skip to content

School Records (Education) (including Ireland & Scotland)

Nature of Source

Records generated from the running of educational establishments with admission registers, attendance/log books the most likely to contain information on individuals. The numerous miscellaneous school records such as school log books, minute books, school magazines and school brochures provide an insight into the daily life of the pupil and of the school. In addition, admissions are sometimes found in the minute books. Public schools hold extensive records.

The Education Act of 1870 in England established the framework for compulsory schooling of children between the ages of 5 to 13, overseen by elected school boards. Although the Act established the principle of compulsory education for children, the schooling was not free until fees were abolished in 1891. Secondary education became available to all following the establishment of Local Education Authorities in 1902. The Education (Scotland) Act of 1872 was the equivalent to the English Act. Most admission registers and log books survive from this period onwards as state support required the maintenance of registers. Up to the 19th century, education largely remained the preserve of the children from the landowning classes through the network of public schools and the newly emerging middle classes with grammar schools. A few Christian charity schools were established for the working classes.

Despite the growing number of children attending school, less than half of the 3.5 million children in 1861 attended school. In 1893 the school leaving age stood at 11 years of age and then 12 years in 1899 before reaching 14 in 1914. The age was raised to 15 in 1947 and then to 16 in 1965.

Before 1870 most elementary schools were run by religious and charitable organisations or livery companies. 18th century charity schools were dominated by the Church of England Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) founded in 1698. In 1811 the educational function of SPCK was taken over by the National School Society, run by The National Society for Promoting Religious Education (Church of England) which competed with the non-conformist schools. Other charitable schools included the Ragged Schools which were established by John Pounds around 1818 and grew in numbers to about 350 by 1870. Ragged schools were free and open to all regardless of religious denomination. In 1844, the Ragged School Union was established by Lord Shaftesbury. Thomas Barnardo set up a ragged school in the east end of London in 1867. The charitable Bluecoat schools originated in the 16th century and offered education for poorer boys through to 1870. The non-conformist British and Foreign School Society was established in 1814 which was the successor to The Society for Promoting the Lancasterian System for the Education of the Poor. The system of teaching was based on the work of the Quaker Joseph Lancaster with the first school opening in the 1790s in Borough Road, Southwark with a teacher training college following soon after. More schools and colleges opened under the auspices of the British and Foreign School Society and mainly attracted the children of nonconformists. The establishments were amalgamated with the West London Institute of Higher Education in 1976. Charitable schools were eventually absorbed into the new schools boards. Also refer to the records of Sunday schools which were introduced in 1780.

Industrial schools were established alongside workhouses following the new poor law of 1834 and offered the children of inmates as well as orphaned or abandoned children the opportunity to study and get an education and to learn a trade. The Industrial Schools Act of 1857 allowed magistrates to also send young offenders to such institutions. Reformatory schools on the other hand dealt with juveniles with criminal convictions and other juvenile delinquents and offered a much harsher regime. Reformatory schools were created following the Youthful Offenders Act of 1854.

The 1901 and 1911 online censuses allows for searches of institutions such as educational establishments. When searching for a person's school records look for establishments in the immediate vicinity as most children would have attended a school within walking distance of their home. For lists of local schools, consult local directories.

In Scotland the Presbyterian Church of Scotland otherwise known as the Kirk established many elementary schools following the Scottish Reformation of 1560. These schools were essentially used by the Kirk to instruct children in religious matters. By the mid-17th century it had become compulsory for every parish to provide a school funded by local landowners who were known as the parish heritors. The Scottish term for a schoolmaster working in such an institution was a 'dominie'. Whilst the coverage of schools became well established in the Lowlands, few schools were established in the Highlands. In the 18th century charitable organisations such as the Protestant 'Scottish Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge' (SSPCK) began to establish schools in the Highlands. In the expanding urban areas during the late 18th and early 19th centuries the influence of the Kirk was pervasive resulting in a lack of schooling. Some private schools existed and some Kirk Sunday schools but the main provision of schooling came in the form of charitable 'ragged schools' began by John Pounds around 1818 in Portsmouth, England. The first such school in Scotland was set up by Thomas Guthrie in Edinburgh in 1847 and spread to other part of Scotland. The Education (Scotland) Act 1872 established local school boards and made schooling compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 and 13, later raised to 14 in 1883 and 15 in 1945. The Education (Scotland) Act 1918 provided further reform including state funding for Roman Catholic schools. Secondary education was not available to many people until fees were abolished in 1892. The records of schoolmasters can be found in greater numbers than the records of pupils.

