Skip to Main Content

Boston Public Schools Historical Research: Yearbooks

This guide provides resources and strategies for researching the history of the Boston Public School system, individual schools and guidance on finding high school yearbooks.

BPS History

Home - General histories of the Boston Public School system and individual schools

Busing Crisis - The most controversial era for the Boston Public Schools

Official Records - Available from the Boston Public Library or the Boston Public School Department

Schools - Researching specific school names, school buildings and images

Yearbooks - Finding yearbooks for specific schools

Yearbooks Basics

1942 Jamaica Plain High School page

Everyone loves a good yearbook photo.  How you define "good" is up to you.  Yearbooks can provide more than a photo.  Sometimes there are lists of school activities, nicknames, dreams, future plans.  They also provide a snapshot of the times - the hairdos, the fashions, the facial hair (or lack thereof) are visual bits of history.

The best place to look for school yearbooks is at the school's library/media center, if the school still exists.  For other possible sources of yearbooks, see the box below.  

While the search strategies below are specifically for Boston Public Schools, they can be applied to other large cities.  In smaller cities and towns, you should check at existing schools first and the public library second.

Yearbooks Search

City of Boston ArchivesClosed high schools are harder to track.  Your best bet is the City of Boston Archives.  The Archives has various school records, including yearbooks, for many of the closed schools.  

Can't find your school on the collections list?  Look on this listing of Mergers/Closings/Renamings for Boston Public Schools.  If the school merged rather than closed, check the tab for Existing or Merged High Schools.

In addition to yearbooks, the Archives has photos, school publications, graduation programs, and scrapbooks for select schools. Even if the yearbook you want is not available, these other school publications may have what you want.

The best place to look for old yearbooks from an existing high school is at that school's library/media center.  If a school merged into an existing high school, again check with the existing school's library/media center for both schools' yearbooks.  The school's website is a good place to find a direct contact to the school librarian. 

Current schools are listed on the Boston Public Schools website. Can't find your school on the website?  Look on this listing of Mergers/Closings/Renamings for Boston Public Schools.

Sometimes you get lucky and you find the school's yearbooks have been digitized.  Boston Latin School (1933-2006) and English High School (1935-2015) have digitized their collections of high school yearbooks and made them available on the Internet Archive.

If the school does not have a collection of yearbooks or does not have the year you want, ask if the librarian knows where the yearbooks can be found of if the school has an active alumni group.  An alumni group may have a collection of yearbooks of its own or may be willing to ask members if anyone has the yearbook you are seeking.


The Boston Public Library's collection of Boston Public High School yearbooks is small and select.  It is mostly the result of donations. The school's library is a better place to look.

However, to find yearbooks held by the Boston Public Library, search in the catalog for the high school as the author because the name of the yearbook will vary from school to school .  For example, Boston Latin School's yearbook is Liber Actorum while Jamaica Plain High School's is simply Senior Year Book.

Be sure to note the location where the book is available.  It could be a branch or a department with limited hours.  If you are lucky, it will be digitized and freely available online, like:

Jamaica Plain High School Senior Year Book, select years between 1942 and 1989
(The Jamaica Plain Historical Society has more years. Check under the "Other Options" tab for a link.)

Roslindale High School Yearbook, select years between 1937 and 1976.

1935 Mechanic Arts High School class photoOther organizations may own high school yearbooks. 

If the high school does not have a collection or not the year you need, ask if there is a school alumni group.  The alumni group may have yearbooks.  It also may have a newsletter and/or website.  Ask if the group is willing to post a notice or ad on your behalf asking if any members have the yearbook(s) you want.  While the alumni may not be willing to sell/give away the yearbook, they may allow you to copy or scan what you need.

Local historical societies also may have yearbooks in their collections.  For example, the Jamaica Plain Historical Society has even more years of the Jamaica Plain High School yearbooks than the Boston public library (as well as a handful from St. Thomas Aquinas High School) here.  Check for a neighborhood historical society in the neighborhood in which the school was located. 

Some schools, libraries, and societies are scanning their collections on the Internet Archive or Digital Commonwealth.  Search these websites using the school name and the word yearbook.

It is more of a long shot, but do not forget online used book sellers or class reunion websites.  Some families sell off inherited libraries from distant relatives and yearbooks become available this way. If there is no organized alumni group for a school, individual alumni may be registered on a class reunion website.  You can post a request for alumni from the school and year you want and ask if the alumni have copies of their yearbooks.

Yearbooks Repurposed

If you plan on re-purposing the photos and/or text from a yearbook, first check out the Copyright/Creative Commons, Trademarks, and Patents: Copyright/Creative Commons research guide for important information on public domain and links to information on the Fair Use Doctrine.  If you find a yearbook on Digital Commonwealth or Flickr, there will be a copyright statement.  Frequently, the copyright statement allows for limited usage.  You still need to check if your usage is covered.