Was your grandfather a Columbia engineer?

At the University Archives we receive a number of requests every year about Columbia alumni: a grandfather, great aunt, parent, cousin, etc. For this purpose, we put together a research guide to help genealogists find information about former Columbia students. The guide offers the most popular or most frequently consulted sources, both online and available to researchers in person in our reading room.

survey with handwriting from 1926

1926 Columbia engineering student survey

We recently processed a collection of materials ideal for researchers interested in former engineering students, either an undergraduate or graduate student, who attended Columbia (whether or not they received a degree), and who were in attendance between the 1860s and 1927: the School of Engineering biographical records, 1926-1927.

In 1926 the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education led a study of engineering education, financed by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation. The Society felt changes were under way in the practice of engineering that needed to be addressed in the education of future engineers. At Columbia a Faculty Committee was appointed to work on this study and they decided to focus on the School’s alumni. The engineering school’s Alumni Association was also interested in securing data for a new edition of the Alumni List and Professional Record (last issued in 1912). And the same data would also be of value to the University Committee on General Catalogue for compiling the next Alumni Register. These three committees combined forces to finance a comprehensive questionnaire addressed to the engineering alumni. In 1926, 3,500 questionnaires were mailed to former students of the engineering schools: Schools of Mines, Engineering and Chemistry.

We have the 1,203 replies or completed survey questionnaires, organized alphabetically and then bound into 9 volumes, ready for researchers and genealogists to discover. The questionnaire asked for biographical information and a professional record. In the biographical section, researchers can find information about the respondents’ high school, college and professional courses and degrees as well as their college record: athletics, publications, societies, class offices, etc. For the professional record, respondents were asked to complete a work history up to their current position, including years, character of work, field of work, organization and notable achievements for each entry. Here researchers will find that some respondents decided to attach either handwritten or typed resumes detailing their careers.

For more information on how to access the University Archives collections, check out our Research & Access website. If you have any questions about how to find materials or how to access materials, please contact uarchives@columbia.edu.