Many of us may have a relative or ancestor who served in the military. We invite you to pay tribute to these heroes and honor their legacy by learning more about them through military records.
The MyHeritage collection consists of 57 million records and includes draft, enlistment, and service records, pension records, and other military documents from North America and around the world, dating back to the American Revolutionary War in the late 18th century.
MyHeritage Facebook Live Events
MyHeritage is also hosting 2 Facebook Live events about military records in the coming days:
Searching Military Records on MyHeritage
Tune in TODAY, May 20 at 1 P.M. EDT to learn how to leverage MyHeritage’s vast collection of military records to learn more about your family history.
Breaking Through Brick Walls with Military Records
On May 24 at 1 P.M EDT, you’ll learn how to use military records to break through brick walls in your genealogy research.
Lisa Louise Cooke, MyHeritage Facebook Live, June 3, 2 P.M. EDT
Topic: Fabulous Photo Discoveries at MyHeritage
Speaker: Lisa Louise Cooke
Description: Lisa Louise Cooke, founder of the genealogy research website Genealogy Gems, will illustrate the incredible potential of MyHeritage’s Photo Discoveries™ feature.
U.S. Yearbook Records Now Free and in Color
Following the release of the highly popular MyHeritage In Color™, we’ve colorized the entire MyHeritage U.S. Yearbook collection on MyHeritage. This collection includes 290 million names in 36 million yearbook pages, spanning from 1890 through 1979. You can now see colorized versions of your ancestors’ black and white yearbook photos next to the originals. To celebrate this moment, we’re offering FREE access to our U.S. Yearbooks through May 23, 2020.
A while back I received an email from Tim. He writes:
“I’m getting back into genealogy in a meaningful way now that my dissertation is done and I realized that I don’t know what to do with all the ‘stuff’ I’ve taken photos of, picked up at yard sales, etc., that could be of genealogical value to someone but not me. I’ve got yearbooks, pictures of the genealogy information inside family bibles, etc. I used to be able to scan and submit to Mocavo for the world to use but that’s gone. With the Rootsweb mailing lists shutting down, do you have recommendations for where I can submit these things so they benefit others?”
As a matter of I do have a few recommendations for you!
These days a free blog is your own genealogy bulletin board with much greater reach than Rootsweb had. It’s a great way to get the word out about items that you have that you would like to reunite with their families.
Blogger.com (Google’s free blogging platform) is a good choice.
In addition to a photo, include as much text as you can that describes the item.
Tag the items with surnames, record types, and locations.
Encourage people to email you or leave a comment to get in touch.
Interview with Carly Kidd-Osborn
If you have an item that you picked up along your genealogical travels that belongs to someone else’s family history, the Shrubs to Trees – A Pay-It-Forward Genealogy Facebook Group can help. Caryl Kidd-Osborn is the Administrator, and in this episode she explains how the group has helped return over 1500 items to families and how you can enlist their help.
From Caryl: “We are almost 2 years old and in that time we have returned over 1500 “lost” memorabilia items to living family. We’ve given back photos, bronze baby shoes, sheet music that was written by someone’s family member, a marriage license and even someone’s cremains. We aren’t a very big group but we have some wonderful folks who just jump right in with researching the items. It’s a private group since we are dealing with living people. It’s very much a collaboration. Our members are genealogists who, like me, just can’t leave an antique store without taking someone else’s family home with them!”
Here are just a few examples of the precious items that the group has managed to return to grateful families:
Reunited: Little Renee’s baby shoes
Reunited: A photo of Frances Payne. “Our cutest return,” says Caryl.
Reunited: Andrew Johney and Maggie Bosley marriage license. This was found at a dump.
Sarah Fooks Tutherly – photo went to the Historical Society in Laurel, DE. The Fooks family was a prominent family in that town, she was a DAR member.
Reunited: The Vandermaas family. The parents had died before the children were of that age so this is a composite of the whole family.
GEM: Top 10 Strategies for Finding School Records for Genealogy
Click here for the complete article on strategies for finding school records.
Gain access to the complete Premium podcast archive of over 150 episodes and more than 50 video webinars, including Lisa Louise Cooke’s newest video The Big Picture in Little Details. Become a member here.
Click to learn more about Genealogy Gems Premium Membership.
Have you found all the school records there are to be had for your ancestors? Most of us haven’t, and the chances are very good that there are still some gems out there waiting to be found. Here are ten solid strategies that will help you track them down for your genealogy research.
Because the movement for compulsory public education didn’t begin until the 1920s, many people assume that there few records to be had for genealogical purposes prior to that time. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Many children attended school much earlier.
