Problems Solved: Classy Photos

By Maureen A. Taylor Premium

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

A. Before you look for school pictures of your relatives, you first need to establish where and when they attended school. According to Kathleen Hinckley’s Your Guide to the Federal Census (Betterway Books), US census schedules began reporting school attendance in 1850. The census will provide you with proof of your ancestors’ attendance, and will tell you where they lived at the time. Some localities also took separate school censuses.

To start your search for class pictures, contact the school district or the school your relatives attended to see if it maintains an archive or has sent its records to another repository, such as a historical society or the state archives. You might find a photograph of your ancestor attached to his school records. Once you’ve found pictures, continue searching for your relative’s school progress reports.

You’re looking for photographs taken in the 20th century, so don’t forget 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 known class pictures date from 1840, when telegraph inventor Samuel Morse took a group portrait at his Yale University class reunion.

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 on photo reunion Web sites such as Family Foto Finder <> and Dead Fred <>. Posting your request on genealogical message boards also can bring results. You’ll increase your chances of finding images by following our five steps to photo success at <>.

From the September 2004 Trace Your Family History.