Evaluating sources: Pre-1850 census records

“I finally found a census record for my ancestor! At least, I think it’s for my ancestor!”  As a genealogist, you know the feeling, especially when the census record is from 1840 or earlier. The name looks right with only a slight spelling variation. Location, at least the county, is consistent with other records. But, is this really your ancestor’s family?

1840 U.S. Census_Baker Co_GA_Wm Bailey I_Wm Bailey II

Image of 1840 U.S. Census, Baker county, Georgia, page 35

In this blog post, I briefly describe content of United States census records from 1790 to the present. Next, I present two tools for evaluating information found in pre-1850 census records. Examples are from my own family tree.

For your files, download blank copies of federal census forms from National Archives, Resources for Genealogists, Charts and Forms:  NARA Charts and Forms

Brief history of U.S. census records

To recap, information found on the federal decennial United States Census varies. From 1790 to 1840, censuses listed only heads of household. In 1790, enumerators requested name of the head of household then the number of persons in each of five gender and age categories:

  • Free White males aged:
    • under 16 years
    • of 16 years and upward
  • Free White females
  • Other free persons
  • Slaves

The complexity of census questionnaires increased until more than 50 categories appeared in 1840. [1]

Beginning in 1850, separate schedules listed free persons and slaves.  Schedule 1, Free Inhabitants, listed each person in the household. Instructions to enumerators stated [2] :

The names are to be written, beginning with the father and mother; or if either, or both, be dead, begin with some other ostensible head of the family; to be followed, as far as practicable, with the name of the oldest child residing at home, then the next oldest, and so on to the youngest, then the other inmates, lodgers and borders, laborers, domestics, and servants.

The person/s listed after the head of household (HOH) may or may not be related to the HOH. In many cases, you can presume that younger persons are children of older persons. Seek other sources to prove the relationships.

For those with Native American and/or slave ancestors in 1850, the census is not complete.  “Indians” (a.k.a. Native Americans) who were not taxed were not counted at all.  A separate schedule (Schedule 2) recorded slave inhabitants by gender and age under their owner’s name.  The Census Mate format (discussed later in this blog) may help.

Beginning in 1880, enumerators listed the relationship of each person to the head of household. Current practice involves a mailed census form to be completed and returned.  Some households are then chosen randomly to complete more detailed questionnaires.

Evaluating and deciphering information in the pre-1850 census records

Tool #1:  Four-step research strategy

Source: Barry J. Ewell, “Four-step research strategy for pre-1850 U.S. Federal Census,” Genealogy by Barry, 13 February 2016 (http://genealogybybarry.com/genealogy-four-step-research-strategy-for-pre-1850-u-s-federal-census/  :  accessed 23 September 2018).

This strategy is useful if you have, at minimum, an 1850 census record.

The steps are:

  1. Create a family profile using from 1850 census.
  2. Subtract 10 years from each person’s age.
  3. Apply the 1840 race/sex/ age category combination to each person.
  4. Build a household search for the household in the 1840 census.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 for each census year from 1830 to 1790.

The created household search criteria are then used to search online databases. I applied this strategy to a family from my extended tree:

Step 1:  1850 census, William Bialey [Bailey].[3]

  • Bialy, William              W M    age 75     Birthplace: NC
  • Bialy, Siety                    W F     age 65     Birthplace: NC
  • Bialy, Winny                 W F    age 22      Birthplace: Wilkinson co, GA
  • Bialy, Benjamin            W M   age 20     Birthplace: Wilkinson co, GA
  • Bialy, Nancy                 W F    age 17     Birthplace: Wilkinson co, GA

Given ages of William and Siety, the younger persons are probably their youngest children but could also be grandchildren.

