Sunday, March 04, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Scrapbooks

I love old scrapbooks. How I envy those who are gifted with an ancestor who scrapbooked. Victorians loved scrapbooking and in their books they pasted all kinds of images, memorabilia, and newspaper clippings. These were books meant to be kept and looked at over and over again. Children as well as adults were encouraged to scrapbook and had available to them images specifically marketed for scrapbooks. There was even an adhesive scrapbook developed by Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain (yes, he did more than write books).

Scrapbooks can contain newspaper clippings, papers with genealogical value, photographs, and written memories.

Used with permission. (c) Ginny Kishbauch.

Used with permission. (c) Ginny Kishbauch.

Used with permission. (c) Ginny Kishbauch.

From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

Now, I know what you're thinking. "I don't have a scrapbook from my ancestor." I don't either. But that's where the FAN club comes in. Remember FAN is short for Friends, Associates, and Neighbors and in the researching of women, expanding your search to include those people is vital. It's in the scrapbook of a neighbor, friend, associated family member or an organization that you can find treasures. I remember going to a Texas Historical Society and paging through the scrapbook of a local woman who cut out newspaper articles about local families, including obituaries. This record that was not indexed and not digitized was a goldmine of information for those conducting local family history research. But don't forget that membership groups kept scrapbooks that document members. And there are other scrapbook type  records like autograph and birthday books.

So how do you find a scrapbook that may mention your female ancestor? Scrapbooks can be found in archival collections. One place to find an archival collection is ArchiveGrid. I would recommend searching by the place your ancestor lived. If she was a member of an organization, try searching on that name as well.

Another example of a place to look is the Digital Public Library of America. A search on the keyword "scrapbook"  brought up over 26,000 digitized results.

Yes, research isn't always indexed, online, or found by an ancestor's name. But the riches that can be found in scrapbooks can be wonderful.


Tucker, Susan. The Scrapbook in American Life. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press, 2006.

Garvey, Ellen G. Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

A Genealogist in the Archives - Scrapbooks-A Genealogist's Gold Mine

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