Getting More Out of Yearbooks for Genealogy

Yearbooks are a improbable useful resource for family tree. Not solely do they provide us details about our ancestors, however additionally they present context, a glimpse into on a regular basis life, and the occasional embarrassing photograph that we are able to share with our cousins. (Look! Grandpa truly had hair!) Let’s check out how we are able to get extra out of utilizing yearbooks for family tree.

Shopping Yearbooks Can Be Higher Than Looking

Extra yearbooks are being digitized and put on-line. MyHeritage and Ancestry every have large on-line yearbook collections. It’s also possible to discover them on Web Archive, and on the web sites of public libraries and historic societies. Lots of them have been put by means of OCR (optical character recognition), which makes printed pages searchable on a pc. That’s an excellent factor, in that we are able to discover references that could be hidden in sections we don’t have a look at. However…

Counting on looking out in a yearbook signifies that you’re lacking a variety of good things. OCR just isn’t good and it has its limitations. And in case you’re solely looking out, you’re lacking out on issues that aren’t textual content.

Counting on looking out in a yearbook signifies that you are lacking a variety of good things.

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Browse to Get Extra Names

OCR takes the characters as they’re. Some websites, like MyHeritage, additionally run an algorithm to seek out equal/translated names, however the majority of websites don’t. That signifies that while you seek for William Smith, it isn’t going to seek out the references to Invoice, Billy, or Wm. Smith.

For those who relied solely on looking out, you’d miss this photograph of Ralph Anderson (recognized as Captain R. Anderson or “Andy”), James Wallace (recognized as J. Wallace or “Jimmie”), and Harold Mills (recognized as H. Mills or “Millsy.”)

Previous Gold and Black, 1922, Clinton Excessive Faculty yearbook, Clinton, Indiana. Picture courtesy Web Archive.

Shopping can be useful when the yearbook has used a flowery font (and yearbooks appear to love fancy fonts). Right here’s an instance of how OCR misinterpret this “In Memoriam” web page from the Clinton (Indiana) Excessive Faculty yearbook from 1922. The yearbook web page is proven on the left; how Web Archive’s OCR program acknowledged it’s proven on the fitting.

OCR failure. Previous Gold and Black yearbook (left). OCR by Web Archive on the fitting.

In Memoriam to Louise Martin and George Kisylia… or “3n jftlemoriam” to “louige tflartm” and “George lUgplta.”

Discover Your Ancestor in Group Photographs and Candid Photographs

Not all pictures have captions figuring out the topics. If what your ancestor appeared like (maybe from a photograph within the yearbook that’s recognized), search for her or him within the group pictures and candid photographs.

Not one of the individuals in these pictures within the 1922 Woodward Technical Excessive Faculty yearbook are listed by identify. But when what your ancestor appeared like, maybe you would acknowledge her or him.

candid photos in 1922 high school yearbook
The Technical, 1922. Woodward Technical Excessive Faculty yearbook, Toledo, Ohio. Picture courtesy Web Archive.

Uncover Signatures

Keep in mind asking your pals and favourite lecturers, “Will you signal my yearbook?” Our ancestors did the identical factor. As you’re looking, search for your ancestor’s photograph; many individuals signed close to their very own photograph. Additionally examine the within covers, the primary few pages, and the previous few pages of the guide. Additionally search for particular “Notes” or “Autographs” pages which may have been included, designed to be a spot for individuals to signal.

Stepping Stone 1950, Zeeland Excessive Faculty yearbook, Zeeland, Michigan. Picture courtesy Web Archive.

Apparently tardiness was a difficulty for Luella. “Expensive Luella, Subsequent yr I hope you’ll be capable of get to your courses on time. The instructor’s [sic] actually don’t prefer it while you are available in late. Mary Dickman.”

Study Concerning the Faculty

There are such a lot of different issues that we are able to discover after we browse a yearbook. What sort of actions and golf equipment did they’ve on the faculty? What was the varsity play? Did they’ve any bands? Have been there any sports activities for ladies? Was the varsity built-in? You’ll be able to study a lot by looking.

Study Concerning the City or Neighborhood

Highschool yearbooks are costly to supply. To assist defray the associated fee, many faculties offered promoting within the again. Going by means of the commercials can provide you a way of the city or the varsity’s neighborhood. It’s an often-overlooked supply of native historical past.

Did you ancestors meet their associates at Feisler’s Drug Retailer in Erie, Pennsylvania? Their advert within the Spokesman yearbook in 1918 makes it appears like a hoppin’ place!

The Spokesman, 1918 yearbook, Central Excessive Faculty, Erie, Pennsylvania. Picture courtesy Web Archive.

Developments in digitization and OCR have made yearbook analysis simpler than ever. However don’t cease with simply the search! Taking a while to browse the yearbooks can provide us a lot extra for our household historical past.

Need to get extra out of your on-line searches? Click on to get a free copy of my information “5 On-line Search Methods Each Genealogist Ought to Know”



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