The Lambton Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society is asking for help in its search for yearbooks from Petrolia’s high school as it builds a research-assisting yearbook archive.
“Yearbooks are a wonderful way of doing family research, especially the ones going back to the 1900s,” said Society member Jane Teskey, adding Petrolia’s school is significant because it has always be home to students from communities throughout Lambton County.
Each yearbook is scanned page by page using an overhead scanner made by Fujitsu. The scanner produces a high-quality image of the book while protecting the fragile spine and pages.
“It doesn’t bend the binding or anything. We just open the book and scan it from the top,” said Teskey. “We’ve done bibles that are 100-years old and it doesn’t wreck the pages.”
The high school in Petrolia opened in 1884 and was known as Petrolia High School until 1962 when it was renamed Lambton Central Collegiate and Vocational Institute, or LCCVI.
While the Society has had good luck finding more recent yearbooks, coming across yearbooks that pre-date 1951 has proved to be more challenging.
“It’s the ’30s and ’40s we would really like to find,” said Teskey.
But the search doesn’t end there. Teskey said she is aware of Petrolia yearbooks from the mid-1920s.
The Lambton Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society has already helped collect yearbook archives with the former Sarnia Collegiate Institute and Technical School (SCITS) and Forest’s North Lambton Secondary School (NLSS), according to Teskey.
Before the collection of Petrolia yearbooks can be published, Teskey said the Genealogical Society must talk with LCCVI because the school owns the yearbook’s copyright.
The group doesn’t plan on stopping after LCCVI.
“We would love to do all Lambton schools,” said Teskey.
Teskey said yearbooks help researchers because some records such as census data and birth records may be unavailable before certain dates or missing information.
In one case, Teskey was able to use information in a circa 1867 yearbook to track down a family member who later became a doctor living in California.
“Hopefully in 25 years, people will be able to look at the collection and say: Hey, that’s my Grandpa,” she said.
Teskey said she is able to scan and return yearbooks if one would like to keep his or her collection or yearbooks can be donated to the Lambton County Archives. Anyone with an old Petrolia high school yearbook can get in touch with Jane Teskey by calling 519-882-0835 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We know there’s yearbooks out there,” she said.