Beyond the Internet: Week 48 Teachers

Beyond the Internet

Beyond the Internet

This week I’m belatedly writing Week 48 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens and this week’s topic is Occupations – Teachers.

I wrote a few posts early in the year about school admissions and other school records, which will obviously be of relevance if you have teaching ancestors.

However you’re probably looking for more personal information about their careers.

I have no teachers in my family tree but Mr Cassmob’s is fairly littered with them so much of the information I’ve acquired has come from them. Some are his immediate ancestors, one is our daughter, and others go back to the early-mid 19th century.

Where to look

The first port of call will be the relevant archive for the area where they taught.

If they were in a religious school, you may have to approach the school or religious order they worked for (not so easy, sometimes).

I’d also look at reference libraries to see if there’s more general information about their records.

 teacherSo what might you find about your teaching ancestors?

 Their inspection reports: Remember those school visits when we thought the inspector was only assessing us, but in reality was probably mainly interested in the teacher, and whether they’d taught the necessary curriculum to the right standard. They must have been intimidating for the teachers as 50 years later we met a lady in Alotau who remembered her mother being inspected by Mr Cassmob’s father (who could do intimidating quite well in his professional role).

teacher 2Their other roles in the community:  for example my mother-in-law was the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in her rural Victorian community when she was only 20 or so. As a family historian you have to love information like that!

Their academic training: whether they had teachers’ college training, university, or were thrown in largely at the deep end to sink or swim.

Their history in schools: For example: my in-laws were both teachers and both were required to establish small bush schools in rural Victoria with absolutely minimal training. In their specific case this experience was no doubt invaluable as they launched and taught at new schools in Papua New Guinea.  Did your ancestors teach in large urban schools, small multi-class schools or even one-teacher schools? Who was in their class? Did their own children have to call them “Mrs Cass” in the classroom, for example.

Books: You may find some reference to your teaching ancestors in books relating to the areas where they taught, or specialised books on education.

 GazettesGovernment and Education Their postings may feature in the various gazettes –check them out. (I’m indebted to Rosemary Kopittke who alerted me to the education gazettes last year). Goulds have a range of the Queensland Education Gazettes which you can see here.

Apple on DeskIf you have teachers in your tree I hope these tips will help you learn a little more about them. If you have used other records please do share with us via the comments or your own blog so we can all learn.

Teachers really are pivotal to the development of a community’s children, a debt we all owe them, as they work so hard to educate and care for their students. In the past week we’ve also seen their heroism as they protected children, sometimes with their own lives.

So let’s all say a huge “thank you” to the teachers who’ve helped form us into who we are today. 

Did you have a pivotal teacher: if so who was it? 

The teaching images are from Microsoft clipart.

52 weeks of Personal History and Genealogy: Week 41: Teachers to whom I owe a debt of gratitude

The topic for Week 41 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: Teachers. Did you have a favourite teacher when you were growing up? What class(es) did this person teach and why did he/she make an impact on your life?

Good teachers really do have a pivotal and formative role in our lives. I’ve been lucky to have three teachers who I feel formed my education and in the longer term, my life.

The first teacher I remember as “top of the pops” was Sister Gemma who taught me in my final year of primary school. She was quite young, as opposed to many of the others I’d had previously, and she was certainly switched on and positive. Her teaching meant a great deal when you consider that in those days we sat a state-wide exam called Scholarship[i]. Depending on how one performed in that exam it was possible to gain a government scholarship for the first two years of high school, an important consideration for a working class family. Thanks to her teaching I gained the scholarship and went into my high school with a sound academic result.

The heritage buildings of my high school in Brisbane.

While my teacher in the first two years of high school was certainly knowledgeable and taught us well she was very old, quite eccentric and didn’t engage us personally. Another teacher who taught physiology was quite different:  young (in nun terms) and very intelligent and a spirited teacher. Again thanks to these two teachers I gained a further scholarship for the final two years of high school.[ii]

However it’s the teachers in my final two years, known as Senior in those days, who were even more pivotal. My class room teacher, SIster Mary Benedict, taught us all our science and maths subjects as well as religion, encouraging us to think for ourselves, challenge ideas and stretch ourselves. She was a ball of energy and intelligence, a wonderful teacher and offered great encouragement, knowing when to issue a challenge to one’s intelligence or academic performance.

My other senior teacher, Sr Mary Borgia, was my German teacher who had something of a problem getting the science class to take this non-science subject all that seriously. We used to think her pronunciations rather over the top but I remember on my first foray into German-speaking countries in Europe realising her accent and pronunciation had been entirely correct.  Her teaching has made it so much easier to follow up my German heritage so I’m very grateful to her for this knowledge, however rusty it now is.  On one visit back to the school she told my mother (rather charitably) what a lovely girl I had been –she’d plainly forgotten the day she’d sent me out of class for doing Maths II problems in German class!

There are often criticisms of nuns as teachers but in my thirteen years at school I had only one or two occasional teachers who were not nuns. Not only were the nuns our teachers, but these complex and sophisticated businesses called schools were also run by nuns who had the foresight to move with the times and provide cutting edge facilities for their pupils: we had language laboratories and science labs that were truly advanced.

Many of the nuns were truly superb teachers, influencing the academic success of their pupils not only at the time but also into the future. The good ones taught us to think, to question, and to understand, not to rote-learn.  They also provided role models of intelligent, capable, working women long before feminism came to the fore despite perhaps not quite intending this outcome. For me the excellent teachers outweighed any poorer teachers and I owe them a great debt of gratitude. So many of my positive life memories come from my high school years.

[i] This refers to standard at Year 5, but the exam was taken at the end of year 8 when I completed it.

[ii] For anyone interested there is some information on education in this timeframe at