FANs in family history

Are you getting hot in your research and need a FAN?  This type of FAN wont get you any cooler, in fact you will find yourself working more on those BSO (Bright Shiny Objects)

malubeng / Pixabay

Tonight’s twitterchat is all about FANs –  friends, associates and neighbours

  1. Did your immigrant ancestor emigrate with cousins, friends, or neighbours? Did FANs already in Australia sponsor family members?
  2. Did your ancestors settle near FANs after immigration? Have you found widowed or single FANs living with ancestors, or vice versa?
  3. Have you made any research discoveries by using FANs either through DNA or otherwise? How do you use FANs or extended family to solve “brick walls”?
  4. Do you use social media to identify FANS of family members? What other records and sources have you found useful?

Great places to find FANs

Helen: Inquests, wills, probate records can uncover helpful FAN (friends, associates, neighbours) networks – and those networks can reveal much

Jane: There is quite a bit of information coming together at now … good place for sharing for everyone (and especially for those people who want an alternative to Fb)

Pauleen: I have found blogging to be a wonderful tool to discovering FANs as they respond to the stories I’ve written, sometimes many years later. I use FB groups for places, and also have a cousin/family group and one for Dorfprozelten emigrants’ families

Tara: Someone mentioned “Kerrytown” earlier. Was searching for something unrelated during lunch and found this section of a book on placenames of South Australia. Might be useful for others…

Tara: worth remembering that some Rootsireland county transcriptions will allow you to search a common surname with the name of witness/sponsor. Not Offaly though, which is a pain

Tara: One excellent source for those of you with Irish heritage is @IrelandXO – join the parish page, or county page if parish unknown and get help from locals. Also multiple FB pages

Sue: Need to make sure you use tags and categories in blog posts so more chance of FANs finding it , reading it, and getting in contact with you.

Pauleen: When people know your interests they will share information with you. An elderly man, now not well, has shared so much info and oral history he collected about Murphys Creek Qld

ANZ: Don’t forget to look in your own “archives”: photos, autograph books (more recent), address books (grandmother’s, mother’s, aunt’s, cousins’). How about membership badges from clubs, societies or church groups? School photos?

Pauleen: Establish your networks so people know your research interests eg I was given a house blessing picture for the original Kunkel house. My FANs always alert me when they see the Kunkel name. The current owner of the home shared a heritage survey

SOPS: Quite a few one-placers have found that Facebook pages or groups certainly work well for Places / #OnePlaceStudies. They are great for sharing and receiving information, photos etc of residents and their wider families, and of the Places themselves.

Fran: I regularly check Archway for hints and also the non newspaper section of @PapersPastNZ.

Tara: Found one by accidentally seeing a tweet last week. Grandson of a man whose ancestry I’m researching!

Jill: I have made many connections with FANs through having my family tree online on my own site, and in online trees at the Big 3 pay sites and @FamilySearch #ANZAncestryTime

ANZ: There are so many options for learning more about your ancestors’ FAN’s: oral history, immigration documents, newspaper stories, electoral rolls and PO directories, maps to see who their neighbours were, church witnesses.

Daniel_Nebreda / Pixabay

Karen: Mostly using Am extremely fortunate that several elderly relatives are still living and have shared memories. Other records that have been useful: NZ Archives, British Archives/newspapers, Trove.

Jennifer: I’ve used Census, Newspapers, local area history books, published family histories, blogs, shipping lists, inquests, Wills and personal letters

Pauleen: Missing persons advertisements in the newspapers (on Trove) can provide clues to family linkages and latest known location – It’s how I linked up Mary O’Brien Kunkel with her sister Bridget later Widdup and the ship

Jill: One of my best finds was an obit in the California Digital Newspaper Collection. Put a bunch of FANs in place in four countries.

Tara: Reminds me of one death record I came across during recent search. Bachelor, death reported by his “Step son” (1880s)

Tara: You have wedding gift lists for FAN, we in Ireland have funeral attendees 🙂

CB: Recently came across some really great ones for a client’s ancestor BUT they described some of his step-kids as actual children, which I didn’t know at the time, meant I had to do further ultimately pointless checking!

ANZ: Kind of nice they were recognised that way within the family but also annoying genealogically.

