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How to find incredible old school photos in our family history records

Ellie overthrow jones. Author at Find my past
Ellie Overthrow-Jones
6 January 2021

What was school like for your ancestors? Were they troublemakers or teachers’ pets? By using old photos on Findmypast, we stepped back in time to explore schools in England and beyond.

Perhaps you’ve come across your ancestor in our 19th-century school registers, or you want to know how to find examples of old-school photography from a bygone era. Either way, you’ve come to the right place.

Search the records

Was your ancestor a teacher's pet?

On Findmypast, you can find iconic photos in a variety of our historical records, from our incredible Photo Collection to our collection of newspapers. Here’s where you can look.

How do I find old school photos?

In our Photo Collection, there are wonderful photos of everyday schoolchildren at work and play.

Old school photo of children drinking milk

View in-full with the Findmypast Photo Collection.

Above, pupils Michael, Carol and Leslie of Nursery Fields Primary School, Brereton, enjoy a refreshing glass of milk.

Sporting around

Even in the 1920s, female students were encouraged to play netball. In this old school photo, Streatham Secondary School takes on North Mitcham in 1925. What sports did your ancestors play?

Old photo of girls playing netball

A passing movement by Streatham Secondary School in their match with North Mitcham at Furzedown Cottage. Find out more in the Findmypast Photo Collection.

At Rose Hill School in Tunbridge Wells, a 58ft steamship was built on the grounds. Designed by the headmaster, built by the school’s sea scouts, and inspected by Lord Baden-Powell himself. Taken in 1932.

vintage photo of a steampship.

Unlock more detail in the Findmypast Photo Collection.

Old school portraits

Our Harrow School Photographs show both individual pupils and their schoolmasters between 1869 and 1925.

vintage schoolboy portrait

Did your ancestor attend this prestigious institution? There might be a photo, like this one of Aymer Acton Ainslie, of Carnforth.

At school in Scotland

If you have Scottish ancestors, you may find their school days documented in our Dundee Photographic Collection. Don’t forget to check our admission records, registers, and logbooks to see if you can find more detail.

Do you have any old-school school photos? Our favourites could go into our Photo Collection.

Posted by Findmypast on Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Remember, not all schools were in towns and cities.

Could your ancestor be among these children? Hill Street School, Dundee, taken in 1900.

old photos of children outside school in Dundee

Read all about it

More historical photos in the schoolroom can be found in our newspaper collection.

old photo of a school sports team

Holy Trinity School, Burnley News, 23 March 1929.

Explore sports days, school trips, graduation and class photos.

Old school photo of swimmers

Shield Winners at Luton Schools’ Annual Swimming Gala, Beds and Herts Pictorial, 3 October 1933.

Where else can you look for school records?

If you’re ready to discover more, try our Schools Registers, Admissions & Log Books for 1870-1914. If your ancestor was at boarding school at the start of World War 2, the 1939 Register is a great place to look. Here’s a list of more school registers and records for you to explore:

Got a story to share? We’d love to hear it. Head over to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to tell tales of your ancestor’s schooldays.