Thursday, September 9, 2010

Taking a stroll through history: my grandmother's high school yearbook

I think that, often, when we're doing genealogy, we get up in the formality of it all - finding records, verifying records, recording all our information as accurately as possible. It's thorough, and it's good, but it's kind of cold and impersonal. It takes the human face off of genealogy - this is family, after all. It's okay to not treat them completely like strangers.

I talked about it a little when I talked about the importance of recording nicknames as well as full names, about recording the names their family and friends knew them by, but I think it's also why photos and letters and personal effects are important, too. These things remind you that this person isn't just a name and a date, that he or she was real - they had friends and hobbies and sometimes they took goofy photos instead of the formal portraits you usually see. They made mistakes and had flaws - they fell in love and they had bad hair days.

Anyway, I have all four of my grandmother, Mary Cronin Raynor's, high school yearbooks. She graduated from Freeport High School in Freeport, Long Island, New York, in 1933. This is the inside cover of the yearbook from the year she graduated:

You know, like I think sometimes we have these pictures and focus on these pictures and put the emphasis on these pictures of our ancestors when they were old. Sometimes we see them as babies. Or when they get married. But they were teenagers, too. Some of them even went to high school like we did.

That's my grandmother in the upper right hand corner. To be honest, she looks a lot older and mature than the 18-year-olds I went to high school with. A lot of the kids in her yearbook do, I think. But some of the girls look young, with their smiling. As do the boys, with their goofy hairdos. My grandmother's caption reads, "Plain without pomp, rich without show," which I think describes her perfectly, and her activities include hockey, basketball, glee club, the Masque and Wig club, Spanish club, and science club. Which are all things I never would have pictured her doing, so that's kind of cool.

That's my grandfather, Clifford Raynor, who was Mary Cronin's husband, in the top left corner. He was a year older but graduated the same year as her. Not surprisingly, he was not involved in any school activities, and his caption, "Be silent, and safe; silence never betrays you," feels right when I remember the way he was.

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