This is an article we wrote giving a snapshot of a 19th Century primary school – the type of school your Irish ancestors would have gone to. It was published in an edited from in “Your Genealogy Today”, a North American genealogy magazine.
In the 1901 and 1911 Irish Census records a note would be made if your ancestors could read and write or not. Most could, so clearly they had enjoyed some form of education. However, most children would come from poor, rural families and would be expected to work from an early age. So, how could they also go to school? How did they pay for it? What were these schools like?
Looking at school records, especially when combined with other local records, can answer a lot of these questions and give a great snapshot of how your ancestors would have spent their schooldays. They would have been quite different than ours! Thankfully, there are records available on a lot of schools in the National Archives of Ireland, because most if not all schools would have requested subsidies from the Department of Education at various times of their existence. Schools were looking for these subsidies because, although they were mostly opened and run on the basis of private initiative, they wouldn’t have been able to survive without government assistance.
To illustrate what you would be able to find out, the rest of this article is looking at a typical school, St. Mary’s National School in Sandyford, now a suburb of Dublin, then a small village some distance outside the city.
As was often the case, the initiative to open this school was taken by a member of the church. The parish of Sandyford was formed in 1829. Fr. Patrick Smyth became parish priest of the new Sandyford Church (as well as the nearby Glencullen Church). He was a big supporter of providing education to the poor, as will become clear below. Local land owner Daniel McKay, who owned the “Moreen” estate, was prevailed upon to give land towards a new school. Several fundraising drives followed. The school finally opened on 25th January 1841. On the 4th February 1842, Reverend Patrick Smyth wrote a report for the application for aid for his new school. In it he gave us a good description of how the school looked like and how it was run. The school was located in the Taney parish, Balally townland and Barony of Rathdown. It had its own purpose-built building, which had been constructed by private donation. It was constructed from limestone and had a slate roof. It was 60 foot long and 35 foot wide. It had two separate rooms, one for male pupils (35 foot by 20 foot) and one for female pupils (30 foot by 20 foot). There were also 4 small apartments for the teachers. In the “male” room, there were 11 desks and in the “female” room 7 plus a large table. Each room was said to be able to accommodate from 100 to 120 pupils! The principal was Cornelius O’Driscoll, who also taught in the Glencullen school. He was only 20 years old, but was described as ‘trained’. He was assisted by Jane Reilly, also 20 and trained at the Kildare Place Society (see box). Rev. Smyth considered Jane “infinitely well qualified for her duty, both from the beautiful specimens of needlework she showed me as well as from the clear and efficient manner she displayed in the examination of her pupils.” The teachers were paid £8 per year. This was also funded by charity, from a legacy, which earned £17-10 interest per year. Pupils also had to pay, 9p per week. All pupils were “from the poorer classes”. At the start they had 84 male pupils and 93 female pupils on the books. Average attendance however was 55 and 70 respectively.School hours were from 10 AM to 2 PM in winter and until 3 PM in summer, 5 days per week. The main books used were for teaching arithmetic, grammar and geography. There was also daily religious instruction from 2.30-3 PM and all day on Fridays!
As you can see, the records are a veritable treasure trove of information. From them we learn that the school day would be relatively short, leaving time for children to help their families. Despite this, absenteeism was high, likely for the same reason. Only a few topics would be taught, with religion taking a very large place in the curriculum. Conditions would be basic. Pupils would only pay a very small amount towards their education, which was the reason why schools would be raising funds, rely on charity and asking for subsidies. The above will hopefully give you an idea of how a typical school day looked like in 1842 in St. Mary’s. Thankfully much has changed in this particular school that still goes strong today. Who knows what the records will tell you about your ancestors’ school?
Department of Education (1842) Application for Grant by Reverend Patrick Smyth, National Archives of Ireland, Document Reference ED1/28/94/2
(1837) ‘True Liberality’, Freeman’s Journal,21 August, p. .
(14th March 2014) Kildare Place Society, Available at: http://www.worldhistory.biz/…/42265-kildare-place-society.h… (Accessed: 26th February 2016).
Ask About Ireland () Learning Zone Primary Students 5th & 6th – 1828,Available at: http://www.askaboutireland.ie/…/looking-…/19th-century/1828/ (Accessed: 12th March 2017).
Myles Dungan (9th September 2016) On This Day – 9 September 1831 – Irish National Education,Available at: https://mylesdungan.com/tag/kildare-place-society/ (Accessed: 12th March 2017).
Picture: Caledon School, Co Tyrone. Built 1907. Taken 2017. Author’s Collection.
Yesterday, we had a lovely visit to June Blake’s Garden in Blessington, Co. Wicklow. Even on a autumn’s day it was a sea of colour and life. Huge thanks to June and her son Dara for the very informative tour. You can find out more about June’s garden and the holiday rooms she has available to rent here: June Blake’s Garden.
Below you can enjoy our short video of our visit.
Genealogy.ie is a regular contributor to genealogical and local history magazines.
For the last few years we have been writing for local history magazine “Obelisk”. The next installment of this annual publication will be launched in November, the third year running with an article by us.
In addition we also have recently been published in North-American magazine “Your Genealogy Today”, with an article about Irish schools in the nineteenth century. And although we cannot yet reveal what the article is about, we will be in the next edition of this magazine as well!