CB: It is. Good lesson not to blindly believe the report though. This man had been married 4 times so the possibility of unfound children was not, er, impossible.

Jill: Facebook stalking is a great tool for identifying FANs in later generations.

Tara: One thing I have noticed tracing FAN for weddings and christenings in Irish midlands is that they were often first cousins rather than siblings. Testing that hypothesis has often worked

Sue: When researching English, American or Canadian then go to census definitely. In Australia, Trove as well as online records from Tassie.

ANZ: Researching FANs and extended kin has clarified oral history hints by buying certificates. Witnesses to church events reveal long-term friendships and occupational or voyage links.

Jennifer: That’s so true. I found a grooms brother on the marriage certificate. Had thought he was still in Scotland until then

Jill: We also have fantastic funeral reports via @TroveAustralia especially for earlier years.

Tara: Yes, it was through one of those for a great grand uncle that I was able to reconstruct his life after emigration to Australia

Sue: In Tasmania, we are so lucky to have an archives that has digitized so much and put it online for free. Anyone needs help using the Tasmanian Names Index, feel free to contact me. I love using it.

ANZ: Tracking down in-laws and cold-calling can be scary but give you stories and photos that you don’t have. Similarly, school friends may be able to identify people in photos.

Sue: I found a few more relatives by checking wills and who they left heirlooms with, cousins, aunts, nieces et

Jill: FANs names on documents and in newspaper articles can help put our ancestors in a time and place.

Maggie: Following extended family through baptism records in Scotland (where they appeared as sponsors/godparents for each other’s children) and in Ireland helped me identify the townland in Mayo they all left from in the 1850s. All I had before was a county.

Jane: Can’t stay tonight for #ANZAncestryTime sorry … The #BeyondKinMethodology is one way to record people connected to one other and family but not biologically or legally kin e.g., enslaved people, indentured labourers, servants etc. ……

markjhemmings9 / Pixabay

Immigration and FANs

Dara: Speaking of FANs – Mary Power was my Dad’s Dad’s Godmother. Then, census revealed she was his Ma’s foster mother. Transpired later, her first husband was my mother’s GGG-granduncle & finally, it turned out, she was Dad’s Grandda’s Aunt. A one-lady FAN club.

Jennifer: My ancestor was murdered in Victoria by her husband when her baby was a few days old and unnamed. I eventually found a child of same age & no birth cert living with an aunt in nsw after researching every known relative. Time consuming research but worth it

Pauleen: I’ve found it useful to analyse the gifts listed in wedding notices to distinguish who is a relative or a FAN and where they live.

Fran: So there is one FAN thing I have done when I thought I had done none. Check out wedding parties and social events in @PapersPastNZ can be useful.

ANZ: Researching emigrants from the home place has given me context for my own families/immigrants, and revealed dodgy deals done by the local priest in Clare. The extent of migration from Broadford to Oz had been lost over time in Clare.

ANZ: My GG Gfather was my brick wall. They lived in Tasmania but I eventually found him giving evidence at his son’s inquest in Victoria

Sophie: FANs = super useful in #genealogy research! “No man is an island”: when one can’t ID an individual in records, often the FAN network isn’t far away. Also very handy for IDing long-dist migration into cities where ppl oft settled near known friends/fam too

Pauleen: I made a great discovery by following up the court case of another Dorfprozelten emigrant, Carl Diflo. He mentions that my ancestor, a witness, was a pork butcher on the gold diggings and he knew George from “home”

Rollstein / Pixabay

Jennifer: My ancestor was missing in 1851 census in Scotland. Found him in 1861 by tracing a neighbour. That neighbour had moved in 1861 and there was my ancestor living next door. Still don’t know where he was in 1851 but was happy to find him again

Maggie: It’s useful to follow the single or widowed relations as they can lead you to connected households – especially useful when you’re dealing with more common surnames. Having an extended family member pop up in a census return helps piece the puzzle together.

Tara: Also (certainly in Irish census records) pay attention to servants, boarders, lodgers, visitors. I’ve found orphaned cousins and widowed/widowered relatives classed as such

Maggie: I’ve seen quite a few family members turn up as visitors – took me a while to work out they were actually related. (thanks, fam)

Fran: Fans is a tool that I do not use much so hopefully tonight’s tweets will enlighten me with new research techniques

Karen: The 2 brothers (2nd gt g’father and brother) from Cornwall didn’t. One stayed in Sydney, the other – regional NSW. No widows (I think), but one female ancestor who was married to a convict was killed very young in a shocking horse and cart accident.

