Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fearless Females - Minnie Welch's autograph book

Lisa Alzo, who writes The Accidental Genealogist blog, has brought back a 31-day series of blogging themes called Fearless Females, in honor of celebrating March as Women's History Month. I hope to participate in as many of these blogging prompts as possible this month.

March 8 - Did one of your female ancestors leave a diary, a journal or collection of letters?

A page from Minnie Welch's autograph book
Although not diaries or journals, I have some wonderful paper documents that capture a picture of the everyday life of my ancestors - autograph books. I have autograph books that belonged to my mother, to my father's mother and to my great-grandmother, Minnie Welch Kelly, and her sister, Nellie Welch.

It was the autograph books that belonged to the teenage Welch sisters that contributed to constructing the family group sheets of the Welch family. With entries such as "From your loving brother, Mark Welch" or "Love, Aunt Winnie," I've been able to learn about the family of Mark Welch and Sarah Conneally of Waterbury, Connecticut.

Miss Minnie Welch
of Waterbury, Connecticut
I've scanned all of the pages in Minnie Welch's autograph book and have compiled them into a pdf book that is a work-in-progress. The pages appear as they do in the original book; I only wish I'd begun the transcription a few decades ago before the ink had not deteriorated as much as it has now. I've made an index of the people who signed Minnie's book and even started to do a little bit of research on Ancestry.com about Minnie's friends. What better way to learn more about my great-grandmother than to learn about the friends she associated with as a young woman. This part of the project is still in process.

Minnie's autograph book covers the period from 1883 - 1888, when she was 18 - 23 years of age. The autograph book takes her from her birthplace in Connecticut to the plains of Nebraska in 1888. The last entry in the book is dated January 1888. She married my great-grandfather in Greenwood, Nebraska in December of that year.

The time frame makes me wonder where and how they met. What was their courtship like? How did a young lady from the east fall in love with a hard-working Nebraska farmer whose family had traveled by covered wagon from St. Paul, Minnesota? The answers to those questions may never be known, but what these pages show is that Minnie had a wealth of loving friends and family who undoubtedly contributed to the woman, wife and mother she became.


  1. How marvellous to have such a document in your family, and I love the picture of Minnie.

  2. Your display of the autograph book is simply outstanding. I hope everybody gets a chance to look at your fabulous work, it must have taken a very long time to do the scanning, transcriptions and layout. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Thank you for the positive comments, Susan and Barb. Barb - I did the scans and the book in a weekend in the summer of 2009. As I looked through this again, I already see gaps - information that I can fill in. And I still want to see what I can learn about Minnie's friends who wrote in her book. And now that I've discovered Nellie's obituary, I want to do the same treatment with her autograph book. It is much more colorful than Minnie's - people pasted victorian stickers in it.