Monday, April 30, 2012

Heading to Connecticut...

Photo: Bob Maxon, NBC Connecticut
The New England House Historian is headed to Connecticut!

Tomorrow night I'll be presenting a house history talk at the Simsbury Genealogical and Historical Research Library branch of the Simsbury Free Library. During this very special event I will be using the historic home of  NBC Connecticut Weatherman Bob Maxon as the backdrop for the talk. Join us and learn how to research the history of your Connecticut home!

As a bonus, Houstory Publishing will be donating one of their Home History Books as a door prize to one of the attendees. The Home History Book is custom engraved and retails for $300.  The prize will be given away at the end of the talk.

"Researching The History of Your House"

Presented by the

Time: 6:30 pm EST meet the speaker; 7:00pm EST start of talk

Date: Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Location: The Simsbury Free Library, 749 Hopmeadow Street, Simsbury, CT 06070

Pre-registration is required. Call 860-408-1336 or Cost for this event is $5.00 for members, $10.00 for non-members.

See my website for my complete lecture schedule.

I hope to see you there!

Medway Residents Asked to Share Oral History

April 23, 2012 | Medway, MA - Medway, Massachusetts residents are being asked to share stories of the history of their houses, neighborhood and the development of Medway for a project that will be turned into a book for the upcoming Medway 300th celebration. House historian Marian Pierre-Louis will be compiling the oral histories from local Medway residents. Participants will be asked to discuss what they know about the history of their own home, how their neighborhood has grown and how Medway has changed in the time they have lived there. They are also encouraged to bring old photos of their home and neighborhood. All Medway residents are welcome to come share their stories regardless of how long they have lived in Medway or the age of their homes.

The interviews, which will be 30 minutes each, will be held every Tuesday in May from 10:00am to 12:00pm at the Medway Senior Center, 76 Oakland Street, Medway. Appointments can be scheduled by calling the Medway Senior Center at (508) 533-3210 or by signing up on sheets posted at the Senior Center. For those not able to make those times, a limited number of appointments on evenings or weekends will be available by contacting Marian Pierre-Louis directly at

Interviews will be recorded using a digital recorder, the files of which will later be donated to the Medway Historical Society. Participants will be asked to sign a release so that their stories can be published in the book. For further information please contact Marian Pierre-Louis at the email address above.

About Marian Pierre-Louis
Marian Pierre-Louis is a house historian, lecturer and writer. Specializing in the histories of New England homes, she frequently speaks throughout New England on house history and genealogical topics. She is the author of the popular blog, The New England House Historian. For more information about Pierre-Louis and her work, visit

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Visit for Free with a Library Pass

The Fairbanks House, Dedham, MA. Photo by Marian Pierre-Louis, 2012
Have you ever thought about visiting the historic Fairbanks House in Dedham, Massachusetts? This circa 1637 home is the oldest timber frame house in the United States.

You can visit for free if you are a resident of one of nine Norfolk County towns. The towns of Dedham, Norwood, Needham, Canton, Sharon, Walpole, Medfield, Foxboro and Westwood all offer free visitor passes from their local public libraries. Pick a day, reserve the pass from your library and you are on your way!

In fact your local library, regardless of where you live, is likely to offer free or reduced price passes for many regional museums and attractions. Check out your local library website to see what passes they offer.

Tour season is starting soon at the Fairbanks House! The house opens for visitors on Tuesday, May 1, 2012.  Tours start every hour on the hour from 10:00am to 4:00pm. I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Get Your Cameras Out Now!

Whether you want to capture your own historic house, that of your ancestors or even the local historic houses in your town now is the perfect time in New England to photograph historic homes.

The long winter months display your historic house against a stark backdrop. If you've been lucky there will have been some snow to provide a pretty setting for photographs. However, early spring is the best time of year to take photos of your house.

How could I select one season as the best? It's all about being practical. April is the month when the grass starts to turn green and flowers such as daffodils and forsythia bloom. The key factor, however, is that the trees have not started to leaf. The result is lovely, colorful photos of historic houses without extensive growth blocking the view of the homes.

Fall, is a lovely time to take historic house photos in New England because of the vibrant foliage colors. But that same foliage is blocking the view of the house. It will make for great photos but will limit what you can see of the exterior architectural detail.

If mother nature cooperates and you pay close attention to the coming of spring you should be able to get photographs when the daffodils, forsythia, tulips, azaleas and cherry trees are all simultaneously blooming.

I've been out photographing like crazy because I know that my window of opportunity will be brief. I've been sharing some of my photos over on my new Historic Metrowest Boston blog. That blog deals specifically with historic homes in Massachusetts.

So get your camera out, enjoy the beautiful spring weather and get some great photos of your house!

Photo credit: Marian Pierre-Louis, April 2012

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The 1940 Census of Housing

This week everyone is talking about the 1940 Population Census which was released publicly for the first time by the National Archives on Monday. Even though that census hasn't even been indexed yet genealogists everywhere are trying to find friends in family in it.

What you might not realize is that in 1940, along with the Population Census, there was a Census of Housing. The Census of Housing asked detailed questions of urban and rural home owners such as the year the home was built and whether there was a toilet or not. It even asked what type of company held their mortgages.

Even vacant properties were documented. Questions were asked to determine if the vacant properties were for rent or whether the owners were simply away.

This training video available on YouTube from the National Archives shows how information was collected and even shows the forms used providing a glimpse about the specific questions asked.

Unfortunately, the 1940 Census of Housing was destroyed after the statistical information was extracted from it. You can view the statistical information online on the government census website. You'll have to scroll about half way down the page to see the information which is provided in pdf links. Even though the statistical information doesn't provide the granular detail that house historians need it is still very interesting none-the-less.  Take a peek and get a sense of what your town or state was like in 1940.