In fact, it may be surprising to learn that the first public school in what is now the United States opened in the 17th century. On April 23, 1635, the first public school was established in Boston, Massachusetts.
Illustration of the Boston Latin School by Ebenezer Thayer, courtesy of Wikimedia
It was a boys-only public secondary school called the Boston Latin School, and it was led by schoolmaster Philemon Pormont, a Puritan settler. The school was strictly for college preparation, and produced well-known graduates including John Hancock and Samuel Adams. It’s most famous dropout? Benjamin Franklin! The school is still in operation today, though in a different location.
Thousands of schools serving millions of students have been established in the U.S. since the inception of the Boston Latin School. (According to 2015-16 data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) there are 132,853 K-12 schools in the U.S.) This means that the chances of there being school records for your ancestors is great indeed!
10 Solid Strategies for Finding School Records for Genealogy
Here are 10 proven ways to find your ancestors’ awkward yearbook photos, sports triumphs, and much, much more.
1. Establish a Timeline of your Ancestor’s Education
Check your genealogy software database to figure out when your ancestor would have attended high school or college. Keep in mind, as recently as the 1960s, children did not go to Kindergarten but may have started school at about 6 years old and beginning in First Grade.
To keep my search organized, I decided to create a simple worksheet form in a Word document. This allows me to identify the right time frames, locations, and other pertinent information for my search, and record my progress along the way.
Here’s an example of a worksheet I started on searching for my Grandma’s school records.
2. Consult Family Papers and Books for School Records
Go through old family papers and books looking for things like:
senior calling cards,
high school autograph books,
journals and diaries,
fraternity or sorority memorabilia,
yearbooks and more.
When I dug through boxes and my grandmother’s cedar chest I found several records like…
a Report Card:
My grandmother’s brother’s 6th grade report card found among family papers.
Grandma’s class picture from the 7th grade in 1925, Chowchilla, California. She is in the back row on the far right, and her brother is the boy in the center of the back row:
Grandma (back row, far right) with her 7th grade class.
And Grandma’s senior portrait, 1930:
Grandma’s senior portrait from 1930
3. Google for Academic Family History
From the professional website of the state archives to the family history site cobbled together by a cousin you’ve never met, the potential for finding school records on the vast expanse of the internet is limitless! Google is the tool to help you locate websites that include school-related records with lightning speed.
Since I’m not sure which school my grandmother attended, I started off my search for my grandmother’s school with a simple query for the history of schools in the county where she lived as a child:
Google search for the history of school’s in the county
I was pleasantly surprised at the first search result. It’s a newspaper article from the Madera Tribune literally outlining the history of how the schools evolved in the county! It details such things as the driving forces behind where schools were located, when they were founded, and which ones at the time of the article were no longer in existence.
History of Madera Schools Outlined in the Madera Tribune, September 1955.
Next, I focused my attention on the grade school listed on Grandma’s brother’s 6th grade report card that I discovered during my search of family papers. I Googled the name of the school, county and state.
A search like this can literally deliver millions of results. In fact, this specific search brings up over 1 million search results.
You can typically reduce the unwanted search results by 90% by using search operators. These symbols and words give Google further instructions on what you want done with the words you are searching.
While I cover a large number of operators in my book The Genealogists’s Google Toolbox, I’m going to use just one of the most popular to dramatically improve my search for the Sharon school.
In the example below I put quotation marks around the name of the school. Doing this explains to Google that I want this phrase to appear exactly as I typed it in every single search result. You’ve probably noticed that when you search a phrase by itself, you’ll receive results that include only one of the words, or the words spelled differently, or in a different order. The quotation marks search operator prevents this from happening. It mandates that the phrase appear on every result exactly as you typed it.
Using Search Operators to Google the Grade School
Notice that I didn’t put quotation marks around the county name or the state. I recommend using search operators sparingly, at least in your initial search, to ensure that you don’t miss out on good results. If I were to put quotations marks around “Madera county” I would not receive any web pages that do mention Sharon School but just don’t happen to mention Madera County as a phrase.
Notice also that this search resulted in just over 11,000 results, a small fraction of what I would have received had I not used the quotation marks! Even more important is that the results on the first few pages of are all very good matches.
I could try a few more variations such as adding words like history, genealogy or records.
4. Search Newspapers
Historic newspaper are also a wonderful source of honor rolls, school sporting events and anything else having to do with school life.
While there are certainly more historic newspapers online than ever before, it’s still a fraction of what is available.