SOPS: Looking at immigration within the UK (that is, to my #OnePlaceStudy!) rather than across the globe, I have certainly noticed a number of cases where people who arrived in my Place were followed there by other members of their family.

Pauleen: Presumably they followed because there were good employment opportunities and/or a pleasant environment?

SOPS: A small village so relatively limited in the way of employment prospects, but sometimes you have to compare those prospects with the ones left behind! In one case I researched, the people concerned moved from another part of the county effectively ‘in recession’.

Pauleen: Irish women were a bit unusual in being willing to emigrate as young, single women. Not always the case with English girls and young women.

Jill: No FANs of my 10 convict ancestors appeared to follow them.

ANZ: How many families of convicts actually come out after them? Do you know if it was a significant percentage? (Or were most single when they were transported?) I’ve heard it happening, but just wondered how common it was! It must have been costly, and it would have necessitated some kind of correspondence… and how many were literate?

Paula: An aunt and her husband were transported in 1835. I’ve found birth records in Scotland for 3 children. 1 recorded on aunt’s ship. Anyone know what would’ve happened to child (infant) on arrival?

Sue: If sent to Tasmania check out the Queens Orphan school records

Sue: in Tasmania, we have a book with families that came out after a convict, but majority of females got remarried out here even if they were already married in England.

Pauleen: I haven’t found single or widowed family members living with FANs, just family. However, for the Germans, having FANs living nearby must have been a wonderful thing to share language and past experiences.

Karen: My mat. 2nd gt g’father emigrated with his brother. His future partner was alone on the same ship. My mat. grt grandfather was still a baby when he arrived in Australia with his parents/siblings. Others alone/in a couple.

Sue: Have one brother, sister and father convicted together in 1847 in Donegal, Ireland, but can only find the female being transported. No idea where bruv and dad got to. From reading, apparently they stopped shipping male convicts from Ireland for the next few years, so maybe they did die in prison. Father in late 50s son only 14.

ANZ: I’ve found many widowed and single ancestors living with their children and family. In Scotland census the females were usually described as housekeeper

ScienceGiant / Pixabay

Pauleen: Looking at a map of the Fifteen Mile at Murphys Creek Qld I realised there were familiar names of Dorfprozelten people. When a couple married there were kin in neighbouring areas.

Tara: I don’t know about the family who emigrated to Australia/New Zealand. I’ve found it’s much easier to identify existing connections in US

Pauleen: That’s interesting Tara. Is it because they stayed in touch more, or did citizenship docs help? I was confidently told once that no one from the village went to Australia yet there was a mass exodus in the 1850s and 1860s.

Tara: Immigration records at Ellis Island identify a receiving person and their relationship to the immigrant. Also found grandfather travelled with a girl from far end of parish (NYC), possibly the reported girlfriend before my GM! Haven’t found equiv records for Aus NZ

Pauleen: That’s true about the receiving person. Our mid-19th century shipping lists do sometimes include that, and if you’re really lucky the ship’s disposal lists survive but not digitised. Immigration Deposit Journals tell who paid and who came.

Tara: I’ll have to dig into those. I know my great grand uncle sent his two daughters ahead of him and then he and his son followed within a year

ANZ: Spending the time to research FANS can open up new areas of research and/or find missing ancestors. They will often be found hanging out with FANS

Fran: In my UK & Wales census records my Dawson family often have other members of the family at least visiting on the census date. Not sure if these are longer stay though. This has been helpful in confirming family groupings, however.

Jennifer: I have found no evidence of family being sponsored by family or friends.

Pauleen: Maybe, like mine, they were so busy working to get along that they didn’t have spare cash.

ANZ: It took one of my ancestors a few years to pay for them to come out.

Pauleen: Was that from oral history or were there documents for it?

