The August Society hangout provided a focus on ‘School Days’. The presenters – myself and Kim Baldacchino, the Society’s Webmaster – provided an overview of the education system in the United Kingdom and a case study of the records available, along with some gems which can be located in the archival documents.
Looking at the various educational establishments, over the past two centuries in particular, helps to gauge the chances of finding any records of your ancestor’s schooling. Census returns refer to young people as ‘scholar’ but what type of school did they attend? A Dame School, Factor School, National School … the list is long and the record sources vary enormously.
If you know the name of the school, you may find it is still there and in possession of its own archives. Alternatively, the records may be deposited in the local studies library, county record office or, in the case of church schools, in the denomination’s archives. You can work out where your ancestor may have been educated by consulting contemporary directories.
Church of England school records may be located among other parish papers, while workhouse school records will be held with those of poor law unions. Family papers may often contain school reports, team photographs and leaving certificates.
Access to Archives is an excellent online resource providing the facility to search and browse for information about collections of records, cared for in local record offices and libraries, universities, museums and national and specialist institutions across England and Wales, where they are made available to the public. A quick search for ‘school’ and ‘Cornwall’ provides 8,220 hits of which 7,794 documents are held at Cornwall Record Office.
Some school registers are available on the commercial family history sites, with Findmypast publishing millions of school records (as reported on their site in October 2013):
Using her one-place study of Bratton Clovelly, Kim provided a fascinating case-study with details of the schools in the parish and some of the records she had located. Don’t count on finding name lists in the early days of public education but there is a lot of ‘context’ information which help you to get a sense of your place. After the Elementary Education Act in 1870, school boards were established with lots of rules and hence, lots of records including admission registers, school board minutes, log books, punishment books and more.
The admission registers hold the names of the attendees of the school and, more often than not, their parent/guardian, birth date, level of education and reason for leaving which helps enormously to track migration into and out of the one-place community. Kim also shared some amusing snippets from the punishment books which have helped to identify the troublemakers of her parish!
Enjoy your discoveries – you never know what you might find! If you weren’t able to join us for the Live Hangout, the recording and comments are available in the Society’s Google+ Community.
Chapman, C.R. The growth of British education and its records, Lochin Publishing, 2nd edn (1992)
Herber, M. Ancestral Trails, Sutton Publishing (2004)
Horn, P. The Victorian and Edwardian Schoolchild, Amberley Publishing (2010)