At this very moment we are being published in “Internet Genealogy“, also aimed at the North American market. This article is about a very ‘niche’ database: ‘Legacies of British Slave-ownership’. The stories in it are fascinating though. The magazine is hitting the shelves just about now! Clicking on the picture below will bring you to their website.
For one happy customer we found her parents and grandparents – who she had never known – at the age of 77! We are telling about it in the video below.
Fiona, her daughter, told us: “Mum is pouring over all the details…. I can see many conversations in the future, wonderful to find out your grandparents names at the age of 77! Thank you.”
“Your Genealogy Today” is a leading North American genealogy magazine. It is a “how-to” publication, giving tips, tools and advise to family historians about researching their ancestry. It is published by Moorshead Magazines Ltd. . This company also publishes “Internet Genealogy” and “History Magazine”. Although based in Toronto, Canada, 90% of the circulation is in the USA.
The magazines can be obtained via subscription or via Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million in the USA or Chapters book stores in Canada. Alternatively, they can be ordered or downloaded in PDF format from their online store.
The reason why we post about it, is that the September/October issue contains an article from our own Michael van Turnhout. The title of his article is “Snapshot of an Irish School”. It talks about what we can learn about the lives of our ancestors by looking at a typical school in the mid-nineteenth century. If you are interested to learn about your ancestors’ local school, why don’t you Contact Us
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Sue Lisk finds that you can make amazing connections with your ancestors through hints they leave for future generations
Crimes Across Multiple Jurisdictions
Diane L. Richard follows a North Carolina family through court records
Discover Your WWI Ancestor Through State-Based Resources
Margaret Moen looks at State-based records you might encounter when searching for your WWI ancestor
Road Overseers, Surveyors of Highways, and Road Juries
David A. Norris looks at how early road-building records might pave the way to new genealogical information
Eyewitness to History: My Ancestor Was There!
Robbie Gorr discovers an ancestor who lived in Tombstone, Arizona during some of the most tumultuous times in Western US history
Using Apprentice Records for Genealogy Searches
Ed Storey explores apprenticeship program records and what they might reveal about ancestors who worked in the trades
Your Irish Ancestors and Their Schools
Michael van Turnhout looks at a snapshot of a 19th century school
Interview with Mary Tedesco
Leslie Michele Derrough sits down with the genealogy researcher and co-host of Genealogy Roadshow to learn about her passion for genealogy
Genealogy & the Law
Where there is – or isn’t – a will. Judy G. Russell explains what you might find in a probate
The Back Page
Dave Obee says: “Sometimes, it’s hard to see the obvious”
This blog contains a large photo gallery of Deansgrange Cemetery. Please give it a moment to load!
Deansgrange Cemetery is located in the local council area of Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, a suburb of Dublin. It is open to the public. The cemetery is, together with Glasnevin, one of the largest in the Dublin area, occupying 65 acres. (So if you want to visit a particular grave, you should find out first where it is!). First burial was Anastasia Carey, 41 years, Servant St. Joseph’s Orphanage, 27th January 1865.
Hover over the pictures below to see the title; click on them to see a larger picture and its story.
Disclaimer: Most of the stories in this gallery are from gravedigger “John”, who told them to us during a “Dun Loaghaire Heritage Tour” of the Deansgrange Cemetery. They come from relatives who visited the graves and some have been told from colleague to colleague and even generation to generation and might therefore not be accurate. They are certainly very entertaining. Thanks for the stories, John.
We hope you enjoyed these photos and their stories. Why not have a look at the rest of our website?
Genealogy.ie believes that your family story is not just about names and dates of people in your family tree. We think it is also about the places where they lived and worked, the houses they lived in. This is why, when we search Irish ancestry for our clients, we also offer Irish local history research and investigation. In most cases our research is into the history of a house or farm. But it can also be a village or even an event. Depending on records available this gives you a picture of how your ancestors would have lived. And thus add colour to your Irish family history.
Take Marley House. Up to quite recently it was a large demesne (mansion house which was also a working farm, albeit a large one). Watch our short presentation:
Marley as a land holding traces its origins back to the Anglo-Norman times. The Fleming family were the first owners, followed by by the Cistercian religious order. Religious orders were the biggest landowners at the time. King Henry VIII abolished them and resold the lands he took. The new owner was called Taylor.
He build the older farmhouse, a large part of it still in existence (courtyard). It was then bought by a series of families who used the property as their ‘out of town’ refuge. Living in the growing city of Dublin was unhealthy. Therefore rich families bought farms and lands and constructed mansion houses in the immediate environs of the city. The area around Marley was very popular as it was at the foot of the Dublin and Wicklow mountains. This not only had fresher air but also offered stunning views. The first of these families built Marley House.
This was actually the name of the wife of the owner, a bishop’s daughter. His own name was LaTouche. His family were Huguenots who had fled France. They started as weavers but became a wealthy banking family. After a few different families had owned the property, the last of them, the Tedcastle family, sold it to the local council who has turned the gardens into a great public park and is in the process of restoring the house. This spring free tours are available to see the inside of the ground floor of the house.
We hope you enjoyed the video and story. Why not have a look at the rest of our website?