Click the U.S. Newspaper Directory button at Chronicling America
On the Directory search page, enter the state, county and town:
Search the U.S. Newspaper Director for the school location.
On the results page, click the “View complete holding information” link:
Click “View the holdings”
Now you can view all of the known available locations for this item:
The item I searched for has three known locations.
In my case, the Chowchilla newspaper of the early 20th century has not been digitized and is not available online. However, the California State Archives in Sacramento has an extensive collection of microfilm. I was able to make the trip in person, and was certainly glad I did! They not only had the newspaper I needed but also countless other resources that were helpful for my genealogical research.
My Grandma listed by name in the newspaper for making the Freshman high school honor roll.
Here are additional resources to help you find newspapers for your school records research:
Local newspapers can also be found by searching for the public library website in the town where your ancestor attended school. Check the library’s online card catalog or contact them directly to see what newspapers they have and whether any can be loaned (on microfilm) through inter-library loan.
Click here to search Genealogy Bank – (This page includes a 7 day free trial option.) This popular subscription website has over 11,000 newspaper, 95% of which Genealogy Bank says are exclusive to their website.
My book, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers provides a newspaper search methodology including all of these suggestions plus many more. Click here for a special discount savings at the Genealogy Gems store. (Disclosure: The links above are affiliate links. Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you click them and make a purchase. Thank your for supporting this free article and the free podcast.)
5. Consult U.S. State Archives and Libraries
The public libraries and state archives across the country are a treasure trove of genealogical resources, and that includes school-related records.
While it’s easy to stop by your local library for a search, it may not be as easy to make your way to the public library in the town where your ancestors lived. Turn to the internet to do your homework regarding the repositories, their holdings, and the most convenient and economical way for you to access them.
A great place to start is the WorldCat website.
Start by conducting a search. Once you find an item of interest, enter your zip code under the “Find a Copy in the Library” section to identify where it’s available.
Enter your zip code to determine your proximity to the libraries and archives.
As you can see, the name of the libraries are hyperlinked so that you can click through to the item on their website. This makes requesting a look-up or photo copy very easy.
I can’t stress the value of State Libraries enough. Gere are two more excellent resources:
Click here to read Archivist Melissa Barker’s article called Using Veritcal Files in Archives.
6. Contact State Historical and Genealogical Societies
In addition to newspapers, state historical and genealogical societies might have old yearbooks, school photograph collections or other records. For example, the Ohio Genealogical Society library has a large collection of Ohio school yearbooks.
Local historical and genealogical societies may also have school memorabilia in their small or archived collections.
To find contact information for a local historical or genealogical society, Google the name of the county and state and add the words genealogy, history and / or society at the end. For example: Darke County Ohio genealogy society.
7. Search for Online Yearbooks
One of the most exciting genealogical record collections to have come out in recent times is Ancestry.com’s U.S. School Yearbooks 1900-1999 collection. It is an indexed collection of middle school, junior high, high school, and college yearbooks from across the United States.
In June of 2019 Ancestry replaced old records with new updated records for most of the yearbooks found on the site. They also added new records from 150,000 yearbooks that previously only had images available. Later in August of 2019 they improved the collection even further by adding a staggering 3.8 million new records. This update also included 30,000 new image-only books.
Ancestry also has an extensive indexed collection of middle school, junior high, high school, and college yearbooks for Canada. Click here to search the Canadian collection.
Additional websites featuring yearbooks include:
Old-Yearbooks.com – According to the website, “Old-Yearbooks.com is a free genealogy site, displaying old yearbooks, class rosters, alumni lists, school photos and related school items. All materials on this site are the property of the submitter. You may not use the images, text or materials elsewhere, whether in print or electronically, without written permission from the submitter or this site.”
Classmates.com – “Register for free to browse hundreds of thousands of yearbooks! You’ll find classic photos of friends, family, and even your favorite celebrities. Viewing the books is always free, and you can purchase a high-quality reprint.”
8. Check Township Archives
You might be thinking you didn’t read that right, but you did. Townships are small areas within the county. These small townships may have their own archives or one room museums. They are often the holders of some pretty one-of-a-kind finds.
The best way to determine what the township may have is to contact the township trustees. Google your township name, the county name, state name, and add the word trustee. You will likely need to give one of the trustees’ a phone call to ask what resources might be available.
The auction website ebay is the perfect place to look for school record and memorabilia, particularly hard-to-find yearbooks.
Conduct a search on the school or town you are looking for to see if anyone is selling a yearbook that you want. (You’ll need a free ebay account to do this.) Also, search for old photographs or postcards of the school building that you can add to your family history.
