Reimagine your ancestor's childhood with old school records
3-4 minute read
By The Findmypast team
With Findmypast's exclusive collection of online school registers, you can discover details of your ancestor's early years that you won't find anywhere else. With these records, you can unlock amazing stories that can define your present and shape your future.
Ever wondered what school was like for your relatives back in the day? Now you can find out. Because, only on Findmypast, you can explore National School Admission Registers and Log-books 1870-1914. In partnership with dozens of archives and institutions throughout England and Wales, we've brought this collection of millions of historical records from thousands of schools online for the very first time.
In particular, this exciting collection captures a snapshot of school life across the UK prior to the First World War and reveals stories of tragedy and stoicism as well as everyday school life. The school records show fascinating details of the final school days of the lost generation of young men who fought at the front, many of whom did not return, including war poet Wilfred Owen.
The fascinating records include handwritten registers, log-books (diaries recording the daily occurrences at the school, including absences, illnesses, visitors and holidays) and attendance records, revealing our ancestors’ school days in detail.
The records show that classes including Responsibility, Duty, Sympathy and Self-Sacrifice alongside Criticism, Sewing and Objects were taught in schools in 1914 - a useful set of skills for the boys who had to leave school to fight for their country.
For those left behind, the quality of teaching is shown to have suffered; many classes were left without teachers as they went to fight at the front in Belgium and France. One teacher noted that;
"no real progress can be made by these classes under the circumstances".
Famous First World War soldiers' records
The school days of many First World War soldiers, poets and artists, including artist and writer Wyndham Lewis, and celebrated poet Wilfred Owen can be found in the records. Tragically, Owen didn’t return from the front, but his poetry about the horrors of war lives on.
The records show that, unlike many boys in his Birkenhead school, Owen didn’t pay an extra fee to do gym. However, his father, a Station Master, paid extra for his son to take ‘L’ - probably standing for 'Latin'. Could these lessons have inspired the famous war poem Dulce et Decorum est?
Although the school leaving age at the time of these records changed from 10 to 14 years, many children are shown to have left school early. Tragic reasons for early leaving include;
"discharge owing to impending blindness."
"died in workhouse hospital."
Children can be traced throughout their academic careers by their entries in the annual register. These records include infant schools with children as young as three, so you may be able to trace your ancestors' lives from infanthood onwards.
@findmypast Just found out that I went to the same junior school as my great-grandfather! Thanks to today's Findmypast Friday.— Michael Tulley (@michaeltulley64) September 11, 2015
The school registers contain details like;
- The name of and type of school
- Name and address of pupils
- Date of admission
- Date of leaving
- Name of parent and/or guardian
- Date of birth
- Whether parents are living or dead
- Parent’s occupation
Some might also include details of dental inspections, diphtheria immunisation, exemption from religious instruction and which subjects a pupil paid money to take.
Find historical school records from around the UK
The publication of this national collection marks the first time so many record offices, archives and schools from around the country collaborated on one project to digitise history. Check our full list of schools to see if your ancestor's features.
This is something I am working on right now, school records are so insightful especially some of the opinions of the teachers about the children!! I thought my teachers were mean.... they have nothing on their predecessors! #schoolsoutforsummer— Fill Your Roots (@FillYourRoots) July 7, 2020
This project brings together school records held by nearly 100 archives and schools throughout England and Wales and was facilitated by the Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland) – ARA - the lead membership body for archivists, records managers and conservator. It was conceived and coordinated by The National Archives.
Are there teachers in your family tree?
More scholarly discoveries await in our Teacher's Registration Council Registers. These records hold details of nearly 100,000 people who taught in England and Wales between 1870 and 1948. Unlocking your ancestor's teaching record can give you a unique glimpse into their educational career, with all their positions listed.