Steps 2 & 3:   1840, gender/ age categories  would be:

  • William           age 65            M, age 60-70
  • Siety                age 55             Fe, age 50-60
  • Winny              age 12            Fe, age 10-15
  • Benjamin         age 10            M, age 10-15
  • Nancy              age   7             Fe, age 5-9

Step 4:  Household search, 1840 census, Baker county, Georgia. Found three entries for William or Wm Bailey. Only one record listed a male, age 60-70 and a female, age 50-60. [4] Total of 9 younger persons: 2 males 10-14 (Benjamin +1) ; 1 male 15-19; 3 males 20-29; 1 female 5-9 (Nancy); 2 females 10-14 (Winny + 1)

Gender and age categories fit categories determined in Step 3. As expected, more children were living with William and Siety in 1840.  Continue with 1830 census. Identify names of other children and approximate birthdates from other records.  Add these children to current record as discovered. See example:    Wm Bailey 1840 census with names

Helpful hints:   gg62755812Mr. Ewell presents more helpful census tips in a January 17, 2018, post, “190 Genealogy Articles to help you search the US Census.”   http://genealogybybarry.com/category/3-genealogy-rsh/census-rsh/

ADDENDUM: After locating a census record that appears to fit your family, continue by writing  names, ages, and other information on the printed record.  Add names and ages gleaned from other records. Use colored ink or pen to identify questions such as “Unknown daughter, born 1820-1825.” Here is another example with unknowns and  questions added: 1810 Census example 2_John_Creager

Tool #2:  CensusMate Worksheet

What if you don’t have an 1850 census for the family?  Are you trying to narrow down birth years and you only have pre-1850 census records? CensusMate worksheet may be your answer.

Developed by John L. Haynes, this pre-formatted Excel spreadsheet uses a “timeline format to find ages, names, and birthdates from 1790 -1850 Census Data.” [5]  Add the numbers for each category in the designated spaces, males first, then females. Don’t leave blanks; add a zero if there are no persons in a specific category.  There is space to add names and other information although the space is limited.

This example is from my dad’s family tree.  Is Richard Postens father of my great-great-great grandfather, Thomas Postens who was born in 1782? I entered gender/age category numbers from 1800, 1810, and 1820 census records. I added names and estimated birth years for two males who could be Richard’s sons. At age 28, Thomas could have married by 1810. Conclusion: Richard Postens could be Thomas’ father. More proof is needed. Richard also had several daughters. ‘D1’ was born between 1775 and 1784. This information narrows search parameters.

CensusMate example2_Richard Postens

These relationships are still speculative.

SUMMARY:

In this blog post, I presented two ways to evaluate pre-1850 census records. If you use or have developed other tools, please share in Comments section or email me. I will gladly report in another post.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

REFLECTION:

Pre-1850 census records are interpretive challenges for genealogists.  I began planning this post several months ago and really thought that I would find more tools. Maybe I just didn’t look far enough?

What I learned:  Barry Elwell’s method. I do something similar but not in the systematic manner that he outlined.

What helped:  Finding CensusMate tool about 4 years ago and using it occasionally. Online databases.

What didn’t help: Procrastination.  Multiple revisions, trying to keep post to less than 1500 words. Goal achieved:  1300  words + 10.

TO-DO:  Continue searching for tools/ methods for analysis of pre-1850 census records.  Apply newly discovered methods to my own research. Report as needed in future blog post.

SOURCES:

[1]U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, “History: Through the Decades: Index of Questions: 1840,” (https://www.census.gov/history/www/through_the_decades/index_of_questions/1840_1.html  : access 22 September 2018).

[2] U.S. Census Bureau, Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses from 1790 to 2000 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, 2002); image copy, Census.gov ((https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2002/dec/pol_02-ma.html  : downloaded and printed, 23 September 2018), page 10.

[3] 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Baker county, Georgia, population schedule, , p. 48A (stamped), dwelling 117, family 117, William Bialy [Bailey]; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 23 September 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M432_61.

[4] 1840 U.S. Federal Census, Baker county, Georgia, population schedule, Newton, p. 35, line 11, Wm Bailey; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 23 September 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M704, Roll 37.

[5] John L. Haynes, CensusMate: Worksheet for Genealogy and Family History, (http://www.censusmate.com/   accessed 23 September 2018).

