Houstory Herd: Looking Ahead Edition

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

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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.

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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.”


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.”


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!


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.


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!


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? 


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.”


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.”


Until we “Herd” again…

New Year’s Resolution: Take Ten Minutes (and Two Bucks) to Preserve Family History Forever

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Founder

I’ve always loved radio. While I missed the so-called Golden Age of Radio in the 1930s and ‘40s, I’ve still always had the radio bug in me. From listening to the CBS Radio Mystery Theater with E.G. Marshall on my pocket transistor in my bedroom as a young boy to still enjoying “appointment radio” most Saturday evenings with Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, the medium has always called my name in a way television never has.
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The large floor-model radio operated for several decades in the family-run hardware store in East Chicago.

I think that’s why my in-laws thought about me about 25 years ago when they acquired a 1930s-era radio from my mother-in-law’s grandfather. The large floor-model radio operated for several decades in the family-run hardware store in East Chicago, Indiana where it would have certainly played hundreds of Chicago Cub games, broadcast war news from Edward R. Murrow through Chicago’s CBS affiliate WBBM and alerted shoppers looking for a particular nut or bolt of the death of John F. Kennedy. My mother-in-law, now in her late 70s, says she remembers the radio well from when she was a young girl visiting the store.

The radio completed its service in the mid-1980s and was removed by my in-laws shortly before the old store was torn down.

The radio still works, but since it only plays AM radio well — which I have reason to listen to less and less — I don’t turn it on too often. Still, it is an attractive piece and it has been in our house since before both of our daughters were born.

For my daughters – who I’m not sure even know AM radio exists – it’s simply been a part of their day-to-day lives. It’s a place to drop their books, or to store our outgoing mail as they walk past it every day on their way out the front door.

I’ve touched on the story of the radio a few times, but let’s be honest, when you’re a teenager, family genealogy and stories about relatives — most of whom are now gone and they’ll never met — isn’t a high priority.

But, if they’re like most of us, someday it will be.

And our radio, like all family heirlooms, is a tangible, real — and touchable — piece of family history that brings to life a story in a way that simply looking at a family tree and seeing their great-great grandfather’s name “Joseph Wadas” never will.

Joseph was a first-generation immigrant from Poland who arrived in his late teens.  He is my daughter’s link to a big part of their family’s start in the “New Country,” and this radio came from the store that truly was part of his American Dream.  While I don’t know the exact date the radio was acquired, I presume his fingers worked the well-worn dials and permanent radio presets (it looks like radio station WLS was a particular favorite, as you can barely just make those call letters out.) Over the years, those same dials were definitely much-used by Joseph’s son, Walter, who took over the store when Joseph died and probably touched by their great grandpa and their much-loved grandma as well.

So, for them, it’s not just another old radio. But without its story, that’s exactly what it would be.

Fortunately, I know the story (or at least the parts I’ve been told). So this morning I permanently recorded that story at The Heirloom Registry. First, I attached a durable, permanent sticker to the backside of the radio, which includes a unique registration number and the Registry’s Web address. (You can purchase stickers from the THR Web site or even make your own if you just want to purchase a registration number and save a buck.)

I then spent about ten minutes writing its history — its provenance as they say in fancier circles — and uploaded a couple of photos of the radio showing it in its present location (because that is certainly also part of its story.) I also made a mental note to try and get a copy of a photo of Joseph (and perhaps even the hardware store) the next time we visit my wife’s parents so that I can upload as well.

And, truly, that was that. Once I acquired a registration number and recorded the radio’s story, there was nothing more that I ever had to do and there’s nothing more that I ever have to pay. As long as the sticker (or metal plate, which you can also purchase) is attached to the radio, its story will travel with it for anyone to pull up and see. I actually felt some relief when I finished. I’ve always felt a modest sense of obligation, as the owner of the radio — and keeper of its story — to make sure it was preserved and shared with future generations. And now, with an investment of ten minutes and two bucks, it is.

To see the Heirloom Registry entry, including photos, for the radio, visit www.heirloomregistry.com and enter registration number: SNTS-256-996-3497-2012


In 2013, Houstory’s goal is to tell your stories – the stories of home. Do you have family heirlooms with a story? We want to share your family history with our readers. And make sure to follow us at Facebook, where we will be posting your “Houstories” all year long.  And please comment and share if you like what we have written!