How does that figure? Sometimes two records (2) will lead you to two more (2), which may lead you to a couple of more records (6). I’ll show you how this works.
Think for all the places your ancestor may have attended a school.
He may have attended a little school house as a child, a preparatory school as a teen, or a college as an adult. He may have attended a formal institution to prepare for a profession as a doctor, lawyer, or minister.
The little schoolhouse: In a history of Cortland County, town of Virgil, New York, I found mention of the first grammar school taught by Henry J. Hall in 1819. Without a formal school house, they convened in the east part of the double log home of John. I Gee. The school ran four weeks with 13 students, namely: “L. Beebe Ball, Stephen S. Powers, James Ball, John M. Roe, John Harris, Wm. L. Gee, Nathan Bouton, Rufus and Harriet Edwards, Lemira Byram, Marietta Chaplin and Sally and Lucy Messenger” [H.P. Smith, History of Cortland County (N.Y., Tucson, Ariz.: W.C. Cox Co., 1974, microreprodouction of original published Syracuse, N.Y.: D. Mason, 1885) 326].
I had not known the name of Daniel Chaplin’s daughter. This was the only place I have found Marietta Chaplin named prior to her marriage. By examining other records, I have determined that this Marietta Chaplin is Daniel Chaplin’s daughter.
Preparatory (or High) School: Jonathan Rufus Smith attended Oberlin College. Jonathan’s brother, Charles Finney Smith, was named after the founder of Oberlin College, Charles Finney. I wrote to Oberlin College to see if they had any information on Jonathan Rufus Smith. Oberlin reported that in the Spring of 1837, Smith “had attended the “Preparatory Dept of Oberlin College which is what we would call high school today” (Oberlin College Archives #52493, Oberlin, Ohio). I now had a place and a date for Smith as a moved between New York and Colorado.
Formal Training: Family tradition states that my Glossop McQuire had a father who was an Anglican Minister (in England). I had no name for Glossop’s father, but a minister should have had formal training, so I started searching the Oxford and Cambridge alumni directories.
I found one possibility in the Cambridge directory. It read: “William Mottesham Macguire. Chaplin of Liverpool Workhouse, died 1930” (J.A. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses, Part II, 1752-1900, Vol. IV K-O, p. 286). Though my ancestor’s name was McQuire with a “Q” I thought the Macguire was a close enough match to warrant investigating.
I’m glad I did! Given a potential name and place and date of death, I found his burial record at Liverpool, marriage record in London, England, and baptism record for seven of his children in various parts of England as his ministry assignments moved him around.
One of those births was, indeed, Glossop McQuire, baptized in 1827 at London. I even found Glossop McQuire in the 1841 England census as a 14 year old boy attending the St. Marlebone Clergy Orphan Boys School at London. Is that perfect or what? I don’t have a problem with William dying in Liverpool and Glossop ending up in London because Glossop’s mother went back “home” to London after her husband’s demise.
For the record, William’s name in these documents was recorded as William Motterham McQuire. Again, the Mottesham of the directory was close enough to the Motterham of the other records, and all other records pointed to the alumni as being my ancestor.
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to look for school records because they can give you all kinds of clues about your ancestor.
So how to you find these records?
Some Alumni Records and High School Yearbooks may be found at Ancestry and World Vital Records. You can access these subscription sites from my sidebar.
If you know where your ancestor lived and there is a school he possibly may have attended, write to the school to see how far back their records go.
Note: Some early professionals may not have attended a formal school but may instead have served as an apprentice. These would include some physicians and lawyers. However, it’s still worth a try. I would look for the school record and only when you don’t find your ancestor in the record, use the explanation that he might not have attended a formal school.
Check the town and county histories for the place where your ancestor lived. These are sometimes found at the US GenWeb site or try to Google it which may pick it up at a repository or Internet Archive. You may also check the Family History Library Catalog in a search by state and county, then scroll down to “History.” To look for a town history, search by state, county, town, then “History.”
Now it’s time for you to prove that two plus two just may equal six!