Autograph Books

Autograph Books
by Daryl Dumanski (ms. McCowan) MGS #1031



Much like we carry a cell phone around with us now, many students and other people carried their autograph album with them. To my surprise they have been around a lot longer than I thought. Lots of reading out there about the history so I’ll leave that with you. There are collectors who specialize in famous people or celebrities, authors, singers, or artists. But I love the ones with personality and history.

The joy for a genealogist is that they can contain a lot of that person’s history and family, friends, acquaintances from all their schools, organizations, churches and even travel journeys.  Granted, some are more poetic than others with the proliferation of those oldies but goodies in every book for about 50 years. ‘By hook or by crook I’ll be the first/last/in the middle in your book’ or ‘I bet I can spoil your autograph book by writing upside down’ or even some with fun code ‘2Y’s U R, 2Y’s U B, ICUR, 2Y’s 4 me” with that little blue page corner folded up saying “May you never be the colour of this page.” Some autograph books were the keepers of stuff much like some bibles. They may have pressed flowers, stickers, newspaper articles, special prayers and even hair tucked in the pages to discover.

What I’d call the vintage ones from about 1880 to 1940’s often had sincere sentiment and beautiful penmanship. A rare commodity now. But the ones that are truly magnificent, with personal messages for the owner and dates and places and family signatures, are a gold mine for genealogists. You may even solve some of those family mysteries when it’s signed by ‘your brother’ or given to ‘my daughter on her 10 th birthday’ or when it marks a special event such as immigration with ‘safe journeys.’ My most cherished autograph is one my grandma wrote and is one of the only places where she wrote anything other than her signature.

If you can’t read the text on the autograph book pages you can either use a magnifying glass if you have one, or go to the top right corner of your browser and click on the three dots or three horizontal lines (depending on which internet browser you are using). In the menu column that opens you will see a tool labelled “zoom”. You can use this to increase the size of the image. When you are finished reading the autograph book pages, don’t forget to go back to that menu and and return the zoom feature to 100%. You can use this zoom tool anytime you need to increase the size of an image on your computer screen when using an internet browser.

They may not be as popular, but you might have left your autograph in a yearbook, in a guest book, in a service for a funeral or an organization. Hopefully someone will remember you when they see you were there. Today we may sign in on different medias, but to handle a written family archive without any intent other than expressing something to an individual is unique.

I’ll be sharing some of the stories that come from the writings of Autograph Albums in my small
collection of six (three were given to me from people cleaning out trunks and had no idea
where/who they came from) so far, from 1920 to 1965. If you have some you don’t want or
stumble across some at a garage sale, let me know. Maybe we have a place with our new
special interest writing club! Enjoy.

References Viewed:
Online Retailer:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *