Wednesday, August 29, 2007

School: It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Oh, what a glorious day! The first day of school. Which reminds me of genealogy. There are a lot of great records that come out of kids and adults going to school. Alumni directories, newspapers, school census, school records and so much more can come from a student's career.

One type of school record that is often is overlooked is the yearbook. Yearbooks are not a new phenomena. According to yearbook publisher, Lifetouch Publishing, yearbook type books have been around since the 1600’s when students acquired books filled with school memorabilia and hand written notes. The first use of the term “yearbook” was in the 1700’s. By 1880, yearbooks, often called “senior books” or “annuals” were books produced by a senior class that sometimes included pictures or blank pages for you to paste in the pictures of your friends. Yearbooks have changed through the years and have reflected what was going on in the world at the time of their publication. Shortages of paper in the World War II years meant fewer yearbooks produced while yearbooks from the 1960’s reflect the social upheaval of the times. Yearbooks of today are in color and are designed online through the manufacturer’s website.[1]

Yearbooks are often the neglected wallflower of the genealogy world. You don’t always find them at traditional sources for genealogical information like the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. People tend to view them as a reference that lacks genealogical data. But really this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yearbooks provide the maiden name of women. They allow you to verify that an ancestor was in a particular place in time. They can confirm the names of other family members (cousins, siblings that attended the same school), friends or acquaintances. It’s important to look for yearbooks not just for your adolescent ancestor but also the ancestor who worked as a teacher, coach or administrator at the school. Although, there may not be a lot of information about a school official, you will at least be able to secure a picture of them. Depending on what the owner wrote in their yearbook, other genealogical information may be found. One writer of yearbook history notes that a yearbook in her collection, a 1930 Everett, Washington High Yearbook, included where the previous owner had written information next to photos that included the married names of women and names of spouses.[2]

When looking for yearbooks, remember that yearbooks did not always look the way they did when you graduated from high school. Yearbooks might be available for junior high or middle schools, high schools, college and universities, military groups, fraternities and sororities. Alumni Directories, more common during the 1800’s through the 1910’s include lists of students and biographical information. Art and Literary Magazines, popular during the early 1900’s, were magazines filled with articles written by students. These works may have been published on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis. Picture yearbooks became popular when the ability to reproduce pictures inexpensively made these types of books feasible. These include individual student and class pictures, writings, and remembrances and have been popular since about 1940.[3]

Where can you look for yearbooks with pictures of your family member? First try the school’s library, see if they have kept their yearbooks over the years. A local public library might have yearbooks as part of their local history collection. Try looking for yearbooks owned by historical societies, genealogy societies or as part of a genealogy website. The website San Francisco Genealogy,, has a list of volunteers who will look up information in yearbooks for you. The website Ancestor Info,, includes yearbooks, old manuscripts, books, and other documents that have been indexed. You can search by resource or by state. I Dream of Genealogy,, also has indexes of yearbooks. You can select a state and then a school and see a transcribed list of names found in that yearbook.

Genealogy Today’s Family Tree Connection,, subscription database includes yearbooks and other school records. You can search the database by last name or by resource. Over 1 million names are a part of this database and new resources are constantly being updated. If you haven’t done so already, sign up as a Team Roots member, this is a free service, and you can see regular updates of what’s being added.

Darilee Bedner, the owner of the Washington state bookstore, Third St. Books is a genealogist turned book store owner who began picking up yearbooks inexpensively at thrift stores and now has over 6,000 in her collection. You can email Darilee and ask for a lookup of her yearbook collection or look at some that she has scanned at

Kimberly Powell’s genealogy website at has links to yearbook databases, Unfortunately, many of the links are not current but the links that are include an index to the yearbooks from Alexandria High School from 1919-1951; Alumni Lists at Distant Cousin. com; American Universities; Canadian Universities; and Wagner High Online Alumni Yearbooks, Clark Air Base, Philippines. has also started adding yearbooks to their database collections. To search through their collection from their homepage, click on the ‘Search’ tab and then on the list of databases on the right hand side, click on ‘Directories and Member List Collections’, and then you can click on ‘US Yearbooks’. From there you can choose a state, city and then a school. Yearbooks are then listed by year. Once you have opened the digitized image of the yearbook you would like to look at, you can then search for a name within the yearbook.

The Family History Library,, has a limited collection of school yearbooks, only about 70. It’s understandable that the Library doesn’t collect these resources because they could easily take over what shelf space the Library has. A keyword search of the term ‘yearbook’ brings over 800 hits in the Family History Library catalogue. These yearbooks include a wide range of sources including membership organization records and churches.

Yearbooks will continue to evolve over the next 100 years as they have in the previous 100. My son’s elementary school does a yearly yearbook including pictures of individual students and class pictures in color. Elementary school yearbooks mean that future genealogists have yet one more source for learning more about their ancestor. Although yearbooks are limited in how much they can tell about an ancestor, a persistent genealogist who looks for yearbooks will be rewarded with information about their ancestor’s student days and a picture to add to their collection.

