As the local kids are getting ready to go back to school, our minds can wander back to our own school days. It may even lead to trying to locate our own yearbooks. After all these years, where did these pieces of our life go? They may be tucked away in a long lost box somewhere, maybe they were left at mom and dad's never to be seen again, or even worse - destroyed by the elements of nature. Let the library help you go down memory lane by coming in to look at your past yearbooks, then your parents' yearbooks, and maybe even your grandparents' and great grandparents' yearbooks.
History of Yearbooks
So how did this tradition of "yearbooks" even start anyway. In the 1800s as education became an important part of childhood with the mainstream population, scrapbooks and autograph books became a way to remember those friend from school over the long summer break or as the step was made from graduation into adulthood. Remember, they did not have social media to help them keep in touch and remember their friends while away from school. As publishing of books became easier and popular, this idea of autograph books and scrapbooks morphed into a published item, yearbooks. It appears that, in the United States, Yale University started the trend with the publishing of their first yearbook in 1806. Sadly, there is no existing copy of the original yearbook in the United States. Several New England academic institutions followed Yale's example and started publishing yearbooks resulting in the oldest archived copy of a yearbook being from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in 1826. By the mid-1800s, high schools also began joining the trend with the first high school yearbook, The Evergreen, being published in 1845 by Waterville Academy in New York City.
Since photography was in its infancy, these early yearbooks were more informational items with places for autographs and notes with possibly very few early daguerreotype photographs tipped into the book. As photography expanded and publishing photographs in books became easier, pictures were added to yearbooks of faculty and student leaders and then evolved to what we know as yearbooks today, photographs of everyone and a recap of a wide array of our school day activities (Bob Wessell, "Looking at the never-ending evolution of the high school yearbook", opens a new window; Gena Philibert-Ortega, "Genealogy 101: School Yearbooks", opens a new window).
St. Tammany Public Library and Yearbooks
As part of preserving the history of the parish, St. Tammany Parish Library has a collection of over 300 yearbooks from local schools. Our oldest high school yearbook is the 1935 The Gold and White for Elmer E. Lyon High School in Covington. This early yearbook is an informational book about the school giving the school creed, alma mater, the constitution of the student council, and information about the various clubs and organizations within the school.
As for traditional yearbooks with individual photographs, our earliest is the 1950 Lions' Lines of Covington High School. This yearbook has the individual photographs of each high school student as well as the junior high students.
The collection also includes several colleges and universities within the state. You'll find yearbooks that go back to 1920 for both The Gumbo of Louisiana State University and The Jambalaya of Tulane University of Louisiana.
Most of the yearbooks are held in the Covington Branch within the Reading Room next to the Louisiana and Genealogy Room. A few duplicates of our yearbooks are held in the Slidell Branch's genealogy collection. When using the collection in Covington, pages within the yearbooks can be scanned using an overhead book scanner and can either be printed or saved on your own personal USB thumb drive.
As a service to the community, St. Tammany Parish Library subscribes to the Library Edition of Ancestry.com. This can be accessed by coming into any of the St. Tammany Parish branches.
Ancestry.com has been working on a major project of digitizing yearbooks throughout the United States for the 1900s. They currently have digitized over 450,000 yearbooks that can be searched via person's name or browsed by year through the library's subscription or with a personal paid subscription. Within one of the branch libraries, you can access this collection through the Ancestry.com Library Edition US Yearbooks, 1900 - 1999, opens a new window or with your own personal paid subscription through Ancestry.com US Yearbooks, 1900 - 1999, opens a new window.
If you come across a yearbook for a local school and are not sure what to do with it, check with the genealogy librarian in Covington about the possibility of it being added to the collection at the St. Tammany Parish Library. The library will evaluate the locality, condition, and number of duplicate copies already held by the library in deciding to add the yearbook to the collection.
The St. Tammany Parish Library is proud of being a preserver of the rich historical heritage of our parish, including the yearbooks. Whether it is to help you go down memory lane through reminiscing about your school days or to find out about the childhood of an ancestor, the St. Tammany Parish Library is here to help you.