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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, June 07, 2015
Finding Your Ancestors' Graduation Photos
Posted by Maureen

This time of year makes me think about graduations. I live near two universities and often see graduates in cap and gowns smiling for pictures. Our ancestors also posed for school pictures, whether they were graduating from eighth grade, a trade school, high school or a college/university.

In the mid-19th century, class books included actual card photographs of the graduates. The yearbook format we're familiar with debuted in the 1880s.

Here are some tips on locating images of ancestral graduates in your family.
  • Contact the public library or historical society in the town where they lived to see if either institution has a yearbook collection. You can also try the local department of education, but usually older records are donated to a local historical society.

  • If your ancestor attended a private school, try contacting the school library to see if it has an archive. Most colleges and universities maintain an archive with yearbooks and other items. In some schools, incoming freshmen posed for pictures, not just when they graduated. Don't forget to check the school website in case there is a digital collection.

  • Try searching for yearbooks online. For starters, here are some websites with yearbooks:

    • Genealogy Today has a large collection of yearbooks and school materials. Search this list to see if a school your ancestor attended is mentioned.
    • Search for yearbooks and school materials published before 1922 on the Internet Archive. Enter the name of the school in the search box and narrow by year. 
    • Looking for a more recent yearbook? It might be worth subscribing to E-Yearbook.com. The cost is $19.95 a year or $4.95 for a month. 
    • The Library of Congress collection has a few graduation-related photographs. Search by surname and by school. 
    • Cyndis List.com has a category for Yearbooks and Annuals.

In my book Searching For Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now! you'll discover other research tips for locating family photos.

You may have a graduation photo and not know it. Watch for clues such as rolled-up diplomas. Some studio photographers used these as props.


Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • photo-research tips | school photos
    Sunday, June 07, 2015 6:51:21 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, May 07, 2012
    More Family Photos of Ancestral Children
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I showcased your photos of ancestral children and this week it's a second installment.

    Jerome.jpg

    This little guy is Sandra Jerome's grandfather, Ralph Frederick Jerome. He was born September 7, 1894 in Jordan, Scott County, Minnesota.   He's wearing attire approximate for boys less than 5--a skirt.  It's paired with a short jacket and a wide collared shirt. A cute hat sits on his head.  He doesn't seem old enough to be able to ride the photographer's tricycle prop.  It was likely taken circa 1899. 

    Jennie Youngedit.jpg

    Can you spot the school photos in your family album?  They usually look something like this.  This 1899 photo depicts 11 year old Jennie Young. She's Bonnie Bolster's great aunt. 

    schooledit.jpg
    The boy in the front row holds a sign--Coral School District no. 1 May 27, 1898.  The children wear a wide array of styles popular in that period. The flags in the background are likely for Memorial Day.
    schoolsign.jpg

    Thank you for sharing pictures of your ancestors as children!  I'm off to NGS in Cincinnati, Ohio. Please stop by my booth 712 and say hello.


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1900-1910 photos | children | school photos
    Monday, May 07, 2012 5:58:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [6]