The practice of writing down the “genealogy” of a house in the form of a house log is a well-established tradition in many parts of Europe. Not only can the research and record keeping be fun, but also the log can serve as a diary of your life in the house (and prove useful to any future residents).
The cover of your history book should be both attractive and durable, but remember that you’ll also want to be able to add pages and update information from time to time… so use a ring notebook, a spring binder, or some other arrangement that will make the addition of more paper convenient.
The first page of a house log should be reserved for information describing the precise location of the dwelling. If your home is situated in a rural area, note the lot number, town and county. An urban residence should be pinpointed by lot, street number, town or city and county.
In addition to providing data about the site, the initial page should include the following statement: “This log is to remain in the house and should be updated by future occupants.”
The body of the book will be devoted to two topics. The first is a record of the construction of the building…the second is the history of its inhabitants.
The amount of construction information available will, of course, vary from house to house. If possible, though, you should document the date of construction, the name of the architect and/or builder, the dates and description of any significant alterations, and the materials used to build and remodel the residence. You’ll also want to try to include sketches of the floor plan, as well as design drawings of any major changes made over the years. Finally , it’s both interesting and potentially valuable to insert scale diagrams of water lines, sewage systems, and the like in your logbook.
Information about the inhabitants of your house should include such facts as names, dates of birth and death, marriages, occupations, and so forth…and be as complete as possible for all the families that have lived in the residence. Don’t be afraid to do some research (check the local registry office, long -time residents of the area, school records, old newspapers, etc.) and to go into as much detail as you like in your mini-biographies.
Photographs or old drawings can often add a lot of interest to a house log, as well. Round up every shot you can find of the interior and exterior of the structure over the years. If you built your own home, be sure to add any step-by-step construction photos, too. And of course, portraits of past and present residents should accompany the stories of those families when possible.
Once your logbook has been assembled, install it in a permanent place in the house. As occupants come and go, as families overcome hardships and experience joys, the log that you start now can become a small but significant part of the history of your area…and help maintain the links to the past that sometimes go a long way toward making life in the present more meaningful.