Today’s post was written by a dear friend of mine, Erin, who writes an amazing blog called “Rare and Beautiful Treasures”.
She is one of the kindest souls I’ve never met. You see, much to my dismay, we live very far away from each other. We met each other through our blogs and instantly connected because of our passion for all things “home”. One day, I look forward to actually meeting her in person. I just know we’re going to have a ball together, shopping the day away at some hole-in-the-wall junk shop, or under the sun at an outdoor flea market- somewhere between here and there. Until then, I look forward to reading her blog, and chatting with her on the phone.
I just love houses.
Simply put, I love everything from their architecture, to the trees in their front yards, to the concept of “coming home”.
In particular, I love historic homes.
First and foremost, for the character that so often comes with the historic package: original hardwood floors, winding staircases, wainscoting, wrap-around porches and built-in bookshelves…
(And maybe even a secret passageway behind said built-in bookshelves!)
Another aspect I love about older homes is the history behind them.
The story of the house, and the generations of families who made it a home.
It’s especially thrilling when the generations of families are ones from your own family tree.
Have you ever set out in search of an old family home that may or may not still be standing? If you haven’t done so, and you are a house-lover like me, this is simply something you must do. My husband and I have tracked down several of my ancestors’ homes in the past few years and I promise you that the experience is priceless.
The following is my favorite of these experiences.
Although this story may not end the way you expect…
Last summer, on a very hot and humid Saturday, we set out toward a town that neither one of us had ever heard of until I began searching for my ancestors homes. We had little other than a map, tons of determination, and a point and shoot camera.
Attica, Indiana is a town so small you probably won’t find it on a map. But after several hours of driving past endless fields of corn, we managed to locate the quiet, little farm town. We also found lots of friendly neighbors. Neighbors who actually knew of my fourth great-grandfather, and who could have walked us to my family’s property blindfolded.
After several stops along a long, straight rural road, we finally found the homestead we were searching for…
Tall, old trees still proudly marked the perimeter of the property…
…but the cracked concrete pathway that once led to the front door of my ancestors home had been gone for some time. In its place, a pile of rubble…
I was very grateful for those chunks of concrete. Even though the house wasn’t there anymore, I knew I was walking where my ancestors had once walked. I could see were they lived, and farmed. I stood where the front door had once been, and looked out over the horizon. I breathed in the strong scent of legacy in the air, and in my heart, I knew I was home. In that moment, it became clear why my fourth great-grandfather had chosen to create his home on that very spot.
If you’d like to find out more about the places your ancestors called home, just follow these three simple steps:
Step One: Spend some time researching your ancestry and determine where your relatives lived some hundred + years ago. (Bonus points automatically apply if you discover your relatives once lived in a place that will make a great vacation destination. Think Savannah, Georgia in February, if you happen to be a northern girl like me.)
Step Two: Use the internet and family resources to determine which houses, farms or plantations your ancestors once owned.
Step Three: Set out with a map and camera to find the historic home to which you have personal ties. (Triple bonus points apply if you are able to convince the current owners of said real estate to turn over possession of the property to you, because, after all, it is family property. In such an event, use the aforementioned triple bonus points to promptly purchase a bottle of bubbly and invite all of your friends over to your “new” home to celebrate your glorious coup. Make sure Layla and I are on the guest list too!)
For most of us, our homes will outlive us.
Our walls will talk long after we are gone.
I think about the house I call home today, and wonder what it will say about me a hundred years from now.
What if the house is gone?
Will the land remember?
I think about the land and houses of my ancestors, and I wonder-
what stories are waiting for me there?
I need only close my eyes and remember that hot, summer day in Attica, and I instantly feel the gentle pull toward other places and other stories from my past as well.
The words continue to reverberate in my mind- a call to which I will surely respond.
Do you hear it too?