26    Oct 20102 comments

House History: Document yours!

A house on Rennweg (Zurich, Switzerland), c1880

 Imagine going down to the cellar of your house and seeing "1423" carved in an original beam.

Our daughter once lived in Zurich, Switzerland. Her fascinating house on a historic street - Rennweg - in the center of town was on all the medieval maps at the city museum. 

In the Middle Ages, it was the main street of the city's upper town and ran along the 12th century city wall from a fortified gate to the town hall. During street renovations, a Roman-era well was discovered.

Except for that carved date in an ancient wooden beam, a casual visitor would not have known the nearly 600-year-old building's history. Of course, other clues were the very steep steps, sloping floors and oddly-shaped rooms, but everything else was  modern.

Wouldn't you love to know the history of your home? When it was built and by whom? Who lived in it through the years? How they were connected to the community in which they lived?

Unless preserved, this type of information is often lost.

In Ithaca, New York,  a group of people have come up with a local project to preserve house history - one which could easily be replicated in places around the world.

Continue reading "House History: Document yours!" »

18    Aug 20102 comments

Family treasures: What’s in your attic?

Aren't attics - and cellars - magical places to explore?

As a young girl visiting my grandmother in upstate New York during the summers, we would often go to see her friend Fanny who lived not far away.

I remember the old country farm house set in large surrounding fields. While Grandma and Fanny were talking downstairs, I was given permission to go up to the attic and scrounge around.

Fanny and her family had bought the place from people who had long been living there, and the attic was full of what people generally hide away. I found ancient letters, old newspapers covering historical events, all sorts of documents, books, photographs, as well as odd pieces of furniture, art work and old-fashioned clothing. At that young age, I didn't recognize the importance of these finds.

Now that I am so involved in family history and artifacts, I often wish I had an opportunity to revisit that treasure trove. Unfortunately, the house is long gone, and a housing development fills those fields. Continue reading "Family treasures: What’s in your attic?" »

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