Also see
Teacher Records
University & College Records

Where Found

Society of Genealogists (School and university registers and histories mainly from grammar and public schools but also including some ordinary schools and religious schools. For lists of school registers and where to locate them, consult the SoG publication 'School, university and college registers and histories in the library of the Society of Genealogists', 2nd ed. 1996)
County Record Offices
The National Archives Library
Individual School Archive
Local Authority Education Departments
Guildhall Library
London Metropolitan Archives
Church of England Record Centre (The centre holds the archives of the central institutions of the Church of England and their predecessor organisations. Their holdings include the records of the National Society for Promoting Religious Education, histories of church schools and an index of National Society school teachers from 1812-1855. Some Church schools in the Dioceses of London and Southwark have deposited their records at the Centre. For more information see Using the Church of England Record Centre)
Children's Society Records and Archive Centre
(The documents in The Children's Society archive give historians a glance at what life was like for children over a century ago. The archive charts changes in the practice of childcare between Victorian and Edwardian times and today. The Post Adoption and Care Service has records of those who were either adopted or in the care of The Children’s Society. The Children's Society was established in 1881 and originally known as the Waifs and Strays' Society with The Society had children's homes throughout England and Wales and provided care and accommodation for impoverished and disadvantaged children. The History Blog provides stories focussing on the Society’s history)
British and Foreign School Society Archive Centre (The archive [held by Brunel University] holds many of the records from schools and the teacher training colleges based on the educational theories of Joseph Lancaster. The collections include application forms, registers and minute books. The archive library also holds many early books and pamphlets relating to educational matters. A catalogue of the archive's holdings is available at the website and at the Heritage Builds Bridges website)
Institute of Education Library & Archives (The archives holds extensive collections of current and historical materials on education and related areas of social science. The archives consist of collections deposited by people and educational organisations and of the Institute of Education itself. The library houses a collection of journals, books and documents on all aspects of education)
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) (Northern Ireland school registers)
National Archives of Ireland
ScotlandsPeople Centre (The ScotlandsPeople Centre is the official government resource for family history research. Most records relate to the individual school and not individual pupils. References to schools can be found amongst Scotch [later Scottish] Education Department, Kirk Sessions and heritors' minutes and Burgh council minutes. Other resources include the Scottish Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge records. ScotlandsPeople Centre is a partnership between the National Records of Scotland and the Court of the Lord Lyon. The National Records of Scotland was created on 1 April 2011 by the amalgamation of the National Archives of Scotland and General Register Office for Scotland)
County Record Offices (Scottish records)
Individual School Archive (Scottish records)
Local Authority Education Departments (Scottish records)

Period Covered

1550 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Pupil’s first and second name, date of admission and discharge, age, date of birth, parentage (sometimes mother’s maiden name) and previous schools attended. Parents’ occupation and family address.

Further References

Chapman, Colin. The Growth of British Education and its Records: Lochin Publishing, 1992


Chapman, Colin. Basic Facts about Using Education Records: Federation of Family History Societies, 1999


Cowper, Alexandrina Stewart. SSPCK Schoolmasters, 1709-1872: Scottish Record Society, 1997 (Society in Scotland for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge)


Craigie, James. A Bibliography of Scottish Education before 1872: Scottish Council for Research in Education, 1970


Elverstone, Robert. Absent Through Want of Boots: Diary of a Victorian School in Leicestershire: The History Press, 2014


Harwood, Elain. England's Schools: History, Architecture and Adaptation: English Heritage, 2010


Jacobs, Phyllis M. Registers of the Universities Colleges and Schools of Great Britain and Ireland: Institute of Historical Research, 1964


May, Trevor. The Victorian Public School: Shire Publications, 2009


May, Trevor. The Victorian Schoolroom: Shire Publications, 1994


Oates, Jonathan. Tracing Your London Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians
Pen & Sword Books, 2011


Oldham Hughes, Walter. The Register of Tonbridge School from 1820 to 1886: Beecroft, 1886 (available to download or read online at the Internet Archive)


