Are you curious about your ancestors’ education? Have you ever wondered if your grandparents attended a one-room country school or if any of your relatives were teachers? The answers to these questions may lie in school records, such as yearbooks, class photos, report cards, and graduation announcements. These valuable resources can provide insights into your family’s educational history. Thankfully, many of these records are now available online. In this article, we’ll explore where to find yearbooks and school records on various genealogy websites, as well as other online resources to uncover information about your scholarly ancestors.
School Records on Genealogy Websites
Let’s start with the “Big Four” genealogy websites and their school record collections.
Begin your search on Ancestry.com by going to the “Search” tab and selecting “All Collections.” From there, choose “Schools, Directories & Church Histories” under the “Explore by Collection” column. You can search all school-related collections at once or select a specific category from the Card Catalog. Ancestry.com has extensive collections of US yearbooks (1900-1999), US school catalogs (1765-1935), and Canadian yearbooks (1901-2010). Most of these collections allow you to search by name, but some are browse-only. For example, the “U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-1999” collection contains over 450,000 yearbooks from different levels of education. You can enhance your search by entering the school’s location or using keywords. Don’t limit yourself to one search; try various combinations to find the best results.
FamilySearch organizes its school records by county or state rather than in one comprehensive collection. To access these records, visit the list of collections and enter “school” in the search box. One notable collection is “Oklahoma, School Records, 1895-1936,” which offers more than three million images, primarily annual censuses of pupils. Local collections like “Minnesota, Clay County, School Census Records, 1909-1962” provide detailed information, including students’ birthdates and parents’ names. FamilySearch also offers an extensive collection of digitized books, including yearbooks. Additionally, you may find “souvenirs” in the Memories section, which are personal items like booklets that teachers gave to their students in the past.
Findmypast has substantial collections of school-related records from the British Isles, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. To access these records, click on “Search” followed by “Education & Work” and then select “Schools & Education.” You can browse the various record sets available on the site. For example, the “National School Admission Registers & Log-Books 1870-1914” collection provides detailed information about students in England and Wales, including birthdates, schools attended, and parents’ names.
On MyHeritage, select the “Research” tab and click on “Search All Records.” Under “What type of records are you looking for?,” choose “Schools & Universities.” MyHeritage offers two large collections of yearbooks: “U.S. Yearbooks, 1890-1979” and “U.S. Yearbooks Name Index, 1890-1979.” These collections include high school yearbooks, as well as elementary school and middle school yearbooks. You can search the entire “Schools & Universities” category or narrow down your search by location. For example, you can search for relatives in yearbooks of specific schools in the Spokane, Washington area.
Online Yearbook Collections
In addition to the genealogy websites, there are other online resources that specialize in yearbooks and school periodicals.
Classmates.com is a social networking site that allows you to search more than 400,000 yearbooks from 25,000 schools, some dating back to 1886. To search for yearbooks specifically, select “All Yearbooks” from the search drop-down. You can filter your search by state, city, or decade. Classmates.com is free to access, but you need to register to search. Upgrading to a paid membership offers additional features.
E-Yearbook.com is a subscription-based website that provides access to millions of high school, college, and military yearbooks. A paid subscription allows you to browse pages and view search results up close. Using quotation marks for exact searches can help narrow down your results.
Fold3 is primarily known for its military records; however, it also offers more than 100 free-to-search military yearbooks. Additionally, Fold3 actively encourages users to submit their own military yearbooks for digitization on the site.
Google Books provides access to millions of digitized books, including yearbooks and alumni directories. You can view public domain books in their entirety and preview snippets of copyrighted books. The advanced search page offers more discover options. Specific searches using uncommon names or adding additional terms can yield relevant results.
HathiTrust Digital Library
The HathiTrust Digital Library contains 17 million digitized volumes, including yearbooks and alumni directories. You can search for terms within the full-text of the books. The collection includes niche publications and local histories, which can provide valuable information about your ancestors’ education.
The Internet Archive
The Internet Archive offers access to more than 20 million books and texts, including yearbooks and alumni directories. You can search the collection by metadata or search the text contents. Using quotation marks around a name can help locate specific individuals.
School archives maintained by individual schools themselves can be an excellent source of information about alumni. Many schools have digitized yearbooks and class registers available online. Check the school’s website for any mention of an archive, and consider reaching out to the staff for more information. Some examples of what school archives hold include digitized yearbooks, school catalogs, and student records.
Amherst College, Amherst, Mass.
Amherst College’s Archives & Special Collections have digitized yearbooks from 1859 to 2012. Although you can’t search the text, you can browse the yearbooks.
Hamline University, St. Paul, Minn.
Hamline University Archives: Digital Collections offer school catalogs from 1880 to 1950 and yearbooks from 1892 to 2008. Searching within this collection can provide specific results, including downloadable pages in PDF format.
Knox College, Galesburg, Ill.
Knox College’s Special Collections and Archives contain student records from 1844 to the present. Although these records are not online, you can request digital copies for a fee.
By exploring these online resources, you can gain a better understanding of your family’s educational background and reconnect with the scholars in your family tree. Happy researching!
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