That’s My Yearbook

“See if you can find your photo in Ancestry’s updated yearbook collection,” they said. “It will be fun,” they said.

Every day as August began to wind down, there was someone on my Facebook timeline who was sharing their school photo as found in Ancestry’s U.S. School Yearbooks, 1900–1999 database. I resisted for a number of days. But let’s face it, as a genealogist, I couldn’t resist the search for too long!

So, on August 29, I finally gave in and did a search for my name. My maiden name was mangled all through my school years, so I put in my first name and then the beginning of my last name with a wildcard. It was a good thing I did, because sure enough my last name was wrong on Ancestry. Not surprising mine was the only entry that appeared in the search—and it was just for my sophomore year.

A familiar face stared back at me from the entry and I went to view the full image in the yearbook. As I zoomed into the photo on the yearbook page, I noticed that there had been a “correction” written above my surname. More intriguing, the handwriting looked quite familiar.

Could this actually be my yearbook?

I went to the front of the volume and sure enough in the upper left corner of the inside of the cover I found: Rhonda Standerfer 5/17/79 Sophomore year. Clearly, I wasn’t a genealogist yet, based on the way I wrote the date, but hey, I was only 15 years old.

Seeing the inside front cover with its RESERVED sign brought back so many memories. That was my first year in Florida and I knew I was going to be returning to New Hampshire for the summer, and I wanted my friends back in Goffstown to use the front and back cover spaces.

So how did Ancestry get my yearbook?

I honestly don’t know. When I moved from Florida to Boston, I had to put many things in storage. And unfortunately, much of the stored items never made it to Boston (long story). What was even more amazing about finding this on Ancestry was that as others had been sharing their photos, I had been thinking about the loss of the written messages in my yearbooks.

When I posted my photo find on Facebook, I did get a giggle over also sharing that I had found my actual yearbook. And though my name doesn’t come up more than once, Ancestry actually has at least four of my yearbooks online.

About Rhonda McClure

Rhonda R. McClure, Senior Genealogist, is a nationally recognized professional genealogist and lecturer. Before joining American Ancestors/NEHGS in 2006, she ran her own genealogical business for 18 years. She was a contributing editor for Heritage Quest Magazine, Biography magazine and was a contributor to The History Channel Magazine and American History Magazine. In addition to numerous articles, she is the author of twelve books including the award-winning The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Online Genealogy, Finding your Famous and Infamous Ancestors and Digitizing Your Family History. She is the editor of the 6th edition of the Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research, available in our bookstore. When she isn’t researching and writing about family history, she spends her time writing about ice hockey, covering collegiate to NHL teams and a couple of international teams. Her work has allowed her the privilege of attending and covering the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Korea and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

17 thoughts on “That’s My Yearbook

  1. What I have never understood about women, is that they always always ALWAYS put down their yearbook senior portrait, no matter how attractive they look in photo, because God help her, she was following fashions of the time (big hair, crimped hair, etc). Ladies, give it a rest. It was the style. I had a mullet in my senior picture. I was a damned handsome guy then. Not being arrogant, just stating fact. A little less bashing of senior pics is in order for all of us.

    1. Dud you use the pull down options at the top of the viewer to see if the year was there? That was how I basically found my other yearbooks. They used OCR to ibdex them and since a couple of mine were white lettering on black pages they don’t appear if I do a name search.

  2. That’s amazing! Now that all our yearbooks are online, we can declutter our hard copies, and free up a little space in our homes, hahaha. Seriously, though, I had a similar surprise re Ancestry’s high school yearbook collection: I taught high school Spanish for two years, right out of college. Recently I searched for my name on Ancestry and found my photos in the faculty section of the yearbooks. They were spontaneous photos, taken while I was teaching or in the language lab. Since I never purchased yearbooks for those two years, I was unaware of these photos. What a blast into the past!

    1. It was definitely a blast from the past for sure. And it was fun to see some of the people who were so important at the time (read guys… LOL) that somehow we survived.

  3. This is a great find, Rhonda, although the survival of your personal copy is strange. I started to look for my name. Euart, my maiden name, is unusual. I immediately discovered people I had never heard of. Thank you.

  4. Your own yearbook. What a story–amazing. I too found my yearbook photo on Ancestry tho my own yearbook is safely stowed in my home archives. I’m glad you got your photo back. Thanks for a good story.

  5. It has always been a joke between my wife and her twin sister, that the Thomas Jefferson High School Yearbook in Denver: 1. misspelled her sister’s last name; 2. mislabelled their photos, 3. all of her sister’s credits then went to her; and, 4. the search for my wife’s name in Ancestry retrieves another student on the same page. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ This document will provide genealogists of the future some interesting conflicts to untangle. For the photo please see.

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