This page is an introduction to UK School Registers and Records and in particular admission records, and how they can be used to help trace your ancestors.
For an example on how I used the school registers to track a Sheffield family in the 1910s and 1920s, then visit this page.
For details of which records are available now to be searched online, see this page.
If you're trying to trace your family tree, track down your ancestry, the starting point should be birth, marriage and death records and census records to try and form the skeleton of your family tree. These can all be searched on line now, with subscriptions from organisations like Find my Past and Ancestry or from free resources such as FreeBMD or FamilySearch.
Once the basics of your family tree are in place, you then want to flesh out the details, either finding those elusive ancestors that don't show up in the census or just finding out more about their lives.
One set of records that is now becoming available online that help you do this is school records, or school registers.
School records typically consist of
Admission Registers which contain pupil information such as name, date of birth, address and dates joined and left the school and possibly the parents' names
Log Books kept by the head teacher which can include details such staff and pupil absence, visitors and so on with occasional mention of individual pupils.
School Records are as old as schools themselves but the majority of records, log books and admission registers date from Victorian times, the latter half of the nineteenth century, in particular as a result of the changes to local education brought about by The Education Act of 1870.
Most local county archives hold school records for their areas but in the majority of cases these are not indexed nor are they available online.
Some records are available online, fuller details here.
Find my Past have online records for South Glamorgan Schools and Manchester Schools.
Ancestry have school records from the London Metropolitan Archives available. This covers admission and discharge details of over a million students from 843 schools in London.
In August 2013, BrightSolid who own Find my Past and GenesReunited announced a major project with a consortium of archives in England & Wales to make millions of school records available online. The registers being digitised are for the period from 1870-1914 and cover every region of England & Wales but no information is available yet as to when the first records will be made available. The cutoff date of 1914 appears to be to be following the 100 year rule of not releasing information about anyone living, or at least anyone under the age of 100 living.
This is an example of an admissions register from the Find my Past Manchester Schools collection (in this example I've removed some blank columns such as second address to make it fit on the web page)
Information given here includes the child's name and date of birth, parent's name and occupation and address, the previous school attended and date of admission and leaving.
The following is the preface from the Holborn Admission Register, a pre formatted register produced by a commercial printer and designed to meet the requirements laid down by the Education Department.
THE HOLBORN ADMISSION REGISTER
Adapted to meet the requirements of the Circular issued by the Education Department, July, 1873.
This register should be kept exclusively by the head teacher, at least once a week. Successive numbers should be alloted to the children on their admission, so that each child may have its own number, which it should retain throughout its school career. A child who returns to school after an absence of any duration, would resume its original admission number
This register should show distinctly for each child in the school.
(a) Its number on the register.
(b) The date of its admission or re-admission, day, month and year.
(c) Name in full, Christian and surname.
(d) The name and address of its parent or guardian.
(e) Whether exemption from religious instruction is claimed.
*(f) The exact date of the child's birth, day, month, and year.
*(g) The last school (if any) which it attended before entering this school.
(h) The highest standard which it was there presented.
(i) The successive standards in which presented in this school.
(k) The date of leaving.
Where several children of the same name attend they may be distinguished thus : "John Jones (a)," "John Jones (b)," &c.
This register should have an alphabetical index.
Special care must be taken to obtain exact information on these points from the parents, former teachers and Registrar of Births, if necessary
(not sure what happened to item (j) in the list!)
This is an extract from the preface of a later admissions register in use c.1900 where there was considerably more prescription of what had to be done.
1. The Code requires that managers of schools shall provide suitable records - registers, log-book, and cash book (Article 8); and, before any grant is made, the Education Department must be satisfied "that the admission and daily attendance of the scholars are carefully registered by or under the supervision of the principal teacher, and periodically verified by the managers; that accounts of income and expenditure are accurately kept by the managers and duly audited; and that all statistical returns and certificates of character are trustworthy."
2. The necessary books should be bought out of school funds and be the exclusive property of the school.
3. All entries must be original, not copied from slates, papers, or memoranda of any kind. They must be made from the first in ink. Pencil entries of any kind are altogether forbidden. There must be no erasures nor insertions. If it is necessary to make any correction, this should be done in such a manner that the original entry and the alteration made are both clear on the face of the record. The entries should be consecutive; no blanks should be left between them.
4. The name of the school should be distinctly written on the cover or title - page of each book.
5. In every school or department there should be:
(a) A register of admission, progress and withdrawal.
(b) Attendance registers.
(c) A register of summaries.
The pages of these registers must be numbered consecutively. Each register should be signed on the title page by the correspondent of the school, with the date at which it was supplied to the teacher. No leaf should be withdrawn from, or inserted in, any register. The registers presented to His Majesty's Inspector must be the original registers, which have been in use throughout the year, and on which the returns are based. The head teacher of a school or department will, in all cases, be held responsible for the proper keeping of the records of that school or department, and should not delegate to any subordinate the keeping of any of these registers, except those of attendance. A pupil-teachers who has completed his first year may register the attendances of his own class. A first year pupil-teacher may not be employed in registration.
6. The managers are held responsible for the efficient verification of the registration. Form 9 contains certificates to be signed by managers, (1) that the registers and books of account have been accurately kept in accordance with this Appendix; and (2) that the accuracy of the registers has been tested by the managers on several occasions and the result recorded in the log-book. In order that managers may be able to give these certificates, they are required to visit the school without notice, at least once in every quarter, at some time when the attendance registers should have been marked and added up for that meeting of the school and to check the entries. This should be done by ascertaining (1) that each of the children present at the time of marking has been marked present, and each of the children not so present has been marked absent; (2) that the totals of these attendances have been duly entered; (3) that the instructions for the keeping of these registers, hereafter laid down, have been fulfilled; and (4) that the admission register and summary have been properly kept up to date. The result of each visit should be entered by the visiting manager in the log-book, dated, and signed by him. The managers should also, at the end of the year, check the number of times the school has been opened, and also a sufficient number of the attendance totals (at least 10 per cent.) to convince themselves of the accuracy of the registration.
7. An entry for each scholar should be made in the Admission Register on his admission to the school. Successive numbers must be allotted to the scholars on their admission, so that each may have his own number, which he should retain throughout his career in the school, and which should be used to identify him. This will be especially useful when there are two or more scholars of the same name. When more than one entry is made for the same scholar, that is to say, when he has been admitted and re-admitted, he should resume his old number, and cross reference should be made to the entries.
8. No child's name should be removed from this register, until he has become exempt from legal obligation to attend school, unless it has been ascertained that he is dead, is attending another school, or has left the neighbourhood. If no information can be obtained, the name may be removed after a continuous absence of four weeks.
9. This register must show distinctly for each scholar who has actually been present in the
(a) His number on the register.
(b) The date of his admission (and re-admission) - day, month, and year.
(c) His name in full.
(d) The name and address of his parent or guardian.
(e) Whether exemption from religious instruction is claimed on his behalf.
(f) The exact date of his birth - day, month, and year.
(g) The last school he attended before entering this school. If this is his first school, the word "none" should be entered in this column.
(h) If he has left, the date of his last attendance at this school and the cause of his leaving.
10. This register must have an alphabetic index and be permanently preserved. It will be found convenient to enter all re-admissions in red ink.
THE EDUCATIONAL SUPPLY ASSOCIATION LTD., 42, HOLBORN VIADUCT
SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, HAMILTON, KENT & CO.
AND SOLD BY ALL BOOKSELLERS.
REGISTERED AT STATIONERS' HALL.
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