Steed. H.E. The Register of Tonbridge School from 1826 to 1910: Rivingtons, 1911


Torrance, D. Richard. Scottish Trades, Professions, Vital Records and Directories: A Selected Biography: Scottish Association of Family History Societies, 1998 (The book contains a bibliography of works which contain lists of Scottish people trades people including students and teachers)


Webb, Cliff. An Index of London Schools and their Records: Society of Genealogists, 2007


Wilkes, Sue. Tracing Your Ancestors' Childhood: Pen and Sword Books, 2013


Woolf, Alex. Past in Pictures: A Photographic View of Schools: Wayland, 2014


TNA Research Guides

Transcribed and indexed school admission registers have been published by numerous Family History Societies. Other published public school registers are available to view or download at Google Books or the Internet Archive.

Websites (Looking for records of a teacher or pupil)
(Education in England: The History of our Schools. The site provides information and original source material relating to the development of England's school system) (The Children's Home: The site is created by Peter Higginbotham which began as a spin-off of his Workhouses web site. The website aims to provide information on institutions that became home for thousands of children and young people in Britain. These establishments range from orphanages, homes for those in poverty, and children with special needs, through to reformatories, industrial and approved schools, training ships, and hostels. As well as details of each home's location, history etc. the site includes hundreds of historic images of the buildings and their inmates) (Victorian Times Project: Sections include Education, The beginnings of a national system) (FamilySearch Research Wiki: England Schools) (Education Legislation in England since 1800) (Institute of Education Archives Subject Guide No 8 Family History) (Institute of Education Archives Subject Guide No. 9 Education in London, 1870-1990) (Institute of Education Archives Subject Guide No 8 Family History) (Family and Community Historical Research Society: School Log Books Project) (History of The British and Foreign School Society) (History of The British and Foreign School Society) (British Schools Museum)
(The Ragged School Museum) (The Maybole Ragged School, Ayrshire) (History of Ragged Schools) (Online archive of the first 100 years of the Church of England charity the Children's Society formerly the Waifs and Strays Society. Resources include photographs, a selection of children's case files, histories of the homes and Society publications. Specialist articles include a History of the Waifs and Strays' Society and Ragged Schools, Industrial Schools and Reformatories)
(Instructions and regulations for certified industrial schools) (Extracts from reports on the Liverpool Industrial Ragged School, Soho St) (John Pounds of Portsmouth Heritage Appeal: website promoting the life and work of John Pounds of Portsmouth originator of ragged schools) (Information on industrial and reformatory schools in England and Wales in the 19th and 20th centuries, including lists of children and the teaching staff at several schools) (Guildhall Library guide to Christ's Hospital & Bluecoat School records) (Victorian London: Includes a section on Education) (London Metropolitan Archives: Education in London: Guide to School records held at the LMA) (Building on History: the Church in London: Researching Schools) (Barnardo's photo archive. Requests for archive material are only dealt with by post or email) (Harrow school photos)
Scotland (History of education in Scotland, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) (National Records of Scotland: Research Guides: Education Records) (The Scottish Educational System 1840-1940) (Education Following the Reformation in Scotland) (Scottish Archive Network Knowledge Base: Education in Scotland) (Scottish Archive Network Knowledge Base: Guide to Scottish School Admission Registers)

