Where to Find High School and College Yearbooks Online

Ah the memories. School yearbooks, which immortalize how we looked and what we did in high school or college. Whether we looked goofy or cool, that photo is there forever. And they document what clubs, sports or other activities we were involved in.

Primarily a North American phenomenon historically, the first yearbook published was the Yale Banner in the early 1800’s.

But hey – what about our ancestors? They went to school too (at least some of them in the last 200 years). And they belonged to clubs and associations outside of school.

I have found some really good stuff about some of my ancestors and relatives. I didn’t know that Brooklyn-born Leo Markheim went to law school at the University of West Virginia. Or that Ethel Tinnemann was a tennis star at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1920s, or that her father Otto Tinnemann graduated with a degree from the same university in 1905, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. And now I have their photos to boot! Nowhere else was I able to find this information or what they looked like at an early age.

So for me, discovering more about them and what they looked like has been a real boon to my research and filling out the stories of their lives. Thus your genealogy and family history research won’t be complete without looking into yearbooks.

I encourage you to research old yearbooks as well. Offshoots are the Alumni Directories which also include address information and occupations. And there are yearbooks available for many associations that have nothing to do with school.

 

The Ancestor Hunt Now Has Yearbook Links!


 

Yes, The Ancestor Hunt has recently started cataloging the links to FREE (and only free) yearbooks.  Check out the Yearbooks tab for the link lists by state and province.

Old yearbooks available online can be found in many places. And below are some great places to search. Some require a subscription or payment, but not all. Some are free, some are easy to use, and some are not too great actually. Many of these are for the U.S. only, but some have Canadian yearbooks available in the collection.

  • Ancestry.com has a nice school yearbook collection to search. I would encourage you to check out the schools and years available in the “Browse This Collection” section on the right side of the page in order to look for a specific yearbook.  And yes, Ancestry requires a subscription. They claim to have over 450,000 yearbooks – that’s total yearbooks, not schools.

  • My Heritage has a huge collection of yearbooks that can be searched. Thy claim to have over 250,000 yearbooks, again yearbooks, not schools. They also have the Alumni Lists originally provided by Distant Cousin. Some are transcribed and some are scanned page images. And yes, My Heritage requires a subscription. WorldVitalRecords(owned by My Heritage), has 115 schools.  I don’t know if that is included in the My Heritage number.

  • The last “big player” is Classmates.com which has a large collection of over 350,000 yearbooks where a reprint can be purchased. I will leave it up to you to figure out how to save an image or two. It can be accomplished. You can view the yearbooks by browsing. You do not need to have a subscription, but they are available. Frankly since I’ve always had a Free Account, I don’t know how your Yearbook browsing and searching is affected if you have a subscription. Hopefully the bombardment of ads diminishes.

  • The Internet Archive has over 42,000 results if you search for the keyword “yearbook”. Definitely worth searching if you know the school or association.

  • E-Yearbook.com has a sizable collection available by subscription. They don’t advertise the number of yearbooks, but it is sizable.  They also have a nice collection of Military Yearbooks, and Navy Cruise books.

  • Skalooza is interesting.  It has a good number of yearbooks available; it is easy to register, and the interface is easy to use. Quite honestly, I have had difficulty finding things on this site..

  • Old Yearbooks used to have an interesting collection. Some are scanned and some are transcribed. Frankly, now it is just a list of links, many that are to Classmates.

  • Dead Fred has a collection of photos from old yearbooks that you might want to browse. Checking this today, yielded a Privacy Error when visiting the site.

  • Don’s List has a very nice collection of old yearbooks and alumni association directories. There are over 100 schools – many are also in the  Internet Archive.  There is a nice list of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania schools that he provides.

  • Ebay and Amazon have a lot of old yearbooks for sale.

  • GenealogyToday has over 370 yearbooks and is a subscription only service.

  • There are a few link only sites, such as Cyndi’s List, Access Genealogyand Linkpendium. The number of links are in the low hundreds, although it is very difficult to know Linkpendium’s because of their search architecture.

  • Google Books has a wide variety of yearbooks available. Many are from an association and are not related to schools. Worth a search. Unfortunately. most are not viewable.

  • Hathitrust has a couple hundred full view school yearbooks. Usually there are only a couple of years available and many are in the early 1900’s.

And then there is The Ancestor Hunt.  What I am attempting to do is to assemble a list of links to school yearbooks that are totally free, regardless of their source. Most are from digitization projects at libraries, whether high schools in the local library’s general location, or at a college/university. There have been a few statewide projects, such as those in Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Virginia. But most projects are for one or just a few high schools.

I am gathering the links from a wide variety of sources, such as all the Internet Archive collections, DPLA, Calisphere, users of Digital Commons software, etc.  But most are just elbow grease searching.

Currently at the date of this article’s publication, there are over 8,000 schools in the list. I don’t know how many yearbooks that equates to, but my guess is that it is over 50,000, but that is just a guess. And I won’t stop there. Like most of my link list collections, whether newspapers or others, I will continually and regularly update these lists. You can expect more links to free yearbooks to be listed in the future. 

So check out the Yearbooks Page on this site, and definitely make use of those sites listed above.  You never know where that elusive yearbook may be found.

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16 Comments

  1. What a great resource! Thanks for the effort you put in to provide these links. I’ve had a few great finds in yearbooks!

  2. Thank you so much for your suggestions! It’s true, you never know where these yearbooks are going to show up. Thank you for doing some of the heavy lifting for us! I’m going to take a look for some of my ancestors’ yearbooks tonight!

    1. Thanks Charlie. Doesn’t deem to be a very large collection at all. And the copyright statement at the bottom of the page ends at 2014. I’m not so sure that it is “newer” I’ll check back at another time.

  3. JustaJoy.com has hundreds of original vintage and antique yearbooks for sale. Each is completely indexed – all names listed, along with thousands of other identified “orphaned heirlooms”.

  4. looking for a 1977 year book and a 1976 also..for butler high school in louisville kentucky 40216
    mine was destroyed and i would like to have it

  5. I have a group on Facebook for ECRS in Saint George New Brunswick. We are slowly getting the year books scanned and posted. We also have older photos of many schools in the area that no longer exists.

    1. Do you have a link to the digitized yearbooks? If so, I will add it to my Canada list.

  6. I WAS WONDERING HOW DO I FIND MY FATHERS MILITARY PIC, ALL HIS PAPERS WERE BURNED IN THAT FIRE AND I WAS LOOKING FOR AT LEAST A MILITARY PIC BEING I HAVE NO PICS OF DAD AT ALL, HE LEFT WHEN I WAS 9

  7. If someone can help me look for a yearbook from Plano Senior High 2013, I would really appreciate it. I’ve been looking everywhere and I can’t find one. That is the school that I graduated from.

  8. View, without subscription, cost or sign-up, digitized yearbooks from North Carolina high schools and colleges at Digital NC. It also has school and community newspapers, city directories, and memorabilia. Digital NC (North Carolina Digital Heritage Center) is a statewide digitization project.

    1. Thanks Melodie. All of the NC yearbooks, newspapers and directories are already included in my link lists.

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