Education Records for Genealogy

September 16th, 2010

While working at Queensland State Archives back in the 1980s, I became a fan of school admission registers when one of the projects I was involved in was the preparation of the registers for microfilming. This meant that I had to look at every register then in custody to ensure that conservation needs were met and appropriate heading sheets were prepared for each register. Admission registers for areas where my ancestors lived were obviously more interesting and flicking through the pages I saw many names familiar to me from those communities including some of my own family names.

For those not familiar with school admission registers or pupil registers as they are also known as, the following type of information is usually listed:

  • Date of first admission
  • Name of pupil
  • Date of birth
  • Name of parent and address (usually father)
  • Religion
  • Dates of admission to subsequent grades and leaving school.

I used the admission registers to locate dates of birth for various family members, as this was before the release of BDM records on open access, so the information was not readily available elsewhere. I also used the registers for tracking my mining ancestors as they moved from field to field.

When my Johnston family moved to Stanthorpe in the 1870s, I was able to find the children enrolled in the local Stanthorpe school which helped pin down an approximate date for when they decided to go tin mining and when they finally moved back to Brisbane. Similarly when my Potter and Bullen families left Gympie for the Gladstone goldfields I could trace some of their movements from the childrens’ school records.

The one drawback to using these records easily was the fact that there was no index for each school and no overall index if you didn’t know what school they might have gone to. By using parish maps I was able to see what schools were in particular areas and then checking to see if those registers were held, but it was a slow and time consuming process which took up many a lunch hour.

The Queensland Family History Society started a project to index school admission registers and published school histories and over the years the Society has published Queensland Schools Pupils Index Parts 1-4 on CD. These publications have been on my list of resources that I must look at  but I have never really had the time to do. Although I did a lot of school admission register searching in the 1980s, Queensland State Archives has received more registers into custody since then, plus I had not really looked at published school histories in any systematic way. Similarly, quite a few school histories have been published since the 1980s.

I am always telling people at my talks that they should revisit their research and check out new resources as more information is available now and it is often easier to access. This is particularly true of the Queensland school admission registers as I happened to notice that they are now available via as the Queensland Family History Society is a content partner.

I have subscriptions for both and as I find it easier and more convenient to do research at night or early in the morning when most libraries and archives are closed. So using my subscription, I finally accessed the QFHS Pupils Index, all four parts. To limit the hits on the surnames I was interested in, I searched each part separately and was pleasantly surprised to come up with new information on my family names.

I only did two names to start with, otherwise I would have been on the computer all night! I found my father Mervyn Gunderson in the Greenslopes State School in 1939 but by 1940 he is shown at Buranda State School. This gives me a clue as to when his family moved to the Buranda house that my grandmother continued to occupy until her death in 1994. His cousins also show up in the Greenslopes register as the families lived fairly close to each other.

What was perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was finding myself and my brother listed at Bardon State School and learning the information had been taken from a published history of the school – Bardon Primary School 50 years: Love Laughter & Learning 1948-1998. I hadn’t even realised that a history had been written so I am now quite keen to see a copy as I spent seven years of my life at that school.

Using these indexes online in a searchable database makes it really easy to find pupil records and published school histories and I now want to go through all my Queensland families and update what I have on each family. It is also cheaper to use it via as a subscription is only $59.95 pa whereas each CD costs $49.50 and there are four of them. I am not sure what this does for QFHS’s sales of the CDs (sorry QFHS) but it has opened up another avenue of research for me to add to what I originally found 30 plus years ago.

Sadly I don’t think there are similar indexes for other Australian States although the school admission registers are likely to be in the relevant State Archives and published histories in the relevant State Library. Not all school admission registers have survived but they are definitely worth seeking out especially if you are having trouble tracing a family. Follow the children!

If you have had similar success with school admission registers let me know and if there are similar comprehensive indexes for other States I would be really pleased to have the details.