It sounds like a sensational headline, but it pretty well describes what happened to me. A “shooting star” (more accurately, a meteor falling into our atmosphere) led me to a family history discovery. It all started when I was out early one morning in August and saw one (just one) meteor flash across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower. I made a quick post on my Facebook page and decided to add an image to it that was a little different from the usual shots of meteor showers.
I tossed my “meteor” search term into one of my favorite public domain image resources — Flickr – The Commons. A rather silly cartoon from the 1888 Halcyon yearbook from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania caught my eye. The book viewer for displaying the yearbook on archive.org is fantastic, allowing easy browsing, searches, and downloads for multiple formats. Remembering I have Quaker ancestors from the Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware area (Swarthmore was founded by Quakers), I popped in one ancestor’s name and came up with that name and names of cousins sharing the same page.
Establishing my ancestor at a specific college really opened up a window into her life. When looking at yearbooks you find more than just student names. The Swarthmore yearbook contains advertisements from nearby businesses (including Wannamakers in Philadelphia) touting the popular products of the day for students.
Yearbook contributors added poetry, commentary, essays and illustrations that give us a peek into the daily and cultural life of the students.
Find out about Flickr – The Commons and other sites that have a wealth of family history images in my free booklet: 7 Sites For Finding Photos From Your Ancestor’s World. Click here to request your copy. Enjoy! Tell about a family history treasure you find from using the e-booklet in the comments or in the Video Genealogy Facebook group. You can “like” the VideoGenealogy Facebook page, too.
Image credits: Halcyon, 1889. Swarthmore College. Accessed 12 August 2016 at https://archive.org/details/halcyon1889unse.