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A Genealogist In The Archives: Autograph Books in the Archives

Monday, January 16, 2017

Autograph Books in the Archives

Many of us enjoy Facebook or Twitter everyday to keep up with our family members, connect with others researching the same surnames we are and to keep up with the latest news and events.

Autograph books at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Our ancestors used different mediums to connect with friends and family. One of those mediums were autograph books. Many of our ancestors had these types of books and filled them with signatures of friends, family, schoolmates and other people they came in contact with on a daily basis. Sometimes there was just a signature and other times there was a short message of encouragement, a poem or just a pleasant greeting.

Inside of Autograph books at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

These autograph books come in all shapes and sizes. Some were leather bound and others had different colored pages. These books were a type of "social media" back in the day and were very popular.

Autograph book page for Ruth McAuley dated 1893 at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

These books were very popular with school children, especially graduating seniors to capture their final year of school and to record memories from their school friends.

Autograph book page for Shirley (Unknown) dated 1938 at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives 

Some of you may have an autograph book that belonged to your ancestor in your own personal genealogy collection. If you don't, it's possible there could be one located in a local archive collection, historical society or genealogical society collection.

Autograph book page for Ludelia Marable, Senior at Erin High School 1934-1935 at Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Autograph books will be located in the Manuscript Collection of a repository. They will probably be part of a larger collection of records. You will need to check the Finding Aid to the individual collection to see if an autograph book is listed as being in the collection.

Next time you are researching in an archives, ask if they have autograph books and maybe they will have one for your ancestor. Or maybe they will have one for someone your ancestor knew and your ancestor signed it. Autograph books are a great genealogical resource to find information or just a signature to document your ancestor's life story.



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  1. I have a couple of autograph books that belonged to ancestors. I was able to use to determine when he left home and when he was in various locations. Friends signed the book in Los Angeles and Oregon. Plus I have signatures of all of his family members including his parents.

    1. That's great! You can really glean a lot of good information from autograph books. Thanks for sharing Lisa!