I’m recycling this image of Steve Bloomer’s school admission record (blog posts passim.), and throwing in a question: have you used our admission registers on Find My Past in your research? And do you think historians a century from now will have the same level of interest in us? Old-style admission registers like this are very largely out of use in today’s educational system, in which schools use pupil management software to record the same types of data. I wonder what effect this will have on historians whose specialist period is Britain of the late 2010s.
It’s not merely a rhetorical question (but what’s wrong with rhetorical questions?) because I have a genuine need to gauge future demand based on present use. As a records manager I have a role in helping to shape the advice the council gives to schools on retention of records. Our current recommendation is that admission and withdrawal records should be transferred here to the record office – but what should we say to schools that don’t produce actual registers? Are historians so reliant on these sources that we should ask schools to use their software to create an annual “snapshot” of admissions and withdrawals for posterity? Would anyone ever use it? It’s very hard to say whether this would be an efficient use of resources, because for all we know historians will have other digitally-preserved resources at their disposal – like the central government’s national pupil database, perhaps… Oh, and bear in mind that the present-day admissions process doesn’t capture interesting titbits such as parental occupation (like Steve Bloomer being the son of a blacksmith).
If you have an interest in this subject, whether frivolous or scholarly, I should like to hear from you. Please leave a comment below, or write in to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you ever wondered where your ancestors went to school? If so, now might be a good time to emit a chirrup of joy, because Derbyshire’s contribution has been added to the ever-growing mass of information in the National School Admission Registers and Log-books dataset on http://www.findmypast.co.uk. I had a tinker with it a few days ago and managed to find the admission record of Derby County legend Steve Bloomer. Before he earned any of his 23 England caps, or scored any of his 297 league goals for the club, he was a pupil at Peartree Boys School in Derby. His entry in the admission register is at the very bottom of this image: you can see he was born in Cradley Heath, and was the son of Caleb Bloomer, a smith.
School log books are also included in the project. Now, anyone who has tried combing through a log book looking for references to their forebears as pupils will know that the odds are not so good. But that is what makes the ease of searching by name so attractive – a quick check is all it takes, because the names that are mentioned in the log books have been indexed. If one of your ancestors ever worked as a teacher, or a monitor, or as a pupil-teacher, the references can be quite illuminating – one headteacher writes: “Winifred Roberts and Edith Yates have been appointed monitors at £6 per annum from 1 Dec 1899. If they can pass the Government Examination they will be paid as a 1st year Pupil Teacher from 1 Jan 1900”. (Don’t worry, they passed the exam – I checked.) And have a look at this list of Object Lessons from 1899.
You see, quite apart from their genealogical value, log books are a window on another world. (If you can think of a less clichéd way of putting that, do let me know.) In particular, this is the world of the headteacher of that era: browse for a minute or two and you will vicariously experience the joy of winning praise from the school inspectors, the despair of having 150 pupils absent because of a measles outbreak, and the irritation of having junior teachers who don’t do anything quite as well as you did when you were a junior teacher.
If you would like to have a look at what is available, come over to your local library or right here to the record office, and log on to one of the computers. This resource, which FindMyPast subscribers normally pay for, will be yours to play around with for free. Here are a couple of sample pages.