When MyHeritage first began autosomal DNA testing, I transferred my autosomal DNA test to MyHeritage (for free) and purchased a records subscription with little hope that a company out of Israel would have the focus or records to provide anything that an American company wouldn’t already have, or that I, as a decades long genealogist wouldn’t have already uncovered. But genealogists are desperate creatures and we’ll try anything once.
I’m happy to say, I was wrong.
The combination of my DNA and my tree, separately and together has provided a smorgasbord of new information. Of course, I view other people’s trees with the requisite grain of salt, or the entire lick, same as anyplace else. However, the MyHeritage record matches are golden, as are the DNA Smartmatches which combine DNA matches and trees with common ancestors. Just yummy!
At Rootstech 2018 when Gilad Japhet, MyHeritage’s CEO announced that they were digitizing yearbooks, I thought that was nice, but I don’t care about my own generation and yearbooks wouldn’t be relevant for my parents and grandparents.
My Mom graduated in 1940 and her parents were born in 1882 and 1888. Did yearbooks even exist as a “thing” back then? Even if they did, my mother’s family was from a small Brethren farming community in northern Indiana and my father’s family from a mountain community in Appalachia. I guarantee you there were no yearbooks in Claiborne County, Tennessee at that time. There were barely schools.
Well, guess what – I was wrong again.
I sure am glad I have that MyHeritage subscription.
Here’s the notification e-mail I received.
When I saw the year, 1966, I almost deleted this e-mail, but I’m so glad I didn’t. It seems that the 1966 Leesburg High School yearbook included historical photos which MyHeritage indexed as well.
Yearbooks, it turns out, aren’t just for high schools.
In 1900, the entire school in Oswego, Indiana turned out in front of the building for a photo. My grandfather, John Whitney Ferverda, was among the students and so were several of his siblings.
The Ferverda family was a significant contributor to the Oswego student population that year.
I didn’t know that my grandfather attended school at Oswego. They lived near Leesburg, so I assumed he attended school there. There’s that nasty word again. It appears that that Oswego children were considered Leesburg alumni? How’s that, when my grandfather turned 18 years old in 1900, so clearly graduating that year or the next?
The answer is found in a Fort Wayne, Indiana newspaper article in 1917 stating that:
“The first real commencement exercises of the Leesburg High School were held last week in the Methodist Church. Leesburg adopted the four-year high school last year and not much attention was paid to the graduating class.”
There were only two graduates in 1917, Donald Ferverda, my grandfather’s brother, being the valedictorian.
I’ve researched in the local libraries in the area too, and either they don’t have these yearbooks, or I never thought to look. The great thing about these notifications is that you don’t have to know to look. Plus, I would have NEVER looked in 1966, for anything, in Leesburg. My family was long gone by then.
The family always said they were from Leesburg, probably because “Grandma Ferverda” moved to town in her later years, but the original family farm was actually probably closer to Oswego.
I know, from family members that the Ferverda family lived on the same road as the Old Salem Church of the Brethren, about a mile south of the church. Unfortunately, Google Street view doesn’t follow the length of this road.
In any case, wherever the farm was located on this couple mile stretch, it wasn’t far from Oswego – actually closer than to Leesburg.
But that wasn’t the only surprise.
Yearbooks aren’t just for students.
My grandfather, John Ferverda, married Edith Lore in 1908 and they settled down the road about 20 miles in Silver Lake, Indiana where John was the railroad station master.
My mother graduated from Silver Lake High School in 1940, and beginning in 1946, my grandfather became a trustee. Who knew!
These yearbook photos provide some wonderful mid-life photos of my grandfather – none of which I’ve ever seen before. It looks like the trustees had their pictures taken every year too. My grandfather would have been 64 in 1946 and 68 in 1950, so this gives me a 5 year span of pictures.
The next mystery is why his name is in capital letters when not all of the trustees were.
John Ferverda continued as a trustee through 1950 which included a larger photo page as well.
Of course, this now begs the question of whether there were yearbooks when my mother was attending school in Silver Lake. I doubt it, but I’d surely love to be wrong for the third time. It’s back to MyHeritage to look.