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Make History the Backdrop of Your Heritage Scrapbook

Family Heritage is all about preserving what is or what will become your family's history. We do it with pictures, journaling, and factual information about our family, but we rarely think to include actual history in our heritage projects. And it's a shame since the time period in which an individual lives and the events of that time influence everything from where they live, to the lifestyle they lead right down to their fears and dreams. In other words, time is the backdrop of the human experience. So why not make it the backdrop of your heritage project? Don't be daunted by the idea of doing the research. Although it can be fun to discover history by poring over old magazines, documents, dusty letters and church records, traditional reference and history books at libraries have valuable information too. And historic information and timelines on nearly every subject and period are easy to find on the Internet.

Once you find the history that coincides with your relative's life you might want to leave it at that and simply include a timeline of your relative's life at the beginning or in the appropriate sections of your genealogy notebook or scrapbook, labeling specific dates with historical trivia, inventions, discoveries and events.

However if you care to do more, consider including the social history of the time. By far the most intriguing and exciting side of history, social history is how our ancestors lived their everyday lives. This can include everything from how people of the time behaved to how the events of the day affected them. And remember as you do research that fashion, art, travel and communication, as well as politics and world events have a history that affected how people lived and interacted. Even new words or slang are often coined from the events of the day. Research the social restrictions and expectations for the different genders or ethnic groups of the time. What happened when someone deviated from the norm? In what sort of groupings did people like your relatives congregate?

Discovering the social history of the time will help bring to life the relatives in your old photos and might give light to their quirks, anxieties and opinions. And don't limit yourself to ancestors and their distant past. Your own past has a social history. Perhaps you remember telephone party lines and all the eavesdropping people did. Now we have to watch strangers on talk shows to get the same "e;gossip"e; thrill. And the way we do things, socially, can indeed become obsolete overnight. We all know too well that some aspects of the way we lived on September 10th became social history after September 11th.

But what of all of this history? What parts of it do you include in your project or heritage scrapbook album? The ideal answer of course is to include everything that involved or affected your subject, but that can be a daunting undertaking and you may not wish to do much research. That's fine! You can still add a splash of history to your heritage story. Consider including historical trivia about the period, which can be found quickly and used attractively in bits and pieces. For instance, as a background for your photos you may want to add the inventions of day in either pictures or verbiage scattered about the page, or include popular social manners in journaling segments, or use pictures of the clothing fashions, or include the laws and regulations of the community at that time along side that old court house picture. The possibilities are endless!  For more information:

International Institute of Social History

American Social History Project


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