Initial search for school items at ebay
When I searched for Chowchilla California School, several auctions for school-related items from Grandma’s high school came up. Unfortunately, these are auctions for yearbooks after she had already graduated. But no worries! This search is only for today. Tomorrow someone could put up an auction for exactly what I want. There’s only one problem: no one has enough time to search every single day!
A way to save time and ensure that you don’t miss new auction items is to save your search.
Click the Save this search button toward the top of the page:
Click the Save button to save the search you just ran.
By doing this, you will be sent an email any time a new auction comes up that meets your search criteria. You can learn more about setting up ebay saved searches for family history by listening to Genealogy Gems Podcastepisode #140.
Here’s another one of my favorite strategies: After you run your initial search, check the box on the results page to include completed listings.
Click the Completed search box in the left hand column
In the revised “Completed” search results you may see some items that are of interest. If the item has a green price, it means the item was sold. If the price is black, it did not sell.
Each item will also have a link that says View Similar Active Items. Click that to see a list of items currently for sale that are very similar to one that you wanted.
You can also contact the seller of any item to inquire about the unsold item or to ask whether they have related items.
Bought on ebay: A yearbook from the school where my husband’s grandfather was a music teacher
I bought the yearbook above on ebay several years ago. It includes several photographs of my husband’s grandfather who was a music teacher at the high school back in the 1940s.
10. Call the School
If the school is still in operation, try calling the main office of the administration office. They may have old yearbooks and scrapbooks in their library or on display. If they don’t, they may very well be able to tell you where they can be found.
You can obtain contact information by Googling the name of the school and the location.
Good times to try calling a school are mid-morning after kids are settled into class, or between 3 and 4:00 pm local time, when many of the kids have gone home but the school office is still open.
Tell Us About the School Records You Find
Using these strategies you are bound to find more school records for your genealogical search. Please leave a comment below and share what you found, where you found it, and which strategy you used. It will inspire us all to keep looking! And if you have a favorite strategy that we didn’t mention here, please do share that too.
Learn More by Listening to the Free Podcast
Have you listened to the Genealogy Gems Podcast yet? The free podcast has been downloaded nearly 3 million times worldwide. Why not tune in and see what everyone’s been listening to? You’ll get tech tips, inspiring stories, research coaching and please-try-this-at-home examples you’ll want to try right away!
School records can fill in the gaps in missing vital records, as well as provide a rare glimpse into the daily lives of our ancestors. Guest blogger Margaret Linford shares her personal stories about how schools can connect us to our families. She also provides great tips on what kinds of records and resources to look for, and where you might find them.
The lazy days of summer are coming to an end.
The roar of school bus engines will again be heard echoing throughout towns and cities all across the country, delivering students to their respective schools. The smell of new books and freshly sharpened pencils will permeate the hallways as teachers greet their students and embark upon a new school year. The beginning of a new school year is a time of great anticipation. Excitement fills the air as school friends reunite, anxiously sharing their tales of summer adventures. Days spent lounging by the pool are abruptly replaced with early-morning alarm clocks and evenings occupied with homework.
This year, I suddenly find myself the mother of a fifth-grader and a high-schooler. On several occasions, I have caught myself lamenting over the speed with which my children are growing up. I have occupied several afternoons looking back at their baby books and school pictures, wondering where the time has gone. I am nostalgic for the days of preschool and Kindergarten, when the biggest concern was their mastery of ABCs, how high they could count, and how well they played with others.
Two weeks ago, I had the unique experience of escorting my oldest daughter to an orientation at her new high school—my alma mater. As we sat in the auditorium, scenes from my teenage years flashed before my mind’s eye. I could envision a young girl playing bass clarinet with her high school band on the stage, tapping her toe in time to the rhythm of the music. As we left the auditorium, more flashes from the past came to mind. “This is the hallway where my friends and I would congregate between classes. This is the room where Mrs. Goodman did her best to teach us the laws of physics, despite our attempts at an afternoon nap. That is the window through which I spent many moments in Mrs. Scott’s class, daydreaming about what the future held.”
On the evening of my daughter’s orientation, I was shocked to discover that, although much had changed, some things were strikingly familiar. The room where I learned to type on an old-school typewriter, with ribbon and ink, had now been transformed into a computer lab. The chemistry classroom still occupied the same space, with cabinets stocked full of beakers and all manner of scientific paraphernalia, waiting to introduce students to the wonders of chemical reactions.
