Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sepia Saturday: A Birthday Book (or two)

The theme this week suggests Family Bibles but I can't do that. Well, I could, if I visited my dad who has several in his cupboard. But in lieu of that I'm highlighting a different type of book that is a keepsake, a birthday book. In fact two birthday books.

The first is called A Shakespeare Birthday Book and it was a birthday present to my husband's great-grandmother, Maggie McKernan, in 1890. It has quotes from Shakespeare on the verso page and spaces under each date on the recto page in which to write the names of friends and family. In this particular book Maggie has entered quite a few names so I have been able to add them to my family tree database.

Cover, Shakespeare Birthday Book
Daily Shakespeare quote and room for birthday names.
On the last page Maggie has written out a poem that must have appealed to her.
A birthday's just an open gate
By which you enter through
To brighter fields of happiness
Where hopes and dreams come true
And as today you pause beside
The gate to your new year
My wish for you the whole year through
Is good luck and good cheer!

In 1903 Maggie started a new birthday book, this time A Longfellow Birthday Book. This time the quotes are from, you guessed it, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. On one of the pages she has written the same poem and there are several other diary-like snippets in the back. ("Dad finished painting the lattice fence at the back 3rd July 1930." "Ina started at Bank of Australasia Friday 13th June 1930"  - 'Dad' was her husband and 'Ina' her daughter.) Under the birth date for her grandson, Allan Roy Phelan (19 December 1926), she has written "passed away at 'Rockville' Mitiamo 27th October 1927 buried at Pine Grove 28th October 1927".

The Longfellow Birthday Book, cover.

Birthdays of family.
Now I suggest you have a look at the Sepia Saturday website to see the keepsakes that other contributors have blogged about.


  1. Thanks for sharing your birthday books. This reminds me that I have had my own birthday book project on the go for a few years, and should get back to it.

  2. An interesting post and a very pretty cover to the Birthday Book. The one i have had since I was a child is nowhere near as elegant but the inside is set out in a similar way. But guess what - mine is a Longfellow b.b. and is still in use. These days it also contains other kinds of anniversaries such as weddings and deaths.

  3. Don't have a birthday book -- but already I am seeing the error of my ways! I'll have to find one; there's lots of family history in yours!

  4. A very nice take on the subject. Love the idea of a birthday book.

  5. We have a birthday book also, but it's a modern version & not nearly as elegant and I very much like the poem Maggie wrote on the last page of the Shakespeare Birthday Book (and what a beautiful rose cover!) :->

  6. My Aunt Margie kept a birthday book. My aunts and uncles all talk about it, but I have never been able to find out what happened to it after she died. She would have been my genealogy compadre from that era, too bad I dinna know her better. Thanks for reminding be of a treasure of which I have only heard about.

  7. That's so sad that Roy died after less than 1 year, imagine her writing it into the book for her own grandson. What did he die of? Is that who grandpa phelan is named after?
    How funny that she calls her husband Dad. I will have to have a look at that first book it's really beautiful.

  8. I'm amazed this week at the keepsakes people have to show. I have never seen a birthday book but I can see how Shakespeare and Longfellow books would be treasured.

  9. I too have a couple of birthday books - actually the two great grandmother's mentioned in this week's sepia saturday blog, both passed down by childless great aunts to my mum to me. One of them Sarah Stonehouse, sister of Mary Stonehouse (McConnell) who you left the comment about on my blog this week, and who my mum was named after! Small world.

  10. This is just as good as a family Bible! How sad to record the short life of a grandson therein.

  11. Remarkable books!!
    Take care of them.


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