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Scrapbook your family history

April 29, 2012
Family Tree Scrapbook Page

Family Tree Scrapbook Page

Text and photo

‘Create a scrapbook for your novel’ was one of this year’s writing tips mentioned in a previous post.  I would like to introduce you to the idea of creating a scrapbook of your family history.

Family historians usually gather boxes of documents, photographs, memorabilia, certificates etc.  but don’t know what to do with them thereafter.  Scrapbooking is one way of compiling them into a coherent whole and involving younger members of the family in the process.

One of my students did just this for her personal project during the ‘Creative Writing Skills & Techniques for Life Writers’ course.  She focussed on one branch of the family and engaged her grandchildren in designing their family tree, creating photograph collages etc.  The end result was a large A4 level arch file of documents, diary excerpts etc. woven together to tell the story of a family holiday taken by different generations of the same family.  The pages were customised by the grandchildren as shown in the photographs.    During the process many family stories were shared and can be retold in future via the stimulus of the family file which will be passed down the generations.

People of all ages love to leaf through such files.  Their attention is caught by colours, stickers etc.  which make for a more interesting page.

Scrapbooking is a delightful creative activity which provides the opportunity for a different freedom of expression than more traditional recording methods.  It enables you to get in touch with your inner child and explore your creative talents.

Scrapbooking techniques which lend themselves to creating a story from your family history research include: collage, commemorative pages, decoupage, felting, journaling, quilling, stenciling and creative timelines.  It is also useful to think about creating a colour theme or repeating a symbol throughout the pages as a background thread to draw the whole together.

I have seen students paste in swatches of material from significant garments such as wedding dresses or christening gowns.  The addition of textiles allows one to appeal to the reader’s sense of touch.  While we are on the subject of the senses, don’t forget that it is possible to spray scraps of paper with your favourite perfume.  The pages will retain the scent in the same way as pressed flowers do.

If you’re looking for a new way to make your family history into an interesting read I propose giving scrapbooking a try.  I’m trying my hand at this to produce a visual timeline for my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.  My husband and I have had a laugh while hunting out old photographs from birth to the present day and finding humourous captions to go with them to tell our story.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you more sample pages to whet your appetite for scrapooking your family history.

Scrapbook page

Scrapbook page

Text and stickers

Text and stickers

  1. Interesting post – many families can share their lives in a process like this. Do you also use audiotapes to record stories, You obviously inspire intersting experiences for your students.wx

    • Hi Wendy. Yes, I do encourage use of audio tapes to record stories and also the setting up of a family history blog which is a growing trend among enthusiasts of genealogy. I always try to set open-ended exercises so that students can explore their own creativity. This produces a wide range of ideas which I then guide them to bring to fruition. I also learn a lot from students this way as they come up with suggestions that would never occur to me otherwise.

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