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FROM THE ARCHIVES: Highland school records are valuable historical resource

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The Education (Scotland) Act 1872 made elementary education for all children between the ages of 5 and 13 mandatory in Scotland.

The running of educational establishments was transferred to a public system, and elected School Boards were set up.

A nationwide building programme swung into action to enable access to education for all children across Scotland.

Some of the most interesting and widely used types of archive items at the Highland Archive Centre are the school admission registers.

A full run of these has not necessarily survived (or been passed to the Highland Archive Centre) for every school.

Admission registers contain pupils’ personal details and for this reason they are closed for 100 years.

However, if you are researching your family history and are interested in discovering where your relatives went to school then this is where to start.

Admission registers typically listed the pupil’s full name, date of birth, date of admission to the school, name and address of parent (and sometimes their occupation) whether the pupil had transferred from a different school, their reason for leaving, as well as any grades achieved.

When researching your family history, this type of information gives life to the names and dates, and it can lead you straight on to other types of archive documents, especially once you have an address for your ancestor.

Extracts from the Admission Register of the Monitory (Links) School in Nairn can tell us that certain surnames were very common in the Fishertown.

Each register has an alphabetical index by surname, making it very easy to see at a glance whether one’s ancestor is listed.

Usually the ‘Reason for Leaving’ the school is that the pupil has reached the age of 14, or sometimes they had moved to a different part of the country.

Occasionally something more exotic will jump out, as with Alexander MacKenzie of 36 King Street whose reason for leaving was ‘Gone to Switzerland’.

Further on in the register, in 1897 one Sydney Reinhold of Roslin Cottage had come to the Monitory School from Cape Town, South Africa.

Furthermore, we can use the information contained in Admission Registers in conjunction with Valuation Rolls in order to take our family history research on another step forward.

A David Ralph (listed in the aforementioned admission register), who entered the Monitory School on 10th September 1897, lived at 4 Society Street.

His father is listed as Isaac Ralph; by looking at the entry in the valuation roll for that address for 1897 we find Isaac Ralph was a tenant of that address, and his occupation was Seaman, just like the majority of men who lived in the Fishertown at that time. Like most of his peers in that area, David left school at 14, most probably to follow his father into the fishing industry.

School records are commonly used by family historians furthering their research but they can also be of use to social and local historians who can learn much from the pupils contained within their pages.

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