Tag Archives: Genealogy Blog Party

September 2022 Genealogy Blog Party: School Days

September, like Spring, brings a rebirth of sorts – the start of a new school year and Elizabeth O’Neal’s September Genealogy Blog Party’s theme reflects that: School Days.

I’ve blogged many times about my own school days and have written about education of other ancestors, too.

If you haven’t yet started down that path, be forewarned! Unless you or other family members already possess school records of children, parents, grandparents, etc., it might be impossible to obtain them now unless you are hunting for college records.

Why? I discovered many years ago that most school districts don’t have the storage capacity to retain paper records forever and they definitely don’t have the financial resources to digitize them.

As unhappy as I was to leave my beloved Passaic in the middle of 6th grade, the fact that I moved saved my school records. In college, I returned to my elementary school with the eyes of a teacher in training. I asked about getting copies of my “cum file” (cumulative file), but was told they were sent on to the high school. I mentioned that I moved before finishing 6th grade and was surprised to hear the secretary’s reply: Oh, in that case, your file is down in the basement storage!

I did receive copies of everything in my file, including images of my kindergarten readiness test! If I had not moved, my elementary school records would have been destroyed after I finished high school.

Passaic had a policy of retaining original records and sending photocopies on to the new receiving school when a student moved.

In either my old or new school district, my K-6 file would have been shredded by the time I made my school visit.

What school records can be found today? Whether or not you are able to access the file of an individual student depends, as in my case, on luck. The more recent the record, the more likely it will still exist.

However, there are other types of school records to be found.

1. School Histories – Many county histories include details about the schools that were established in the area. I was aware that my paternal grandfather attended Passaic School #2. That school was no longer around, or so I thought, by the time I was a Passaic student. In my many visits to St. Michael’s Church with Nana, I would walk around outside next to the church rectory, which was St. Michael’s School. I’d peer into the ground-level windows to see classrooms decorated with student work.

Many years later, I learned that St. Michael’s had purchased School #2 from the city of Passaic! I was even more surprised when I looked online for St. Michael’s School, which is no longer in existence. St. Michael’s sold School #2 BACK to the city and was now named – drum roll  . . . . George Washington School #2!

2. School Censuses – A few times in my research, I’ve come across a handful of school “censuses.” One I actually found online in New Brunswick, Canada, naming school children in the early 1800s in a small area. The second I found on Ancestry in Oklahoma records, a 1936 school census, in which my mother-in-law and her siblings were listed on a card apparently filled out by their mother:

Ancestry has a lengthy list of both U.S. and international school censuses and registers in its catalog. MyHeritage also has a list in its collection, although most of its resources look to be at the university level.

3. Yearbooks – Ancestry (by subscription)  has a growing collection of yearbooks from the United States and Canada, 1900-c2016 , as does MyHeritage, which offers a FREE U.S. collection, 1890-1979, with a separate (also FREE) index. It will be interesting to see what happens with a lawsuit filed (in California, I believe) by individuals against Ancestry, claiming they didn’t give permission for their yearbook information to be made available online.

4. Local Historical & Genealogical Societies – I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that a few local societies welcomed the gift of school records into their collections, donated by school districts. While I doubt individual school files are to be found here, it is very possible that school historical items – programs from school plays, special events, sports,  graduations, etc., which would name individual students in them – might be found. It’s worth a phone call, email or letter to inquire!

5. Local Libraries & County Archives – Town libraries are probably even more likely to have school memorabilia. Again, it’s worth a contact to find out what might be in the vertical files or possibly even published resources about its schools.

To summarize, while your research might be lucky enough to turn up original student records, it is much more likely that all those records, through high school, have been destroyed, particularly if it’s been more than ten years since graduation.

However, it’s worth the effort and energy to seek out buried treasure in the form of school histories, which might tell you more about your ancestor’s interests and activities.




August 2022 Genealogy Blog Party: The 7th Annual Genealogy Blog Party Potluck Picnic: Bloggers Choice

It’s time for the 7th Annual Genealogy Blog Party Potluck Picnic with Elizabeth O’Neal on Heart of the Family and, because it’s a potluck, it’s bloggers’ choice as to what we’d like to share.

I’ve been very busy with several ongoing genealogy projects this summer and have neglected to share my yearly post about the wonderful summers I spent, usually for the first two weeks of August, on Little Sebago Lake, where my grandparents owned a camp along what is today called Cambell (no letter P in this Cambell!) Shore Road.

Most of the photos were taken by my Aunt Barbara, who passed away 25 years ago. It’s thanks to her that I inherited such a great treasure trove of photos documenting all those summers.

Lake view from just offshore

My first summer on Little Sebago, 1954

This looks to be Grandfather’s very first dock, probably over where what eventually became the rowboat was stored.

Dock that Grandfather Built by Hand and His Little Putt Putt

Grandmother and me, learning to love the water

Grandfather often took us all to the beach about 15 minutes across the lake from the cottage to enjoy the afternoon on a beach. Lots of sunbathing (before we realized how bad it was!), playing in the sand and, of course, swimming.

Me, at the beach!

I don’t remember a motor ever being on this boat, but apparently it was the family motor boat before the slightly  grander boat, docked in the earlier photo.

My memories of this boat were when it was consigned to a corner of the lakefront shore. We used it as a rowboat, but I hated walking to the boat – there were garter snakes in them there bushes! – and plenty of cobwebs that had to be cleaned off before sitting down.

Family & friends on the cottage porch

The curtains were closed, but those porch windows offered a beautiful view of the lake. I’m standing on the left. The lady barely seen to the left of me and the man in the back center of the photo were friends of my grandparents. I believe they were Mr. and Mrs. Haycock. My grandmother, Hazel, is sitting between them. My grandfather was to his right. My dad and mom are looking at my little brother in the high chair.

