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School Records: Researching Women's Colleges, Part 3 - Locating Records

Search tips and resources for locating the publications and records of students, faculty, and staff associated with women's colleges.


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Because school records are so widely scattered, it would be impossible to list every resource where they might be found, but there some likely places to look and keywords to aid the search. School records can be found online through search engines, and through commercial and free websites. Libraries and archives are another resource, and many have online catalogs to aid your search. Used bookstores, both online and off are good places to find school publications. The following resources, although not exhaustive, may give you a good head start -- most are online or at least have ways to search online., sponsored by the GenWeekly parent site, is a search engine that searches not only the resources of the Genealogy Today website, but also provides results of your search term for its partner websites. A LiveRoots search includes original source material from the Genealogy Today Subscription Database (formerly the Family Tree Connection), which has a great many resources on women's or "female" colleges. While this is a paid service (the subscription rate is quite nominal), you can gather a good bit of information before making a decision to buy, including place name, document title, and -- quite happily -- a list of surnames included in the document. And if you find a document title for a school year that is not the one you seek, you can try entering the title without the year or entering the title with an alternate school year.

Be creative when entering search terms into a search engine; a search for "women's college" and "female college" may bring up different results, based on which term is used in the title. Also, avoid using the plural such as in "colleges" or "lists," as titles for a particular school record are typically in the singular. Other terms might include "normal school," "normal university," and "female seminary" or "teaching seminary." Broader terms such as "seminary" will bring up a greater number of results, which may include all-male theological seminaries, etc.

You may also search for specific document types. Again, keep in mind that similar records may be listed under different names. A search of the word "alumni" is more general and will bring up more results than the terms "alumni roster" "alumni directory" "alumni list," "alumni reunion," "alumni association," etc., although all are legitimate search terms. In addition to LiveRoots, Google (or other search engine) is a great place to cast a wide net. A Google search may unearth buried content, including free and paid websites: private, non-profit, and commercial. Keep in mind, genealogical material of all sorts can be found in some of the most unlikely places. If a search does not yield the results you want, continue searching, trying different keyword combinations, adding, for example, a location to your search term, and putting phrases in quotes to limit the search. Keep in mind, a Google search may bring up current-day alumni rosters, etc., so you might consider limiting the search by adding a class year. If you are looking for the records of a specific college, enter the college plus the record type. If you can zero in on a specific title, that's a great way to limit a search, even if you omit the year.

Google Books. A Google search may turn up items found in Google Books, or you can enter a search directly into Google Books and limit the search even more through an Advanced Search. A good many free, full-text resources can be found through Google Books. Some items found are "preview" only as opposed to full-text; these books are typically for sale, but may allow a limited preview: you can often find good information in a preview.

WorldCat. is an online union catalog that searches across all participating libraries. As with most libraries, you can search by title, author, subject, etc. When an item is found matching your search, if you have entered your zip code, WorldCat will indicate the repository nearest you where the item can be found. WorldCat does not provide nor link to the resource itself, but it does provide a good amount of information to aid you in your research.

Internet The Internet Archive is a jewel. This is a free, online digital library -- one of THE best places to find a wide range of online full-text items. Internet Archive items may turn up in a Google search, or you can enter a search directly on the site . . . and not school records only, but many texts of genealogical interest, including local area histories, genealogies, biographies, etc. The Internet Archive is a great place to browse.

Libraries & Archives. Various types of school record are often found in local libraries, archives, and historical societies. College and university libraries, of course, are among of the best places to search and those most likely to have records on their own school. Colleges and universities are great keeps of their own history; thus, many records of a historical and official nature may have been preserved in the library's Special Collections or Manuscript Collections. It's also possible preserved items were donated to a local archive or historical society, as discussed previously. A good place to begin is with the library's online catalog, but you may also want to consult the librarian and be sure to check the library's vertical file.

And last but certainly not least is the LDS Family History Library -- you can search the online card catalog by keyword or subject, title, place name, etc. When doing a place name search, check for a "School" category -- this would be a good starting point. When doing a keyword search, you can add a location, to help narrow the field, e. g. "texas" + "school" or "female college" + "pennsylvania." You can also do a general search on keywords such as "alumni" and "yearbook" and then browse results for your location of interest -- the Library has many such records.

Other Online Resources

Following are some other useful online resources. Old is a free website offering a wide range of yearbooks, class rosters, and alumni lists, etc. The site offers free access to many of its documents, but does have a member login, so some features may be available to members only. Some yearbooks found through also link to this website. is a good site to browse, but as of this writing the the site's blog was out date -- even so, the blog posts provide a great many class rosters, alumni lists, and similar materials posted from its most recent date back to the blog's beginning in October 2009. A feature on the page, "Search This Blog," allows you to search all blog posts. The keyword "alumni" brought up a list of everything in the blog with the word "alumni," which is more efficient than searching post by post. You could also search by state, school name, or year.

It is also worth noting that there are other yearbooks websites, as well, which can be found through a Google search. Some are free and some are fee based. Different sites may have different yearbooks and publication years. The " School LIsts & Yearbooks" page has several data collections and helps on researching school records and yearbooks. Ancestry, of course, is a subscription website, but some yearbook titles linked to other sites and were free. The "New South Wales, Australia, Applications and Admissions to Orphan Schools, 1817-1833" data collection offers a free index. The "U. S. School Yearbooks Index" is a collection of middle school, junior high, high school, and college yearbooks from across the United States.

Cyndi's Cyndi's List is a catalog of links, including links to school records-related websites. On the Cyndi's List Schools page, you can click on the "Alumni Organizations & Resources" link to find items related to college records. Cyndi's List may include websites that haven't been found through other searches, so is certainly worth checking.

Golden Finds

Finally, here is a sampling of a few "golden finds" discovered along the way to illustrate what might be available with a little creative research.

Alumni Roster originally published in The Bulletin of the First District Normal School 17:4 (April 1917). This page on the Pickler Memorial Library, Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri website illustrates the type of information that might be found in alumni rosters.

Jewish Foundation for Education of Women Records, 1880-1988. This page links to a finding aid in PDF format that identifies the record contents, allowing users to request further information from the files. This resource was originally found on Cyndi's List, but the link was bad -- entering the publication title into a Google search brought up the correct link.

Newspaper Archives of The Barnard Bulletin,1901-2002. Also on Cyndi's List, this little gem from Barnard College lets you search more than 23,927 of the school's newspaper pages online.

Odd Fellows Home Alumni Association Roster, 1892-1972. Another example found through a Google search of alumni rosters, from USGenWeb for Wayne County, North Carolina.

The Ohio Genealogical Society, Yearbook Collection. A similar search for the keywords "genealogical societies" + "Ohio," yielded this guide to the yearbook holdings of the Ohio Genealogical Society. Although these yearbooks not online through the society, you may find some title online through Google or other resources mentioned previously.

Other Articles in this Series

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2011.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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