I recall, as a child, looking through my mother’s scrapbooks, which she gradually added to over the years with newspaper articles, photographs and clippings about family members, weddings, funerals, and birth notices.
At the time, I was interested because I knew the people in them.
Now, in addition to being a pleasure to look at because it brings back fond memories of those relatives, many of whom are now sleeping in the Northern Ontario cemetery near where they spent most of their lives, I find in them a treasure trove of information for family history research.
In those days, these books were not nearly as aesthetically pleasing as they are today. They usually had a fairly plain cover, and one could purchase little corners to paste on the thick black pages, in order to mount the photographs. It was also possible to paste newspaper articles, cards, and many other items into them.
It is quite likely that some of the older generation in your family kept such books, which are excellent sources of family history information. They help to add those little details that make an ancestor’s life story “come alive”.
This is another example of the kind of information that, generally speaking, women would put together, rather than men. It provides another glimpse into a woman’s life, her interests, whether she was artistic or “super organized” (in the arrangement of the documents on the page), who her friends may have been, and so on.
People in the photo restoration business will tell you not to remove the photos from the book, for that very reason; or, if you do, to put them back in, once you are done with them, in the same order.
Even if they did not paste them into books, many people did, and do, keep newspaper clippings and announcements related to births, marriages, and obituaries of family and friends.
The newer versions of this type of book,
of course, involve the creative use of photographs mounted on pages
with ribbons, buttons, and all sorts of interesting displays.
This is an excellent way to display family history documentation, once you have accumulated a sufficient amount of detail about a particular ancestor and/or his family to do so.
For further information, as well as ideas on page layouts, materials to use, etc., I would suggest Scrapbooks by Design. In addition to many tips and ideas, you can order a book made for you, if you don't have the time to plan it or do it yourself.
A good source for scrapbooking materials, as well as cross-stitch kits, books for parents to fill out for their children, and many other offerings related to family history is Genealogy Today Marketplace
One thing to keep in mind with respect to old books of this type: if they are not acid and lignen-free, the paper and cardboard in them will eventually degrade the photographs to the point that they cannot be viewed. (See my page on family movies, slides, photographs, and videos for more information).
It therefore is worthwhile to think about preserving the photos in them. One way to do that is by scanning them into your computer and then sharing them, and backing them up, so they do not get lost, should your hard drive crash.
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