Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Hidden Gems of Yearbooks

Yearbooks are not at the top of the my source document list. Vital records (birth, death  and marriage documents) rank highest, followed by census records and immigration papers such as ship manifest or naturalization petitions. These keep me pretty busy. When I need to dig further, I look at City and Business Directories. The list keeps going, and I admit that I didn't use to pay much attention to yearbooks? Do you?

Why do yearbooks place so low on my list? Partly because few of my relatives, prior to my grandparents generation, completed more than a few years of elementary education. If they did study, it was back in the "old country" and there were no yearbooks in the cheder or the yeshiva (Jewish schools in Eastern Europe).

Lately, I've decided to reconsider the importance of yearbooks and have systematically scanned my tree looking at yearbooks entries. Turns out, Yearbooks are hidden gems, a remarkable sources of information! For one, they help bring the tree to life by providing a photo of my relatives to go along with their profile. In addition, there is much to learn from a yearbook. Facts such as where a person went to school, where they lived and what they studied are only the beginning. Fun information is sprinkled throughout for example: hobbies, honors and friends. When in luck, you may come across a statement they wrote. Something they wanted to share with the world about themselves. 

Here are a few of my favorite yearbooks discoveries:

Adrian Samuel Rosenberg
Second row from the top, second from the right
(Click to enlarge). 
A typical find is this yearbook page from the University of Texas where cousin Adrian Samuel Rosenberg, was a member of the class of 1953. An example of the least amount of information one can obtain from a yearbook.

Harold Eisenberg
Harvard Yearbook 1926
(click to enlarge)
Harold Eisenburg's Harvard Yearbook offers a lot more interesting tidbits. The entry lists his date of birth, his home address, and the name of his high school. He graduated Harvard in four years with a Law degree.

Howard's younger sister Alice's yearbook photo provides a window into her personality. Nicknamed Al, Alice graduated in 1937 from New Britain High School were she was an honor student. She excelled in Mathematics and planned to go to Teachers' College. She was a member of the Junior College Club, Phi Delta Sorority and Girls League Interesting to note that they had Sororities in high school back then.
Alice Rosenberg b. Aug 31, 1919
 New Britain, High School, 1937
(Click to enlarge)

Morris Bogdanow, University of Maryland
Varsity Cross Country Team, 1931
Top row, fourth from the left.
Click to Enlarge

The page on the right is one of my all time favorites. It's a photo of my grandfather, Morris Bogdanow, with the Varsity Cross Country Team at the University of Maryland. It's one of the few pictures I've seen of my grandfather with a full head of hair! I knew my grandfather was a good athlete, a swimmer. He swam every day of his life and taught many children to swim. Until I found this image of of his college year book, I didn't know he also ran cross country. I now know he made the team Freshman year. At eighteen years of age, he weighed 150 lbs and was 5'10" tall.

I saved Benjamin Bloomfield's University of New Hampshire yearbook picture for last. Ben, my great-grand-uncle, William's younger brother was affectionately dubbed "Texas Ben" by his classmates. This surprised me, since William was the only Texan amongst the seven Bloomfield brothers. The rest of the blurb  explains the nickname and sheds light onto Ben's college career, as well as my grandparents early years in Houston.

Benjamin Bloomfield, University of New Hampshire 1925

"From the Rice Institute in Houston, Texas comes this lanky kid to the Class of 1925. Negro lynching and Ku Klux Klan demonstrations seem to have played an important role in his having bummed his way from Houston to Durham. His appearance in Durham will always be remembered: he thought that the barracks were sheep barns; Ever since his arrival he has far surpassed his notorious brother Mulligan in the art of escorting the co-eds to numerous affairs."
This remarkable comment, attributes Ben's departure from Rice to the racism he encountered in the South, and focused my attention to the issue. My great-grandparents had relocated to Houston in 1923 (only two years before Ben, graduated from U of NH). Though I have spent much time researching this period of their lives, I paid little attention to the political climate surrounding them. This yearbook entry has forced me to rethink about their experience and question how they must have dealt with the drastic cultural differences between north and south.

I highly recommend you take a second look at yearbooks. Don't just look at class photos, explore Clubs and other sections as well. You'll be amazed at what you find!


  1. I agree, yearbooks are fabulous!

    1. Jodi, do you search through them on ancestry or other services like


Thanks for sharing your comments!