Tips from the Pros: School Records, from George G. Morgan

Teacher I know! 1931 (from the Library of Congress Photo Collection at Ancestry.com)Remember how your parents had to provide information about you, such as date and place of birth, as part of registering you for school? Many schools maintain their records indefinitely, usually in some records retention facility. Registration, grades, yearbooks, and all sorts of other information may still exist.

If you can determine the location of the school that your ancestor or relative attended, and the county it is/was in, chances are that you may be able to obtain copies of school records. Also, don’t overlook the colleges and universities your ancestor attended. Registrars’ offices can be contacted for academic records and alumni associations may have subsequent addresses. Yearbooks are usually a permanent part of the institution’s library so be sure to check them for details about your ancestors’ extracurricular school activities. Don’t forget to check with fraternities, sororities, and alumni offices. Be prepared, however, to provide proof of your relationship in order to gain access to or copies of some of the academic records.

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14 thoughts on “Tips from the Pros: School Records, from George G. Morgan

  1. I have tried every where to see if there are any records for Westcotes Girls School for 1956 – 1957 I have had no luck at all.
    I know there are age reg. and School reg. as I have helped transcribe them.

    This School was Narborough Road Leicester.
    Any advice would be appreciated
    Thank You Margaret Howkins

  2. Federal privacy laws (FERPA) protect this information. How have you handled this?

  3. I have the same comment and question as Ann. I contacted North Carolina State, offering proof of my relationship, and they said that laws prevented them from providing the information. I was not asking for medical records or grades – merely a graduation date, degree and year of graduation. Is there a work around?

  4. They are called School Census Records here in Texas and were kept from about 1900 through the mid 1950′s. They usually can be accessed through the County Clerk or the County Judge, depending upon the county. In Texas, they are arranged first according to school district and then according to school.

    They are an invaluable resource in trying to track down descendants of a particular person.

  5. In 1995 I had not yet started tracing our roots but my husband had just been diagnosed with ALS and we decided to go to Scotland to trace his ancestry to see if there were any wasting diseases in his family.
    Even though he was born in Baltimore (Overlea Hills) MD., lived in Scotland and England in the 30″s and had had a passport, and had served in the Marine Corps we could not get proof of his birth.(Remember I knew nothing of genealogy at that time and had no computer)
    But as a teachr I knew about school records and so I contacted the Highland Park Schools where my husband had gone to kindergarten and in less than 24 hours we had the proof needed for his passport.
    I am sure your article will give many people a whole new worlds to search.

  6. I was also able to find School Census Records in some Kansas counties from 1900-1950. I accessed them from a film through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. These records allowed me to put together my father’s siblings, who had all been separated as children. It also listed the parent’s names, occupations, and address. These records gave me the missing puzzle pieces I’d been searching over 15 years for.

  7. School records were a way for me to verify a family story, that my grandmother’s brother, “Uncle Harry,” had attended school/college in Pennsylvania. Well, Hieronim Gronek was Polish, so I wrote to the Polish National Alliance affiliated Alliance College in Cambridge Springs, PA to inquire. They confirmed his attendance and in fact, sent his transcript from 1927-1930. The transcript has grades, birthday, and father’s name–a very cool document to have!

  8. I know for a fact one of my ancestors eas a teacher in Toledo, Ohio ( even know the school), but can not even get a sase returned from the school district.

    She also left money for a scholarship at Toledo in her name, which is still given, and they will not return a sase either.

  9. The issue about privacy for college records is definitely an obstacle. You won’t be able to get information from registrars or alumni offices. Instead, try the college archivist, usually located in the library. The archivist can search published records like yearbooks, graduation programs, alumni biographies, etc. and also may have file folders of other information such as employment history for faculty.

  10. A few years ago I wrote to my parents’ schools.
    Amongst the replies was my mother’s college which sent me copies of every scrap of paper they had in the file (not grades, but letters back and forth between the school and their alum) including a letter thanking them for sending the transcript with an apology for being slow at sending the fee– she had just had a baby (me).

  11. I found invaluable information with the archivist at U. Penn on both my father and grandfather. The information was in forms for the careers office that every Penn senior filled out, as well as any post-graduation documentation between the careers office and the alum. I even found out my father was engaged to a woman not my mother at the time he filled out the forms. Stanford University, on the other hand, only had the yearbooks that I could look through for information on my maternal grandfather. Because I can’t access anything else, I have no idea why he was in the class a year behind where he should have been or whether he in fact graduated. It pays to track down each institution to see what information you can access. Even if it’s only the yearbooks, at least you may be able to get copies of photographs of your ancestor.

  12. In Indiana, where consolidation of school districts started in the 1960 era, the records of individual schools which were kept at the County Superintents’ offices were turned over to the clerk. They are only required to keep official records for a certain period of time and are destroyed by a committee, which may or may not include someone knowledgible in the uses that they might be needed for. The main school that the others were melded into may have the records of its original schools, but not the others. My husband’s aunt needed proof of birth for a passport. None was found, her school records had disappeared because that school closed long before consolidations were being forced by the state. My husband went to the courthouse and testified for her. That would no longer be acceptable is my understanding, but anyway, a genealogist will find no “acceptable” record of her existing, except questionable census records. Jo Blunk

  13. This was a fine, even insightful read for me because I am facing this dilemma: my father (whose name I bear) attended school in Cherry Tree, Pennsylvania, lastly at Cherry Tree High School. This school was ultimately torn down and insofar as I’ve been able to determine was never rebuilt…most probably due to the downswing of population over the subsequent years. There was a book published, “Scrapbook – An Assemblage of Cherry Tree High School….”, of which I have a copy. While it had a very bad reproduction of the 1933 football team (in which both my father and Uncle Frederick D. Langham appeared), my father’s name was never mentioned throughout the book….yet his brother Fred’s and accomplishments appeared on several pages (strangely on the football photo both he and my father were “unknown” entities). To make a long story short, I am in need of direction as to how to contact the officials into whose hands all school records fell once the school became defunct and “destroyed.” Since all those proceedings occurred in Pennsylvania prior to my birth (1943) I haven’t a clue as to where to look or to whom to query this information. My father and his brother both perished in WWII (valiantly as heroes) and my mother remarried to a man from Louisiana – all gone and dead now. In the reconstruction of my father’s family tree Ancestry.com has been most helpful…but I now seek more details of the lives of those fore bearers who made my Langham Family a reality. Any suggestions?

  14. I tried getting information about my father and his siblings from the Chicago Public School system and their grammer school (Pickard). The school system sent me a letter saying that they could not disclose teacher’s information (I had specified that they had been students.) The school’s principal never replied to my request. This, I would say, is probably typical for Chicago. By the way, I had also attended the same school for a couple of years.

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