ANZ: Family story, and passenger listings, trying to piece it together. But possibly timing could have been related to family members back in England dying, so more able to travel after that

Sue: One ggggrandmother was 6 months pregnant on arrival and gave birth to my ancestor on the property where her husband was a servant (not convict). He came out with the wife and another daughter under three – eventually they had 6 children but I haven’t found his death anywhere, think might be goldrush time in Victoria where he went soon after last child born

Jennifer: I just remembered one family who came out with extended family – parents, children, grandmother and two aunts. They all travelled together

Pauleen: Some families did travel in clusters, but I’ve found others who came as singles but with Friends/Neighbours especially during the US Civil war when that was less appealing. I admire those elderly relatives who emigrated to stay with family.

ANZ: It’s amazing how many older folk travelled! Even lying about their age on the passenger lists.

Jennifer: It must have been a terrifying concept for older adults at the time

Pauleen: My immigrants must have been broke or selfish, as I can’t find them sponsoring others even where there was chain #migration. The Immigration Deposit Journals have examples where people sponsored their FANs. Pax lists and newspaper notices may also mention it

Dara: My GGG-grandfather, John Radcliffe, settled in Melbourne. He also had a brother and a cousin who emigrated there. The cousin, who was my GGG-Grandfather’s best man met with a tragic ending in an encounter with a train he didn’t hear coming. Trove gave all the gory details

Fran: We were always told that our GGF came with no relatives however through my research I have found a sister and brother that also migrated to NZ. This shows there is a need to be careful as using FANs may have helped my research.

ANZ: Yes! I’ve found some siblings got “lost” or ostracised over time, especially if they married outside the faith. Quite sad when you think about it.

Pauleen: Very true – family fractures did occur, it wasn’t all sweetness and light. I have one branch that shows evidence of being dysfunctional over generation

Paula: My gg grandmother left Scotland for Australia in 1888 with her husband and their children. (not my g grandfather). I’d love to know why they chose Australia and if there were connections there.

Maggie: Lots of chain migration in our family, most prevalent amongst my Kerry ancestors. And they tended to settle in the same area, and build a community there. There’s a good reason there’s a place called Kerrytown in South Canterbury, NZ!

Sue: My great great grandmother arrived in 1855 with her mother, then in 1856, mum sponsored another daughter, husband and in laws

Jill: Yes in the 1830-40s some of my Ryans from Westmeath emigrated with siblings and then others followed them out. In the 1860-70s my Kealys from Kilkenny did the same thing

qimono / Pixabay

DNA and FANs

Tara: Solved a 39cM DNA match because I’d paid attention to witnesses/sponsors. Established relationship between two families, again paying attention to who was present. Not a brick wall, just a thick hedge!

Maggie: I’ve found unknown siblings of my ancestors thanks to DNA matches with their descendants – great to add to the tree!

Pauleen: Over the years I’ve made quite a few discoveries by searching laterally to FANs including extended kin, oral histories, and photos. Distant cousins have also been confirmed through the DNA of known FANs/extended kin

Sue: definitely need to follow siblings etc if using for DNA. Found where in Devon my great great grandfather was born due to his siblings ancestor testing DNA

Jill: Following the Family lines down the generations is essential in #DNA Research if one wants to identify matches

Blog posts

Helen: Using witnesses on documents,

Jennifer: Family immigrating, missing gggrandfather found,

Sue: My unknown Grandfather and DNA

Readers: How has looking at FANs helped with your family history research?

Remembering school years

macdeedle / Pixabay

What do you remember about your school years? Was it a good time in your life? Have you found out anything about your ancestors school lives?

Our questions this week were:

  1. Share some memories of school -funny, happy or inspiring -sad or scary -school rules – tough or easy
  2. Let’s hear about the teachers and school friends
  3. Tell us about your family schooling traditions, school traditions, does your school still exist? Have you visited it?
  4. What about your ancestors education? -have you found their school records or reports? -what records have you found & where? -any teacher discoveries?


  • Carmel has written a great post about school day memories.
  • Fran has written about her first day at school.
  • Jennifer – We made Waldorf salad in cookery. I didn’t and still don’t eat dressing so I refused to eat it. they made me sit there through the next two classes until I ate it. I didn’t care. I didn’t eat it. Teacher hated me after that.
  • Pauleen – Stubbornness wins! I never had a cooking class at school – the joys of the science class.

