E is for ….

20 October 2013


Two hundred years ago education, which we take for granted today, was a commodity only available to nobility and the rich. Before the twentieth century, relatively few people needed to be able to read or write, since there were plenty of jobs that did not need literacy and numeracy. It was up to individuals to arrange for their children’s education and there were a variety of different ways to deliver it. Reforms in the nineteenth century brought education to the masses and schools were founded for the poor, including elementary schools, ‘ragged’ schools and district schools with many Roman Catholic, Methodist and Baptist schools proliferating.

Records of your ancestors’ schooldays can provide a rare glimpse of their childhood. What school did they attend? How long did they attend for? How did they perform at school? You may find clues in original school records or printed registers, many of which survive from the nineteenth century and some date back to medieval times.

An article about Education was published in the Discover Your Ancestors Periodical in August 2013 and is available to download from the Discover Your Ancestors website. This includes some interesting reasons for children not attending Holsworthy Wesleyan School regularly during the year 1889/90:

F. Badcock – Delicate Health

W. Rees – Sickness

J. Ford – Employed

T. Wicks – Sickness of Sister

W. Sillifant – Liking for Wildlife

From 1862, all schools had to keep log books, written up in great detail by head teachers. These books recorded visitors to the school, inspections, holidays, staff changes, attendance, student awards and events of local significance.

Admission registers are mostly kept after 1870. In the front of the register, the masters and mistresses from the commencement of the school are noted and the admission records for the scholars contain a wealth of detail including date of admission, date of birth, name of parent/guardian, their academic progress, the school they came from and where they went on to attend (if applicable). The ‘remarks’ column available in some registers often contains fascinating snippets such as ‘left for service’, ‘left the district’, ‘wanted at home’, ‘dead’, ‘apprenticed to….’ and many other notes providing an insight into the lives of our forebears after leaving education.

So, what are you waiting for? Take a look at the Access to Archives database and/or the local record office catalogue to find out whether there are any education documents available for your area of interest.

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