Friday, September 20, 2019

Yearbooks Can Reveal Great Clues

Academic yearbooks or annuals from public schools and universities can provide a wealth of information and clues about your ancestors and their associates. They can provide photographs of the people and of the environment in which your family members spent a significant period of their formative years. You can see the buildings, the instructors, the students and the ways they dressed and wore their hair, school and/or athletic uniforms, the various groups and their activities, and the individual “biographical sketches” that accompany the seniors’ class photographs. These bios may often contain cryptic or mysterious references to school-year hi-jinx and adventures. However, they are always interesting for their references to the activities and organizations in which the student participated. They often include the aspirations for the future that the student has projected.

In addition, you may learn about ancestors who were faculty at the school, college, or other institution. For example, I recently found an entry for my great-uncle, John Allen "Jack" Morgan at Middlebury College in Vermont from 1917 that significantly expanded my knowledge of his educational background, his academic employment, his professional affiliations, and the beginning of his academic employment at the college. The photo from the period was also a great addition to my collection. What a great find!

Source: Yearbook Collection

Yearbooks may be among family possessions or in the libraries for the institution attended. Used bookstores may be a source for locating them. There also are digitized yearbook collections online at,,, and other websites.

Here are some other images that I found in about twenty minutes in the Yearbook Collection.

Mary Allen Morgan, my father's sister, at Peace Institute in Raleigh, NC, in 1925

Samuel Thomas "Tom" Morgan, my father, at Davidson College in 1927

Sara Edith Weatherly, my mother, at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC, in 1929

In addition to portrait photographs, there may be a biographical notes about the individual's interests and activities while in school. Other photographs of people involved in sports, academic clubs, dramatic activities, and casual cavorting can add great insight and context.

Don't overlook yearbook collections in your research. They can truly add a great deal to your understanding of your ancestors' lives.

1 comment:

  1. I tried it! I was able to help a relative get connected with his mother, and get a more complete picture of her education, which led to better understanding of her as a career woman.