  • Sandra – I just remembered, In year 2 I used to write back to front and right to left. Must have been interesting for the teacher. In college, I wrote the same for some notes because I got bored. I’m left-handed if that explains it
  • Pauleen – I have to say I have very fond memories of my high school and its advanced learning opportunities with language and science labs, good teachers and a fab library. I finally felt like I belonged somewhere.
  • Jo – 2 different primary schools & 2 different high schools – though 2nd high school was the 1 I was supposed to go to in Yr 7 so knew some of them. 1 primary school new school – 8 students & I was only girl for a while
  • Jill – In my final years was a gopher for the boarders. I used to post their letters to bypass the censors (nuns) and used to buy all sorts of contraband except alcohol.
  • Jennifer – We recited the times tables over and over every day. They were imprinted on our brains. I’ve never forgotten them
  • Sandra – Not a tradition but we were given a rating first to last in the class. It always motivated. Wouldn’t be able to do that now
  • Carmel – at boarding school we were not allowed to wear “witches britches” – remember those long knickers, usually coloured and sometimes with frills – fashion in the late 60s
  • ANZ – I always wanted to go to boarding school – I think it was all those English books about tuck boxes and midnight feasts. Am sure it wasn’t always like that!
  • Pauleen – I felt for some of our boarders who had a terrible time with teachers but couldn’t speak or write to parents without censorship. Mr Cassmob only saw his parents once or twice a year once a boarder. We made sure our girls never boarded.
  • Maggie P – we had a roster to take turns with torch and clock to stay awake until midnight. I was a heavy sleeper. Took torch in my sleep I think. Someone else woke up and we went downstairs for our feast about 1am.
  • Jill – My most vivid memory was spending two months in hospital in the term prior to our Leaving Certificate. I scraped through. I put a lot of weight on in hospital and wouldn’t go to our end of year celebration because I was so fat – nearly 9 stone
  • Sandra – At primary school, every report said I was too quiet. In year 3 someone poked me in the back with a pencil and I turned around and told them off. I got into trouble and I never forgave that teacher. Mum had to bribe me with a bag of lollies to go back.
  • Jill – I remember us all rubbing ourselves with a bush that gave us a red rash. We were hoping the school would be closed if enough of us got measles
  • Fran – We had out hems measured at a govt. high school. If you leaned forward you could reduce the measurement. I think there was a line of girls leaning forward.
  • GenXalogy – I adored school. I attended three different high schools: a country public school, then two private schools in ‘town’. MUCH stricter rules at the latter! Maths test in about week 3… teacher left the room and nobody cheated or even stopped working/talked!!
  • Pauleen – Frightening memories of primary school, aged 5, being told in graphic detail by my teacher, a nun, what the communists would do to us when they came. This during the “Reds under the beds” scare. Stayed with me for years.
  • Carmel – Boarding school not at all like the story books but I did make some great friends in 5 years there. Was a huge change from a 2 teacher country school, I met girls who even had their own bedroom!!!!
  • Hilary – We had an outside toilet block at primary school in the 1960s
max_gloin / Pixabay
  • Fran – Us too. When my brother started school he was afraid of going there as it was stuck out the back so I had to wait outside for him. Unfortunately, a teacher told me off for hanging around the boys’ toilet so got moved on. Brother was not happy when he came out.
  • Pauleen – School rules weren’t intimidating for me as I was a compliant, well-behaved child (yes, things change!). As a prefect in high school one of my jobs was to ensure compliance with uniform rules etc.
  • Jennifer – My happiest memory of school is riding my bike to and from every day. Rain hail or shine!
  • Sue – Changing schools at high school was terrible – lost all my friends but loved library at new school
  • Hilary – in primary school we had a carpet in the library created static and metal shelving made for some shocks
  • Jill – I can remember being told that people in mixed marriages were evil. I couldn’t see much wrong with my parents! But this was mostly in secondary school. Sister Eugene was a fearmonger/ She was relegated to the tuckshop when I was in third year.
  • Jennifer – Strong memories of very strict rules on school uniform. Who remembers those drab grey winter tunics with box pleats. They looked dreadful on this chubby teenager.
  • Sue – Missing three months of school to travel around Australia as a family, having to teach my brother how to write in cursive while we were in Darwin. Teacher asked me to keep a journal about what we saw and learnt, but my brother’s teacher organized daily lessons which I ended up making sure he did, beginning of my teaching career.
  • Jennifer – I loved library class and just being in the library. I enjoyed shorthand, typing and accounting. I was good at those subjects
  • Maggie P – Doing a short musical in Std 3- aged about 9. I was supposed to help an old man onto a ‘log’ but they forgot to put it on stage until the end of the scene! Loved performing anyhow.
  • Pauleen – Dozens of girls climbing the wooden stairs to the concert hall at high school, making nary a sound with shoes or chatting. Sitting stiff as a board during a performance and not looking around or fidgeting.
  • Carmel – in primary was in a small 2 teacher school learnt lots from older kids in same room. Was always frustrated with prescribed readers, just gave a snippet from a longer novel
  • Jennifer – When I think of school, I think of how much hated it. Primary school was ok but I hated going to secondary school
  • Pauleen – Unhappy memories: at a Catholic primary school feeling often “odd man out” as an only child of a mixed marriage.
  • Fran – My memories of school are both good and bad. Good: one teacher that read out to the class a Famous Five Adventure so I then just had to read books with chapters after that. The first one took ages. By the end of the series I was a much faster reader.
  • Sue – Playing softball with friends, then missing those same friends when changing to another school
  • Jill – We used to do a lot of marching at school – The nuns used to take over Victoria Street, Kings Cross and march us up and down at lunchtime.  The nuns encouraged us to be modest and wear petticoats under our uniforms. I was severely castigated by Sister Christine when she spotted my bright red half-slip. Good girls didn’t wear red underwear!

