Using Baby Books as a Genealogy Tool

Updated: August 22, 2019
When researching family history, many people overlook baby books as a resource. This may be because baby books are not official, legal documents. However, these scrapbooks are often full of information never recorded anywhere else.
baby books in genealogy search
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Looking at old baby books may be a good place to learn more about your family and its history. 

Many people seek to learn more about their family history. Some wish to preserve this information for future generations, while others may want to research a hereditary illness. Those who have lost touch with their past yearn to rediscover their relatives. All of us have a deep desire to know who we are, and where we came from. Plus, learning about family history can be just plain fun. 

When researching family history, many people overlook baby books as a resource. This may be because baby books are not official, legal documents. However, these scrapbooks are often full of information never recorded anywhere else.  

More: How to Prepare for a Prenatal Genetic Counseling Session

What are Baby Books?

Baby books came into popularity at the end of the 19th century. They were records wherein mothers could record information about their babies, such as when they took their first steps or the first solid food they ate. They also included baby pictures, medical records, and information about the family. 

At the time of their prevalence in society, baby books were meant as a parenting resource and a place for record-keeping. They also became special keepsakes within families. Today, these mementos provide us with a wealth of information about our families’ pasts. 

Family Trees and Siblings’ Names

Some baby books had a special page for drawing out the family tree. A family tree may have the names of family members you never knew existed. It is sometimes easier to go back through parental generations while losing track of the horizontal branches of siblings and cousins. Finding information like this in relative’s baby books may help you put the pieces together and make more connections. 

Mother’s Maiden Name

Family history often gets lost when a woman has changed her last name through marriage. Especially in the past, children often learned the culture and language from their father’s side, while knowing little about their mother’s side. Discovering maiden names can help you make connections and learn more about your family’s geographical and cultural background. 

Father’s Occupation

It is interesting to know what your ancestors did for a living. Especially if it includes jobs similar to more recent generations, or if it is something heroic, like firefighting. If your relatives were artisans, you may open up a whole new door to discovering what they created, and whether it has made an impact on today’s world.

Birthplaces and Addresses

Baby books often listed where the baby was born as well as where the parents were born. The family’s address was frequently listed as well. Birthplaces and addresses can help you discover a lot about family history. Sometimes, it is another country and you can tap into your heritage. Other times, you may learn about cities or regions that your family came from that you never knew before.

Health and Medical Information

Mothers used to record all of their children’s medical information in their baby books. This made it convenient for her to reference. Information about illnesses, allergies, or mental conditions can tell you a lot about your family history. If any of it is genetic, this can provide you with important information.

According to Geneticist and  University of Phoenix Professor Dana Bressette, “Family history is very important to finding out about possible medical conditions you or your children may be at risk for getting. The first way to do this would be through family members.”

Religion and Godparents

Religious beliefs are often passed on through families, but you would be surprised how much they change. Religions dropped are frequently forgotten. Baby books will hold this information if they list baptisms or other types of religious ceremonies. This can be a very interesting part of your family’s past. Learning godparents’ names provides information about those who were close to your family. 

If you want to learn more about your family history, don’t forget to check through the attic for old baby books. 

Looking to incorporate your family history into your baby's name? Here is our Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Baby Name Inspired By the Family Tree.

Save it for later in your genealogy search: 

list of genealogy tips you can find in a baby book