Scrapbooking became a very popular hobby a number of years ago. I admit to making my share of scrapbooks when my children were little. Craft stores began to dedicate whole sections to this new hobby. I collected the craft store coupons to purchase papers, stickers and other embellishments used in the design of my pages. I got together with friends to socialize and create our scrapbook pages.
Since I began my genealogy journey, I have become the repository of many of our family’s photos and mementos. Among these items are five scrapbooks dating from the 1940’s back to the 1920’s and various baby books.
My ancestors’ scrapbooks have taught me a few things:
Scrapbooking is not a new hobby, and it was not just for women.
This is my Uncle Ernest Carr’s scrapbook from the time he was in the navy during WWII. Ernest enlisted in the navy in 1937 and went on to spend his career in the navy. He was primarily in the Pacific arena during the war. It is an absolutely fascinating read. Ernest included a log of the ships on which he was stationed. He included photos of the ports he visited and the people he met. About those people he met….some were females. (I do not leave this scrapbook out for general viewing.)
Scrapbookers in my family used what they had on hand.
Is this not part of the fun and essence of scrapbooking? Using what you have to represent the memory? This is the scrapbook of Elton Carr (Ernest’s sister). She did not have a formal scrapbook, so she used an old book and just pasted over the pages. I first wrote about Elton’s book here.
A Scrapbook is where you learn about what was important to your ancestor.
As genealogists, we rely on the records our ancestors generated as part of life to track them through time and through relationships. Most of these records such as wills, censuses, and court cases were official and legal documents. A scrapbook is a personal record of your ancestor where the reader can learn what was important to that person. Who was important to that person. Scrapbooks also record your ancestors’ feelings. The sense of pride my grandmother had in her basketball skills was evident in the fact she saved newspaper articles of her games.
I encourage you as a researcher to read your ancestors’s scrapbooks. Read the words they wrote. Read between the lines to the words they did not write. Pair the scrapbook with oral history and learn who your ancestor was beyond the official records.