Ancestry.com announced yesterday that it has doubled the size of its collections of digitized U.S. yearbooks. After adding about 150,000 yearbooks, the total collection now comprises 324,000 yearbooks—more than 52 million pages—representing all 50 U.S. states.
What’s in school yearbooks for genealogists
It’s true, you’re not going to find detailed genealogical data in most school yearbooks. What you may find are your relatives’ names, school nicknames, interests and accomplishments. For example, Laura Jane Moyer went to Schuylkill Haven schools in the mid-1940s. From 1943-1946, she appears in class group pictures, progressing from the seventh to the eleventh grade. During her sophomore year, you’ll also find her pictured with the student council, girls’ chorus spring concert and even as a peppy cheerleader.
Searching Ancestry.com’s school yearbooks
If you have a tree on Ancestry.com, you can start your search directly from an ancestor’s individual profile. After clicking Search, narrow results to the Directories & Member Lists category, then select School Lists & Yearbooks. Watch for entries matching your relative’s name and locale.
You may just find one or two volumes, since Ancestry.com hasn’t imaged every yearbook from every school. For example, Laura Jane Moyer’s yearbook for her senior year, 1947, doesn’t appear in search results. A quick browse from the collection page (select the state, city and school name) confirms that the 1947 yearbook for Schuylkill Haven High School isn’t digitized there.
After locating yearbooks, browse through the pages to find additional mentions of your relatives that the search engine may not have captured. You may also find photos that aren’t labeled with your relative’s name. Enjoy paging through images, noting the fashions and hairstyles. See if there’s a photo of the school, any historical sketches or other items of interest. Watch for other family members, too: siblings or cousins may have attended the same school. For example, standing near Laura Jane Moyer in one group picture is Anna Mae Moyer.
Finding more yearbooks
If Ancestry.com doesn’t have the yearbooks you want, try additional strategies for locating them. Ask relatives who might have inherited specific yearbooks if they have them or know who does. Looking through a family member’s actual yearbook would be even better than seeing a copy online, because you may find inscriptions from friends, teachers and even a boy- or girlfriend.
You can explore digitized yearbook collections at other websites, too. MyHeritage.com has nearly 200 million names in its subscription-access U.S. Yearbooks Name Index, 1890-1979. When you pull up one entry there, the search engine will show you other yearbooks from the same school. Also try websites such as Classmates.com. Local public libraries, state genealogical societies and even a school district’s board of education are also worth contacting. You can also Google what you want: schuylkill haven high school yearbook 1947 and see whether any auction sites, school alumni websites or other resources appear.
Want to donate a yearbook to Ancestry.com? If it was published before 1963, or it was published before 1978 but doesn’t have a copyright notice, you can send it to them.
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