Are you buried beneath a mountain of family photographs? Is your kitchen bookshelf teeming with recipe books inherited from grandmothers, great aunts and other long-dead ancestors? Do your children beg for bedtime stories detailing Uncle Manny's adventures as a crop duster pilot or Great Grandma Sylvia's days as a suffragette?
Genealogical research and scrapbooking are tremendously popular pastimes. Combining the two creates a lasting, archival record of the past to which every member of the family may contribute and enjoy for generations.

Why scrapbook?
Genealogists work with scads of documents--birth certificates, death notices, war records and many other sources essential to the family story. Each piece of information, whether documented orally or in writing, offers a unique and vital link to the past, but it often all ends up as just a dry pile of paper or disks. Even those genealogists who go on to write and publish family histories have often presented only the names and dates, with perhaps a story or two and a single photograph in accompaniment.

Family photographs have traditionally been mounted in albums using photo corners, glue, tape, and more recently, magnetic picture albums. Diaries and journals, if kept at all, have been personal and completely separate from the snapshots complementing the events and activities writ within. Scrapbooks were loosely bound clippings and memorabilia compiled with few explanations and fewer details and rarely included any photos.

These methods have many drawbacks. Practically speaking, photographs and newspaper clippings deteriorate rapidly when exposed to acids in paper, album pages and covers, and magnetic sheets. Memorabilia are also subject to the same hazards and may cause damage to photographs if mounted together. Pen writing used to identify pictures frequently results in their ruin when it bleeds over onto the face of the snapshot. Pencils mar photos by leaving indentations on the images.

But worse, the separation of family tales, family documents, family photographs, and oral tradition can leave the real story of your family lost in the details. Scrapbooking your family history solves all these dilemmas, by incorporating archival methods and materials with artist inspiration, family records and memorabilia, and participation by even the youngest members of a clan.

Scrapbooking basics
Scrapbooking is as individual a hobby as the person undertaking it. Memory books and pages may be simple or they may be complex, depending on you and your goals for your scrapbook. Scrapbooking supplies are archival quality; this means they are acid-free, do not contain PVC's (polyvinyl chloride), and will not harm photographs or keepsakes. The generations who follow will be able to enjoy and learn from these lovingly compiled pages.

Basic scrapbook pages consist of one or more photographs laid out on special paper, either plain or patterned, along with journaling done with acid-free pens or pencils. Stickers enhance the overall design, highlighting the theme or event portrayed on the page. Various sizes of albums and pages, including 8 1/2 x 11 and 12 x 12, enable scrappers to suit different albums and page formats to their distinct needs or purposes.

Advanced tools and techniques
If you really get into it, numerous options exist for more intricate and detailed memory albums. Die cuts--pre-cut paper shapes--come in a multitude of shapes, sizes and colors, as do stickers and other page accents. Templates constructed from heavy plastic allow scrapbook enthusiasts to trace and color design elements directly onto a page. Punch-outs are similar to dies cuts, incorporating multiple colors and patterns. Drawing and coloring tools run the spectrum of colors; available in varying tip thicknesses, these pens and pencils add vibrancy and variety to hand-drawn embellishments and journal entries.

Stamping and embossing are two methods creative memory album-makers can use to augment their page layouts even further. Stamps may be purchased in numerous motifs, and archival inks are produced in myriad colors--standard, fluorescent, and glitter-mixed. Some scrappers impress only stamp outlines then use pencils to fill in the details. Others use special stamping pens to colorize stamps before applying them to the scrapbook page.

Embossing raises an image from its background. Two techniques are used to achieve this effect. The first is embossing templates and tools. A light box is necessary when embossing with templates. Templates are placed directly upon the paper and the design marked into the paper from the back. An alternate method uses heat and embossing powder, fluid, or ink to apply the effect. In this manner, colored impressions may be raised from paper with the aid of an embossing heat tool.

Writing it down
Photographs and embellishments set the stage for the narrative history, written accounts of the events depicted and the people represented. Writing style varies with each individual; don't let lack of writing experience intimidate you. Guides written specifically for creators of memory albums offer tips and exercises intended as inspiration for less-than-confident scrapbookers.
There are several key questions to remember when preparing to journal: Who is in the photograph? What are they doing? What were they feeling? When was it? Where did it take place? Why is it important in the life of the individual, their family, or the family history?

No matter which combinations of page elements are chosen, scrapbook pages worked with care and attention present an eye-pleasing effect, especially to those whose kin are represented in the finished product. Next time, we'll talk about specific types of family history scrapbook pages, as well as methods for gathering more information for memory album projects.

On to Part Two -->

Related links:

  • Start your journey into genealogy at, where you can search some of the best and most complete databases available, all in one place. [REMOTE]
  • Another good resource is the Genealogy Guide. [REMOTE]
  • We have a large selection of books about scrapbooking as well. [BOOK]
  • More scrapbooking links:
    Heartland Paper
    Memory Makers Magazine
    Creating Keepsakes
    Memory Mavens
  • More genealogy links:
    Cyndi's List
    Latter Day Saints Genealogy Information
    Everton's Genealogical Helper Magazine