How to Do Heritage Scrapbooking Without Photographs

There are a lot of scrappers that do not know how to do heritage scrapbooking without photographs, and this is perfectly understandable. After all, a photograph or two of your ancestors is always a great addition to any heritage scrapbooking project, to the point that a photograph already seems like a requirement. Have you noticed that people seem to always expect a photograph every time they browse a scrapbook? Well, that goes double for family and heritage scrapbooking. It seems weird to have a scrapbook about your family or ancestors without any photos inside the pages, right?

However, there are times when you just need to learn how to do heritage scrapbooking without photographs. After all, you need to consider that your ancestors probably lived in a period of time when photography was not as commonplace as they are today. In fact, it is rare for families to have even just a couple of photos from more than two generations ago. But not having any photographs does not mean that you have to abandon the project, right? With a little bit of resourcefulness and creativity, you can still create a memorable scrapbook even if you don’t have a single picture inside.

All you need to do is find and use other materials in place of the photos that you don’t have. What you need to think about is finding documents or memorabilia about your ancestors. These resources can either be used as they are or in combination with other materials to produce artistic and poignant albums. I will share some examples and ideas with you about how we can work with these documents and memorabilia in creating a heritage scrapbook.

The first items on your list should be documents. These can be originals or copies, although I personally think that if it’s only for scrapbooking purposes, you’d be better off using copies of anything that is important. It’s just a safer option because you can avoid ruining the original documents, and it doesn’t detract from the value of the scrapbook if you’re using copies instead.

The documents can be birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, military records, and school or employment records. Actually, these are your first options, but that doesn’t mean they are all you can use. You can also go with census records, old letters, invitations or greeting cards, and newspaper or magazine articles. All of these documents have a story to tell about your ancestors, and in some ways, they can actually be better than just photographs.

For example, old letters and greeting cards can contain heartfelt thoughts and emotions, and can really be powerful additions to your scrapbook pages. Plus, you have the added benefits of preserving the original handwriting of your ancestors. A marriage certificate will be great in documenting the wedding of your great-grandparents, for example, and a birth certificate of your father or mother will be a worthwhile addition as well.

You can mount these documents on your scrapbook pages as you normally would a photo. Use some photo corners or a frame, with some journaling, embellishments, and other decorative elements to produce a vintage look (or any other theme you’re going for). For journaling, you can use the information on the documents as a foundation upon which you can base your own lines. For example, if you have a marriage certificate of your great-grandmother getting married at the age of 17, you could write a short paragraph about how getting married at a young age was common during her time, etc.

By the way, since we’re talking about including documents in your scrapbooks, I feel that I should insert a short reminder here about using acid-free materials. Most probably, you already know the dangers of using acidic materials, but for the sake of beginners, I want to reiterate that you should first make sure that all the documents you are using and putting on your pages are de-acidified and mounted on acid-free, lignin-free paper. This is another argument in favor of using copies instead of originals, because it’s easier for you to reproduce originals using acid-free paper.

Now, let’s talk about using memorabilia. If you don’t have any photos, you can use documents for your heritage scrapbooks instead, but if you also happen to have some memorabilia that are relevant to the times, you can use those to add more soul and flavor to your pages. Such items can be medals, tickets, pages from old publications, flyers or brochures, antique jewelry (doesn’t have to be expensive), buttons, product labels, and many others.

Depending on the size of the item, you could directly attach it on the page or maybe create a pocket and mount the item on it. If it’s a little bigger, you’d have to use another page to fit it in, but this will depend if you’re planning on creating a whole album or just one page. Some scrappers like to take a picture of the memorabilia and use that instead, so you can try that option as well to see if you can work with it. Make sure that you include a short journaling element to go along with the item. If you’re stuck on what to write about, just do a few lines on how the item is important to the person you’re scrapping about.

No matter what you use (documents or memorabilia), you will need to include other elements like journaling and a few embellishments in your pages. The main idea here is that you are using whatever materials you have to tell a story about your ancestors, whether it’s a photograph, document, or memorabilia. If you don’t have a photograph available, the documents or memorabilia that you do have on hand can serve as the visuals instead. As always, even a little bit of journaling will help tell the story, and a few choice elements for decorative purposes can also add more flavor and personality to your work.