Friends and teachers

  • Brooke – Most disliked teacher Subbed for 1 term in grade 3. He used to fire staples & blackboard dusters at us. I kicked him in the shins for teasing me. I got in trouble.
  • Maggie – We had a sub maths teacher throw blackboard dusters at us. He ended up having a nervous breakdown (wasn’t me!) and leaving.
  • Fran – I had one teacher that Mum made cry because he wrote something in my report that was not true so he could not be a good teacher if he thought this. He was much nicer to me the next day at school.
  • Jo – music teachers at both schools favourites – now friends on FB! Disliked my Yr 7 English teacher – we were always in trouble. Still friends with school friends and been to 10 yr & 20yr reunion of 2nd high school (no 30yr one organised!)
  • Jennifer and Fran and Sue – I’ve never considered attending a school reunion. That would be my biggest nightmare
  • Carmel – School reunions never appealed to me either but I was contacted for the 50th and set up a private FB group, we all shared photos and a lot of laughs, was quite glad I wasn’t in SA for the actual event but facetimed with them on the night.
  • GenXalogy – My favourite teachers were ones who weren’t afraid to toss out the script and do something completely different. Ms. Dawson (Yr 8 HASS, no relation), Mrs. Merriman (Yr 11 English). Props to Ms. Abbott (Yr 8 English) for starting me off on family trees.
  • Maggie – There were a couple of very special teachers during my school years, who kept me sane (and at school). I was glad to leave and get on with life
  • Jennifer – I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Funny thing is I’ve loved learning as an adult
  • Jill – My two besties from school are good friends. I attend each of our ten yearly reunions. It’s interesting to see the girls have developed. About 20 of us meet up every few months around Sydney. Covid has put a spanner into the works with that.
  • Pauleen – I’ve been to one primary school reunion years ago which was interesting. Despite living at a distance I’ve been to a few high school reunions over the years – interesting to see how we’ve changed and how things that once mattered no longer do
  • Jill – I don’t know how those nuns coped with the huge classes. In our final year English class we had 55 girls.
  • Maggie P – We went to boys’ Catholic HS for physics and chemistry in my last two years of school. Br Luke would never embarrass a girl in front of the boys- always checked we had right answer before asking us. Once gave me 11/10 for a problem, boys couldn’t cope.
  • Sue – I loved Mrs Chalmers, my grade 6 teacher, probably my incentive to teach, 4 of my friends in that class also became teachers. Even went to her funeral
  • Pauleen – I don’t remember any teachers especially disliking me at primary school other than because dad wasn’t a Catholic. He wasn’t as subservient to them about disciplinary action either.
  • Hilary – my language teacher also taught classics neither were my strong subjects I wanted to learn Latin as thought it might help in my career
blende12 / Pixabay
  • Pauleen – My favourite teacher at high school was Sr Mary Benedict – she was such a smart dynamic woman who taught my science subjects. Sr Mary St Christopher who taught physiology in Junior. Sr Mary Borgia taught German very well.
  • Jane – I think I have blocked my school years out … I do recall that I found Art particularly traumatic in primary school because of the mismatch between what I could see in my head and my inability to draw it
  • Sue – I had a German person teaching me French and a French person teaching me German in high school, I loved languages
  • Fran – I think that I was fortunate to have many of my high school teachers and uni lecturers from different countries. Being from a small town in NZ this widened my horizons heaps.
  • Jill – Sister Casimir in 5th and 6th class used to borrow books for me on her library card so I’d have more to read.