A Valentine in the Family Tree

Do you have a Valentine in your family tree?  Both my husband and I have ancestors named Valentine. One of my genealogy goals  for 2018 is to tell more stories about my husband’s family so this post focuses on Valentine Creager (aka Valentin Cregar/ Kruger) , my husband’s 6x great-grandfather. The story of Valentine and his descendants extends from Pennsylvania to Maryland and Kentucky then, eventually, Texas.

Disclaimer:  Six years ago, when I began collecting information about the Creager family,  I was not diligent in saving digital and/or print copies of reference materials.  I remember reading some items but have no idea where I found them. Research notes? Virtually non-existent. Source citations? Incomplete.  Digital or paper copies available?  Sometimes. Results? Secondary sources in this particular blog.  Frustrated?  Yes!  Then, I remember — this is one reason for my Genealogy Do-Over!

valentine center tree w names

The Creager surname is believed to be an Americanized version of the German surname,  Krieger.   Our American ancestors trace to Johan Casper/Caspar Krieger, who immigrated to America in the 1730s. [1]  Valentine Creager , third child of Casper Creager and  Maria Christiana Hofferth/ Hoffert  was born in 1734 in Oley Mountain, Berks County, Pennsylvania.  According to Scharf’s (1968) history of western Maryland,  “a company of German immigrants came down from Pennsylvania and established themselves in the valley of the Moncacy [River]. . . . “ (p. 360).[2]  Casper and his family followed sometime later.

Valentine was baptized by Rev. John Casper Stoever in Oley Hills, Pennsylvania on 2 March 1734 at St. Joseph Lutheran Church (aka Hill Church) [3]. Valentine is believed to be the only child whose birth and baptism can be validated from church records at this time. Irene (Creager) Lawson [4] stated, “At the time of Velte’s baptism, his father, Casper, was a resident of Oley Hills,  Pennsylvania, and was an official at St. Joseph’s Church or Hill Church and was one of the three designated to purchase 50 acres of land for a cemetery on August 12, 1747.” (page 10).

When he was 25 years old, Valentine Creager received a 21 year grant of land in the area known as Monocacy Manor, near Frederick Maryland, in 1759. [5]   A manor was land set aside by the original English lords, such as Cecilius Calvert, Second Lord Baltimore and the first Proprietor of Maryland, as a lease.   “Initially, the term of a lease was designated for a period equal to the natural lifetimes of three individuals selected by the leaseholder. They frequently were for his own life and the lives of perhaps two sons. . . . “ [6].  At the end of the lease, “land and improvements were to revert  to the Lord Proprietary” (Tracey & Dern, p. 305).  However, the Revolutionary War  probably disrupted these agreements  as evidenced by  the 1781 confiscation of the Monocacy Manor leases which were then  sold as Loyalist property [7].

 

 

Map of Monacy River area in Western Maryland.  Note how close it is to Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

 

 

 

 

When did Valentine Creager marry Maria Christina (maiden name unknown)? Reported dates vary from 1760 to 1768.  The only agreement seems to be that they were married in Maryland, probably Frederick County. Births of their children partially reflect Valentine’s absence from home during the Revolutionary War:

  1. Daniel Creager born 1764                                     Spouse:  Anna Barbara Schmitt
  2. Elizabetha Creager  born 17 Feb 1768
  3. John George Creager  born 11 May 1771            Spouse: Margaret ‘Peggy’ Myers
  4. Susanna Creager born 22 Feb 1773                     Spouse: Abraham Miller
  5. Christian Creager born 22 Mar 1774
  6. Thomas Creager born 6 Feb 1775                         Spouse: (1) Rebecca Robbins                                                                                                                       (2) Sarah Ann Hedges
  7. Amelia Creager born 24 Nov 1780                         Spouse:  Nathan Crum
  8. Maria Creager born after 1781

Researchers disagree about the number of children born to Valentine and Maria.  Baptismal records for Elizabetha, John George, Susanna, Thomas, and Amelia support relationships. [8]  A 1798 confirmation record for Maria Creager names Valentine and Maria Creager , which suggests a possible relationship to them.[9]  In the Lutheran Church, confirmation means that the young person accepts responsibility for the practice of their religion and adherence to church beliefs. I was raised as a Lutheran so am aware of the significance of this event.

