Education and school records

Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire hold a large amount of records relating to schools and education in the North East of Scotland.

This map shows the location of schools across the North East. Each school for which we hold records for is located, though there are also some for which we hold no records. School records for the Moray Council area, including areas of historic Banffshire, are now held by the Moray Council Heritage Centre.

Please note that the map works best with Chrome and Firefox browsers, and may not work correctly on Internet Explorer.

The different coloured pins note the historical county in which the school was located:

Green: Banffshire
Red: Aberdeenshire
Blue: Aberdeen City
Turquoise: Kincardineshire
Yellow: Morayshire

You can zoom in and out on the map using the + and - signs. To see a list of schools in alphabetical order, view a larger version of Schools in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, or click the link underneath the map. Clicking on the pin will give you the name of the school, the parish it is in, and its reference number for checking our Online Catalogue to see what records are held.

School lists

We have also produced lists showing which schools are in which parish and the schools in alphabetical order.

Please note that the information in this list may have changed over time as some schools have since closed, but it does give an idea of which school may have been attended depending on which street someone was living.

School records for the Moray Council area, including areas of historic Banffshire, are now held by the Moray Council Heritage Centre

Types of Records held

The system of educational provision by local authorities dates back to the 1872 Education (Scotland) Act. This Act established school boards in each parish and burgh in Scotland, with powers to erect schools, to take over and run existing schools, and to levy school fees and a local school rate to fund their activities.

The schools opened by the School Boards from 1872/3 aimed to provide an elementary education in reading, writing, arithmetic and religious instruction. Though education was compulsory, pupils were not obliged to attend public schools run by the School Board.  In 1885 the Scottish Education Department Higher Leaving Certificate was introduced, which served as the standard for admission to Scottish universities.

Until 1901 the requirement for pupils to attend school until the age of 13 years was relaxed for pupils over the age of 10, if they had reached the approved standard in the three Rs, and had secured employment. As a result, relatively few stayed on until they reached their thirteenth birthday.

The records for each school may contain one or more of the following types:

School log books

The log book is a daily or weekly log or significant events which took place in the school, which the headteacher was required to keep by the annual Codes issued by the Scottish Education Department.  Log books usually note the arrival, departure and absence of teachers, alterations and additions to school buildings and visits of inspectors. Extracts from inspection reports, prizes won by school teams and achievements of individual pupils may also be included. 

Pupils are very rarely named unless there are problems, or receive prizes or bursaries.  However, they are still very useful for family historians as they often give an insight into the daily life of a school, beyond the basic information provided in the admissions registers. 

Parts or all of some log books have been closed to public inspection, as they contain sensitive information on named individuals that cannot be made available to the public under the Data Protection Act (2018).

In 2016 we acquired the log book of the school on the Fasque Estate in Kincardineshire (reference ED/KC5/124/1/1). Rolls of the school are included from 1870-1875, and a transcription by Paige Donald is available below:


School admission registers

A list of pupils attending the school, arranged by date of entry. They show the date that a pupil started at the school, and usually also give their date of birth, address, and name of parent. 

They often show

  • the previous school attended,
  • the class into which the child was admitted (e.g. PI),
  • the reason for leaving (e.g. the next school attended or area the child will be moving to, often states 'age' which means the child had reached school leaving age),
  • the date of leaving. 

Some admissions registers are alphabetically indexed by the child’s last name.  They do not show daily attendance, and usually do not show the results of any examinations. 

Please note that access to registers containing information about living individuals is restricted under the Data Protection Act (this applies to registers covering the last 100 years). Please contact staff for more details. 

Lefts registers

A list of pupils who attended the school, arranged by date of departure. For each pupil the lefts register usually notes the date of admission, name, date of birth, address, date of departure, number of attendances and reason for leaving. Lefts registers survive more rarely than admission registers. Please note that access to registers containing information about living individuals  is restricted under the Data Protection Act (this applies to registers covering the last 100 years). Please contact staff for more details. 


Photographs are rare and only survive sporadically in the collections.

Miscellaneous records

A variety of miscellaneous records survive for schools such as centenary brochures, gardening registers, circulars, prospectuses and so on. 

Minute Books record information on the running and administration of the school by the elected board members. Other records may include letter books and financial papers. The survival of such records from board to board is variable. Further information on the various School Board records can be found on our Online Catalogue.

Records of Aberdeen School Board

The archive holds an extensive collection of material for Aberdeen School Board, Aberdeen Education Authority and the Aberdeen Town Council Education Committee, which oversaw education in Aberdeen between 1873 and 1975. These records are in our Online Catalogue with the reference CA/25.

