Old Scrapbooks for Genealogy

Old scrapbooks are a great resource for discovering your family history, whether you find them in your family’s attic or you stumble across an obituary scrapbook in a local archive. Check out The Archive Lady’s tips for finding these one-of-a kind resources.

Scrapbooks are one of my favorite record sources to do genealogy research in and to also process in the archives. There are all kinds of scrapbooks; each and every one is unique and one-of-a-kind. They were put together with love and the hope that what was saved and pasted onto those pages will be remembered.

The origins of scrapbooking is said to go back to the 15th century in England and it is still a hobby enjoyed by many today. Most archives, libraries, historical and genealogical societies have scrapbooks in their collections. They will most likely be found in the Manuscript Collection as part of a specifically named collection.

What’s in old scrapbooks

Scrapbooks contain all kinds of wonderful genealogical records, photographs, and ephemera. There is even a scrapbook in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives that has candy bar wrappers pasted in it!

That particular scrapbook is one of my absolute favorites. It was compiled and owned by Evelyn Ellis and dates to the 1930s and 1940s. Among the normal newspaper clippings and event programs are interesting pieces such as a Baby Ruth candy bar wrapper with a handwritten note by Evelyn that reads, “Always remember June 11, 1938 at Beach Grove at the Ice Cream Supper:” 

There is also an original ticket pasted into the scrapbook from the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee where Evelyn Ellis visited and recorded her comments on April 1, 1939:

There are scrapbooks for just about any subject. Aside from personal scrapbooks, you can find war scrapbooks, obituary clipping scrapbooks, and scrapbooks that collected and recorded local or national events. The obituaries found in scrapbooks could be a real find because sometimes they are the only pieces of the newspaper that survive and can be a treasure trove for any genealogist. Many scrapbooks contain one-of-a-kind documents, photographs, and ephemera.

To find scrapbooks in an archive, ask the archivist if they have any scrapbooks in their records collections. Many times scrapbooks are housed with a particular manuscript collection and will be listed in the finding aid. Some archives have a collection of just scrapbooks that have been donated to them and can be easily accessed. Most scrapbooks will not be on research shelves, but rather will be stored in back rooms at the archives and will have to be requested. You should also check the archives online catalog for any listings of scrapbooks before you jump in the car and drive to the archives.

I encourage all genealogists to check with the archive in the area where your ancestors were from and see if they have any scrapbooks in their archived records collections. Scrapbooks are like time capsules; you don’t know what will be found in them until you open them up.

“Remember: It’s not all online; contact or visit an archive today!” That’s Melissa’s signature line. Even though we here at Genealogy Gems love teaching you how to find everything online–whether via Google or your favorite Genealogy Giants websites–it’s important to know how to find original documents and manuscripts that aren’t online. Click here to read more from Melissa Barker, The Archive Lady.

New DNA Ethnicity Chart: Display Your Heritage

Just in time for Father’s Day! This new DNA ethnicity chart design is a classy and cutting-edge way to share your family history. As wall displays, this is the perfect conversation-starter for your home or heritage gift for a loved one.

DNA ethnicity chart

There’s a gorgeous new way to display your genetic genealogy from Family ChartMasters! It’s a new custom DNA ethnicity chart, and it’s a fantastic way to spark conversation about your family history with friends and loved ones.

“At Family ChartMasters we believe that family history can save the world,” says owner Janet Hovorka. “The more people know about their background, the more they are inspired with civility, gratitude and compassion for other people because they find out we are all more alike than different. We want to help people make that easy to remember every day.”

Your ethnic “pie chart”

DNA ethnicity results–those “pie charts” that come with your genetic genealogy test results–are one of the most popular aspects of testing. Even those without an active interest in researching their roots often test just to learn what their DNA says about their genetic roots: How Irish are they? Do they have Jewish roots? Is there any truth to that old family story about being descended from an Indian princess?

The science behind DNA ethnicity percentages is still being refined, as is evident from the varying ethnicity results you may receive from different companies. But it’s still fascinating to learn–and super shareable with just about anyone!