An online message board [10] mentions one additional child, Henry, born in 1766, and another source[11] mentions Christian, born in 1774.  I make no attempt to prove or disprove either claim.   Some genealogists question whether Daniel is the son of Valentine and Maria or the son of one of Valentine’s brothers.

Valentine Creager served in both the French and Indian War of 1757-1758 and the American Revolution. In 1774, his name appears as a member of a Committee of Observation whose duties were to watch the British and Tories.  His allegiance to the American cause included an appointment to raise money for buying arms and ammunition. [12]   By October 1777 and possibly as early as November 1775, he received an appointment as Captain of the 4th Company. [13]  Re-organization of George Washington’s Army found Valentine serving in multiple units throughout the campaign.  The Maryland Flying Camps saw little action during the war but served an important function as observers of the British and protectors of local populations.

Valentin and his family continued to live in Frederick County, Maryland, after the Revolution.  The 1790 United States Federal Census names Valentine Creager, Frederick County, Maryland and these members of his household: [14]

Number of Free White Males Under 16:   1  (1 son, probably Thomas)

Number of Free White Males 16 and over:  2 (Valentine + 1 son, John George?

Number of Free White Females:  2 (Maria + daughter or 2 daughters)

The reported death date and place for Maria Christina Creager, Valentin’ s wife, vary from ‘after 1780 in Maryland’  to ‘3 June 1797 in Washington County, Kentucky’ with no specific notes or sources recorded.

gg62755812TIP:  If you are unsure about something, write a note to share what information you have.   Example (with some fictional data):  “March 1780, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Frederick County, Maryland,  Valentin and Maria Kruger as sponsors for Hans Hofferth, son of Johan Hofferth and wife, Anna. So, Maria died sometime after March 1780.  Since the ages of females were not recorded in 1790 census, uncertain if Maria was one of the 2 females listed with Valentine Creager.”

Several of Valentin’s sons, including John George, our direct ancestor, found their way to Kentucky by the early 1800s. [15]   In 1803, Valentine sold land in Frederick County, Maryland.  This transaction provides the last known record about him.  According to an online family tree [16], Valentine died about 1808 in Washington County, Kentucky.  The date and location of Valentine’s death and burial are not yet confirmed.

Records of Valentine Cregar’s Revolutionary War service formed the basis for his recognition as a Patriot by the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution. (Valentin Cregar,  #A084178).  Descendants of his sons, John George Creager and Thomas Creager, proudly acknowledge themselves as Daughters of the American Revolution. Some of  John George’s descendants, specifically his daughter Sarah and her husband,  eventually settled in Texas.   John George and his wife, Margaret, are believed to have died in Boxelder County, Texas.

Our descendancy family tree (in a more traditional format)

Creager to Ellerbee descendant chart

Mable Venette Reed is my husband’s maternal grandmother.

 

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

Reflection

I was really frustrated when I could not resurrect print or digital copies of pages from Irene Creager Lawson’s  book, The Creager History.   AARGH!!!!  But, my frustration grew smaller as I found copies of some sources.  My research techniques have certainly improved and continue to improve.  I learned a little about the colonial period in Maryland.  Found online digital copies of multiple records cited in other sources.  A particularly exciting find was PDF copy of original records in German from Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Woodboro, Maryland !  Difficult to read handwriting but I was able to pick out ‘Valentin’.  With birth dates of Valentin’s children in hand, I found entries for some of the children and copied the relevant pages.  Yes,  I wrote the complete URL to each document!  And the date accessed!

What helped:  basic information already gathered for mother-in-law’s DAR application.  Access to resources about Maryland at the Oklahoma Historical Society Library here in Oklahoma City.  Finding a website with digitized church records for Frederick County, Maryland and the digitized  Maryland State Archives Online.

