Sunday, April 13, 2008

In Praise of School Yearbooks!

They do not provide proof of lineage or ancestral detail. Yet, as resources for family history and Genealogy, school annuals, or yearbooks are invaluable.

Imagine finding a photograph of your grandfather, star quarterback of his high school team, with the soft leather helmet and no face guard. The image can tell us a great deal about his personality. Or, imagine your grandmother as a cheerleader at the same high school photographed with the bobbed hair, the requisite pom-poms and ovesized megaphones. For a multitude of people these images are easy to conjure. In fact, they require no imagination at all. They are readily available in high school yearbooks and student annuals throughout the country.

Often ignored, these resources can provide us with an abundance of information about our ancestors and our family history. Who knew that Grandpa Jack enjoyed football so much? He never told us he played quarterback, as well as the safety position. And, no one mentioned that Gandma Jane was a cheerleader as well as senior class treasurer. Yet, here in the yearbooks there may be more information that adds color and understanding to our family history.

These details, an abundance of information about our ancestors, and our collateral lines, can be found in these annuals and yearbooks. The challenge is finding them. So, where do you find the yearbooks and school history of your ancestors. The easy location is the local historical society or archives. If that doesn't work, try the schools themselves, or the school districts. A number of school districts throughout the country have created archives and special collections to document their own history. So, search these out, they can provide a wealth of new and fresh information about our families.

As a final reminder, remember, up until recently, colleges and universities also published yearbooks, be sure to search for these as well. They may provide a different focus on the personality or our families and our ancestors.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Saving The Family Records

The post Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita fallout has inspired a variety of publications and resources about weather, disasters, and disaster planning. Included in these publications is a fine pamphlet by David Carmicheal, Director of the Georgia Department of Archives and History. Rescuing Family Records A Disaster Planning Guide is a nice document to help us, as genealogists and family historians, to plan for future disasters. This is an excellent resource reminding us to duplicate our research and store it off site. If possible, store it in another state.

This work is a step-by-step explanation of how to duplicate and store our most important documents and records. Although this isn't written specifically for genealogists and family historians, the information is very applicable and should be considered by all of us. Perhaps most valuable of all is Chapter 4, a checklist of records and documents that we need to save. "Essential Records" as well as "Family Records" and "Family Letters and Diaries" are broad categories included in this checklist. Although this isn't a comprehensive list, is doesn't claim to be. This work is intended to challenge us to think about creating duplicates of our records and research. In addition, we need to answer the question: Where is the best place to store these? Carmicheal makes an interesting suggestion that duplicates should be stored, if possible, at least 100 miles away.

The pamphlet was published by the Council of State Archivists after the multiple disasters that destroyed so much of the South and East coast of the United States. For the ten dollars purchase price, this is a very worthwhile document to add to the library. David Carmicheal and COSA should be congratulated for contributing an excellent document to inspire more thought about our collections and research.