DNA ethnicity chart options

Family ChartMaster’s new DNA ethnicity chart comes in three themes to fit a variety of different décor styles: Basic, Antique, and Modern. The Basic theme is clean and fresh, and complements most decorating styles. The Antique theme’s sepia-tone finish brings together the styling of antique maps with your high-tech DNA profile. The Modern theme is graphic and bold, with neutral tones well-suited to contemporary décor.

DNA ethnicity chart

In less than five minutes, you can upload an optional photo and then manually enter your ethnicity estimates from a DNA test. The categories are currently aligned with AncestryDNA’s ethnic regions–which is running a great sale for Father’s Day, by the way, if you’ve been waiting to purchase a test. (Other DNA test providers also have some great prices now; click here to see them.)

After viewing a preview of your DNA ethnicity chart, you can place an order that can be printed on archival Professional Paper or Artist’s Grade Canvas. Following Family ChartMasters’ proven track record of superior service, the beautiful print will arrive rolled in a tube and ready to frame. You can also order PDF downloads for immediate delivery to an email inbox. Pricing starts at $19.95.

(Will your chart come in time for Father’s Day? According to the Family ChartMasters website, orders take 24-48 hours to prepare, and regular shipping takes 2-3 days within the U.S. Faster shipping options are available for an additional charge. If in doubt, order the PDF download.)

These DNA ethnicity charts are perhaps the easiest heritage display you’ll ever make! They also take advantage of the current widespread interest in DNA, making a conversation about your heritage more meaningful and appealing even with those who have never expressed interest in your heritage. Click here to see how to order your DNA ethnicity chart.

DNA ethnicity chartMore than DNA charts: Family ChartMasters is an award-winning genealogy chart printing and design service. It is also the official printing service for most worldwide genealogy software, database, and research companies. Family ChartMasters prints any style of family history chart from any kind of file. They offer oversized draft-quality family reunion charts as well as custom decorative designs.

Click below to read more about….

Getting your DNA tested (or someone else’s)

Creating beautiful and unique heritage displays

Reviving a Memorial Day Tradition: Paper Flowers

Have you ever brought back a favorite family tradition from your childhood? I did that with a favorite Memorial Day tradition–revived with a little help from YouTube.

Amie Memorial Day tradition decorating graves

Deep in the hollows of Virginia lived ‘Big Grandma’ with her nine children. She was a mountain woman, schooled only in the herbs she could sell for money. Celebrations were few, but Decoration Day was special. She would gather her children together to make crepe paper flowers and then hike up the mountain to lay them on the graves of loved ones.

This year, I revived this tradition by teaching her great-grandchildren the art of making crepe paper flowers for Decoration Day (now known as Memorial Day.) It wasn’t easy. My mother hadn’t made crepe paper flowers with us since I was 10 years old!

First, we had to find the crepe paper. I tried using crepe paper streamers, but the paper was too delicate and not stretchy enough. Crepe paper is unique. It is strong and very stretchy which lends to the realistic shape of petals and leaves. With a little help from Google, I found PaperMart, an online store that sells rolls of colorful crepe paper for $1.93 a roll. Each roll is 8 feet long and 19 inches wide. A roll this big will create bouquets of lovely flowers!

I ordered a variety of colors for petals, some green for the leaves, and yellow for the middles. Floral stem wire, floral stem tape, paddle wire in 24 gauge, and tacky glue are other must-haves.

Without Grandma around, it was left to me and Mom to remember how to make each type of petal. YouTube to the rescue! With videos like the one below, we were able to re-teach ourselves the techniques for creating beautiful roses, peonies, morning glory, and mums. (Click here to read more ideas on using YouTube for family history research.)

After family dinner, we gathered together as mothers, sisters, and cousins to laugh and giggle as we tried to create each piece. I was able to share with the next generation the story of Decoration Day in the “holler.” Many of the young ones asked, “Why can’t we just buy the flowers?” I am sure it would have been easier and quite a bit quicker to buy flowers, but I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to share this tradition with them for the world.

Amie at the cemetery Memorial Day traditionsThis week, we gathered as an extended family to place our crepe paper flowers on the graves of our ancestors. You know what? When we came to Big Grandma’s grave, all the children wanted their flowers to be placed there. They remembered! My heart was full and I could imagine Grandma looking down at all these little children as they were following in her footsteps.

