School autograph book

Primary school autograph book, 1910s
Primary school autograph book, 1910s

When my great-grandmother immigrated to New York City from the small, quiet town of Buncrana in Donegal, Ireland, she brought all of her belongings with her in a small sack, which she called a ditty bag. It contained only some clothes, a Miraculous Mary pendant, a bracelet, and the small signature book signed by her friends from elementary school. She traveled in steerage, wearing her best outfit for the two week journey. She left Ireland because of its failing economy, and was able to secure work and eventually start a family in New York City. Her daughter, my grandmother, did not even know of her mother’s autograph book until after she died. My great-grandma’s classmates, aged thirteen and fourteen at the time of their graduation from elementary school, had filled the booklet with signatures and well wishes, with many, in typical teenage fashion, writing silly poems or cheeky quips as farewells. My grandma expressed her amusement, on perusing the contents of the booklet, at seeing that “kids never change”. Upon her eventual return to her home country, and despite the passage of many years by that time, my great-grandmother was able to reconnect with some of her elementary school friends who had remained in Ireland. Perhaps she revisited the signature book from time to time during her years in the US. Maybe she pictured those eventual reunions. Either way, the fact that brought it over, and kept it all that time, speaks for itself. 

Place(s): Donegal
Year: 1925

– Chloe C

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more