Posted by Lisa Arnold on June 12, 2008 in Collections, Website

image2341.jpgWhat’s the first thing you do when you get your hands on Grandpa’s yearbook? You look for his picture, right? You want to see what he looked like as a teenager.

What did the other kids look like back then? What did people write in the margins to him? Were his old girlfriends in there? Are there pictures from a theatrical performance or sports team he played on? Maybe there is information about an award he won or was he in student government?

Yearbooks are wonderful snapshots from high school or college years that show what our ancestors were like before the struggles and joys of marriage and family began. The youthful exuberance on the faces is often so obvious and sometimes reveals a very different person than the one you know now.

My parents met in high school before the ‘war years’, when he was a junior and she was a sophomore. On their first date which occurred on September 23, 1940, they saw a newly released movie called, “Sun Valley Serenade”, with music by Glenn Miller, and starring Sonja Henie and the dashing John Payne. My mother, who is now a spry 84 year old, says that although John Payne was handsome, she thought this new fellow who asked her out was even more handsome! She still recalls what she wore that night, and until dad passed away 10 years ago, they celebrated their first date in a special way every year for 58 years, even while he served in the US Army Air Corps during WWII.

I am so glad to have the few pictures I have of them as teenagers. We lost their school yearbooks along with most of our cherished photo albums (mother made one every year) as well as the home movies dad took, when our basement flooded during a storm decades ago. I would LOVE to read what they wrote in the margins to each other and see what pictures of them were taken with their friends or while playing on their sports teams.

It is for this reason that I am thrilled with a new initiative soon to be launched at We are going to begin expanding our school yearbooks collection by accepting yearbooks from individuals and schools. We will pay for shipping and even have a program for schools that includes a free subscription to for their library, media center, or computer lab in exchange for yearbooks.

It’s a great idea. And a great use of the wonderful resources at Ancestry. Just think of the great research kids could be doing about their family with the free school subscription. Why don’t you check it out when the program is launched? Maybe your school would like a subscription, or maybe you have some yearbooks you would like to see preserved for generations to come.

I plan to check the collection every so often and see if I luck out – maybe someday a friend of my parents or one of their descendants will submit their yearbooks to the Ancestry U.S. School Yearbooks collection from the classes of ‘42 and ’43 at George School in Newtown, Pennsylvania…(hint, hint)!!.

As soon as more information is available about the School Yearbook Collection Project, I will update this blog – so check back here for more information.

Or better yet, send an email to this address if you want us to contact you when the program is launched:


  1. I grew up with my grandmother, and so I spent hours poring over the yearbooks she had kept of not only her own youth, but that of her children – my aunts and uncles.

    Seeing them “grow up” on the pages made me feel a closer kinship with them when they would gather as adults with our extended family during the holidays.

    I love how you can see the shadows of the adults they will become within the faces of their youth!

  2. Type your comment here.The search time is no longer slow. I just took a shower brushed my teeth and shaved while searching the crawford Co., Indiana 1870 Census for a relative that I know to be there. It never did load. With the old system I would have accessed a Census copy in seconds. This new system may force me to abandon Ancestory completely and go with Heritage, which is more complex but a least it works.

  3. Palmer

    Speaking of photos, I have loaded six pictures for an ancestor that loosely illustrate his life. But the order in which I found them and added them to the photo array is out of chronological sequence. How can I rearrange them without deletions and reloads? Is there a drag-and-drop?

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