A Memorial Day tradition like this is a wonderful way to teach family history to our children. Other ideas include learning a hobby that our ancestor enjoyed. Several years back, I decided I wanted to learn to play the guitar like my uncles did. It was their favorite past time to get out the guitars for an old-fashioned singin’ after Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. The family would gather in the living room to sing favorites like “Amazing Grace,” “When the Roll is Called up Yonder,” and “Jesus is Coming Soon.” A new guitar and YouTube practice tutorials and I was strumming along with them at the family reunion.

With today’s easy access to online tutorials and videos, you can learn and share your ancestors’ lives in this unique and personal way. Pick something today and share your favorite family traditions and past times with your loved ones.

YouTube for family historyMore Gems on Family Traditions

“My Name is Jane:” Heritage Scrapbook Celebrates Family Tradition

Heritage Recipes – Aunties, Sprinkles, and the Santa-in-His-Cap Cookie Cutter

6 Fantastic Ways to Use YouTube for Family History

Turn Spring Cleaning Into a Treasured Family History Christmas!

honor your female ancestorsIt’s the last day of March, so it must be time to start thinking about Christmas, right?

OK, so you may not be thinking about your next Christmas craft project or gift-giving. But March has been Women’s History month and I’ve got a fun and easy craft project for you that will honor your female ancestors, help you do a bit of Spring cleaning of your stashes of left over fabric, and put you well ahead of the game when it comes to holiday prep.

Follow along with me in the video below as I piece together a crazy quilt Christmas stocking.

Familiar Female Faces

This stocking not only possesses a nostalgic flare with its Victorian-era crazy quilt design and embroidery, but it’s also brimming with familiar female faces from my family tree. Gathering together as many photos as I could of the women that I directly descend from was a fun challenge. I scoured old photo albums, searched online family trees, and put the word out to family members to make sure I had every available image. I was pleasantly surprised at how many I came up with.

Not Just for Stockings

This crafty idea certainly isn’t limited to Christmas stockings. You could translate this into a wall hanging, or even a full-size bed quilt. Make one as a gift, and it will surely be handed down the family lines for generations as a treasured heirloom.

Create a Video Story of Your Creation

I made this video with Animoto, a web and mobile app that makes this job of video creation oh, so easy! And it got me to thinking how lovely it would be to give a “bonus” gift of video to the recipient of this family history present.

  1. Re-purpose the Photos – since you’ve already pulled out the photos to create the transfer images, why not drop them into Animoto? Add your memories, poems they wrote, and any other tidbits that help their legacy shine through. Sprinkle with a bit of music (Animoto has loads of songs to choose from), and in minutes you can create a short tribute video to the women in your tree.

  2. Document the Project – Grab your smartphone and snap pictures and videos during the process of creating the stocking (or other form of this project). Toss your photos and videos into Animoto, add personalized comments, and you’ll have a sweet video to accompany the gift. It will show how you poured love into every stitch! (Ah! What I wouldn’t give for such a video of my Grandma sewing the lovely items I treasure today!)

Made with Love

(Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. I appreciate you using these links because that compensation helps make the Genealogy Gems blog possible. Thank you!)

Animoto is a trusted sponsor of the Genealogy Gems Podcast.

Episode 194 Free Podcast Episode

The Genealogy Gems Podcast
with Lisa Louise Cooke

This blast from the past episode comes from the digitally remastered Genealogy Gems Podcast episodes 11 and 12 (originally recorded in 2007). They are now interwoven with fresh narration and updated show notes.  Topics include: Google Images; Top 10 Tips for finding Graduation Gems in your family history;  Display your family history with an easy to create Decoupage plate.

blast from the past podcast episode

Did you know you can use Google to help identify images, to find more images like them online, and even to track down images that have been moved to a different place online? Find these great Google tech tips in this episode, along with 10 tech-savvy tricks for finding an ancestor’s school records. You will also hear how to create a family history photo decoupage plate: a perfect craft to give as a gift or create with children.

