Friday, November 26, 2010

Adding a House History to Your Genealogy

Recently, I've been thinking of my maternal grandmother's house a lot.  We use to go visit her every summer and stay for weeks. Her house was a totally different world for us kids living in Southern California.  Her home in the White Mountains of Arizona were slower paced and full of different things to explore. Because she lived in a small town we could walk everywhere and would enjoy eating out of her garden, wading through the irrigation in her garden, throwing apples from her crab apple tree at cousins and picking currants.  In a time before multi-plex theaters, her local movie theater was only a block away and that always seemed exciting. When we would go pick up her mail at the Post Office all we would have to say is that we were there for Grandma Nikolaus' mail and they knew exactly who we were talking about.

Unfortunately, Grandma's house burned down about 10 years ago. She had died years before but family members lived there and it was still referred to by us as "Grandma's house." When that house burned down so did a lot of memories.

As I was pulling old family photos out of a magnetic album this week and scanning them to preserve them, I came across pictures of her home. That mint green with white trim house brought back memories.  There were pieces of petrified wood on the outside facade (she lived in Arizona where you could find such materials and people in the early 1900s used it for decoration). It got me to thinking how important a family member's home can be to our genealogy. Yes, the names and dates are important but the stories of where our family lived, where we sat with them, where we had meals and laughed can be so important.

Your inclusion of a house history with your genealogy can include photos (inside and outside), drawings, deeds, newspaper articles, plat maps, and remembrances. I wrote a brief article about researching a home for the WorldVitalRecords newsletter that you can find here.

A house history can add more detail to your family history narrative and help your children and grandchildren to know why your grandmother's house (or even your childhood home) was so special to you.


Greta Koehl said...

Sounds like your grandmother and her house were a great joy to her grandchildren. I agree on the importance of houses to our history - whenever I want to summon up a memory, I just start remembering the house where I was living at the time.

WhitePineLane said...

Oh - you've opened up so many ideas for my genealogy research! We have a few houses important to our family, and you're right - those memories should be preserved as well. Great article!

Kim said...

Researching the history of a house (yours or your ancestors) is very much like researching your family history. As I looked into the history of the 1902 home that we own, I found it fascinating to learn about the two families that lived here before us.