Website with Maryland church records:    Bob Fout, Genealogist    http://bobfoutgenealogy.com/records/

What didn’t help:  not previously exploring discrepancies in reports by various researchers.  Accepting some reports on face value without checking their sources.  Only a few Genealogy Do-Over tasks have been completed for mother-in-law’s family tree:  paper files placed in color-coded files,  individual checklists and research logs started for a few people.  But, I now have more about Valentine Creager!

Future plans:  Continue file clean-up.  Confirm sources cited by others.  Keep looking for copies of original sources.  Write notes about consistencies and discrepancies in records as well as reports made by others.    Keep paper and/or digital copies of all online resources, including complete URLs!

[1] “Descendants of Hans Ernst Krieger and Other Krieger families of Frederick Co., MD (aka Creager, Kruger, Creeger, etc.”  Updated; 2007-06-12.  Rootsweb ( https://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=grannyapple1130&id=I0051    : accessed 12 Feb 2018).  Cites various sources; acknowledges duplications and missing sources and that the information “is not without errors.”

[2] J. Thomas Scharf, History of Western Maryland being a history of Frederick, Montgomery, Carroll, Washington, Alleghany, and Garrett Counties from the earliest period to the present day; including Biographical Sketches of their Reprsentative Men. Vol. 1 (Baltimore: Regional Publishing Company, 1968), p. 360.

[3] “Records of Rev. John Casper Stoever, Baptismal and Marriage 1730-1779,” Harrisburg Publishing Co: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1896, archived at WayBackMachine (https://archive.org/details/recordsof revjohno1stoe.pdf   : accessed 13 Feb 2018), p. 7, entry for Krueger-George Valentine.

[4] Pages from Irene Creager Lawson, The Creager History (Austin, Texas: Privately published, 1985) in documentation file supporting Membership Application of L.A. Golding (National no. 751615) on Valentine Cregar (1734, Pennsylvania – aft. 1803, Maryland ), approved 1 Feb 1993;  National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, Office of the Registrar General, Washington, D.C

[5] Grace L. Tracey & John P. Dern, Pioneers of Old Monocacy: The Early Settlement of Frederick County, Maryland 1721-1743 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 1987),  p. 323.

[6] Tracey & Dern, Pioneers of Old Monocacy, p. 305.

[7] Tracey & Dern, Pioneers of Old Monocacy, p. 305.

[8] Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church (formerly St. Peter’s), Rocky Hill, near Woodsboro, Frederick County, Maryland, Parish Registers, 1767-1889: Birth/Baptism Records 1767-1854, digitized by Bob Fout 2016; Bob Fout Genealogy (http://bobfoutgenealogy.com/records/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/GRHC_Baptisms_1767-1854.pdf   accessed 13 Feb 2018).  Entries found for Elizabetha (entry 14),  John George (entry 84),  Susanna (entry 114)  , Thomas (entry 150)  and Amelia (entry 251).

[9] Membership Application of L.A. Golding (National no. 751615) on Valentine Cregar (1734, Pennsylvania – aft. 1803, Maryland ), approved 1 Feb 1993;  National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, Office of the Registrar General, Washington, D.C.

[10]  Audrey Shields Hancock, “George Valentine “Velte” Creager,” Rootsweb, website/discussion board  8 February 2002 (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~grannyapple/CREAGER-KRIEGER/B . . .accessed & printed  10 July 2011;   site currently offline).

[11] A letter to Mrs. Avonne Golding, dated 21 May 1987, from Wm. C. Willman, Research Correspondent, The Historical Society of Frederick County, Inc., Frederick, Maryland, names Christian and gives a birth date but my review of those digitized records did not reveal an entry for Christian. [Source: DAR documentation file, L.A. Golding (National no. 751615)].

[12] Scharf, History of Western Maryland, Vol. 1, pp. 128-129.

[13] “Journal & Correspondence of the Council of Safety, July 7-December 31, 1776”,  Archives of Maryland, Vol. 12, p. 317.  Image copy, Maryland State Archives Online (http://msa.maryland.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc2900/sc2908/000001/000012/html/am12–317.html  : accessed 13 Feb 2018).

