Now What? Photographic Memories

By Maureen A. Taylor Premium

Q. I want to find school pictures and other pictures of my Jackalow family, who came over to Ellis Island in 1914. How can I track them down?

A. If you’re looking for school pictures of your relatives, you first need to establish where and when they attended school. According to Kathleen Hinckley’s book Your Guide to the Federal Census (Better-way Books, $21.99), US census schedules began reporting school attendance in 1840. The census will provide you with proof your ancestors attended school and will tell you where they lived at the time. Some localities also took separate school censuses.

In order to start your search for class pictures, contact the school district or the particular school your relatives attended to see if it maintains an archive or sent its pictures and records to another repository. One woman found a photograph of her ancestor attached to his school records, so look for more than portraits. Once you’ve found the pictures, continue searching for your ancestor’s school progress reports.

You’re looking for photographs taken in the 20th century, so don’t overlook published yearbooks as a resource. They can provide you with a portrait as well as interesting information about your ancestor’s hobbies and nicknames. Researchers looking for class photos of 19th-century ancestors might get lucky, too: The earliest school pictures date from 1840, when Samuel Morse took a group portrait of the Yale University graduating class.

Check historical societies for yearbooks that might contain photos of your ancestors. These photos appeared in a West Night High School yearbook in the Cincinnati Historical Society’s collection.


If you’re trying to find general photographs of the Jackalow family, try contacting other relatives or searching for the name in online search engines and photo-reunion Web sites such as <>. Posting your request on genealogical message boards can also yield fruitful results. 

From the December 2002 issue of Family Tree Magazine.