Saturday, 4 February 2012

School Records - Beyond the Internet-

Cassmob at Family History Across the Seas, has introduced a new series "Beyond the Internet" to highlight some of the sources for family stories beyond our computer screens.  The latest theme focuses on school registers.

I am beginning   with an admission that I have not used  school registers in my own Lancashire family history research.  And why not?    I agree there is always a fascination in seeing any contemporary record relating to an ancestor, but,   to be honest,  I don't think they would add anything to my already existing knoweldge - in other words I know the names, dates of birth, and addresses of my immediate family, where they went to school and the fact they left when they were 14 years old.    I also have local background material on the school, including photographs,  from chapters on education in local histories.  So the bottom line is, I'm afraid, I simply have not got round to it.    

There are some added factors  -  I  live  150 miles away from the Lancashire Record Office.  Also Data Protection legislation can apply to accessing information under 100 years, relating to children, and this covers the period of time for my mother and her brothers and sisters at school.  Though there is still the option to search for my  grandfather and his many siblings.

However I have been prompted by Cassmob's posting to do an online search at the Lancashire Record Office  for the appropriate school registers, but without success,  so more investigation called for here.  I would also like to find out more about my Aunt Edith who became a teacher and eventually infant head - I presume she began as a pupil teacher, c.1920's,  as I was never aware that she went away to college.

But to be more postive, I now live in the  Scottish Borders amd school records are one of the most popular requests at my local archive centre, the Heritage Hub, Hawick, with much more material available beyond the simple school register.


Scottish  school records date largely from the setting up of school boards following the Education (Scotland) Act of 1872. This opened formal education to all children, and placed local control and funding in the hands of school boards.

Records can be found amongst Council Papers, but largely relate to the many small rural schools that have since closed -  with other  records  remaining with schools still operating and not easily accessed.


The School Log Book was  a diary compiled by the head teacher, recording daily events - attendances (or lack of it due to infectious diseases, bad weather, farm work and estate work etc.), subjects being taught, inspector visits, school accommodation, and special events such as prize giving, holidays or a visit of a menagerie to the town.
The names of teachers may occasionally feature in log books, but individual pupils are only named in the case of exceptional incidents, such as an unfortunate boy at Duns who fell off a sledge and was taken to hospital, with a dislocated hip.

Log Books are a great source for getting a  glimpse of school life. For example:

1895 - At Lindean, near Selkirk, the school master recorded the fact that "had to abandon handwriting due to the intense cold". What an image this conveys of children not being able to hold the pen or pencil in their chilblain hands!


1882 and 1889 - At both Galashiels and Lindean there were entries for Christmas Day, though the children were allowed home early - an example of the Scottish attitude to Christmas with Hogmonay  the more important celebration.

1873 - At Glenholm, Peeblesshire, a school inspector reported "This small school was taught by Mr Grieve in an intelligent, painstaking and efficient manner". We would all love to find such a  testimonial on an ancestor.  [See below]

1881 - Sometimes there was just a note "usual routine" or "no comment". At Wilton Dean School, Hawick, the disheartened teacher wrote in July – "Very dispirited – need my holiday".  

School Board Minute Books – record information on the school management, finance, appointment of staff etc., so if your ancestor was a teacher, these are the documents to consult.

County Council Education Committee Minutes - record aspects of overall management including policy, finance, school appointments etc. Minutes of 1939-1940 were very much concerned with the numbers and impact of evacuees sent to the Borders from the cities on the outbreak of war.

So follow Cassmob's advice - go "Off to School" and hunt out records in your archive centre. They can give  an illuminating  picture of your ancestors' school life. 
  Glenholm School Log Book, 1873 (P/ED/2/1)
With acknowledgement to the Heritage Hub, Hawick  - www.heartofhawick.co.uk/heritagehub

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for a great post again Susan. What a shame there's nothing in the Lancs records which can add to your family knowledge.

    What fantastic records you have at the Hawick Heritage Hub! There's surely great opportunities there for anyone with ancestry in the Scottish borders. I love the log books but I feel so sorry for those poor wee bairns (as my Grandma would have said). Fancy being so cold you couldn't write. Even if there's no specific mention of an ancestor these records would add great depth to their background experiences. Thanks again for joining in.

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