[14] 1790 U. S. Census,  Frederick County, Maryland, p. 201 (penned), col. 1, line 22,  Valentine Cregar; image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed 13 Feb 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration microfilm M637, roll ____.

[15] 1810 U.S. Census, Washington County, Kentucky, p. 337 (stamped), col. 1, line 6, John Creager; image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed 13 Feb 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration microfilm M252, roll 8.

[16]  Randmisc, “Creager Family Tree,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/163769/person/-2087063383/facts   : accessed 13 Feb 2018), “George Valentine Creager,” death data undocumented.

 

Share your work with a family history scrapbook

Earlier this month, I presented an Ellerbee Family History scrapbook to my father-in-law in honor of his 80th birthday.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY PAPA!!

This project is my 4th genealogical scrapbook, 3 traditional paper format scrapbooks and 1 digital scrapbook. The projects evolved as a different way to present information about a family. As mentioned in earlier blogs, I wrote a narrative history about my dad’s family in 2012. I then promised my in-laws to research each of their families. The first two projects, both paper scrapbooks, resulted.

Project #1:  Simmons Family Scrapbook.

Paper scrapbook created for my father-in-law, about his mother’s family. He knew his grandfather as Clay Simmons but little else about the family. My quest, then, focused on discovering his Simmons’ heritage. That quest led to our first genealogy field trip to east Texas (a topic for another blog post!). HIs grandfather’s full name was Henry Clay Simmons.  Ancestors include James Aster Simmons, the first Baptist minister in Trinity County, Texas, circa 1856.  The Simmons family traces back to Virginia (ca. 1745) and the birth of a man named William Simmons. I used different color schemes for each generation.

Migration of Simmons Family
Suggestion:  Add a name to each place and date. 

Project #2:  Johnson-Reed Scrapbook. 

Paper scrapbook created for my mother-in-law, whose maiden name is Johnson. I used a book of floral design papers as background. Rather than an in-depth look at a single family line, Nana Linda’s scrapbook embraces direct ancestors of both Papa (Horace) Johnson and Nana (Venette) Reed for 4-5 generations. Several years ago, my in-laws pulled out on old suitcase full of family pictures. Some of those pictures found their way into this scrapbook.  A brief biography of a distant cousin who founded an Arkansas town added to the family tree.

Holcomb-Reed_graph for blog

Sample page from mother-in-law’s scrapbook.  Diagram shows relationship between two families. 

Project #3:  Posten Family. 

Digital scrapbook for my 90+ year-old aunt; presented to her during our trip to Pennsylvania in August 2017. Our family tree extends to our oldest known direct ancestor, Thomas Postens (born 1782, New Jersey – died 1854, Pennsylvania).  During my childhood, we traveled to Pennsylvania every other year.  Trips became less frequent after Dad’s mother died in 1964, so this scrapbook focused on the more recent story of my immediate family. Page themes included weddings, three generations of military service and my sons. A shoebox of pictures inherited from my mother yielded pictures of Grandma Posten with me and my siblings. My aunt readily identified when and where each picture had been taken.  My oldest son bears a definite resemblance to my dad and Grandpa Posten when they were in their early 20s.

Project #4:  Ellerbee Family Scrapbook.

Paper scrapbook created for my father-in-law. I promised this one as supplement to Simmons Family Scrapbook. Years ago, Papa shared his copy of an Ellerbe family history (Ronald William Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History, Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, Inc., 1986). The book represents an extensive history of multiple family lines with similar spellings of the surname.  A boon to this genealogist! This scrapbook focuses on our direct family line, Ellerbee. Recent contact with a second cousin yielded copies of pages from a family Bible published in 1876. Yes, I gave credit for sharing those photos! Review of documents led me to a new appreciation of one widow’s journey from southwestern Georgia to eastern Texas in the early 1880s with 6 children aged 3 to 14.

