If your ancestor went to college, write to the school to see if they still have any records left. Start with the Archives department. You can also contact Admissions to find out what department has historic student records. This is a record many genealogists do not think of.
Pauline at Bennett
My grandmother, Pauline, attended Bennett College. She loved Bennett and talked about it all the time. Her father was a Methodist minister and Methodism shaped much of her life.
I wrote to Bennett to see if they had any of her records. They had everything! They wouldn’t release her grades (I wasn’t interested in those anyway) but they sent me her original application from 1931!
It listed her hobbies and extracurricular activities. I would have never guessed my grandmother played soccer.
Want to know what my favorite part of the application was? A picture from her senior year (heads this post), that no one in my family had ever seen.
I could almost see her walking across that campus, taking her classes, making friends.
At Boylan School
Pauline was a teacher, and her first job out of Bennett was at the Boylan School in Jacksonville, Florida. Boylan was a Methodist private school for negro girls.
I found a website called the Florida Memory Project and downloaded a brochure from the Boylan School.
It contained all sorts of details like what classes the girls would take and what kinds of clothes they had to bring. That was a nice find.
For Pauline, the best thing about Boylan was that she met her husband there and spent the next 50+ plus years in Jacksonville.
This worked even better for my grandfather who attended one year at Howard University. The school sent me the entire file.
(Update, 2018: Many colleges are posting historic yearbooks and photographs. Be sure to check the college’s website for these materials.)
I hope you’ve enjoyed this example of just one more way to bring your family history to life.
I am an engineer by day, but my true passion lies in genealogy. I have been a researcher, writer, lecturer and teacher for over twenty years. This blog is where I share family history methods, resources, tips and advice, with an emphasis on slave research, slavery and its aftermath. This lifelong quest has helped me to better know my family’s past. I’ve taken back– reclaimed– some of that lost memory, especially that of my enslaved ancestors. I hope you’ll sign up to receive my posts—if you do, you’ll get a free PDF with some of my favorite tips! And please do share posts that interest you.