Finding Family for Free, Part XIV

If your ancestors attended a college or university, you may find information about their lives in a source seldom mentioned in genealogy books:  class notes.

Almost every colleage and university publishes brief notes about the lives and careers of their graduates, submitted by the graduates themselves. Topics typically include engagements, weddings, births of children, new jobs and promotions, moves to new locations, awards and, finally, obituaries.

These notes are printed in college and university magazines or newsletters.  Some have indexed their older classnotes. Some remarkably have put these older records online.  One of the finest resources is the University of Wisconsin Library’s digital collection online, including its historic yearbooks and alumni newsletters.

The usefulness of this resource can be seen in several examples.

— In May 1911, the Wisconsin Alumni magazine ran an engagement announcement for Marie Grace Miller and Frank Joseph Petura, both 1904 graduates. Her father’s name, the careers pursued by Marie and Frank, and the month of the wedding are included. What a genealogical gem!

— In 1904, both Frank of Racine and Marie of Madison were included among the seniors with their individuals photographs, field of study, clubs and a quotation. What a remarkable way to see ancestors when they were young!

Many more class notes were published about them and Marie over the years, allowing family to understand more about their lives.

Another ancestor I am researching is William Henry Luehr, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1889.  He is in the Badger yearbook several times including when he was censor and historian of the Bildungsverein club and when he was elected in May 1888 to be a general editor of the Aegis, the student newspaper. He had many mentions in the Wisconsin Alumni magazine, such as when he was the principal at Manitowoc high school.

While not all universities and colleges have such a fine resource as that provided by the University of Wisconsin, they may have an index and may be willing to send copies of relevant class notes, if you send a stamped, addressed envelope. It is worth a try!

This is one in a series of genealogy and family history research ideas to help you find your family and ancestors for modest or no cost.

Published in: on January 15, 2007 at 9:33 pm  Leave a Comment