the talking.

Special thanks to Angela Compton  (www.comptondesign.com), a great friend of nearly three decades and an incredibly talented artist who helped the little family and table come to life; and Matt Read (www.mattreadfilm.com), a gifted producer who tied it all together. Mike and I truly appreciate your hard work, and your willingness to put up with our nit-pickiness (is that even a word?)

The story follows the life of the table, from its discovery in a shop to becoming a family heirloom that is deeply loved.

We hope this is the start of something bigger than us. Save your legacy now. Your kids and grandkids will thank you later.

And please, if you believe in what my brother and I are attempting to accomplish — pass this video on to loved ones, both friends and family. We’d appreciate it, and we believe they will, too. Enjoy!

PHOTOS: The Heirloom Registry spends a Saturday outside an Antiques Roadshow event

The Seattle Times estimated that 6,000 people attended the Antiques Roadshow event on Saturday in Seattle. During the day, representatives of the Heirloom Registry spoke with several hundred of them about their family heirlooms and family keepsakes— and the stories behind them — as the lucky ticketholders to the event made their way to and from the Washington State Convention Center.

Heirloom Registry friends and family members drove about two hours south from company headquarters in Ferndale, Wash., to help pass out free registry stickers and let attendees know a little about how The Heirloom Registry works.

Below are a few photos of their visit. To read the entire story, see The Heirloom Registry’s latest press release.

heirloom registry, antiques roadshow, houstory publishing, family heirloom, family heirlooms, family keepsakes, provenances, family stories

Houstory Publishing President Mike Hiestand with Maggie McLaurin, Jessica Hiestand and Gabby Hall, outside the Antiques Roadshow event at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.

heirloom registry, antiques roadshow, houstory publishing, family heirloom, family heirlooms, family keepsakes, provenances, family stories

Maggie McLaurin passes out Heirloom Registry samples to those outside the Antiques Roadshow in Seattle.

Jessica Hiestand talking with attendees of the Antiques Roadshow outside the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle on Saturday.

Patty Hiestand (left) and Maggie McLaurin (right) distributing samples of The Heirloom Registry to attendees outside the Antiques Roadshow appraisal event, which was in downtown Seattle on Saturday.

heirloom registry, antiques roadshow, houstory publishing, family heirloom, family heirlooms, family keepsakes, provenances, family stories

Attendees of the Antiques Roadshow leaving the Washington State Convention Center on Saturday.