Homes Are Family Too!

Home is where the heart is & Homes are family too

Mom visited the Biltmore this week, and almost stayed!
Mom visited the Biltmore this week, and almost stayed!

This week I’m away from home visiting the lovely Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville, the Smokeys…it’s all just breathtaking! I’m not sure how one differentiates the names and the ranges from all the others, but I’m loving each one I see. Driving here with Lucky Ducky Daughter (who will be living and working here over the next year) I was fascinated by all the houses that are, or were, someone’s home.

Homes are a huge part of all family history. They’re one of my favorite images to add-in to a story when writing about a relative. Whenever I go “traveling” to do some research, I always stop at the cemetery to snap pictures of family grave sites and headstones. Then, wherever possible, I try to track down and photograph the ol’ homestead they lived on.

Sometimes it works out great…yep, I’m gonna spend the next few years concocting some sort of family tie to the Vanderbilts so I can stake claim to the Biltmore.

Some efforts are thwarted (like when closing time comes and they escort you to the door you’ve already explained simply must be yours in some way or another!). 

Kidding (?) aside, I have arrived at recorded addresses on many occasions only to find an empty lot, a four lane highway, or a new Walmart. One home, the first address after the Old Country that I have been able to trace for Hubby’s family, is no-longer standing. Imagine my surprise to find that the entire neighborhood is now occupied by Slugger Stadium in Louisville!

Do I photograph the “fails”? Heck yes! 

More than anything, when I find a home that is still intact, I am tingling with excitement. A home place can speak volumes about the people and the time they lived there. Sure, those tombstones photos are important as hard evidence of a life. They tell about our people from a calendar’s perspective of point A to point B. But the softer tales found in the nuances of “home” are the ones I am always driven to chase harder.

A building speaks quietly of so many things. The dweller’s wealth, status, position and/or lack there-of can be quickly inferred. Was the house modest when compared to others on the street? Was the family with only one child hoping for many more when they built or bought the 6 bedroom turreted Victorian? Were the materials inexpensive and readily available, like locally made brick, or were there great slabs of Indiana Limestone transported across four states to North Carolina? Is it sited in an area that was once surrounded by farms but now in the middle of tract homes? Or, is it one of a long string of addresses within a relatively short span of time?

I want to see, photograph, and touch the house and it’s lawn when possible. I want to look around at the view from the kitchen window and walk through the rooms to get the feel of being in the space. So, I take pictures from the outside, chat with a neighbor out for a walk, knock on the door and introduce myself when it seems safe to do so. If not, I jump to plan B.  I can often get a photo record of sorts by searching the address on Google Street View and flagging it as a favorite on Zillow.

I use the Google Street View and Zillow trick when the home is far away or situated in what is now considered a “bad neighborhood.”

 Yes, it’s an unfortunate reality of our modern life. Nowadays, slowing your car to take a picture of a house can get you shot.

At some point, the home may go on the market. If/when that happens, I will get a little notification, and God willing, there will be photos of the interior. Granted, it’s not the same visceral experience of actually walking through the front door after feeling the porch railings with my own hands and hearing the floors creak and the screen door bang shut as I go into the backyard…but it’s a quick flash closer than I have been before.

Zillow usually includes the year of construction on their postings, and a link to the satellite view of the property. Often, with old homes, from the overhead photograph you can see the outline of smaller buildings that are long gone from the property. You might find the outline of a well house, old shed or detached garage. Why a former structure is gone can be an interesting stand alone story in itself. Perhaps the cause was a storm, an addition to the house, or a celebration of indoor plumbing at last!

Lovely old farmhouse in rural Indiana
Lovely old farmhouse in rural Indiana
New house, finished up as time and money allowed. They worked on it for years.
Whoops! There's that Biltmore place again!
Whoops! There’s that Biltmore place again!
The Doctor of the Family lived here. Now it's a Bed and Breakfast
The Doctor of the Family lived here. Now it’s a Bed and Breakfast

These are just a quick sampling of some of the homes in my family tree. Blogger, Tasia, has an amazing video clip…super short…that she did as an introduction to old the homes of her ancestors. I think it’s amazing! And though it’s only seconds long, the unforgettable images prove that pictures are wondrous paintings to express simply what words can sometimes struggle to report.