I caught my daughter, Amelia, sometimes glancing my way as we navigated the crowded hallways. It was apparent that she was attempting to read my mind and the emotions I felt as I returned to this space that contributed significantly to making me who I am. It was evident to her that I was preoccupied with a barrage of memories. She took advantage of the opportunity to conduct her own family history interview. “Mom, where was your locker? What has changed since you were here? What was your favorite class?” As she formulated each question, I realized that she had gained a vision of the importance of family stories. I smiled as we walked the hallways together that evening, sharing stories from my past and hopes for her future.
There are fleeting moments like this in each family—moments when past meets future. These occasions often pass us by, their significance unnoticed or unappreciated. These flashes in time are offered to us as immeasurable gifts, whose value increases with the passage of years. How many of us would love to have the opportunity of walking down the halls of our parents’ and grandparents’ schools, hearing them tell of how things had transformed and what had remained unchanged? While circumstances may prevent us from having this experience with our ancestors, I’d like to share with you six of the best school records which can assist you in understanding what your forebears were like, as students. These records tell their own stories. As we discover them, we forge emotional connections with those who came before us. We gain a greater understanding of their strengths and their weaknesses.
Here are 6 of the best school records for genealogy research:
1. School Census Records
School census records were maintained to assist school districts in allocating resources and planning for the future, among other things. Much like the United States Census, these records provide genealogists with important information. If you are lucky enough to find census records for a family with school children in the 1880s and 1890s, they can even act as a wonderful resource for tracing families during the elusive final two decades of the 19th century.
In Smyth County, Virginia, three of these important volumes were saved from the clutches of a trash can. The books contained the names of children attending school from the years 1885, 1910, and 1915. They had been placed in a box, to be thrown away, when a member of the local genealogical society spotted them. She immediately recognized their worth and asked if she might spare them. Thanks to this instance of being in the right place at the right time, the books were rescued.
The oldest of the three books is a relatively small, brown ledger book. It has a marbled cover. Inside the front cover is written, “School Census taken by J. B. Rhea, clerk of Board of 4th School Dist. Smyth Co. Va., between June 8th and July 20th 1885.” Underneath, Mr. Rhea has done the math and determined that there are 815 students enrolled in the 4th School District. The pages within are fragile and have become brittle with age. Upon these pages are listed all the children “between the ages of one year (and less) and twenty-one years.” This census is a valuable genealogical resource because it lists the names of parents, occupation of father, names and ages of each child in the family, whether or not the child can read and write, how much education the child has had and, most importantly, the birthplace of the father. Many of the fathers were born in Virginia or Tennessee. In some cases, there is genealogical “gold.” For instance, Alex Campbell, father of Robert, Bell, and Mary Campbell, was born in Scotland. Another father, Richard Goodell, was born in New York. He is working as a merchant in Smyth County in 1885. Charles F. Lincoln, a local “mechanic,” is listed as having been born in Massachusetts. This can be a key piece of information for family researchers.
These records may be found in libraries, historical societies, State Archives, and within collections at Ancestry, FamilySearch, Findmypast, and MyHeritage.
2. Daily Attendance Registers/Class Grades
This record set contains precisely what the name implies—a register of attendance and grades. Each teacher was responsible for maintaining these records on a daily basis. Who was present and accounted for each day? Who was absent? What subjects were strengths? Where could they have improved? The quality of the records depends on the record-keeping of the teacher.
Recently, a filing cabinet full of these records was brought to my attention by our local Superintendent of Schools. He invited me to visit the county school board office and look through the old wooden filing cabinet, in an effort to determine whether or not the records might be of benefit to families conducting genealogical research. The records dated back to a time in our local history when one and two-room schoolhouses dotted the landscape. Children walked to school in these days. The classrooms were heated by pot-bellied stoves. The drawers of the cabinet were packed so tight that it was somewhat difficult to retrieve individual registers. Dust and cobwebs had not diminished the value of these records. Names of parents appeared beside each student, along with places of residence. A preservation plan is now being developed for the safe-keeping of these valuable family history resources. The countless hours of record-keeping by these teachers from long ago will not have been in vain. These records are typically found by contacting the local school administration office.
3. Report Cards
We are all familiar with this sometimes-feared record set. Many of us can relate to the trepidation we felt as we submitted our report cards to our parents for review every six to nine weeks. Would our grades withstand the scrutiny of our parents’ watchful eyes? Would they note the number of times we were tardy to class? What had our teachers written in the comment section? We may have breathed a sigh of relief upon realizing there was nothing incriminating written on the pages of our report cards. The signature of our parents served as a stamp of approval, which we dutifully returned to our teachers.
