Is family history treasure hiding in your baby book?
We all love that so many discoveries are now possible via the Internet from the comfort of home. So much so we’ve gotten used to looking online for many of the answers. In fact, we’ve adapted so well we often ignore that the best clues might already be in our collections.
As you know, I’m a big fan of looking for clues in unusual places. Places such as my apartment or my Mum’s house. I particularly love clues that are hiding in plain sight in my keepsakes and mementos. I’ve found some brick wall breaking leads that way, in cards, letters and photos.
Though sometimes we are so used to seeing these documents we don‘t take the time to analyse what they are telling us.
Like when I finally found the clue to solve the mystery of what happened to Great Uncle John. I had that keepsake (a Christmas card) for over 20 years and never paid attention to what it was telling me. Doh!
So when I recently re-discovered my baby book, I was curious about I’d find inside. Like that mystery solving Christmas card, it’s a keepsake I’ve had for a long time which I’ve never actually read. And as a family history enthusiast, I’m always looking for stories, whether it’s for an ancestor or myself. So every document I find is an opportunity to discover something new.
When was the last time you analysed your family treasures? Keepsakes such as the family Bible, letters, postcards, photos and your baby book. Or your parents’ baby books. You might already have the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow without having to go further than your couch.
What’s hiding inside your baby book?
As every good amateur genealogist knows, not all documentation is equal. It all depends on the who provided the information and who recorded it. What makes baby books such a valuable resource is all the details would’ve come from your parents. As it’s all facts about you, them and your shared family, it should be a reliable resource.
Let’s look at mine, for example. It’s my baby album, but it’s not only about me. Mum included notes about each of my siblings, as well as some family friends. Plus there are details about my grandmothers and godparents.
So once I made the discovery, I called my siblings to find out if they still had their baby books. Luckily I’m from a sentimental family with a bit of a hoarding problem, so everyone said yes to that question. Fast forward a few weeks, and one good dusting later, I dived in.
Because baby books are fancy diaries, they aren’t just useful for family tree facts, but also as a social history snapshot. You get to see food available, as well as what methods and techniques were used or suggested at that time.
Let’s look at some of the things you can learn from a baby book to add to your story.
15 typical baby book categories
- The big announcement
This section is for the birth notice and baby’s first photograph.
- Starter stats
Here you’ll find much of what is on your birth certificate, plus a few extras. Standards such as full name, date of birth, and hospital name/location. As well as extras like height/length, eye colour, time of the delivery weight, hair colour and which relative you resemble the most.
- Family tree
A great starter tree for when all the children who grow up to be genealogists.
- Christening/Baptism (or similar)
This section covers everything a baptism certificate does, plus a list of guests and presents. Plus a pic of you on the big day!
- The early days
There might not be any family history gems hiding here, but lots of details for future trivia games. Such as first outing, feeding and sleeping habits.
Have you ever been curious about your first proper meal or the strangest thing you ate as a toddler? This section will be the place to find out if you and your children share the same aversion to brussel sprouts.
- Weight record and chart
Great titbits for family reunion trivia or to settle that decade long argument about who was the biggest baby.
- All the firsts
Create the ultimate timeline of your life that includes when you first crawled, walked and said your first word.
More facts for family trivia fun! Find out if you were born with teeth or a late developer.
You’ve listened to your Nana tell stories about how your Dad sucked his thumb. Now you can find out if it runs in the family, and what else you may or may not have done as a little one.
- Toys and playmates
Ever wondered if you had an imaginary friend or if your only playmates were your siblings? Find out about your favourite toys, games, and best friends.
- Baby talk
Your kids would love this section. They can find out your first words and sentence and any funny sayings that you had.
Check this section for any pictures of your early years that you haven’t seen before.
- Medical Record
A record of illnesses or accidents you might have had.
- Vaccinations and inoculations
A handy record for your mum of the injections that you had. Also, useful social history facts to see how these things have changed over time.
Resources hiding in plain sight
Your baby book may not be the family history treasure trove you were hoping for, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a clue or two lurking in the pages.
These albums are a one-of-a-kind resource for information we won’t find anywhere else. Government databases are useful for general facts to build a broad overview, but they rarely tell us anything personal. We certainly won’t discover Nana’s first word or favourite toy recorded in any of them!
And it’s a reminder that some of the best genealogy resources you’ll find might already be in your possession. Analyse the photos, letters and other mementos and keep a record of what you see. Make a note of all the names and locations because you never know where they may pop up in the future.
Don’t forget to ask your parents and grandparents if they have mementos or stories from their childhood too. Perhaps not something as structured as a book, but birth notifications were very popular in the past. And baby photos have never gone out of fashion.
Now it’s your turn
Do you have a baby book? Or do your parents or grandparents? Have you analysed these as a genealogy resource to see what clues are lurking inside?