Wednesday, December 14, 2011

House Genealogy

About a month ago, I was looking to add to my blogroll as quite a few of those which I used to read have disappeared. When adding a blog, I try search blogs of those who have written about things that interest me. I have added blogs that have built their own houses, built boats, visited or live in countries I am familiar with, and share an interest in genealogy, etc. I hadn't searched for blogs on genealogy for awhile and so I did and discovered a blog by someone who describes herself as a house historian. I wasn't familiar with that phrase but essentially discovered it is someone who researches the history of a house and its occupants and surroundings.

It got me interested in researching me homestead roots. The hard part was knowing where to start because the first seven years of my life were anything but constant as my parents divorced, we moved around to several different towns across the state and my mom eventually got remarried to my father who lived on a farm exactly one mile south of where they live today. When my grandfather died in my early teens, we packed up and moved to his house a mile north since most of the associated buildings and storage bins that go along with farming were there along with a house that was a good half century newer. In the end, they say home is where the heart is and so I chose the place where my parents currently live and where my heart is when I think of 'home'.

I started off by researching previous owners of that farm and just doing some cursory research into who they are and where they came from. Because I'm a member of, I went on there and found other's who had those particular people in their family tree. As a starting point, I copied some of their records to my tree that I had created and was sifting through that a week later when I got an email from the owner of one of those trees who essentially asked who I was and why I had copied information from their tree. I think they were hoping for a long lost cousin but when I explained who I was and why I had copied their information, they dug around their records and sent me the above picture of my family's farm, before it was in my family.

How awesome is that? I had always heard that the house I grew up in a mile south was very similar to the original house that used to be where my parents live now and I must say, that the rumor was true. In fact, they were apparently identical at one time. The only difference between the house where I grew up in and the house pictured was that instead of a porch on the right side of the house, an addition was made for a laundry room, wood storage are and a place for coats, boots, etc. Instead of the little addition on the left side of the house in the photo, there was a larger addition where a more modern kitchen was installed. Otherwise, the central house shape, window locations, roof pitches, etc., were all exactly the same.

The house in the picture was torn down probably sometime in the late 40's because my grandfather purchased the property and built a new house in the same place, perhaps just on the backside of the original house as viewed in this picture, sometime around 1950. The barn or outbuildings are no longer there but the lay of the land is unmistakably the same as it is today. The area where the barn was is simply an empty lot for parking wagons, augers, etc when needed nearby but not in the way. Where the outbuildings were on the left side of the photo is where the current shop complex is where my father works on his equipment and stores some of it.

I'm not sure if the two large trees that bracket the house are still the same ones that are there today. The large tree to the right of the house in the picture above appears to be on the backside of the house and would be the one right in front of the house my grandfather built that is still there today. It is a large chinese elm tree if it is the same. The large tree to the left of the house and behind the barn is probably the one that fell down in a big wind storm when I lived on the farm a mile south. This compares well to the aerial photographs taken by the Iowa DNR in August of 1951 & 1930.


sage said...

The size of the house and barn for the time makes them look successful (at least compared to most of the "farmhouses" in the South from then. I like the idea of a House Genealogist. There is a wonderful book that I read many years ago about Buffalo NY told through a bar there--I think the book is called the "Last Fine Time." I always thought it was an interesting approach to history, as the owners changed with ethnic immigration,etc.

R. Sherman said...

That's always an interesting topic. I have a county atlas from 1875 which shows my great great grandfather's farm along a county road. Every so often I drive past the land and note with comfort is ca. 1848 cabin is still standing, in use to today housing someone's lawn implements. They knew how to build 'em in those days.


Ed said...

Sage - Perhaps it was success or just the norm for the area because all the old farm houses of the area were that size with a few even larger. When the farm crisis of the 80's caused the countryside to vacate, I spent many summers tearing down those houses for salvaged lumber. I still remember piles of 2 x 12 lumber not 1-1/2 x 11-1/2, that had nary a knot in all sixteen feet of length. It would have been a furniture builders dream to own a pile of that and instead we patched up and built it into other buildings on the farm. Perhaps if I am still around when it is time to raze those buildings, my dream will still come true.

R. Sherman - That is a testament to the times and always makes me wonder what our descendants will find of our lives 150 years from now. Certainly not any buildings.

kymber said...

what a great find for you! i am glad that you are so interested in your own personal geneology as well as that of your "homes". i think it is super cool to have your ancestors "at your fingertips" so to speak. and thank you for sharing!

your friend,

Ed said...

Kymber - Beware, once bitten by the genealogy bug, you are never the same again. Your idea of a vacation becomes swinging by graveyards and musty courthouse storage rooms.

Three Score and Ten or more said...

Never thought of house genealogy.
Fascinating Ideal

Michelle Goodrum said...

That is very cool for you to get the old picture of your family's farm. I just love investigating the places my ancestors lived and when the opportunity arises seeing the house and the area in person.

Michelle Goodrum said...

PS. I loved your guest post on Marian's Roots & Rambles today!

Vince said...

For some reason it looks like a progression from l-r. Left very Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Ed said...

3 Score - I had never thought about it either.

Michelle - Thank you. I was honored to be asked to write the post and hope that it can help lots of people in their quest.

Vince - Wasn't Wilder's childhood in the 1870's & 1880's? I haven't thought about the timeline on this picture but I'm guessing early 1900's.

Vince said...

Hmm, then-ish anyway. Teddy Roosevelt made timber to costly to fence fields with his restrictions on the use of federal lands. Unless of course, there was a stand of timber on the farm. But even then, the towns would have made it a bad call economically.