Thursday, July 22, 2010
Carpenters' blood courses through my veins. My dad is the latest in a long line of Robbins men who built their own homes and/or built homes for sale. Intermarried into the Robbins clan were daughters of more carpenters: Lewis men, and Wilkinson men and more. On my mother's side, her maternal grandfather Hoekstra and his father built homes as well, for themselves and for others. A couple of years ago I thought how great it would be if I could research the homes my carpenter ancestors had built, find photos, and blog about them. Last summer, when my computer was down, I dreamed up an idea of a once-a-year carnival in which bloggers could write about their ancestral homes, or the history of the home they now live in, or a favorite historical house in their community. It could be extended to temporary homes, such as the Coachman camper atop the International Harvester truck my family lived in during the summer of 1979 when we moved from Alaska and traveled down through British Columbia to Washington and Oregon--and then after my parents bought their new home, traveled from Washington to Michigan to visit family while the former owners moved out.
I've done a lot of my own research on the home I live in now. It's 102 years old, a tiny cottage that once housed two families during the Depression. Looking into the city directories, it appears that the couples broke up and one wife from one couple married the husband from the other couple and continued to live here. This house was once rumored to have a ghost, and I've talked to an elderly woman who once lived here who swears someone was murdered here and buried in the basement. If these walls could talk...!
But I'm very busy these days, even on my summer vacation. There's scanning and organizing and writing posts for my latest series, 52 Weeks of Online American Digital Archives and Databases, which at the rate it's going will probably take 152 weeks instead. There's work to be done in my new role of 1st vice president of my local genealogical society. There are presentations to work on for workshops I'll be speaking at in the fall. So no "Home Sweet Home Carnival" is in sight. However, I'm pleased to direct your attention to a very creative and ingenious substitution: Historyofhomes.net.
A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail announcing the website and its free membership. This site has so much possibilities! You register yourself, and then can start registering your home(s). Here's a place where you can upload photographs (modern or vintage) and mark their locations on Google Maps. You can add history and data from city directories, land plat or Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. Plus there's a social networking feature that allows you to interact with other members.
So go ahead! Sign up and start adding information about all those historical homes I know you have sitting in your file cabinets and computer files. Download the free toolkit from the site. Upload those photos. Connect with other genealogists and historians and vintage home enthusiasts, like myself. And if you're looking for a good resource to help you research the details, I recommend Discovering the History of Your House and Your Neighborhood by Betsey J. Green. If you can't find it at your local library or bookstore, you can order it new or used at my Amazon store. I think Historyofhomes.net can be a great digital repository for recording those special places where you or your ancestors lived, or perhaps the places they built. Check it out!