Contributing Writer
Janet Wahlberg

How many of you still have your yearbooks from high school or college? Have you considered using yearbooks as a source for genealogical research? If you haven’t, you should, as there is so much information in them regarding the students, including photographs. Who knows, you might just find that photo of great aunt Susie that you have been looking for.

The captions found next to the seniors’ photos will give you an idea of goals they may have had, how they were viewed by their classmates, and superlatives that were assigned to them. There may be a list of activities that they participated in during their high school years leading you to look carefully through the book at the group and candid photos of the various clubs and sports for additional photos of your family member. In some cases, there are references to their plans for the future. And then there are all the signatures and greetings of their classmates. Do they reveal a long ago romance? Did your relative have a devilish side hinted at in one of these remembrances? Did the friendships memorialized on the pages of the book endure throughout their lives? These are all questions that may be answered by perusing old year books. The answers that you find will give you a much fuller picture of your family members at this formative time of their lives.

In addition to information on the students, the yearbooks may provide crucial data about an ancestor who taught at the school. By searching the pages that list faculty or various classes and clubs in the school you may find them listed as the coach or advisor to one of these groups. You may have heard that your aunt, uncle or grandparents were teachers but know very little about their career. This is a great opportunity to give additional context to their lives.

After you have found your relatives in yearbooks, search carefully to see if any of their classmates became famous. Just think locally of those people who graduated with Robert H. Jackson or Roger Tory Peterson.

Where would I find these yearbooks, you ask? Many yearbooks are located online. Locally the Hall House has an extensive collection of JHS books. In addition, there are some books from other schools in the region such as Randolph, Maple Grove, Sherman, Panama, Falconer, Pine Valley, Southwestern, Frewsburg and Holy Family High Schools. We are always looking to expand our collection, so look carefully in those boxes in the attic that belonged to your grandparents or parents and consider donating any yearbooks that you find that pertain to the surrounding area.

To read Janet Walberg’s previous genealogy columns or to delve deeper into her writings and insights for searching out and recording your own family’s genealogy, please go to and visit Janet’s own web page.