School District Records

At a recent staff meeting, we discussed the many wonderful resources that we have in the Research Center for genealogy research. It was decided that when there wasn’t a blazing topic that needed to be covered, an underused but amazing resource could be highlighted.

So, I want to introduce you to a set of books published by the Chautauqua County Genealogical Society in 1996, titled School Trustees Annual Reports. The information was extracted from several boxes of Trustee Reports for Chautauqua County District Schools, held in the collection of the McClurg Museum in Westfield. Lois Barris painstakingly compiled the records of each year and town between 1892 and 1906. 

The seven different volumes contain these records by Town, with the names of the head of household in alphabetical order. At the end of each Town is an index of students who lived in a household other than their actual residence for various reasons. Students often worked for other families and sometimes they lived much further away from their own District School, but closer to another. Harsh winter weather made a long walk on a nice day into a miserable experience, back when snow was piled high till spring. 

Notice that on the first page of the Arkwright School Census Schedule, listed alphabetically and possibly misspelled by the Trustee, are the names of the heads of household, and four other columns of amazing information that sometimes leads to huge breakthroughs. The years of 1892 – 1906 are perfect to fill in some of the black hole left by the demise of the 1890 census (a fire in 1921). The very abbreviated 1892 census was an attempt to replace the 1890, but each household was run together and the relationship of each person to the head of household was not included. That being said, it is useful since the 1900 census was still eight years away.

Although each Town has its own index, there is another volume that we will soon order, which is an every name index for all volumes. This will be very helpful in following families as they moved or those young farm hands moving from farm to farm as they were needed.

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