A Treasure Trove of Yearbooks
Did you know that the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies at the CALS Roberts Library has a large collection of school yearbooks (or annuals as they were called when I was in school)? The collection holds over 900 individual yearbooks from Arkansas colleges, universities, and vocational-technical schools, as well as those from public and private schools in the Little Rock area. Many are quite old. Some of the oldest volumes include copies of The Cardinal from the University of Arkansas dating back to 1897 and continuing until the 1910s. Other older volumes include The Cage from Little Rock High School, The Gallowegian from Galloway Women’s College, and The Ouachitonian from Ouachita Baptist College. While the large majority are not yet digitized, many yearbooks are accessible digitally through the Roberts Library website. We welcome researchers to visit us in the research room to view the hardcopy volumes. One of the CALS genealogy databases, Ancestry.com, available at the Roberts Library and all CALS locations, includes yearbooks online as well.
Most of the yearbooks in our collection have either been donated or have been purchased at antique stores, used book stores, and secondhand stores. We welcome donations of volumes from Arkansas colleges and schools in the central Arkansas area.
Some of you might be wondering why yearbooks are part of our genealogy and local history collection. Yearbooks are a rich source for genealogical information and can be particularly useful in learning about more recent generations of a family. Of course, a big bonus of using yearbooks in genealogical research is seeing a photograph. In addition to a portrait, group photographs with family members in them can provide a glimpse into their interests and personality. Was your relative on an athletic team, on the debate team, or in a sorority or fraternity? Searching through yearbooks can reveal many student interest groups. You might just find out information about your ancestor not readily available in traditional genealogical sources.
Finding My Mother in the Yearbook
For this post, I decided to do a search for my mother, Alma Joyce Hinck, to illustrate what insight can be gleaned by doing yearbook research. Alma Joyce Hinck graduated from Arkansas State Teachers College in Conway (what is now the University of Central Arkansas) in 1952, and I pulled The Scroll for that year. After locating her picture in the senior section, I proceeded to flip through the pages, eventually getting to the Greeks section. I never figured my mother as the sorority girl type, so I was not expecting to find her in any of the groups. I was surprised to learn, however, that she was a member of the Organized Independents sorority until I read the description. This group was an organization established in February 1944 with the purpose of ensuring individual rights, developing leadership, and working for all people on the ASTC campus. Reading that, it all made sense. She apparently joined the group in her sophomore year. Not surprisingly, my mother was a member of several academic organizations, such as Royal Rooters, an honorary campus leadership organization for outstanding students; Alpha Psi Omega, the national honorary dramatic fraternity; and the debate team.
A teacher for over 30 years, she was almost always involved in the senior play and later in life acted in community theater. The organizations that she was not a part of that I expected her to be included in were the Art Club and the Future Teachers of America. Another surprise was finding out that in her sophomore year she was in the Business Club. I guess somewhere between her sophomore and senior year, she must have changed her career path.
Alma’s first teaching job was in Van Buren. A search in the yearbook collection at Ancestry.com yielded a photo of her in that capacity. Roberts Library does not have that yearbook in our collection, so it pays to look on Ancestry as well.
I was fortunate to have my mother in my life until she died in 2020. There is so much I knew about her, but looking back at the information from her college days, I have a better idea how my mother came to be the woman I knew.
By Alysanne Crymes, CALS Roberts Library Cataloguer