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This guide was last updated in 2009

Local archives

Many school records will be held by local archives and as always the A2A, Archon and Archives Hub gateways can help track them down.

Next steps

Once you know the school your ancestor attended, the next step is to go local. It’s well worth approaching the family history society covering the region as many have ongoing school transcription/indexing projects.

Larger archives are also gradually adding more and more school material to the web – the London Metropolitan Archives, for example, is in the process of digitising 2,000 admission and discharge registers.

Sample documents

It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with records before tackling them head-on, and archive sites may include samples, such as the admission registers and staff records on the Peterborough Deacon's School website.

Berwick County Primary’s log book and Oldham’s site give a good introduction to local education, plus a complete list of schools and their archive references.

Existing research

You may be lucky and find that records have already been posted online by genealogists. The Rootsweb-hosted County Donegal school records, for example, includes record transcriptions from various schools in County Donegal, Ireland. Gathering The Jewels – the website for Welsh cultural history – has scanned extracts from a series of log books.

Individual school websites

A school’s own website will often include histories, archival holdings and the name of the school archivist, and more. The St George’s School, Edinburgh has a beautifully designed archive section; the City of Norwich School’s archives have staff lists and photographs of pupils and staff; while Dronfield Junior School, includes fascinating log book extracts, such as this entry from 25 October, 1880: “Attendance very low this week. It was much affected by the very wet weather and the floods in the lower part of the town which prevented the children coming from those neighbourhoods. Whooping cough very prevalent. The school room very cold on Friday, the thermometer only at 50 degrees at half past one.”

General resources

For a general history of education, Derek Gillard’s Education in England is both simply designed and comprehensive. Spartacus Educational contains hyperlinked sections on famous pioneering educators, although the huge number of ads may drive you potty; while the home of the History of Education Society has an excellent links page.


My Star Site

Stephanie Spencer, Senior Lecturer at the Centre for the History of Women's Education, University of Winchester

Manchester High School for Girls' archive

Manchester High School for Girls – whose former pupils included all three Pankhurst sisters, and the author Angela Brazil – had a reputation for academic excellence ahead of its time.

School archives can be a rich source of information but they are very patchy. Some are kept at record offices, some stay in the school. Some are beautifully catalogued and available to consult; others are kept in old cardboard boxes under the stage! (I’ve seen both).

Registers give names and dates of attendance; magazines note sports teams, debating societies, music groups, letters and records of old pupils.

Manchester High School for Girls has a wonderful website which, thanks to lottery funding, has put a lot of its material online. As one of the pioneering girls’ secondary schools in the 19th century, its records and photographs go back over 100 years – well worth a look!



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