Give Your Log Home (or Any Other Home) a House History Log

You can document insurance claims, record repairs, and contribute to your community's history if you compile a house history log.

| July/August 1981

You may be surprised to know that you can make history at no risk to life and limb and without even venturing beyond your own front door! Now as you've probably guessed, I'm not talking about performing any feats of derring-do or overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. instead, I'm suggesting that you take the time to research — and preserve — the story of your own dwelling, and thus add your bit to the recorded history of your region and family!

The practice of writing down a home's "genealogy"—in the form of a house history—has long been a custom in many parts of Europe. In North America, however, interest in keeping such records has only recently begun to spread thanks (at least here in Canada) to the efforts of the Women's Institutes scattered across the land.

Several years ago, in fact, those organizations, through their national headquarters, sponsored a nationwide house history log competition. Folks from all over Canada responded to the challenge, producing a great number of unique books. At the time of that event, the Federated Women's Institutes put together a set of guidelines for members interested in competing in the contest. And there's no reason why you can't use the same general instructions to start preparing your own home's history!

Anyone Can Play

First and foremost, remember that a house history log can be made for any dwelling whether it's a century-old stone farm building, a brand-new kit-built log home, a trailer, or even rented quarters. A friend of mine who's leased the same home for 20 years, for example, wrote the structure's story from its point of view. ("After all," she told me, "the house doesn't belong to me. It sort of belongs to itself!") The log begins, "This is my tale. I am situated on Lot H in the village of Pakenham."

The Cover-Up

There's an old saying that advises us not to judge a book by its cover. But while the axiom applies to a house log as well as to any other volume, the cover of your history should be both attractive (it is the first facet of the book that anybody will notice) and durable (because it's intended to last as long as the building itself). I've seen lovely house logs covered in leather and wood, and a particularly striking example that was decorated with a patchwork of wallpaper samples from every room in the home. However you decide to cover the book, though, remember that you'll want to be able to add pages and update information from time to time. Use a ring notebook or a spring binder—or any arrangement that will make the addition of more paper convenient—as the "backbone" of your creation.

Getting to Work

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 and concession number, the township, and the county. An urban residence should be pin-pointed 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!

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