Finding Old High School Yearbooks

Finding Old High School Yearbooks

My high school reunion (I’m not going to tell you which one) was a few weekends ago . I got to page through some old yearbooks and was reminded not only of my lack of skills with a curling iron, but also of yearbooks’ value in genealogical research.Any descendants I...

My high school reunion (I’m not going to tell you which one) was a few weekends ago . I got to page through some old yearbooks and was reminded not only of my lack of skills with a curling iron, but also of yearbooks’ value in genealogical research.

Any descendants I may have, for example, will learn facts such as the name of my high school and the years I attended, and they’ll get a glimpse of my teen-age tendency toward geekiness. Yes, I’m a former member of the newspaper staff, yearbook committee, academic team and drama club set crew. I’m so glad it’s OK to be geeky when you’re a grown-up.

You also can see names of various award winners and, for seniors, the directory with contact information.

Of course, yearbooks show you all those great photos. If you’ve got family pictures of teen-aged relatives with unidentified others, try compare the unknown faces to photos in your ancestor’s high school yearbook. Names of friends who signed the book are clues, too.

The yearbooks now available through World Vital Records are from colleges. The following tips for finding high school yearbooks come from the October 2005 Family Tree Magazine. If you know of other yearbook sources, hit Comment and post them:

  • Look up the school online (try a Google search or a site such as Public School Search) to see if it’s in operation. Then call the office and ask whether old yearbooks are in the school or alumni office, and ask permission to visit.
  • If you struck out, call libraries and historical societies in the area, which may collect old yearbooks.
  • Next, see if you can find any alumni—even one from your ancestor’s class—through the school’s Web site. (No Web site? Do a Google search such as graduate central high school anytown.) The graduate may be willing to do a lookup. You also can visit genealogical message boards covering that town and ask if anyone has a yearbook.
  • Not many high school yearbooks are online, but sites with collections include the National Yearbook Project and Dead Fred. A Google search may help here, too. Try searching on the high school name plus yearbook genealogy.

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  1. I have been using CLASSREPORT.ORG to post the yearbook photos from my class. This site uses volunteers to add new data, so some schools and some classss don’t have much, while others are fully loaded with photos and information and participation.

    I have scanned and posted photos for the Richfield (MN) class of 1956, 1959, part of 1965, names only for 1968, 1972 and 1978. I have also scanned and posted the photos and yearbook info for my dad’s Minneapolis Central high school class of 1952.

    To find old yearbooks, I know that our Minnesota Genealogical Society (MGS) library has a very large selection of yearbooks on their shelf. They have an on-line catalog for easy searching: http://www.mngs.org/library

    I know that our Minneapolis Public library also carries most all of the yearbooks from the city (no suburban) high schools in their special collections:
    http://www.mplib.org/yearbooks.asp

    I have also found that the suburban public libraries usually have a collection of yearbooks for the school within their neighborhood. And that the local historical societies also have old yearbooks for the school(s) in their town or county.
    Happy Hunting….
    Jodi in Minneapolis

  2. Your tips on finding year books are extremely helpful but my question is what happens to all those pictures the yearbook club didn’t use that were taken throughout the school year. I sure would like to get my hand on some of those.