Yearbooks as a Genealogy Resource
I’m sure many of us remember getting a yearbook at the end of a school year, eagerly searching for photos of ourselves and our friends, and passing them around for our friends and teachers to sign.
But how many of us have kept our old yearbooks? If you have, you may pull them out from time to time and reminisce. But did you know they can be a valuable genealogy resource? Even though yearbooks do not provide information on vital events in a person’s life (birth, marriage, etc.), they do provide other information, such as: Did your ancestors participate in sports? Belong to a club or organization? Play in the marching band?
Yearbooks can be a great source of this kind of information on your parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents and maybe even great-grandparents. Did you ever wonder what your parents were like in high school? Yearbooks contain photographs of school dances, clubs, sporting events, teachers and small photos of each student who attended that school that year. These photos will give you a sense of the fashions, hairstyles, fads and maybe even the current events of that time. Some yearbooks will include a history of the school, or even the town. Also, don’t forget to check for information on other relatives who may have attended the same school.
My most interesting find in a yearbook was a photo of one of my favorite uncles appearing in the 1940 class play during his senior year of high school. He was the last person I’d expect to be in a play! It was an interesting fact about him that I did not know, and his yearbook information gave me a better idea of who he was as a young man, long before I knew him.
If your family members did not keep their yearbooks, there are several places you can look for them. You can contact the school, if it still exists – most school’s alumni offices or libraries have a yearbook collection for that school. You can also check the public library in that town. For example, the Warrenton Library’s Virginiana Room has a small collection of local Fauquier County yearbooks. The collection includes:
- Le Capuchon, Warrenton Country School, 1944, 1948, 1949
- The Memoir, Warrenton High School, 1946-1949
- Bealetones, Bealeton High School, 1952, 1954, and the Bealeton Blue Jay, Bealeton High School, 1956
- Marshalite, Marshall High School, 1940, 1941
- Golden Reflector, Rosenwald High School and William C. Taylor High School, 1949, 1950, 1955, 1958, 1959, 1964
- Tiger Tales, Taylor Junior High School, 1979
- Blue & Gold, Highland School, 2003-2004
- The Traveler, Cedar-Lee High School, 1957
You can also check online – many databases include yearbooks in their collections:
- Ancestry recently updated their yearbook collection to include U.S. school yearbooks from 1880-2012. The database includes yearbooks from schools in Manassas, Culpeper, Fredericksburg and the 1944-1947 yearbooks from Marshall High School. You can access AncestryLibrary.com at any of the three Fauquier County library locations.
- World Vital Records has yearbooks for a few U.S. colleges and schools. This database is available for use at any of our library locations, or from home with a valid Fauquier County Public Library card.
We are interested in expanding our small collection of Fauquier County school yearbooks (one copy per year per school) located in the Virginiana Room Collection. If you have a yearbook for any additional Fauquier County schools or years other than the ones listed above, and would like to donate it, please let us know.
∼Vicky, Reference Librarian, Warrenton central library