Youtube genealogy tech tip videos reviews

This “blast from the past” episode comes from the digitally remastered Genealogy Gems Podcast episodes 11 and 12 (originally recorded in 2007). They are now interwoven with fresh narration; below you’ll find all-new show notes.

Google Image searches: Updated tips

Click here to watch a short new tutorial video on using Google Images to find images for your genealogy research.

Conduct an initial search using the search terms you want. The Image category (along with other categories) will appear on the screen along with your search results. For images of people: enter name as search term in quotes: “Mark Twain.” If you have an unusual name or if you have extra time to scroll through results, enter the name without quotation marks. Other search terms to try: ancestral place names, tombstone, name of a building (school, church, etc.), the make and model of Grandpa’s car, etc.

Click on one of the image thumbnails to get to a highlight page (shown here) where you can visit the full webpage or view the image. If you click View images, you’ll get the web address.

To retrieve images that no longer appear at the expected URL: Click on View image to get the image URL. Copy the image’s URL (Ctrl+C in Windows) and paste it (Ctrl+V) into your web browser to go to that image’s page. When you click through, you’re back in Web view. The first few search results should be from the website with the image you want. Click on a link that says “cache.” A cached version is an older version of the website (hopefully a version dated before the image was moved or removed). Browse that version of the site to find the image.

NEW Tip: Use Google Chrome to identify an image and find additional images showing the same subject, such as a place, person or subject.

From the Google home page, click Images.

In the Google search box, you’ll see a little camera icon. Click on it.

If you have an image from a website, insert the URL for that image. If you have an image on your computer, click Upload an image. Choose the file you want.

Google will identify the image as best it can, whether a location, person, or object, and it will show you image search results that seem comparable.

Click here to watch a free video tutorial on this topic.

GEM: Decoupage a Family Photo Plate

Supply List:

  • Clear glass plate with a smooth finish (available at
    kitchen outlet and craft stores)
  • Sponge craft brush
  • Decoupage glue
  • Fine paper-cutting scissors (Cuticle scissors work well)
  • Small bottle of acrylic craft paint in a color you would like for the back
  • A flat paintbrush
  • Painter’s tape
  • Brush-on clear acrylic varnish for a glossy finish on the back of the plate
  • A selection of photos (including other images that complement the photos)

Assembling your plate:

  1. Lay out your design to fit the plate
  2. Add words if desired. You can draw directly on the copy or print it out and cut it to fit.
  3. Put an even coat of glue on the front of each photo. Don’t worry about brush strokes, but be careful not to go over it too many times which could cause the ink to run.
  4. Apply the photos to the back of the plate, working in reverse order (the first images placed on the plate will be in the foreground of the design). Glue the edges firmly. Turn the plate over to check the placement of images. Smooth using craft brush.
  5. Brush glue over the back of each photo.
  6. Turn the plate around so you can see the image from the front and work out the air bubbles.
  7. Continue to place the images until the entire plate is covered. Let it dry 24 hours.
  8. Use painters’ tape to tape off the edges before you apply the acrylic paint to the back of the plate. Paint the back and let dry. Apply a second coat. Let dry.
  9. Apply an acrylic varnish for a glossy finish on the back. Let dry.

Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search historical records on FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com. And it is in the works for RootsMagic to be fully integrated with Ancestry.com, too: you’ll be able to sync your RootsMagic trees with your Ancestry.com trees and search records on the site.

Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze.com/Lisa, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems.

GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB

Our current book is Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave. Follow the story of Mary North, a wealthy young Londoner who signs up for the war effort when the Great War reaches England. Originally assigned as a schoolteacher, she turns to other tasks after her students evacuate to the countryside, but not before beginning a relationship that leads to a love triangle and long-distance war-time romance. As her love interest dodges air raids on Malta, she dodges danger in London driving ambulances during air raids in the Blitz.

This story is intense, eye-opening and full of insights into the human experience of living and loving in a war zone?and afterward. Everyone Brave is Forgiven is inspired by love letters exchanged between the author’s grandparents during World War II.