This record set is most often found within the walls of our own homes. There are times we may be tempted to dispose of any evidence of poor behavior or less-than-perfect grades, but these records serve to tell our stories and inspire our descendants. They may learn that perfection is not necessary for success, or that even their parents and grandparents were sometimes caught talking in class.
Local newspapers are essential in researching the histories of our local schools, sports, and other countless activities that accompany student life. Small town newspapers are well-known for covering special events and recognitions that otherwise might go unreported in larger cities. These smaller newspapers celebrate the victories of their local students and proudly intertwine school news with other important headlines.
Many schools publish their own newspapers, offering students a taste of what life would be like in the world of media and deadlines. Creativity and responsibility are cultivated in the environment of a school newspaper classroom. Early issues of a local Marion Senior High School newspaper tell the story of what it was like to be a high school student during World War II. One of the headlines in the May 22, 1944, issue of The Hurricane Junior, was particularly interesting.
Excerpt from The Hurricane Junior newspaper
“Four Seniors Now Serve in U.S. Navy: Four members of the senior class are now on active duty in Uncle Sam’s forces. All four—James Snavely, Don Starling, Charles Daniels, and Herman Gullion—are volunteers in the Navy.
“James Snavely, the first to volunteer, received his ‘boot training’ at Bainbridge, Maryland, and is now studying to become a radio operator. Charles Daniels was initiated into the ways of the Navy at Sampson, New York, and is also studying radio engineering. Don Starling and Herman Gullion volunteered at the same time and were sent to the Great Lakes Training Station together. Both are now in the medical corps.
“Back home on recent furloughs, the boys found a warm welcome at the high school and were much in demand as speakers in their English and history classes, where they told of their new experiences.
“The senior class is proud of its first recruits, as well as of all the former Marion boys in the service, and wishes them all the luck in the world.”
How amazing it would be for the grandchildren of these men to discover this article decades later! Look for these records at your local historical society, library, newspaper office, and school.
5. Teacher Scrapbooks/Records
Teachers are a special group of individuals. They typically do not enter the profession for money. Instead, they have a passion for educating and are emotionally invested in the success of their students. It is no wonder that many of them maintain scrapbooks, or other collections, detailing the lives of the students they taught.
Last year, I learned that my former high school band director maintained impeccable records of his 30 years of service. He and his wife had preserved band programs, travel itineraries, competition notes, newspaper clippings, and countless photographs of three decades’ worth of band students. This collection was scanned and made available to the community via a Flickr album. It was met with great enthusiasm and appreciation for not only his years of dedicated service, but his preservation of the band’s history.
6. Yearbooks/School Photos
Yearbooks are some of the most sought-after school records. They contain the photographic history of not only a school, but the surrounding community. Upon discovering a yearbook for one of our parents or grandparents, we anxiously turn pages, looking for a familiar face or name. The sensation of being met with a younger version of a beloved countenance sometimes moves us to tears. Youth is brought into full view. We discover who they were before the responsibilities of adulthood demanded their full attention. The answers to these questions may be found in a yearbook: What clubs had they joined? Did they play any sports? Did they have a nickname? Who were their friends?
The experience of finding my great-grandfather, Francis McMurray, in a University of Michigan yearbook was one accompanied with great emotion. I had only ever seen pictures of him taken later in life. Based on these photos, I had a clear vision of a serious businessman. His yearbook photo offered a different perspective. I saw a much younger man in a baseball uniform, seated next to his teammates, with a full head of hair. In that moment, my perception of him changed. This experience taught me that our ancestors are much more complex than one snapshot, or one story that has been told. As we discover new records and new photographs, we gain a greater understanding of who they truly were. Our picture becomes more complete.
Most local libraries, historical societies, State Archives, and schools will have collections of yearbooks and school photos.
Just as each school year has a beginning, each school career has an ending. The records of these school years can offer some of the most satisfying discoveries in our family history research and should not be overlooked. I discovered a nostalgic reflection on school life in a college yearbook. It was written by my Uncle Weldon, who served as the editor. It stands as one more example of what treasures await us as we delve into these sometimes-neglected records. Perhaps, if he took me on a tour of his old high school, these would be the words I would hear. “We enter and we leave, taking with us memories that can only be forgotten by death. The school will always keep behind its solemn brick face our memories locked within its walls. Our voices will not cease to roar down the hollow halls, because our spirits live forever.”
Preserving the school records of your community
What success have you had in researching school records? Have you formed more emotional connections with your ancestors, thanks to these records? What is being done in your community to preserve these valuable collections? We’d love to hear from you! Share below in the comments if you’ve made a discovery in school records, and how you’re using them to share your family history with future generations.