Online Databases

Online Catalogues (Listing of online catalogues for the partial whereabouts of records including Access to Archives [A2A], National Register of Archives [NRA], TNA Catalogue, Aim25, Scottish Archive Network, National Register of Archives for Scotland) (National School Admission Registers & Log-Books 1870-1914: Details of pupils from over 1,500 schools in England and Wales with transcripts and original images. Information can include the child’s birth date, admission year, school attended, parents’ names, father’s occupation, exam results and any illnesses that led to absence from school. Currently there are records from 28 counties in England and Wales: Anglesey, Bedfordshire, Breconshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Caernarvonshire, Cardiganshire, Cheshire, Denbighshire, Devon, Flintshire, Glamorganshire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Licolnshire, Middlesex, Monmouthshire, Northamptonshire, Pembrokeshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex, Wiltshire, York)
(Britain, School and University Register Books. The records consist of digitised copies of school and university register books. In addition to Scotland, county coverage includes: Berkshire, Cambridgeshire, Cumberland, Derbyshire, Devon, Dorset, Durham, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, London, Middlesex, Northumberland, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Somersetshire, Surrey, Warwickshire, Yorkshire)
(Surrey institutional records 1788-1939. Records from 16 institutions across, including poor law unions, workhouses, schools, infirmaries, goals and more)
(Ireland National School Registers, 1860-1920. Discover your ancestors in 19th century school records from across Ireland, north and south) (School Lists & Yearbooks: Datasets include: London School Admissions and Discharges, 1840-1911; London, School Admissions and Discharges, 1912-1918. The database has indexes covering a number of London Boroughs developed in partnership with the London Metropolitan Archives; Registers of Admission including Cambridge and Oxford alumni; Perthshire, Scotland, School Registers of Admission and Withdrawals, 1869-1902. Browsable images include Sudbrook School Admission Registers, 1881-1928, Derby School Register 1570-1901, Eton College Register 1698-1752, Uppingham School Roll 1824-1921; Somerset, School Registers, 1860-1914)
(London, Poor Law School District Registers, 1852-1918. This collection comprises admission and discharges of more than 219,000 students from Poor Law school districts)
(West Yorkshire, Reformatory School Records, 1856-1914. This database contains records from three reform or industrial schools in West Yorkshire: Records include admissions, commitments, and discharges) (School, College & University Registers. County coverage includes: Berkshire, Cumberland, Derbyshire, Devon, Dorset, Durham, Edinburgh, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Kent, Lancashire, London, Middlesex, Northumberland, Oxfordshire, Rutland, Shropshire, Somerset, Suffolk, Sussex, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, Yorkshire) (University Alumni Records; School Registers 1499-1950's including Tonbridge School Register 1826-1910) (Glamorgan Schools Admission Registers 1768-1911)
(Surrey, Southwark, St Saviour's Grammar School Admissions 1690-1895) (The Manchester Collection: School Registers for a number of Manchester area schools covering the years 1870 to 1916 including the Manchester Certified Industrial School, Ardwick Green. The original records are held by Manchester Archives and Local Studies) (School, College & University Registers) (Admission registers for Cheshire schools, 1796-1950)
(Bath Record Office: Bath Ancestors Database: Bathforum School Admission Registers; Blue Coat School Admissions and Apprenticeships) (Sheffield Indexers: School Admission Registers. Online searchable database for Sheffield Schools including; All Saints School, Pitsmoor, Beighton School in Beighton (DBY), Bole Hill School, Bole Hill Rd, Walkley, Crookesmoor Infants School, Crookesmoor Road and Lancasterian Special School, Sheffield and many more) (Jean McCarthy's Genealogy Web Site, Ireland - school rolls & photos) (Information on industrial and reformatory schools in England and Wales in the 19th and 20th centuries, including lists of children and the teaching staff at several schools) (School records including Rugby school registers, 1675-1857 and Manchester Grammar School, 1888-1951)
(Surrey History Centre Indexes: Mayford Industrial School admissions 1895-1907; The Royal Philanthropic School at Redhill registers of admission; Princess Mary Village Homes pupils 1870-1890) (Heritage Builds Bridges - catalogue of the holdings of London Borough of Hillingdon, the British and Foreign School Society & Brunel University) (School admission lists in partnership with Anguline Research Archives. See for coverage details) (Family History Books: Searchable collection of more than 40,000 digitized genealogy and family history publications. The collection includes heraldic visitations, Phillimore parish register indexes, school registers, Phillimore calendars of wills, family histories, county and local histories, genealogy magazines and how-to books, gazetteers, medieval histories and pedigrees)
Emerald Ancestors (School Registers, 1892 to 1938, County Down. The site offers online access to Ulster birth, marriage, death, will and census records for Irish ancestors in counties Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone as well as access to Ulster history book reprints)

CD Roms

Archive CD Books
S & N Genealogy Supplies
TWR computing
Back to Roots
Anguline Research
UK Genealogy Archives
Midlands Historical Data (Bromsgrove School Register, 1553-1905 & The Free Schools of Staffordshire, 1860)
Parish Chest (Tonbridge School Register 1826 to 1910, edited by H.E. Steed and published in 1911)