Records of interest to family historians include:

  • CA/25/4/1 Scotch Education Department Forms, which include pupil teacher agreements.
  • CA/25/4/3 Registers of Defaulting Parents (whose children were failing to attend school), 1877-1959 (some subject to data protection restrictions). Key information from the first volume of this series, covering 1877-1909, has been indexed by our volunteer Sandy (additional information can be seen in the original once you have identified relevant entries in the index): 
  • CA/25/4/4 Registers of Children Committed to Industrial or Approved Schools, 1909-1971 (subject to Data Protection restrictions).
  • CA/25/4/4/4 Register of Neglected Children, 1912-1921 - index available below.
  • CA/25/4/7&8 Attendance records for Continuation class and Junior Instruction Centres (subject to Data Protection restrictions).
  • CA/25/4/11 Record books for pupils at Rubislaw-Ruthrieston Special School, c. 1920s (subject to Data Protection restrictions).
  • CA/25/5/1-7 Staff Registers (some subject to Data Protection restrictions).
  • CA/25/5/10 Teacher’s Sheets detailing teachers’ professional history, c. 1920 – index available below.
  • CA/25/5/11 Staff Returns, 1936–1957 (some subject to Data Protection restrictions). Index to 1936 return available below.

Alison McCall’s “Aberdeen School Board: Aberdeen Female Teachers 1872-1901: a biographical list” published by the ANEFHS may also be of use to those researching teachers in their family tree.

School Board censuses were compiled to monitor school attendance, which became compulsory for children between the age of 5 and 13 after the passing of the Education (Scotland) Act of 1872. The leaving age was raised to 14 in 1883.

In 1919 the Fetteresso and Rickarton School Board carried out an educational census of "young folk" aged between 14 and 18. The census book also includes a register of defaulters - parents whose children were failing to attend school - and a summary of the school attendance rates and occupations of young people in the area. The census entries cover Stonehaven, Muchalls, Tewel, Netherley, Rickarton, Cookney, Cairnhill and Brackmuirhill, and records the young people's names, address, date of birth, occupation (or school), hours of work, and their class in the last school attended.

Record of the censuses taken in Maryculter June 1888, June 1891, April 1894, and May 1897. The census records: date of visit, name of Parent or Guardian, address, names of children between 5 to 13 years, their age last birthday, the name of the school attended by the child, and the reason given by parent or guardian for not attending school. Sometimes the achievement of a particular standard is given as a reason for leaving school: this was because legislation allowed children over 10 to leave school altogether if they reached Standard V, or to work as half timers alongside school if they reached Standard III (which covered writing, reading and arithmetic, the three Rs).

The volume contains censuses of children within the parish of Marykirk, up to 14 years of age, taken in the middle of June in the years 1895 – 1901. The census records: the family’s residence, the name the parent or guardian (usually the father) with the names of the children in the household, the total number of children in the household, their ages, whether they were school or not, if that school was outside the parish, and the name of the school. From 1897 the compiler’s spelling is extremely irregular, so you may need to try first names and surnames separately, or scrolling through to find a relevant location. Where possible, the common spelling has been placed in square brackets after the word.

We also hold a censuses of school aged children for Portlethen & Banchory compiled for Banchory Devenick School Board in 1886 and 1910. They record parents' name, childrens' names, ages and whether at school:

There are very few records which pre-date the 1872 Education (Scotland) Act.

Information on some schools which operated before the establishment of the school boards may be gleaned from the organisation which administered the school, for example information on schools managed by churches may be found in the records of kirk sessions. Some earlier schools were taken over by the school board and occasionally records before 1872 survive as they continued to be used by the Board's teachers. 

Generally there are few records of the many private schools in operation in the nineteenth-century, beyond the advertisements in the local press and entries in postal directories, although records relating to charity and private schools may survive. For example, Aberdeen Endowments Trust records are held by Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives, and include records relating to various charity schools associated with the Trust (an index to admissions to the Thain's Charity School is available on the AET webpage). The records of Robert Gordon's College are held by the College.

The Statistical Accounts may include some information about educational provision in a parish. School masters were asked to provide answers to a Government Select Committee on Education in Scotland in 1838, and the returns were published in 1841: these give some detail of education provision at the time. 

We do not hold any records of examination results. The Scottish Qualifications Authority operates a certificate replacement service.  Results of the Leaving, Senior Leaving and Scottish Leaving Certificate Examination Registers, 1908-1965 and Results of Senior Leaving Certificate Examination Results during the war years, 1940-1945 are held by the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Records about teachers can be found in different collections at the archives. 

If you know the school the teacher taught at, it would be worth checking that school's log books (see above for more details). 

Responsibility for overseeing the appointment of staff would have fell to the School Boards (between 1872-1919), Education Authorities (between 1919-1930) and Education Committees (between 1930-1975). 

Area School Board Education Authority Education Committee

Aberdeen City

(see School Board section above for more info)

CA/25/5 CA/25/5 CA/25/5
Aberdeen County AS/AS AS/Acty/5 AS/Acty/5
Banff County AS/BS AS/Bcty/5 AS/Bcty/5
Kincardine County AS/KS AS/Kcty/5 AS/Kcty/5

Any records for teachers born less than a 100 years ago who are still alive will be covered by the terms of the Data Protection Act, and access may be restricted. 

The Aberdeen and North East Family History Society have published "Aberdeen School Board female teachers 1872-1901: a biographical list" which may be of use. 

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