  • Remember the days when they printed everyone’s exam results in the newspaper … couldn’t do that these days!! – Jane
  • And you’d head to the newspaper outlet to find out your results. Didn’t go well the first year in uni when I bombed some subjects…not at all popular with parents – Pauleen
  • None of my family were teachers in past generations – they were lucky to get to school given they were regularly on the move. My husband’s family has a tradition of teaching which continues today. – Pauleen
  • All schools I went to still exist. Did 1 lot of prac teaching at 1st high school! – Jo
  • Search family memorabilia for school photos; old school report cards; books that may have been awarded as prizes (I have a few from ancestors); Facebook pages for the school or school photos. Ask relatives. I have my grandmother’s Scottish certificate. – Pauleen
  • My primary school still exists & my niece & nephew go there. Sometimes Mum picks them up so she has been at that school gate since 1976. My high school still exists too…you might have heard about it #TheTeachersPetPodcast – Brooke
  • My primary school was demolished in the late 1960s. My high school celebrates its 160th anniversary this year, Qld’s oldest secondary school – Pauleen
  • Hated the ANZAC day races at school so three of us would all run over the line at the end holding hands, so no one came last – Sue
  • I remember the small bottles of milk that we were given and made to drink at recess. They were delivered early morning and sat in the sun until they were given out. I’m sure many people were put off milk for life by it. – Jennifer
  • Yuk, yes by morning recess time the milk was hot- no refrigeration at our primary school. Most of us were from farms so didn’t need bottled milk. – Carmel

  • Family school tradition… after every P/T night my dad would tell me the teachers said I needed to work harder. It took me far longer than it should have to work out they didn’t say that, it was just what he thought. – GenXalogy
  • Primary school traditions: St Patrick’s Day concerts and fetes with home made goods. High school traditions: giving friends holy pictures with personal messages written on the back; celebrating friends’ birthdays bringing home made cakes and biscuits. – Pauleen
  • As part of curriculum at Sorell School, each class spends a week at the Pioneer School in role play as if in 1821, inkwells, nib pens, nose on chalk on chalkboard if naughty, check fingernails before entering room etc – Sue
  • I looked up centennial magazine. There was photo of my aunty in 1922 in school uniform. She was one of the oldest/tallest. She went on from school to train as a nurse. – Maggie P
  • A high school tradition which remains is the ability to sing the school anthem in Latin, Angeli Archangeli. Some things stick in the mind – Pauleen
  • Not only have I visited my old school – I joined the staff as Head of Library 35 years after I finished my schooling. What a blast from the past! Rules were relaxed, there weren’t many nuns, students were allowed to speak in class – Jill
  • all my 6 siblings attended same rural local primary and then my brother’s 9 children went there too – no more in the family to follow – Carmel
  • Three generations of my direct family have attended the same high school: mum, me, our daughters. Special memories over the years. Sadly generation 4 lives in the NT so won’t be going – Pauleen
  • All schools I have attended are still standing, and I taught for 21 years at Sorell school which is the oldest school in Australia still operating from the same site begun in 1821. – Sue
  • We have had several high school class reunions organised by a couple of those who have stayed in New Plymouth. At school 125th celebration, the boarders had lots to say- our bond was so much stronger- and our memories so much funnier or poignant. – Maggie P