Margaret Linford is a professional genealogist who specializes in the Mid-South Region of United States research and has logged over 20,000 research hours. Born and raised in Virginia, she has enjoyed traveling the world, and now lives in her childhood hometown with her husband and children. She enjoys teaching her children about heritage, taking them along on research trips and serving as President of the Smyth County Genealogical Society.
Chicago Catholic parish records top this week’s list of new and updated U.S. genealogy records online. Also: Japanese internment camp testimonies; AK and NC WWI digital archives; CO, GA and NC school records; GA and MT newspapers; ID, NY and OR photo archives; IL maps; MA church records; VA military casualties and WA history.
Featured: Chicago Catholic parish records
Genealogy Giant subscription website Findmypast.com has added more Chicago Catholic parish records to its unique and valuable Catholic Heritage Archive. During the nineteenth century, Chicago was one of the fastest growing cities in the world, with the population increasing twenty-fold between 1860 and 1910 to make it the fifth largest city in the world. Chicago was a veritable boomtown, with its population swelling with European emigrants from Europe, particularly Czech and Polish. The Archdiocese of Chicago was first established as a diocese in 1843 and later as an archdiocese in 1880. It serves the Catholic population of Cook and Lake Counties in northeastern Illinois.
Recently added are:
Over 1.2 million additional records from the mid-1800s up to 1925 have been added to the existing collection of Chicago Catholic Baptisms. Records reveal the date and location of baptism, the names of parents, and their residence. Each result will provide a transcript and image of the original baptism register.
Over 597,000 additional records have been added to Chicago Catholic Marriage records. Each result includes a transcript and an image of the original marriage register that may reveal the couple’s marriage date, marriage location, the names of their parents, and the names of any witnesses.
Over 229,000 recently added burial records have been added to Chicago Roman Catholic Parish Burials. Images may reveal additional details such as cause of death, residence, place of birth, father’s name, mother’s name, and the name of the priest who conducted the service.
More than 430,000 assorted Catholic congregational records from across the archdiocese reveal biographical details as well as where and when your ancestors worshiped. Searched indexed images of an assortment of records.
Not finding your ancestors, or want to dig deeper into these records? You can now delve through original registers of baptisms, marriages, and burials page by page in the image collection Chicago Roman Catholic Parish Registers.
More U.S. genealogy records now online
Japanese internment camp testimony. A new digital collection has launched containing testimonies relating to the WWII-era internment of U.S. residents of Japanese descent in the American Commission on the Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) hearings that took place in 1981. According to an online article in the Northeastern Illinois University Independent, “The collection contains the hearings, testimonies and individual accounts that were held in the internment camps; these hearings were held to investigate the ethical and constitutional objections” of the executive order that led to the forced detainment of about 120,000 Japanese-Americans for about three years.
Arkansas. The Arkansas State Archive has launched “Arkansas in the Great War,” a three-part online exhibit chronicling the history of the state during World War I. According to the state archives blog, “The exhibit was created through Google Arts & Exhibits and contains over 150 high-resolution images of photographs, letters, government documents and maps that tell the story of Arkansas’s involvement in the war. The first section, ‘Mobilizing the State for War,’ profiles Arkansas before the U.S.’s entrance into the war and how the state mobilized to meet the challenge. Part two, ‘The War at Home,’ examines the domestic impact the war had on Arkansans and explores the contributions of women and African Americans to the war effort. The last section, ‘In the Trenches,’ details Arkansans serving in Europe and the events immediately following the end of the conflict.”
Colorado. The University of Denver’s 123-year-old student newspaper, The Denver Clarion, has been archived online at the university’s Special Collections website. The issues aren’t listed fully chronologically and the collection is still growing; check back to find the issues you’re looking for.
Georgia. The Digital Library of Georgia has added new content documenting Atlanta’s Interdenominational Theological Center and Morehouse, Morris Brown, and Spelman Colleges. Yearbooks, academic journals, alumni news, photos, course catalogs and more are now available for these historically African American colleges. Click here to read more and access the collections.
The Digital Library of Georgia has also added newspapers covering Early, Montgomery and Toombs Counties in South Georgia to its Georgia Historic Newspapers website. The collection covers nearly 27,000 digitized pages from six different newspapers dating from 1863 to 1927.
