School Censuses Provide Great Clues To Reveal More About Ancestors
Having problems finding your ancestors in a particular time or place?
Having problems learning who their parents were?
How about confirming their date of birth?
All of these clues/answers (and more) might be found in school census records. In many areas in quite a few states, school districts would take a census of their students to help them properly allocate funds for each school. They did them in various time periods and are incomplete, but if your ancestor was attending a school in a school district where it was taken *and* in a time period they took it, they can be a gold mine of information.
At the very least, a school census record may place your ancestor in a time and location which can lead to more records and more answers. (And possibly more questions to answer because genealogy. ;) )
TIP: You will want to read each school district's instructions to the enumerator to make sure you fully understand the answers.
Okay, so let's take a look at and break down the following example of a school census record for Matagorda County, Texas from 1939. (1) [Click on the image for a larger view]
Breaking Down a School Census Record
A — To Census Trustees: Read Carefully — The census trustee's (enumerator's) instructions. [Hint: The census trustees were the enumerators and understanding what their instructions were will help you to understand all of the information in this record. So, you need to read this carefully, too.]
B — Race — Schools were segregated based on race in this time period.
C — School district information; in this example, it was left blank.
D — Phone No. of school district.
E — First and last name of students of the same family household who would be six and under eighteen years of age on April 1st. All were to be listed even if they had different surnames, as long as they were in the same family.
F — Birthday of listed students.
G — Age the listed students would be when they would be starting school 1 September 1939; also gender is indicated by the column the age was put into.
H — Handicap designation: Census trustees were asked to indicate if each listed student had any of the following specific handicaps: blind, partially blind, deaf, partially deaf, speech defect, feeble minded, and/or crippled. For the ones who were characterized as crippled, the trustees were also asked to indicate whether the crippled student had a curvature of the spine, club feet, infantile paralysis, leg amputation, arm amputation, or if they were in a wheelchair.
I — Name of county in which family resided last April 1st.
J — How long has this family lived in this District?
K — Nationality (Indicate by language spoken in home)
L — Parent/Guardian Certification made by the parent that the information given was correct; that they were a resident of the District as of April 1st; that they had custody or charge of the listed children; and that they had not already been enumerated in this State for the scholastic year 1 September 1939 through 31 August 1940.
M — Names of parents.
N — Signature of Parent, Guardian, or person rendering child [Hint: I would be careful with this information, or at least, I would be careful of the parents names listed before this as that explicitly asks for parent's names while this requires the signature of a parent, guardian, or one in charge of the child. Are they the same? Are the answers the same?]
O — Address (In this example, the trustee only listed the city.)
P — Give name of farm, if on farm (Hint: While left blank on this example, one cannot infer that this meant the family/household was not living on a farm because the trustee left other blanks empty on this form.)
Q — Date subscribed and sworn.
R — Signature of Census Trustee (enumerator).
So, is any of this type of information found on this record the type of information you are looking for when researching your family's history? Could it be useful to your research? You betcha! Not all school districts collected the same information unfortunately. Below are a few more examples of school census records in different states. (2), (3), (4)
How to find these records? Try these techniques and places: 11 Places To Look for Your Ancestor's School Records.
So, are you using school census records to find more information about your ancestors? Will you use them?
(1) "Texas, Matagorda County, School Census Records, 1923-1946." Database with images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 11 August 2015; citing State Board of Education. Matagorda County Judge, Bay City.
(2) "Minnesota, Clay County, School Census Records, 1909-1962." Database with images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 11 March 2015. Citing State School Superintendent. Auditor-Treasurer, Moorhead.
(3) "Mississippi Enumeration of Educable Children, 1850-1892; 1908-1957." Database with images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 11 August 2015. Citing Department of Archives and History. Government Records, Jackson.
(4) "South Dakota, School Records, 1879-1970." Database with images, FamilySearch. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QK73-CQJ6 : accessed 11 August 2015), McCook County, 1939. State Historical Society, Pierre.