Rough seas, but also. . . .

Smooth as glass!

Inside the cottage, with no potable water, fireplace for heat and an outdoor outhouse

Back porch – Main Door, left and Kitchen Addition Door, right

On my swing that Grandfather put up for me

This grove of trees was just to the left of the back porch. Grandfather put up this swing for me and I had a great time on it. One year, a winter storm took down one of these trees. I remember my mother telling me about it. However, by the time we got to the lake the next summer, Grandfather had tied the swing to two other trees. One thing the lake isn’t lacking, even today, is trees!

Path from cottage to the lake

We walked down this bumpy path from the cottage to the dock, which gave access to swimming and boating activities. The land between the cottage and the shore was much wider than it appears in this photo.

Besides many trees, the camp had tons of blueberry bushes. When I wasn’t swimming, sunbathing, rowing or swinging and needed something to keep me busy, I was sent below to pick blueberries so Grandmother could bake a fresh pie.

They trained me young and I was still picking blueberries well into my teens!

Here are a some final views of the lake, taken during boat rides.

For those of you currently on LSL, now enjoying this vintage visit back in time, the photos were all taken c1954-1960. Those were truly the good old days!


July Genealogy Blog Party: The Road Trip

July means summer and summer means vacation time, which is the theme for this month’s Genealogy Blog Party with Elizabeth O’Neal on Heart of the Family.

Americans, in general, didn’t have much time for taking vacation time to travel until the patter portion of the 1800s and family travel didn’t really become a yearly event until the start of the 20th century.

My maternal grandparents, Vernon Tarbox Adams and Hazel Ethel Coleman, both born in Calais, Washington, Maine did plenty of traveling – because Grandfather worked for Western Union and got transferred every couple of years because of his job.

However, all vacation roads always led back to Maine!

The family started out at Western Union in Bangor, Maine, followed by frequent moves throughout Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.

My mother hated that life. She said every time she and my aunt got settled in a neighborhood and school and made some friends, they had to move again. I’ve been able to document at least a dozen moves as she was growing up and I think that’s probably more than the average military family moved!

After Grandfather was transferred out of Bangor, the family never lived in Maine again with the exception of a couple of years during the Depression.

However, Grandmother and Grandfather loved Maine and had deep Maine roots. They were also the first of my ancestors to have the ability to vacation regularly, so where do you think they traveled? Yep, back to Maine.

When my mother was a little girl, they vacationed in Calais, visiting family and friends.

Grandmother, right, with best friend Clara Dwelley

The little girl looks like my Aunt Barbara, which dates this photo to c1927.

Mom, left, with Barbara

This photo with Mom looks to have been taken on the same trip.

One Calais visit my mother said she and Aunt Barbara always loved was visiting their grandpa, Hartwell Coleman, who ran a general store in Calais in the 1930s – and always gave them some candy!

By the 1940s, my Aunt Barbara and Mom were teenagers and had a little sister, my Aunt Carole. Grandfather was doing well at Western Union, but the older generation in Calais had passed away and the younger people were moving to Massachusetts for better economic opportunities.

Therefore, my grandparents didn’t see the need for yearly visits to Calais, but they weren’t about to give up visiting their beloved Maine.

The solution was to rent a summer camp on Little Sebago Lake, in the southern part of Maine, not far from Portland – one of the many cities in which the family had lived.

The camp they rented, built about 1939, was definitely rustic by today’s standards. The cottage was basically one room, with a small kitchen (heated with propane gas) addition on the side and a screened in porch with a beautiful view of the lake.

The property also had a guest cabin, which was a very small one-room cottage with no amenities – the “windows” were screened over holes with big pieces of wood that opened and closed using a rope to allow ventilation in or keep weather out of the room. There was a storage shed for fireplace wood at the back of the guest cabin.

Although there was running water, it wasn’t potable, the only heat source was a small fireplace and the outhouse was in the woods!

Side view of the cottage with the porch, above, left and boathouse below

Grandfather working on the steps of the guest cabin, 1940s

View of Little Sebago from between the trees

My grandparents loved this camp so much that they bought it in the early 1950s and it became a three-generation family destination by the time I was born.

Family, c1948

Grandmother & Me, c1955

Friday morning was shopping morning and it also meant stopping at a spring near Gray, Maine to fill containers with water we could actually drink!

Swimming with Grandmother, c1953

Life at the cottage was very low-key. Days were spent swimming, sunbathing, picking fresh blueberries for Grandmother’s homemade pies, water skiing, walking in the woods and taking relaxing boat rides in Grandfather’s motor boat or the row boat.

Maine weather was quite variable and ranged from warmly comfortable for swimming to cold and stormy with hailstones coming down in August.

For those less hospitable days, I was supplied with coloring books, paint by number kits and lots of books to read. Although the cottage had electricity, there was only a radio – no television was needed when there were so many other fun activities to keep us busy.

The Little Sebago camp was a road trip to which the whole family looked forward. For my grandparents, it meant first driving up from New Jersey and, later, from Massachusetts after they had made the final move back to New England.

My parents loaded my brother and me into the car and we made the long trip – about 9 hours – to Little Sebago Lake every August.

The camp stayed in the family until the spring of 1969, as Grandfather died the previous December.

As long as the road trip was to get to the lake, I looked forward to the turnoff from the main road and we headed down to the cottage:

This was the view I lived for, as it meant we were almost there. My husband and went back to have a peek in 1980, but by then, the trees had grown so high that the lake couldn’t be seen anymore.

The road trips to Little Sebago Lake provided decades of happy family memories. Luckily, Aunt Barbara took tons of photos, of which I am now the proud caretaker.