Do you include the homes in your writings? They all have such incredible stories–bought for $500, farm in our family since the original land grant, their apartment was a stylish address for newlyweds, the Palm Sunday Tornadoes leveled the barn, they raised 15 children here– it’s all priceless, and enriches our written stories.

Don’t let distance, fear, disappearance or “someday” get in the way of a good 1000 word picture to add to your stories.  Get out there! 

Be the one to write it down!

ps~ don’t miss out on the links–click on Tasia  above to see the 47 second clip of her emotionally charged blog intro, and the link follower Ruth Rawls shared to an Ancestral home across the pond that she recently found via a trick like my Zillow thing.  Also, in the same chain of comments see the house here in Indianapolis that Mom obsesses over where Clark Gable had dinner! All really worth a clique!

Author: Mom

I am a writer who just happens to love family trees. As the self proclaimed Family Historian and Writer in Residence at my house, I blog to others about family history writing. When I first began this journey, everyone was bored silly with my "family tree stuff." Once I started writing the stories down, everyone willingly joined in. Now the whole family pretty much participates! Imagine that ! Follow along, and you can gain a little family appreciation for all your hard nosed genealogical research while learning a little something about the craft of writing too.

25 thoughts on “Homes Are Family Too!”

  1. After learning as much as I can about an ancestor through various kinds of records, I think the find that can almost transport me to the life of an ancestor is finding his home. When I first began researching I happened upon a distant cousin who shared an exquisite photograph of the home of our mutual 2nd great-grandfather. From census records I knew the township/community where he lived but I had no idea where his house and farm might be located in these modern times. In a roundabout way I was able to find the home with the use of google maps. I wrote a post or two. My brother and sister-in-law, who live closer to the area where the home stands, saw the post, traveled there, and took photographs. I was beyond thrilled. I hope to contact the owner (who, from what I can tell, rents the home) to see if I can arrange a visit and tour through the house. I can only imagine standing in the home where my g-g-grandparents stood.

    I agree: homes are part of our family history.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Congrats to You! What a fabulous story, and so fortunate to have found someone nearby to share your search! I hope you get to go through it and have the whole experience soon…please report back with photos. I’m SO excited for you!


  2. I loved this sweet and wonderful post.
    It’s amazing to think about – finding a house that your family once lived in. I had the benefit of growing up in a small town, very near my gram. Right across the street was her mom’s house and my other great-gram’s house. So much history sitting on one little block!
    A great thing to think about, Mom. Homes carry the story forward.


      1. kind of… my gram was a tough cracker. I was one of the younger grandchildren and I think she was tired of us by the time I came around.
        That being said, she was my cherished grammy and I still miss her today.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s amazing how the size of a place is so different from our memories sometimes! I recently went by my old grade school to take a photo and like you, couldn’t believe how close it sat to the road! It seemed that front parking lot and bus drop off lane was acres at the time!
      And thanks for the kind words ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Homes, the stages of our lives, the place all the living happens. The good, the bad, the sad, the funny, everything in between. The containers of our families, of the interactions between the individuals. If the walls could talk. There are times I wonder if the houses aren’t more important than the people that lived in them, especially when the family has been there for generations. I’ve lived in two homes that almost felt like they were hugging you when you came home and walked in the door, like they were glad you were back and they could shelter you again. You’re quite right, the houses are important too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love photographing old homes, ancient buildings, farms and old white churches. Some of them I have made into framed photos for my walls. They all have histories, mysteries, and stories untold waiting to be shared and explored.


