21 April 2009

New York: Long Island yearbook project

As Tracing the Tribe has reported frequently, yearbooks are a wonderful source of family information.

Nolan Altman of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Long Island (JGSLI) personally conveyed the following information on the society's yearbook project, begun in June 2006.

The project's goal is to act as an intermediary as it matches researchers with yearbook owners.

Yearbooks are rich sources of genealogical information. We can see our grandparents, our aunts and uncles, even ourselves in our younger days. Often, the photos elicit such comments as "how did I get my hair to look like that?" In various yearbooks, I've found my mother and her brother's high school graduation photos, my mother's sorority group photo and other family photos, such as my great-uncle's medical school graduation.

Along with the images are often address lists, congratulatory ads placed by adoring families, as well as your relatives pictured in myriad club, sports team and academic group shots.

The JGSLI board decided it would be a valuable service to its members if the society could inventory yearbooks in members’ personal libraries and make that information available for genealogical look-ups.

During the last year, the society has matched up dozens of researchers with yearbook owners. Here is the list of available books. Since being made public, inquiries have been received from non-members as well. Much of the collection is from the New York City / Long Island area, but researchers could be currently living anywhere in the world.

As non-members from other geographical areas began to demonstrate interest, the JGSLI decided to expand the project and inventory yearbooks from other JGSs, genealogical groups and other sources.

JGSLI, unlike the yearbook projects of Steve Lasky and Steve Morse, does not own or physically hold the listed volumes, which remain in the personal libraries of individuals who make them available for look-ups.

The society is the matchmaker, arranging the contact between the yearbook owner and the researcher. Requests are sent to yearbook_project@jgsli.org - the society replies using that email address and forwards the request by blind copy to the book's owner. The owner will comply with the request. Those who sign up to participate and list their books, understand they will receive requests.

Each book's owner signs a Yearbook Project Form from the JGSLI site:

“Submitting a listing means that you have volunteered to be contacted by email and are willing to provide information, a photocopy, or scan for the researcher. JGSLI is only making the information available to researchers. Owners of the books are responsible for following up with the request.”
Researchers contact the group through the email above, and JGSLI hopes researchers will also provide information to help other researchers.

Due to the increase in requests, JGSLI is looking at a longer term goal to approach other societies, groups and individuals to expand the yearbook inventory and make matches easier.

It is an easy way to help a fellow researcher. After all, the request might come from someone who may hold the yearbook for which you've been searching for a very long time.

For more information, contact Nolan Altman.

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