Consider a scrapbook to share your next genealogical project. Choose a method – paper or digital.  Time, resources and cost determine the size and method. Begin with a smaller project such as persons who fought in a specific war, a single generation or location, persons with the same given name through multiple generations, or stories about people in a family picture. The process of creating scrapbook pages can even help crack a brick wall! I used a single branch of the extended family for two of my projects. Think creatively about how to present information such as a census record.

census example from scrapbookSimple format, band of design paper on a solid background.  Copy of 1910 Census, Cherokee County, Texas for W. J. Simmons, wife, Janie, and 4 of their 9 children.  Small leaf sticker pointed to the family. Transcription of entry for W.J. Simmons is on next page for easy reading.  In 1900, W.J. & family lived in Coltharp, Texas, a town which no longer exists. Picture of historic marker and information about the town followed the 1900 census record.

Family pictures, Bible records, and original documents are ideal for this type of project. Copies of these items abound in all of my scrapbook projects.

Check the cost of your chosen method. For a paper scrapbook, you will need the scrapbook itself, paper, plastic sleeves and tape. Use archival quality, acid-free paper and sleeves.  Buy tape labelled for scrapbooking.  A scrapbook kit provides these items , except for the tape, plus stickers and other add-ons.   For a digital scrapbook, compare cost and other requirements such as minimum number of pages. Most offer templates and other helpful hints. Create your own pages or ask for help from one of their designers. Once the digital scrapbook is created, how will you distribute it? Digital and print copies are both options. Consider cost of postage to mail a print copy of the finished product to you and/or others.

For either method, allow plenty of time. The first two paper scrapbooks took about 6 months each because I could only work on them 2-4 hours or less per week. I had done little research on the Simmons family, subject of the first scrapbook, so gathering information took more time than for the other scrapbooks. Our scheduled visit to Pennsylvania dictated the time frame for the 20-page digital scrapbook which took about 20-24 hours total to create. The last scrapbook entailed two weeks of intensive work, about 30-40 hours per week.

For a comparison of Digital scrapbooking websites:   https://www.comparakeet.com/digital-scrapbooking-sites/

Paper scrapbooks. Choose size of scrapbook. Sizes range from 4 inches x 6 inches to 12 inches x 12 inches. So many choices of papers and colors! Choose a theme such as color, location or event.  When starting, purchase a theme kit or packet of design papers plus complementary or contrasting solid color pages. Allow time and money for multiple trips to the craft or scrapbook store! Wait for sales!!  Scrapbook specialty stores often sell unique papers that cost slightly more than papers found in craft stores. Check online sources for paper and other items. Some online sources allow you to order single pages. I ordered a Civil War Confederate packet and a Korean War theme packet online. Take pictures of your finished product.  You can then share these digital pictures with others in your family.

Develop a tentative table of contents, by section and/or page. The overall purpose of your project guides the sequence. In general, each section of my paper scrapbooks represented one generation.  The section started with a printed family group sheet followed by pictures, census records and other documents. Final pages in the section told a story about a specific person or event through local newspaper reports, church/ county histories or a summary written by me.

One challenge is finding creative ways to present various documents.  For a multi-generational family history, begin with a pedigree chart using a pre-printed, fill-in-the blank family tree form. Blank forms with handwritten entries personalize the scrapbook. Add stick-on items. Buy theme-based scrapbook packages at craft stores or online. I have jewels, flowers, letters of the alphabet, U.S. state decals, ribbon and leaves to add as accents. For the most part, I used fairly simple designs and shapes.

page 14_John Ellibee_Martha Love_marriage record_Ellerbee scrapbook_Jan 2018

Copy of  Marriage record for John Ellibee & Martha Love, 1842.  Full page from marriage record (with red circle around entry), enlarged view of actual entry, and a handwritten label identifying the document. Solid color background with coordinating bands of design paper at top and bottom of page. 