Ancestor education

  • Maggie P – Found enrolment for my uncle at Camerons school on the West Coast when he was 5. My mother was born there but must have moved to Kumara soon after. My Aunty, 10 years younger than my mother, never knew they’d lived at Camerons, but school record clinched it.
  • Hilary – FindMyPast have lots of the records and they are an interesting read also found newpaper report of non-attendance prosecution
  • Fran – Newspapers are a good one I forgot about. Many Uni exams, nurses, public servant exams, etc are reported in local newspapers in NZ.
  • Brooke – In the @BNArchive I found reports of truancy. My great-grandmother’s parents were hauled in & fined for her non-attendance when she was about 9.
  • Hilary – just found the scans of those school reports for my Mum need to take another look at them
  • Brooke – I have found some Cambridgeshire school records (can’t recall if it was Ancestry or FindMyPast) which listed my great-grandmother. My gg-grandfather was a schoolmaster in Ireland c.1880 but I’m still looking for records.
  • Pauleen – Have you checked the county archives to see what they might have? Also the national Archives Ireland has some records but they’re not digitised
  • Pauleen – School centenary publications or similar can be useful but do try to check for accuracy. Trove stories of the school’s opening or events…look beyond your family’s name. See if local history museums have any records or information, useful in country areas
  • Pauleen – Qld State Archives also has some records for the Grade 8 Scholarship exams – I need to revisit these.
  • Hilary – My grandmother’s cousin was a pupil teacher. I also have school photos of my aunt’s class

  • Carmel – Have a pic of my husbands mother at school in 1925 Maroubra Primary
  • Jill – My Dad left school at 13 to work on the farm, my Mum left at 15 to work in the Post Office. My parents valued education – I was the first in my immediate family to gain a university degree (or 3).
  • Pauleen – My generation was also the first to go to university – no, there was one person ahead of us in a different family I didn’t know. I’m so grateful to my parents for the opportunities they gave to me, especially being a girl. Mum went to Junior (grade 10). One of the biggest things I owe my parents who were working class and my mother who nagged my high school to admit me – I’d gone to a primary school with a different order of nuns. She was sure determined!
  • Carmel – Me too, none of my siblings completed High school so I was the first to go to Uni etc. very grateful to my mother who valued education as she had to leave at the end of primary school, no money for her to travel to a secondary school
  • Sue – Have found newspaper reports though of ancestor parents being fined for truant children
  • Maggie – I’ve looked through school records at Kent Archives in Maidstone – fascinating details there! Sadly, none relating to my ancestors.
  • Sandra – There are a few reports of school picnics on Trove from my grandparents time. They are always interesting reading.
  • Jennifer – Have found teacher records in @PRO_Vic My gg gfather was schoolmaster on the ship. information about him in passenger record
  • Jennifer – I’ve come across many articles about teachers on @TroveAustralia – school concerts, outings, teachers leaving the school or district. But not for my ancestors
  • Maggie – I had a look on @findmypast in their Yorkshire school records for my great grandmother but couldn’t find her – she left for NZ aged six so probably didn’t start. Will have to look in NZ records for her instead!
  • Carmel – Have school admission records for my father and his siblings in 1921 but hard pressed to find any others
  • Jill – I have found several reports that mention my Mother and her sisters’ achievements on Trove. I’m grateful that the Cobar newspaper reported on school activities.
  • GenXalogy – I have all my grandmother’s primary school reports (hilarious reading!!), and I have sourced quite a few records from school archives over the years as two of my great-grandfathers were teachers. (One of the great-grandfathers dropped dead just outside the school after a particularly trying day. I may or may not have threatened my students that I may do the same.) (I totally have.)
  • Pauleen – School admission registers are gold, and even inspectors’ reports can help. Requests to establish schools can include relatives names, and their children’s ages and names.
  • Maggie P – My father was at the younger end of his family. Once he passed Proficiency in Std 6 he had to go out to work as the family were too poor to send him to high school.
  • Pauleen – I have found most records for the relatives who attended state (government) schools because, where they’ve survived, they’re at the archives. Some have been lost over the centuries/decades. How to find the Catholics is my new challenge.

  • Fran – I have found schools for some of my grandparents in both London at the archives and libraries. In New Zealand the NZ Society of Genealogists have great school records. Helps with names, dates and addresses.

    White77 / Pixabay

    Readers: What are your memories of your schooling? Have you found anything about an ancestor’s schooling records?