Idaho. The Idaho Transportation Department has launched an archive of 30,000 historic photos it has taken over the years that reflect the state’s history. According to the East Idaho News, “It allows anyone interested to easily access photos as old as 100 years, giving them a look at what the Gem State used to be like. Since its launch a little over two weeks ago, the department has had over 20,000 people access the database.” A collection of historic postcards is also part of the digital archive. Click here to view more about the downtown Boise hotel shown here.
Illinois. Southern Illinois University has published a new online collection of current and historical maps. According to the announcement, “More than 850 maps from the library’s collection have been digitized….The Maps of Southern Illinois Online collection covers the city of Carbondale and the rest of Jackson County as well as other Southern Illinois counties. Included are maps showing county roads, land ownership, proposed developments, aerial photographs, and coal, oil and gas mining maps.
Massachusetts. The New England Historic Genealogical Society has been busily adding more digitized records to its subscription collection at AmericanAncestors.org. Among their recent additions are:
Norfolk County, MA: Probate File Papers, 1793-1877. Made possible through our partnership with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Archives, this database contains 20,904 probate cases filed between 1793 and 1877, and more than 515,000 individual file papers.
More parishes added to Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston Records, 1789-1900. New parishes include St. Mary (Randolph), St. Mary (Marlborough), St. Patrick (Stoneham), St. Mary (Lynn), St. Joseph (Haverhill), Immaculate Conception (Marlborough) and St. Margaret (Dorchester).
More than 1,500 pages of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), Boston record collection; members can click here to access the collection and search case files. Anyone may read a related HIAS case study, “Effectively Stateless,” posted on Vita Brevis.
Montana. Over 1.6 million pages of the Billings Gazette have been digitized as part of a partnership with Newspapers.com, reports the Billings Gazette online. Newspapers.com subscribers may click here to explore that paper and the rest of the site’s offerings. Another tip from the Billings Gazette: “Lee Enterprises, which owns The Gazette, also has a similar agreement that digitized its sister publications in Butte, Helena, Hamilton and Missoula. (The Gazette’s archives may be accessed with a subscription at billingsgazette.com/archives.)”
New York. North Country Public Radio has announced the launch of its new archive, “North Country at Work,” covering upstate New York history. According to the site, its purpose is “exploring the work history and contemporary economic landscape of each of the communities in the Adirondack North Country. Our starting point is photographs—images of people at work, the tools they use, the spaces their work occupies or impacts…We expand to personal stories, oral histories, and other content to deepen our understanding of how the livelihoods of people across northern New York looked in earlier times.” The public is invited to contribute.
North Carolina. The State Archives has added 60 new items to its North Carolina in World War I digital archive. Among the items are correspondence from a woman at the Front, war journals, field notebooks and other papers. Click here to read about and access the new additions.
Also for North Carolina, now at Digital NC you can “browse through 175 issues of The Stentorian, the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics’ (NCSSM) student-run newspaper,” states the Digital NC blog. “NCSSM is a residential high school located in Durham, NC. It was founded in 1980 to provide a two-year public education to high school students focusing on science, math, and technology. The Stentorian covers student life and school events spanning the last four decades, from 1981 to 2017.” Click here to read more.
Oregon. The Portland Mercury reports that “The Multnomah County Library just launched a new digital collection of photos and documents chronicling Portland’s African American community over the years. Called ‘Our Story: Portland through an African American Lens,‘ the collection melds archives from Oregon Historical Society Research Library, Oregon State University, and City of Portland Archives.”
Virginia. A newspaper, The Virginian-Pilot, has launched an online database “of every Virginian who lost his or her life serving abroad in the military since the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The database includes a short story about each one, compiled from news reports across the country, obituaries, memorial websites, social media posts and YouTube videos, among others.”
Washington. A partnership between state and educational leaders has produced Primarily Washington, “an online education portal designed to bring lesson plans together with the primary sources in our collections,” according to the state Secretary of Education’s blog. “The Primarily Washington portal currently contains 6 lesson plans, on topics including the Everett Massacre, Territory to Statehood, teaching elections, and Legacy Washington’s Korea 65 exhibit. Drawing from our plethora of newspapers and items in our Classics in Washington History digital collection, more lesson plans will be added this summer. The portal also presents the Emma Smith Devoe Scrapbook Collection, a wide-ranging set of early 20th-century newspaper clippings and other documents about important contemporary topics such as women’s suffrage.”
Keep track of your online discoveries
Ever found something online–perhaps at a site like those mentioned above–then forgotten where it was? Watch Lisa Louise Cooke’s free video for FANTASTIC tips on organizing your online life. Your searches, your discoveries, your emails–whatever content you use online, Lisa’s got a way to organize it so you can find it again!
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!