    1. I love your attraction specifically to white churches! How interesting. I never noticed that whenever I looked at a row of homes and said–oh I like that one best–it was always either smooth stone, or white painted brick. Isn’t that funny? No one in my recent family has ever owned one of either of those “flavors” so I’m not sure what that’s about


      1. My father was a church pastor and also a fanatical photographer with his old slide Pentax camera and took hundreds of slides with it all through our lives, slides of everything, everyone, all relatives, their homes, etc. But, his favorite thing to photograph I think was old churches and synagogues, cathedrals, etc. and I think I developed the same love of the old places and churches to shoot pictures of, from him. I made a framed collage of some of the old white churches in the New England states where they have some of the best and most unique ones I’ve ever seen. Antiques too of any kind is a favorite thing of mine and enjoy getting pictures of those things in old homes and have collected some antiques of my own as I love the history of old things. 🙂


  5. I lived in Asheville from 1978-2001. It’s where my children call home, and it was a great place to live. Now I live in the South Carolina Lowcountry, and I research local families. Recently a woman in Brussels, Belgium, contacted me regarding one of the families I research, and we’ve shared a lot of information by email. Recently, she discovered that one of that family’s ancestral home in Lancashire, England, is for sale. Unfortunately, I’m a little light on cash…


    1. Oh Ruth!
      I clicked on that link and thought I would cry…just the beautiful beams!!! Ah, dreams are meant to chase 🙂 I don’t know what the conversion rate would be, but I would guess 2-3 million? Plus the commute!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly! And a good bit of eye-candy as well! Check out this historical home in Indy that I cyber stalked for about 5 years while it was one the market. Finally, it was purchased by a contractor who specializes in resurrecting such homes, and over a couple of years they completely restored it. The history of the house is breathtaking–on it’s Facebook page you’ll see photos of house guests like Clark Gable having a casual dinner with friends! It’s done and on the market now. Oooo-Ahhhh is all I can say about it!,-86.048183,39.759727,-86.304302_rect/11_zm/ and here’s their Facebook page if anyone is interested in see the renovations as they went on (and some of the crazy stuff they found!) Be aware, if any of you buy it…it may come with a semi-permanent house guest…moi 😉


  6. Don’t forget that you should also photograph the houses you lived in as well. The last two years when I took my kids back east we drove to the houses that I lived in as a child and took pictures. I can now compare the houses today to the photographs I have from my childhood.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent addition Genealogy Lady! Sometimes Mom forgets to write down the obvious! Those should be some of the first ones you throw in—and PLEASE be sure to label the back of printed photos with the known address! If the photo seems fragile, scan it and print out a page with the detail noted on the page from the printer!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. You were in my neck of the woods. I mean, not like back door status where you could borrow a cup of sugar… 🙂 but we go to BRM all the time. We were just in Linville area (near Grandfather Mountain – Avery County) at the end of September. My husband and I are determined we’re going to own property there one day… love it, and proud it’s part of my “home” state.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Donna,
      I am officially in love with that area! I wish I could have been there about two weeks later to see the fall colors really pop. I cannot imagine what a show that’s going to be! There were two couples at the B&B we were staying at (daughter was doing her orientation for her new job while I was apartment finding and blending in at the Biltmore) who were scouting the area as their possible retirement retreat. I could totally be down with that!


      1. You and me both. We have an RV at the moment we use when we go…unfortunately, the little spot we’ve visited the most (Linville Land Harbor) has it for sale. I told hubby, when it gets sold, we’ve got to buy some acreage – even if it’s only a couple – and put in water/sewer/electric, and park the thing there. We can always build on it later. Retirement there is definitely in the picture for us. He fly fishes and I write. Heaven.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I harbor a soft spot for the homes of my past and older homes that are uninhabited along the interstate, in small towns, along country roads. My imagination runs wild as I picture Mom hanging laundry on the rusted clothes line, Dad approaching the shed with a milki bucket, and a teenage boy sitting on the front stoop working on a splinter in his thumb as a toddler plays among the freshly washed sheets. Loved this post.


a penny for your thoughts dear~

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