By the way - to the left is one of my high school yearbook covers.
Primarily a North American phenomenon historically, the first yearbook published was the Yale Banner in the early 1800s.
But hey - what about our ancestors? They went to school too (at least some of them in the last 200 years). And they belonged to clubs and associations outside of school.
I have found some really good stuff about some of my ancestors and relatives. I didn't know that Brooklyn-born Leo Markheim went to law school at the University of West Virginia. Or that Ethel Tinnemann was a tennis star at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1920s, or that her father Otto Tinnemann graduated with a degree from the same university in 1905, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. And now I have their photos to boot! Nowhere else was I able to find this information or what they looked like at an early age.
So for me, discovering more about them and what they looked like has been a real boon to my research and filling out the stories of their lives. Thus your genealogy and family history research won't be complete without looking into yearbooks.
I encourage you to research old yearbooks as well. Offshoots are the Alumni Directories which also include address information and occupations. And there are yearbooks available for many associations that have nothing to do with school.
They can be found in many places. And here are some great places to search. Some require a subscription or payment, but not all. Many are free.
- I suggest reading Darilee Bednar's description of what can be found in old yearbooks. In her book store, she has had over 6,000 old yearbooks. There are some that she has scanned and placed online as well.
- Google Books has a wide variety of yearbooks available. Many are from an association and are not related to schools. Worth a search.
- The Internet Archive has over 15,000 results if you search for the keyword "yearbook". Definitely worth searching if you know the school or association.
- Dead Fred has a collection of yearbooks that you might want to browse.
- Old Yearbooks has an interesting collection. Some are scanned and some are transcribed.
- Don's List has a very nice collection of old yearbooks and alumni association directories.
- Mocavo has a large number of yearbooks (over 30,000) that can be searched and browsed.
- Classmates.com has a huge collection of over 200,000 yearbooks where a reprint can be purchased. I will leave it up to you to figure out how to save an image or two. It can be accomplished.
- Ebay and Amazon have a lot of old yearbooks for sale.
- Ancestry.com has a huge school yearbook collection to search. I would encourage you to search their card catalog with the keywords yearbook and yearbooks and you will find other types of yearbooks available.
- My Heritage has a nice collection of yearbooks that can be searched.
- Distant Cousin has a good selection of Alumni Lists. Some are transcribed and some are scanned page images.
- E-Yearbook.com has a sizable collection available by subsciption.
It is also wise to check out the FamilySearch catalog for any that have been microfilmed. And of course since everything is not online, you can always go to college and university libraries as well as local libraries, or contact the high school or college directly. There are lots of ways to find that elusive ancestor and his or her photo and other fascinating information in a yearbook.