Back to School for Your Ancestors

school-class 1892-BostonThe new school sessions are beginning across the country. Children in elementary, middle school or high school will create some fond memories of classmates, teachers, sports, classroom activities, etc. What is true today was also true for your ancestors.

To learn what school activities, events and friends were similar to today and which were quite different, start with living relatives who have been out of school a few years, including yourself of your school memories. Make time to interview in person or via an email or letter some relatives and ask the following.  school-class 1920 in PA

1. Describe the elementary school in size and location.

2. Describe the high school you attended.

3. What was your favorite subject in any grade?

4. How was lunch done; brought a lunchbox or paper bag from home or purchased lunch in the school cafeteria.

5. How did you get to school; a bus, you walked or rode a bike or were driven to school by an adult?

school-bus in Neb. 1920s6. What extra school activities did you participate in; sports, clubs, plays, band, yearbook staff, debate team?

7. Of all the school years who were your favorite teachers?

8. Tell about any funny or crazy incidents that happened to you in school.

9. Did you ever injure yourself or get sick that kept you our of school for a week or more?

10. What years did your schooling cover?

Try to do a collection of several different living relatives to see the similar or differences. Ask one or two of the relatives if they know anything on ancestor’s schooling who has already passed away — a grandmother, etc. A reminder, especially as you go back in time, many children only went as far as the 8th grade. Usually, that was a big graduation ceremony. Check Federal Census records for 1940 where they have the level of education each person reached.

school-girls basketball-1942Also, request from relatives to borrow their school yearbooks, there could be some interesting photos there. Include with that request any school report cards, school books, awards, papers, they may have saved. Write to the high school your relatives or ancestors attended and request copies of any records, photos or artifacts the school may have saved during the years your relative attended.

This could prove to be a fascinating investigation of school and children from years ago and certainly will add to the family history.

Photos: 1892 classroom in Boston, a classroom in PA in 1920, a school bus in Nebraska in 1920s and girls basketball members in 1942.

Related genealogy blogs:

Grandfather at Age 17 in School Yearbook

School Yearbooks 1941-1945


Children Who Worked


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