My Mother was a teacher. It was one of the favoured occupations for girls and women a generation ago. Well, maybe three generations ago now.
She graduated from Normal School in 1938 on her way to becoming a teacher in Alberta. She had grown up near Irricana, Alberta and her first school appointment was at the Lake Thelma School near Coronation, Alberta. There is no town or village of Lake Thelma any more. People moved away to other, large towns and cities over the years. The school building is now used as a machine shed on a local farm. Little gets wasted with these old buildings.
We have photos of my mother’s first class. And one of the school itself, of course. She only put the first names of the students on the back, though, so it is not possible to fully identify the children (who would now be in their 80s and 90s).
Lake Thelma School, Alberta - 1939
Lake Thelma School class - 1939
I think most of us have photos of our old classes. Probably not many of us can name all the students in those photos. Many of the pictures will be glued into albums or creased and torn. For those of us who had children in school we likely have copies of all of their class pictures as well.
They are historic documents for people my age, even more so for generations prior to mine. Those kinds of photos are very difficult to find. Or identify when you do find some. The one below is glued down tight in my grandmother’s old photo album. It appears to have been taken in the late 1800s or early 1900s, possibly in Mapleton, North Dakota. She might even be in it but I can’t say for sure. Her album is full of pictures taken in North Dakota and Alberta from the 1890s to the 1910s but she did not write any names in it. I do recognize a few people but most of them I will likely never learn about.
Possible class in Mapleton, North Dakota – ca 1900
As we move forward in time I have many school pictures in our family albums, for me and my sisters, and for the kindergarten classes my mother taught in the 1960s. Again, it would be tough to find names for all the children shown in them. The one below is from my oldest sister’s grade 6 class I think. She is in the second row, third from the right.
Queen’s Park School, Calgary, Alberta - 1951
I think I can put most of the names to the faces in my grade 4 class from 1954 below. Of course I had a bit of help from a friend who is also in it. Yes, that is me in the front row on the left end. Howard, my best friend at the time, is on the right end of the same row.
Buchanan School, Calgary, Alberta - 1954
How many genealogist have teachers in the family? And what resources might they have in their memorabilia about former students?
Wouldn’t it be great to have a repository for old school class photos? They could be stored online now, and indexed for name, location, year, etc. What a resource that would be for genealogists!
Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated