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? Family Heirlooms? Not This Week

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Director

Before there was Houstory, the Home History Book archival journal and The Heirloom Registry, there were only ideas. And the man behind these ideas — the company founder — is a guy named Mike Hiestand, who also happens to be my big brother.

Mary Beth Tinker, Mike Hiestand, Tinker Tour, Houstory

Mike and Mary Beth — aka The Tinker Tour — visit Syracuse University in October.

Before we officially launched Houstory in October 2011, both of us were involved in journalism: myself as a reporter and editor, and Mike as a media law attorney. We both believe firmly in the importance of a free press and the power of a well-told story, and have dedicated much of our professional lives to these causes. Admittedly, Mike has been at it a lot longer than me and in a much more targeted way.

Namely, he has spent 20-plus years affiliated with an organization called The Student Press Law Center (SPLC). During his award-winning career, he has provided free legal assistance to nearly 15,000 high school and college journalists/students and advisors in relation to laws regarding a variety of topics, including freedom of information, copyright, censorship, and the First Amendment. In other words, he has empowered a whole lot of young people with a civics education that they were able to take with them into adulthood and beyond.

Including me.

Now, you’re not going to catch me gushing about my brother very often in public (after all, he is my brother after all, right? That’s against unwritten brotherly code.) But this is one of those rare occasions.

Simply put, Mike is an inspiring guy. He’s not a person who likes the limelight, but he likes to know he is making a difference. He let this passion guide his professional life. And for him, that passion was empowering high school and college journalists and advisors with their rights.  The SPLC– a nonprofit just outside of Washington, D.C. — was his first job. It was also, as he says, his “dream job.”

Over the years, he became a prominent figure in the student press community. In fact, just last year, the Society for Professional Journalists named him the recipient of the prestigious SPJ First Amendment Award ”for extraordinary efforts to preserve and strengthen the First Amendment.”

Mary Beth Tinker, Mike Hiestand, Tinker Tour, Houstory

The Tinker Tour at the Journalism Education Association/National Scholastic Press Association convention in Boston last week.

Yeah, I’m proud.

So, what’s all this about you ask? Well, Mike is on the tail end of an historic civics education tour with American free speech advocate Mary Beth Tinker.

The pair have teamed up to travel the country in an RV on what has been dubbed The Tinker Tour — which officially started on Independence Mall in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center in mid-September and wraps up Nov. 25 in Kansas City, Mo. Working together, Mike and Mary Beth have reached out to colleges, high schools and other groups to “promote youth voices, free speech and a free press.” To date, as part of their fall tour east of the Mississippi, they have traveled more than 10,000 miles and have a couple thousand more to go.

As it states on their Web site: “The goal of the Tinker Tour is to bring real-life civics lessons to schools and communities through (Tinker’s) story and those of other young people.”

Mary Beth’s story started when she was a teenager in the 1960s and later became the basis of a Supreme Court decision (Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District). This decision set the legal standard for student free expression for many years.

“It’s been a dream come true,” said Mike. “Mary Beth is truly a rock star in the world of student free expression rights, and this tour is helping to inspire a lot of kids and teachers.”


So, there you have it.

It may not be house history, family history or family heirlooms this week — but it is important. After all, Houstory is Mike, and Mike is Houstory. I think it is safe to say that as genealogists and family historians, we all have a vested  interest making sure the information we seek remains accessible.

Mary Beth Tinker, Mike Hiestand, Tinker Tour, Houstory, Heirloom Registry

Houstory’s Heirloom Registry: A proud sponsor of The Tinker Tour


Mary Beth Tinker, Mike Hiestand, Tinker Tour, Houstory, Heirloom Registry


Please take a moment to check out the Tinker Tour Web site at, and consider donating to the West Coast leg of their tour in 2014.

What do you think of the Tinker Tour? Do you think civics education is strong in the United States? Do you think its dangerous to empower kids with their rights? However you feel, let us know.

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!