What is it about genealogy that makes it so popular? Is it the satisfaction of finding answers to nagging questions? Could it be the discovery of the keys that unlock the mysteries of our family's past? Do we have a burning curiosity to learn about the generations that came before us, and what whims of fate have brought us to be on this earth as well? The answers are many and as myriad as there are people.
What is more interesting than learning that you were named for a grandparent, or even that your ancestors emigrated to escape whatever plight that led them to leave their distant homes? How about what they looked like? Do you or your children look like either of your parents or one of your grandparents? It's hard to tell without pictures, and pictures of when they were the same age as your children may be the only way to tell.
Photographs can give us some clues. Most snapshots, however, lack the clarity we need for easy comparisons. Generally taken in poor or harsh lighting and at a distance, they don't give us those telling facial details. However, school pictures provide an excellent progress report of our transformation toward adulthood.
Certainly you can find school pictures among the snapshots in family albums. but the album holding images of preceding generations usually end up in the hands of just one family member. Often things will happen over time that prevent other family members from ever seeing those treasured images - whether the obstacle is natural deterioration, a sudden devastating event, or simply distance.
But don't despair, online yearbooks are one source that can provide you that missing link to photographs of a grandmother, an aunt, an uncle, or even a distant cousin. You might even learn whether they played varsity football, wrote for the school newspaper, or served as class president.
Many online yearbooks are accessible for free through Classmates.com. To search and view their yearbook collection, you will have to register but you can opt out of the email subscriptions. Classmates.com also has an option to purchase what is probably a higher-resolution version of a page or even an entire yearbook in print at Classmates.com. You can save the preview image of a page with a simple right click of your mouse.
While not all schools have yearbooks available online for all years, it is also possible to locate yearbooks locally. The public library for the city in which the school is located will probably have yearbooks of many of the schools in their service area. For Dallasites, the downtown Central Dallas Public Library maintains a collection of yearbooks in the 7th floor Texas/Dallas History & Archives Division. The collection includes yearbooks from schools and colleges outside of Dallas as well. An online catalog search can determine if they have yearbooks for schools you are interested in.