Sometimes it’s fun to browse school photos – whether your own or of an ancestor’s. But where can you find them? Do schools have old yearbooks? Or is there a better way to find old yearbooks – like maybe while at home and from a computer?
Old yearbooks can be found in various places online or in person. Your extended family may have kept a copy. Some schools have digitized versions available for free viewing. Other yearbooks can be found and reprinted (for free or a fee) or bought used. Here is how and where to find old yearbooks.
Ready to find an old yearbook? Keep reading to know how to find it easier, faster, and for a better price!
Where to Find Old Yearbooks
The first place to look for old yearbooks is on the bookshelves of your home and among your family members. Maybe you’ve inherited and kept one (even by accident) because it had a cool-looking cover.
- Breanne got lucky and inherited a couple of her grandpa’s yearbooks from her aunt. It was just a few weeks ago (talk about great timing, right?). Or if you haven’t inherited one, go ask that aunt or family member who’s big into family history. They may have kept the family’s yearbooks from being donated.
- I managed to inherit one of my granddad’s yearbooks, too. I kept it because it had a pretty cover – and boy I’m so glad I did! It’s so cool to see old pictures from his youth.
If you haven’t managed to accidentally inherit one, though, don’t despair. There are other options to find old yearbooks. Here are some of the best places to look.
- Do an online search for the yearbooks. I’ll show you how to do this later – so don’t worry.
- Call family members – maybe one of them has the yearbook you’re looking for.
- Call the school – they may keep digital records or physical copies of old yearbooks. Perhaps you could get a copy – or at least a photocopy of the page you want.
- Check with classmates or classmates’ family members.
- Check with the local or the school library – they may have a copy of the local yearbooks. This is especially true if the library has a genealogy center inside of it.
- Check with family history libraries – FamilySearch has a ton of cool resources. Maybe someone uploaded a digitized version there.
- Search old bookstores and online book retailers for the yearbook you want.
Sometimes, however, you just may have a hard time finding a yearbook – unless it’s become a collector’s item. But how do you know if an old yearbook is worth something?
Are Old Yearbooks Worth Anything?
Most old yearbooks will only be worth the sentimental value – they won’t be worth much money (except to historians and genealogists). However, if there’s a famous person who was in the class, then that yearbook may be worth more.
For example, according to a since-deleted article on this bookstore site, William Faulkner’s yearbook from Ole Miss sold for $4500. And a copy of one of Frank Herbert’s (author of Dune) yearbooks sold for $750.
Breanne did an eBay search for her high school yearbook. She quickly found several copies (spanning several years) that ranged from $70-80 per copy. She found other yearbooks that were going for as little as $10.
However, that can be a hit-or-miss prospect, depending on what sellers have up for sale. If you do want to go that route, know that you may have to check back fairly religiously – for several years or more – before you find the exact book you’re looking for.
Again, just because a yearbook isn’t worth the same $4500 as William Faulkner’s doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. Yearbooks are still treasure troves full of historical and genealogical information that’s priceless.
How to Find Old Yearbooks Online
Start by googling it – seriously. Search for the name of the school and tack on “yearbook” to the end of your search.
For example, here’s how I did it just now – by searching for my granddad’s yearbook. He attended the University of Utah, so that’s how I’ll word my search. My exact search will be “University of Utah online yearbooks” – though I could do it without the “online”. Oh – and don’t use quotation marks. That’s just for emphasis on what my search query is.
Looking at the options, I’m going to click on the first result – Utonion Yearbooks from the University of Utah (Marriott Library). Here is what the first search result looks like.
Boom – the University of Utah has digitized yearbooks that I can browse, going back to 1904! Now, the reason I picked the first result is that it was a link related to the University of Utah. Therefore, it was far more likely to give me what I wanted – and for a better price.
In fact, if I’m just looking online, there isn’t any fee – I can look for free. Printing from home also appears to be free (well, it’ll cost me a piece of paper and ink/toner). At least, all the pages I looked at were free to print from home. Getting a reprint, though? They need your address to calculate sales tax, so that’s not free.
The other options look legitimate – but probably want to charge me a fee for giving me the exact same information as the university did. If I’m going to pay for my family’s history, I’d rather it go directly to the university – rather than pay an inflated fee to a business.
But will all universities offer a digitized version of their yearbooks? I don’t know. I didn’t search for all of them. But it’s worth doing a search to see what’s available.
Then, if a direct search isn’t lucky, here are some specific websites you can use to further your search.
In these cases, you’re banking on one of two things: either that someone has taken photos and uploaded what you’re looking for (on one of the genealogy sites) or that someone just so happens to be selling a copy of what you want on eBay. Hey – it could happen.
How to Order Reprints of Old Yearbooks
If you’re unable to find an original and absolutely have to have a reprint, that’s fine. We’ll walk you through it. However, we would recommend that you consider looking for a digital copy or buying a used copy (on a site like eBay) first.
But if that doesn’t work and you have to have a reprint, then let’s find you a way to reprint an old yearbook. There are a couple of ways to order reprints of old yearbooks. The first is directly from the school or University – if that’s an option.
I clicked on the 1905 yearbook (it’s not the right year for my granddad, but that’s okay) to show you how to order a reprint. Here is what that looks like.
Then, I clicked on the “Request archival file or update item information” link at the top. It took me to this page – and I selected the box to “Request a reproduction of the archival file(s), if available.”
From there, I could order a reprint if that’s what I wanted. Again, I’d take this option over going through a business – so see if the school has this option. If they don’t, you’ll need to go through a service like Classmates or e-yearbook to order a reprint. However, those services can get to be quite pricey.
Other Ways to Find Old Yearbooks
If you’re still unable to find a yearbook, here are some longer-shot ways to find yearbooks. They aren’t the options we’d first try (or even recommend), but they have worked for people who are willing to go to some more extreme lengths to find yearbooks.
- Contact the school’s media center.
- Find and contact the yearbook advisor/committee. You could try either the current yearbook committee or looking up the yearbook committee from the desired publication year.
- Talk to former classmates or relatives of classmates to see if you can acquire their copies – if they still have them.
- Use an online yearbook finder tool (just know this may cost you quite a bit of money).
- Check the library – okay, we mentioned this one earlier, but seriously. It has better odds of working if you keep checking.
There is one other longshot option – check with the yearbook printing service that printed the original. If you can find which yearbook printing service helps the school with its yearbooks, you could also contact them to see if a reprint is a possibility. Just know that it’s a bit of a long shot.
For example, Breanne found one such service, called Jostens, which is unable to do reprints. Their rationale is that they’re just the printing service – and the school owns the copyright for the yearbook. As such, they recommend contacting the school directly.
Do Schools Keep Old Class Photos? Schools may have old class photos. It’s worth a phone call to the school to see what photo collections if any, they have kept on hand.
How Can I Preserve Old Yearbooks? Preserve old yearbooks as you would any old and important books. Store them in a safe, preservation-quality box that relieves the pressure on the binding. Be careful when handling the pages – you may want to wear gloves to prevent oil transfer from your hands to the pages. Click here to read more information on storing old books and other important family documents.
What’s the Best Way to Store Old Class Photos? The best way to store old or important photos is within a binder and inside of an acid-free plastic sheet protector. Click here to read our article on preserving family photos and documents.