School records can be a great wealth of information for your genealogy research. You might be surprised what you can learn from certain record sets. As always, the information you can get will vary from record to record, but below is a list of key details you can learn from various school record sets.
Findmypast has over 10 million school records from the US, Canada, Britain, Ireland, and Australia, so if you haven't dived into school records yet, now's a great time to start.
Don't forget that school records will not only reveal information about the students of the school, but the staff and teachers as well, so if your ancestor worked in education, there's a possibility you can find them in one of our school records collections.
Here's what the records you may find could look like:
Please note that this list is non-exhaustive and that there are many details you can learn from school records, but here are some of the key details you can learn from school and education records:
1. Child's age they went to school and date of birth
If you're struggling to find birth information on your ancestor, try looking into school records to help you pinpoint a date range from when your ancestor was born to aid in your search. School records may be incorrect for a variety of reasons, for example, a parent may have lied about the child's age to get them enrolled in school or perhaps there was a clerical error and an incorrect date was recorded, so it is best practice to verify your findings with other sources. If you find a birth date on a school register or admissions record, take note and use those dates to help you search for original primary source documents.
2. Parent's names
One of the places people hit brick walls is when they're searching for their ancestor's parents, especially the further you go back. One great place to look is in school records because the parent's of a child are typically listed in the set. The school records won't likely give you your ancestor's maiden name, but it will definitely provide your ancestor's father's name. If your ancestor didn't live with their parents then this is a great way to see who they lived with because it will often indicate the relationship of the student to the guardian, who may be an aunt or uncle.
3. Parent's occupation
Finding your ancestor's occupation is always a fun discovery because it gives you more in-depth insight into what life was like for your ancestor and it helps tell the story of your ancestors. Plus, the more you know about your ancestor, the easier it makes piecing clues together.
4. Address of your ancestor and if they moved
On admissions records the address of your ancestor is commonly listed, so you can use this information to help you look through local censuses, newspapers, local land records, etc. What else is helpful is the last "Remarks" column included on many admissions records. This column can indicate why a child left school and when. This column might say that on a certain date they left school because they left town, which will provide you clues if you're struggling to find your ancestor in town records and maybe didn't realize that they had left, or didn't know when they left. It's also worth investigating the column that lists the last school attended because that will provide information where your ancestor may have lived prior to attending this particular school. In many cases it will just be a primary school to middle school switch, etc. but sometimes it can indicate that your ancestor moved.
If your ancestor moved you might see this in the remarks column:
5. Death information
Although this data is rarer than the rest, school admissions and registration records can provide information on the death of your ancestor. Sometimes in the remarks column following the reason why a particular student left the school you might see either "deceased" or "dead" written in, along with the date they left the school. This record could be one of your few clues into your ancestor's death and might be just the record set to break through that brick wall.
6. Glimpse into your ancestor's school life
School logs don't typically provide any key vital information for genealogical research, but they are a great resource for learning what life was like for your ancestor. The logs were kept by teachers and staff and highlight the day to day activities and observations of the classroom. You might find your ancestor's name in the logbook if he/she misbehaved or you might see who visited the classrooms or what lessons the teacher had planned. School logs are another great resource for getting to know and understand who your ancestors really were apart from their birth dates and names.
School records can be an unexpected place to find those vital clues to help with your family history research.