[1] For more information on the history of yearbooks, check out Lifetouch’s website at
[3] For more information on the history of yearbooks and picture examples, see Darilee Bedner’s website at

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cemeteries of the Eastern Sierra Now Available

It's Here! My book, Cemeteries of the Eastern Sierra published by Arcadia Publishing is now available. This book looks at the cemeteries, people and history of the region known as the Eastern Sierra in California. The book mainly covers IYO AND Mono counties, the area from Lone Pine to Bridgeport.

The press release says: "More than 20 cemeteries and burial places are featured in Cemeteries of the Eastern Sierra. Gena Philibert-Ortega also shares the history of the county that surrounds them, through the 200 vintage images that fill the pages.

Philibert-Ortega hopes her book “will serve as a catalyst to better understanding our history and respecting those who came before us.”

Highlights of Cemeteries of the Eastern Sierra:
· Features information on little known cemeteries in Inyo and Mono Counties
· Includes information on the 1872 Lone Pine earthquake, which almost destroyed the town of Lone Pine
· Describes the history of cemeteries in Bishop, Bridgeport and Big Pine
· Shows gravestones and gives information about the meaning of the Victorian imagery on them

Available at area bookstores, independent retailers, and online retailers, or through Arcadia Publishing at (888)-313-2665 or

Arcadia Publishing is the leading publisher of local and regional history in the United States. Our mission is to make history accessible and meaningful through the publication of books on the heritage of America’s people and places. Have we done a book on your town? Visit"

Sunday, August 19, 2007

After Care

Well here's an idea for a genealogical type profession. In an article found in the Local section of the Riverside Press Enterprise (Riverside, California), there is a story about a woman who provides after care services. See the story here She will visit any cemetery in the Southern California area and perform such services as cleaning gravestones, placing flowers and taking pictures. Monthly cleaning and placing flowers costs $30.00. This seems like quite the deal to me since she is driving anywhere from San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. The gas and flowers along would cost more than that!

This does seem like a great idea for those out of the area. When you can't find a volunteer to take a picture, she could clean, place flowers and take a picture. Although you could probably hire a genealogist to do the same, it may not be as inexpensive considering the mileage and hours it could take to get to some cemeteries.

My only complaint with her service would be that she is using a mixture of acid and water to clean the stone. Cemetery preservation groups tell us that the best way to clean a stone is with water and other gentle methods. Some cleaning tips for stones can be found at the Association for Gravestone Studies at But then again, a cemetery broker is quoted in the same article as recommending a "grill brick" which is like a pumice stone. When cleaning stones, I would just caution that although they are made from "tough" materials, like granite, they are fragile.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Civil War Research at Whittier

Tomorrow, Saturday August 18th, I will be speaking at the Whittier Area Genealogy Society, My topic will be Captain John Bell: The Reluctant Confederate. This will be an overall presentation about American Civil War research. We will be covering quite a bit in the hour. Stop by and say hi!

This week, Genweekly, has a great article on researching Civil War income tax records written by Melissa Slate. Read about it on their blog at Didn't realize that there were Civil War income tax records? Well, I didn't know there were any either. That's what I like about blogs, genealogy magazines, and conferences. There's always a new resource out there!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

County Histories to go Online

Boy, aren't we lucky to live in our modern world?! I am so grateful for all the resources available to us versus when my grandma was doing research 40 years ago. Family Search just sent out the following press release:

Nationwide Local and County Histories to Go Online
Three genealogical libraries pool their collections in massive digitization effort

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH— Thousands of published family histories, city and county histories, historic city directories, and related records are coming to the Internet. The Allen County Public Library (ACPL) in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library, and FamilySearch’s Family History Library in Salt Lake City announced the joint project today. When complete, it will be the most comprehensive collection of city and county histories on the Web—and access will be free at

The digital history project will target over 100,000 published family histories and thousands of local histories that are rich in names as well as biographical and genealogical data associated with those names. “Publishing those collections from the three libraries involved will make a significant and attractive family history digital library online for genealogists and historians,” said David Rencher, director of Records and Information for FamilySearch.

“I believe the most immediate, substantial contribution of this collaboration will be the addition of local history materials,” said Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center Manager, Curt Witcher. The collaborative project will digitally scan thousands of historic city directories, as well as city and county histories from North America. The ACPL and the Family History Library have the largest collections of city and county histories from North America. “I believe the strength of our two well known, well used, and well loved institutions working together is a terrific benefit to the genealogical community,” added Witcher.

Once digitized, the collections will have “every word” search capability, which allows users to search by name, location, date, or other field across the collection. The search results are then linked to high quality digital images of the original publication. Digitization efforts have begun. New additions will be noted and hyperlinked in the Family History Library Catalog at as they are digitized. The collection can be accessed currently at

FamilySearch is providing the computers, scanners, and camera operators required to complete the project.

FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. FamilySearch maintains the world's largest repository of genealogical resources accessed through, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and over 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries.