From Military Records To Heritage Scrapbooking

A poster advertising 3 ways to write the hidden story in military records. A Blog post, Scrapbooking and a Slideshow
Writing Options For The Hidden Stories In Your Military Records

Military historians pour over the records to dissect, analyze and speculate about the places, arsenal and movement of the “troops”. When a family historians pours over the same military records they will take on another dimension altogether. The “troops” include your Great-Uncle. The location becomes a place you visit to touch the bark of an old tree. You reflect on the sister who receives payment every month for the efforts of her young brother. The same military records will become the scaffolding for a story that has been hidden for over 100 years.

1 Military Records & Heritage Scrapbooking

Most amateur writers shy away from announcing “I’m writing a book!” There are many reasons for this, most of which can be put down to fear. Fear that the task is too big. Fear that no one will read it. Fear of that other people will think you are big headed. However, when it comes to writing your family history it may be that you simply do not have enough information that will let you start at the beginning and work your way to the end.

I have to admit to all of the above! Writing small vignettes of individuals as and when material came to hand, fulfilled the acronym of K.I.S.S. “Keep It Simple Stupid But, when the material didn’t come to hand (or the words for that matter) I stumbled across Heritage Scrapbooking which focused on layout rather than words. You can learn more about how to make a heritage scrapbook HERE

A military record showing the  Attestation paper of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces
Becoming a Canadian Soldier

Finding Harriet in Canada eventually led me to a record of Attestation for her brother, Arthur Ilson. At the age of 21 years he had signed up to go back to England as a private in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces. It took weeks to decipher the handwriting. Months to work out what was going on each time he moved. Sadly, being a “Private” I was warned by the “experts” that it was unlikely I would ever find a photograph of him. It seems only officers names and images were recorded. With limited supporting material I decided to use heritage scrapbooking as a way to present the material in a way that was readable. The details of the battles and politics may be missing but by focusing on one man, my Great Uncle, I was always acutely aware of all the men whose stories will never be told. This is for them.

2 Turning My Scrapbook Into A Slideshow

The only creative talent I have that involves using my hands is knitting. Whilst I am proficient at cutting and pasting on a PC arranging images and pieces of material on pretty cardboard is beyond me! Although digital scrapbooking takes care of my physical shortcomings pasting dozens of “pages” in one post was never going to be aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Having a scrolling slideshow was the answer.

How I Made My WordPress Slideshow

Making the slideshow in WordPress was simple. Adding the video was not. I have always felt that writing an “How to” post is only one half of the equation. Sometimes we should be honest and write about the process that has gone before we get to the finished, “How To” post. As you can see my journey still needs some work!

Path One: My favourite site for making images of any and every description is Canva. It has templates for Scrapboking, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter etc etc Being a creature of habit I made 16 images using a template designed for advertising clothing. I simply removed their text and images and added my own.

Path Two: This involved making a PowerPoint presentation in Microsoft Office. I have had a lot of experience with this form of presentation as a teacher but even so it was time consuming. Unfortunately my time was not well spent as the *dps file extension was not compatible with my blog.

Path Three: This option was to make a slideshow in “SlideShare” Again the process was simple but unfortunately I didn’t see the advice that You Tube videos could not be added until I’d finished! As videos were an integral part of my supporting material I must admit I was about to admit defeat.

Path Four: was to use the same “pages” and add them to the WordPress “slideshow” option that is found in the block options. Voila, a quick and easy answer solution. One, I hope, you, the reader, will enjoy using. Unfortunately the embedded videos still do not function but I have added them to the end of this post under the heading of “Supporting Material”. Hopefully, in Path Five I will be able to share “How I Got There In The End”

I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work

Thomas Edison

3 Military Records As A Blog Post

Keeping in mind my earlier advice to KISS the following list is not exhaustive. It’s a guideline for you to research and plan around. Personally, I’m of the opinion that writers generally have their own style of writing that best suits them. My style is talking in my head. How on earth could I put that on my list?!

  • Overcome the fear of failure. Start writing whether you feel you are “ready” or not. If your screen/page remains empty this post on writers block may help. HERE
  • Focus your post on one story. One of the best ways to do this is to write a headline. Whilst a good headline will make the reader want to see what comes next it also makes you think seriously about the focus of your blog post. I use a free analyzer Co-schedule to point me in the right direction. I must confess that I am not a slave to the “rules” and reserve the right to disagree!
  • Remember your first paragraph is your first impression. Make it a good one. This is even more important when the topic of your post may have limited appeal. Military + Records being a case in point. To overcome this pre-conceived bias I made sure my opening paragraph set the scene for a post that was focused on one person rather than the “military” . I also put myself in the picture so that each “record” is linked to my own thoughts and feelings.
  • Do not rely on any of the above! Supporting material is just that. All the good work you have done will be made stronger if you add links to your other posts. You may read elsewhere that adding links that take the reader away from your post is to be avoided. However, as my goal is to share what works as well as my mistakes I ignore this advice. Adding personal images and video clips also gives contrast and variety to the written word
  • Avoid a rush of blood to the head. At some stage you will decide you are finished. Hit the “publish” button and sit back. Yay! Cup of coffee, glass of wine! Please don’t do it. Now is the time to stop, have a drink of water then……Edit, Revise, Proof Read…….. Edit, Revise, Proof Read…… Edit, Revise, Proof Read This may sound hard but the way I avoid the “Publish and be damned scenario” is to walk away. I never publish on the day I have finished a post. I always wait until the next day. Believe me, it has nothing to do with strength of character and more to do with publishing too many embarrassing bloopers!

My “First Impression” Blog Post Paragraph

As many family historians before me, this was a story I nearly missed. My family were not enthusiastic photographers, letter writers or close enough to pass on family tales verbally. When the research of my Great Aunt Harriet threw up a “hint” of a “Harriet” in Canada that had no connection to her family home in Bow, London, England I persistently and routinely deleted it! The light bulb moment came when I accepted that people do move from one side of the world to another (being an emigrant myself it shouldn’t really have taken so long!) Read more about that chapter of my story HERE

Supporting Material

If you have a hidden story you would like to share please leave a comment or a link


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