She has prowled Island bookstores looking for good reads, gone crabbing in the Oyster Pond, sung in church services at the Oak Bluffs Tabernacle (no hymnal needed) and pored over old records stored in the vault at the Edgartown town hall.

Hillary Clinton’s ties to Martha’s Vineyard were forged well before she sought political office for herself.

Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pa., she was expected to formally accept the party nomination for President of the United States, the first woman in history to do so.

And as former President Bill Clinton began to fill in a portrait of his wife with intimate glimpses of their early life when he took the stage at the convention earlier in the week, a look back at her time spent on the Vineyard through the years adds more detail to the picture.

From her first visit to the Vineyard as First Lady in August 1993, she has been described by Islanders as gracious, low key, intelligent, approachable and community-minded.

“Thank you for helping us take care of the nation’s children,” Ellie Bates a volunteer for the boys and girls club told Mrs. Clinton, upon shaking her hand soon after her arrival that year. Mrs. Clinton had come to the Island with President Clinton and their daughter Chelsea for a 10-day vacation. It marked the most extended stay of any sitting president in history.

They would return three more times during his presidency for vacations, in 1994, 1997 and 1998, would become frequent visitors to the Vineyard at various other times. In the summer of 2008 when she was in the Democratic primary runoff, Mrs. Clinton held a large fundraiser at the Tabernacle. Mr. Obama and John Edwards also held fundraisers on the Vineyard that summer, but Mrs. Clinton’s event was the only one that was public.

Viewed in the context of world events today, the earliest Clinton years on the Vineyard were a time of innocence. It was a time when sitting presidents and first ladies could wander about with only a few members of the Secret Service in tow. And the Clintons did just that. He went jogging and played golf. She went for swims and nature walks, meeting her neighbors in the Oyster Pond enclave where they stayed, first at the summer home of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and later at the home of Boston real estate developer Richard Friedman.

During their first visit to the Island, among other outings, the Clintons went to the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven to stock up on summer reads. Hillary Clinton told bookstore owner Ann Nelson it was the first time she had been in a bookstore since her husband’s inauguration, and she was eager to hear recommendations. She bought Robert Grunden’s Time and the Art of Living, a treatise devoted to meditation, and also Moraine to Marsh, the seminal Vineyard nature guide written by the late environmentalist Anne Prescott Hale. Other reads for the First Family that summer included Saint Maybe, a bestseller by Anne Rice, The Book of Laughter by Milan Kundera, Where is Joe Merchant? by Jimmy Buffett, the Book of Evidence by Irish novelist John Banville and Indian Country, a Native American Study by Peter Mathiessen.

“This was a freewheeling, eclectic list,” bookstore buyer Bruce Anderson said at the time. The bill came to $119. 49; Mrs. Clinton paid with a credit card. The Gazette published a picture of the receipt.

The presidential visits had a Camelot quality about them that Islanders took in stride — there were dinners with Katharine Graham, Bill and Rose Stryon, Anne and Vernon Jordan and Jackie Onassis, all longtime summer Islanders. Sailing excursions, dinners out at the Black Dog tavern, shopping trips in the down-Island towns were all themes. Evenings at home were spent doing puzzles and playing pinochle and Scrabble, favorite games from childhood for Mrs. Clinton.

The first year, she was given a summer hat, a gift from Daisy Kimberly, owner of the Vineyard Haven store Alley Cat. The Australian-made raffia hat with a black grosgrain ribbon became a brief fashion trend.

From the start, Mrs. Clinton made community connections.

“She was so regular,” Lois Boudreau, owner of Tees by the Sea in Edgartown told the Gazette after the First Lady had visited the store in 1994. “She was lovely. I said, Hillary, you are awesome in my book.”

One time she popped into the Edgartown town hall, unannounced, and got a tour from town clerk Wanda Williams. The town clerk recalled that Mrs. Clinton peppered her with questions about local government and was fascinated by the history of the building which was originally built as a church. Shown the vault, she leafed through Volume One of the town records and marveled at the historical listings of births, deaths and marriages some 300 years old. “She was very interested in it,” Ms. Williams said.

“She seemed just like a normal lady,” 17-year-old Natasha Sullivan from New Jersey recalled after meeting Mrs. Clinton that year. “She shook my hand and said good luck at school.”

The Clintons were regular church-goers, attending Sunday services at the Tabernacle and Union Chapel, famously singing hymns without the aid of a hymnal. One Sunday in 1994 the Rev. Alden Besse delivered the sermon, which was about hope. “The losing of hope is all too common,” he said. “Without hope, there is no energy, no joy, no final success.” Staying into September that year, the Clintons also attended Rosh Hashanah services. “I felt honored,” Rabbi Joshua Plaut said later.

In 1997 Mrs. Clinton attended the 90th birthday party for the Oak Bluffs writer and Gazette columnist Dorothy West. “You’re a real national treasure, Dorothy,” she told the last surviving member of the Harlem Renaissance.

But by 1998, the final year Mrs. Clinton summered on the Vineyard as First Lady, the exuberant mood had changed. It was a dark time during the presidency; the Monica Lewinsky scandal had erupted alongside strife in Afghanistan and Sudan. “The President played not one hole of golf, and the Clintons did not attend church services either of the two Sundays they were here,” the Gazette reported. “After three entirely successful First Family vacations on the Vineyard, this trip was shaped as none before by national and world events, and by a family in public crisis. The exuberant pleasures of past visits by the Clintons were absent, and sympathetic Islanders could only stand aside respectfully and wonder.”

Now as Mrs. Clinton opens her own new chapter in history, whatever the outcome in November, words spoken by her at the end of her first visit in 1993 carry added resonance.

“We’re really grateful to the Vineyard,” she said just before leaving that year. “We could not have had a better time. We’re taking back some mementos, and when times get hard in Washington, as you know they will . . . we can just pull out that picture or pull out that remembrance of what time here was like.”