Video: Chris Cleave on the U.S troops coming to Europe in World War II

Click here for more Genealogy Gems Book Club titles

GEM: Top 10 Tips for finding Graduation Gems in your family history

  1. Establish a timeline. Check your genealogy database to figure out when your ancestor would have attended high school or college.
  2. Consult family papers and books. Go through old family papers & books looking for senior calling cards, high school autograph books, journals and diaries, senior portraits, fraternity or sorority memorabilia and yearbooks.
  3. Search newspapers. Look for school announcements, honor rolls, sports coverage, end-of-year activities and related articles. Updated tips and online resources:

Ancestry.com has moved the bulk of its historical newspaper collection to its sister subscription website, Newpapers.com.

Search your browser for the public library website in the town where your ancestor attended school. Check the online card catalogue, look for a local history or genealogy webpage, or contact them to see what newspapers they have, and whether any can be loaned (on microfilm) through interlibrary loan.

Search the Library of Congress’ newspaper website, Chronicling America, for digitized newspaper content relating your ancestor’s school years. Also, search its U.S. Newspaper Directory since 1690 for the names and library holdings of local newspapers.

FamilySearch.org online catalog

Contact local historical and genealogical societies for newspaper holdings.

  1. Consult the websites of U.S. state archives and libraries: click here to find a directory of state libraries
  2. State historical and genealogical societies. In addition to newspapers, state historical and genealogical societies might have old yearbooks or school photograph collections. For example, the Ohio Genealogical Society library has a large (and growing) collection of Ohio school yearbooks. Local historical and genealogical societies may also have school memorabilia collections.
  3. RootsWeb, now at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Check the message board for the county and state you’re looking for. Post a message asking if anyone has access to yearbooks or other school info.

TIP: Use Google site search operator to find mentions of yearbooks on the county page you’re looking at. Add site: to the front of the Rootsweb page for the locale, then the word yearbook after it. For example:

  1. Search for online yearbooks at websites such as:

Yearbookgenealogy.com and the National Yearbook Project, mentioned in the show, no longer exist as such

  1. US GenWeb at www.usgenweb.org. Search on the county website where the school was located. Is there anyone willing to do a lookup? Is there a place to post which yearbooks you’re looking for?
  2. Call the school, if it’s still open. If they don’t have old yearbooks, they may be able to put you in touch with a local librarian or historian who does.

TIP: Go to www.whowhere.com and type the school name in “Business Name.” Call around 4:00 pm local time, when the kids are gone but the school office is still open.

  1. ebay: Do a search on the school or town you’re looking for to see if anyone out there is selling a yearbook that you need. Also search for old photographs or postcards of the school. Here’s my extra trick: From the results page, check the box to include completed listings and email potential sellers to inquire about the books you are looking for.

TIP: Don’t be afraid to ask ? ebay sellers want to sell!  And if all else fails, set up an ebay Favorite Search to keep a look out for you. Go to and check out Episode #3 for instructions on how to do this.

MyHeritage.com is the place to make connections with relatives overseas, particularly with those who may still live in your ancestral homeland. Click here to see what MyHeritage can do for you: it’s free to get started.

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Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 192 is Ready

GGP 192The free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 192 is ready. It’s perfect pre-family reunion listening: learn to make oh-so-shareable family videos, gather health info from relatives and more.

It’s tough to pick one favorite part of the new Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 192. I loved the segments that have inspired me as I’m getting ready to attend a family reunion this month:

  • Lisa teaches us how to easily create professional-looking family history videos–and I do mean EASY and BEAUTIFUL (see the example below);
  • A listener shares a favorite database that can help us find and connect with living relatives.
  • The inspiring story of how DNA solved one family’s adoption mystery.

But there’s more! New Genealogy Gems team member Amie Tennant shares insights as she prepares for professional certification. And you’ll hear a fun segment from the Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with author Helen Simonson on The Summer Before the WarYou’ll also hear something new about Dropbox and a new initiative to capture the family histories of remote, indigenous populations.GGP thanks for sharing

Whether you’re in tech mode, prepping for a family reunion or looking for tips and inspiration to be a better genealogist, this episode has something for you.

Who else do you know who will enjoy this free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #192? Will you share it with them? Thank you!

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