As you accumulate items, think about the information in or about the item. What is the most effective way to present the item? There are at least 3 men named William Green Ellerbee among the ancestors so green paper backs their stories. Use a state outline behind a document. Military symbols accompany copies of service records. A picture of a schoolhouse goes well with a copy of a school record. I wrote a newspaper-type story about a genealogical brick wall and presented it on (yes, you guessed it!) brick wall paper. A death certificate or tombstone picture on black paper with the words “In Memoriam’  is powerful. If available, add a picture of the person to a copy of a funeral notice. Add your own handwritten note to a census record – “6 year old Noah is listed as son but it is unlikely that 60-year-old Martha is his mother. Still looking for parents of Noah.” Sometimes, simply present the item on a solid color piece of paper.

Use contrasting and coordinating colors. The color wheel guides this concept. Complimentary colors, such as red and green, appear directly across from one another. Analogous colors, such as green and yellow, appear close to each other. Examples of various color schemes:

color wheel 2

Link to source for  Color Wheel

Choose a base color for your project, then expand by adding different color schemes for each page or section. For my mother-in-law’s scrapbook, a pink and maroon flower-themed paper guided color choices for the rest of the book.

linda scrapbook sample title page

Are source citations important for scrapbooks? I believe that the answer is, “Yes!” Plan space for citation when setting the page format. I added source citations for census records and other documents. For photos of the family Bible, my citation reads “Photos of pages generously provided by .  .  .  .   .  .,  descendant of . . . . .”   Relate the provenance of the item in the photograph:  “Handwritten journal kept by Grandmother Bailey, found at Grandmother’s house by Judith Bailey, current owner of the journal.” Format source citations for other records, such as census records, according to current genealogical standards.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hiReflection:

These scrapbooks were time consuming, medium difficulty, rewarding projects. I had little personal experience with scrapbooking before I created the first one. My husband is a graphic artist who offered constructive criticism. Now, I regularly scour local craft stores for sales on scrapbooking items. I started with one family history themed scrapbook packet and bought multiple single pages. I now have 6 boxes of scrapbook paper in assorted themes, designs and colors. Last summer, I bought 2 boxes of scrapbook papers and accessories, worth about $70, for $10 at a garage sale. For the latest project, I bought 10 design specific pages but only used 4 of them. There are more stories in the documents!

What helped:  Paper scrapbooks done in 2013 & 2014. Bought scrapbook supplies at various times during the past 4 years and only when on sale! Identified general color scheme of black, blue and green before starting current project. High quality copies of 3 pictures done at office supply store. Searched internet for page ideas. Genealogical research essentially complete on family before starting most recent project with most documents in paper or digital files.

What didn’t help:  With 1st project, no experience with scrapbooking. No clear format in mind, minimal planning. Genealogical research ongoing throughout 1st project. This project — home printer malfunction halfway through. Printer was down for 4 days while we waited for part. Good news – we didn’t have to buy a new printer! Used printer downtime to create items on computer and plan rest of scrapbook pages. Started creating pages in the middle of the family line, which was a little confusing.

Suggestions for future:  Tentatively plan sequence of sections and pages before starting. Inventory materials on-hand for ideas. Complete genealogical research as much as possible before starting scrapbook but remain open to new ideas or documents that may surface. Continue to look for scrapbook page ideas.

For more information, find print books about scrapbooking at your local bookstore or public library.

Websites you may find helpful (in no particular order):

Scrapbook your family tree (supplies and page layout ideas): http://www.scrapbookyourfamilytree.com/product-category/genealogy-scrapbook-paper/:

Scrapbooking genealogy (supplies and page layout ideas):    https://www.scrapbookinggenealogy.com/

Scrapbooking Your Family History: http://www.thoughtco.com/scrapbooking-your-family-hitory-1420758

Scrapbook A Family Tree:  https://www.familytree.com/scrapbooking/scrapbook-a-family-tree/

Pinterest, ideas for page layouts and links for supplies:  https://www.pinterest.com/rustico3059/scrapbook-your-family-tree/

The complete guide to starting your family tree scrapbook:  https://scrapbookingcoach.com/the-complete-guide-to-scrapbooking-your-family-history-for-generations-to-come/

Scrapbooking Your Family History: A Beginner’s Guide:   http://www.scrapyourfamilyhistory.com