This document outlines educational records that may exist for your ancestor and where they may be found in the Niagara Region (the former Lincoln and Welland Counties) in Ontario.
A) An Overview of Key Dates for Education Records in Ontario
These key dates for education records come from Brenda Dougall Merriman’s Genealogy in Ontario: Searching the Records (City book was published in: OGS, 2013), page 222:
1785 First school opened, at Kingston
1807 Legislation established a grammar school in each district
1816 Legislation establishing common schools
1827 King’s College founded (later the University of Toronto)
1830 Upper Canada College founded at York
1847 Toronto Normal School opened
1850 County boards of education established; the School Act expanded to include Roman Catholic rights for separate school funding
1876 Royal Military College founded at Kingston
1896 Legislation required children aged from 8 to 14 to attend school for the entire academic year
1960 Consolidation of rural schools
Another key date is 1997, when a number of school boards were amalgamated to create “district” school boards. As a result, most school boards changed names.
B) Records at the Archives of Ontario
Education has always been a provincial responsibility in Canada. Here are a links about education records held at the Archives of Ontario:
Archives of Ontario Research Guide 216 -Student and teacher records
Ontario Government Record Series RG 2-21 Grammar School Trustees half-yearly returns and annual reports (gives student’s name and their attendance record)
Education Records Are Available on Interlibrary loan – information about superannuated teachers, local superintendent and local board of trustees going back to the mid 1800s:
C) Ontario Department of Education Records
The Ontario Department of Education published annually a record of school staff in Ontario. These publications are organized by county and then by school. They list school board officials and teachers by name as well as other information about their teaching qualifications. See the following link:
Public and separate schools and teachers in the Province of Ontario, 1911- 1923
Schools and teachers in the Province of Ontario, 1922-1934, 1949-1965
D) Local Public Elementary and Secondary Schools (government funded)
The District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) was created in 1998 following the amalgamation of the former Niagara South Board of Education (established 1967) and the former Lincoln County Board of Education. The Niagara South Board of Education and Lincoln County Board of Education were the successor boards of many smaller boards that served to educate students within the Welland and Lincoln County boundaries.
Many records at the DSBN are restricted for one hundred years because of privacy. However, numerous records of students and teachers are available to genealogists, since their records reach deeper into the past beyond the restricted time period.
When smaller schools closed as a result of mergers with larger schools, their records often went to the larger school, respective board offices, local historical or heritage organizations, the homes of interested staff, or were unfortunately destroyed.
The type and amount of records that have survived vary greatly. School attendance records, Ontario Student Records (OSR) that contain information such as student mark summaries, office student/parent index cards (which list the parents’ address, phone number and possibly their occupation), yearbooks, class photographs, and trophies are some of the possible records that could exist for your ancestor.
Tracking the records of small schools requires a working knowledge of the school section numbering system for the particular township and knowledge of the various successions of schools over time. No single source exists that maps out school sections. However, during Canada’s Centennial in 1967, townships in Ontario were encouraged to publish books about the history of their township. Many of these books have a wealth of information about schools, teachers and students in their township. These Centennial township histories are usually held in local public libraries and/or local historical societies.
Trudi Wright, the record management officer at the DSBN, has been very helpful with the creation of this webpage to further promote records held at the DSBN. The following DSBN links provide contact information for researching possible student and teacher records:
E) Local Separate School Information (Roman Catholic Schools)
The Niagara Catholic District School Board (NDCSB) was created in 1998. This new board was created by legislation requiring the amalgamation of the former Welland County Roman Catholic Separate School Board and the former Lincoln County Roman Catholic Separate School Board. These former school boards were formed in the 1950s.
Many records at the NDCSB are restricted for one hundred years because of privacy. Contact NDCSB for more information:
F) Local Private School Information (Ridley College)
Mike Moulden of Ridley College prepared the following to help others discover student records of alumni:
“If you think your relative may have attended Ridley College please feel free to call Mike Moulden at 1-800-590-6569 (email@example.com) and he will dig into Ridley’s Archives, School Register and Year Books all of which date back to the school’s founding in 1989.”
Michael J. Moulden ’70
Ridley College, St Catharines, Ontario
Office: 905 684 1889 ext 2290
Cell: 905 933 4893
G) Post-Secondary School Institutions
Brock University (founded 1964) and Niagara College (founded 1967) are post-secondary school education institutions in the NPBOGS area. At this point, many of their student and staff records are protected under privacy legislation.
Their contact information is provided here to assist you in discovering what records are available to help your research:
- Brock University https://brocku.ca/learning-services/contact-information
- Niagara College https://www.niagaracollege.ca/directory/
H) Local Education Reference Material
Niagara Peninsula Branch-The Ontario Genealogical Society Publications
The following items are a representative list of our records:
i) Notes from Niagara- 1985 November.pdf – NPBOGS newsletter with the following-
Upper Ganada_Sundries_E.B.C.AG5 81 -_Yol_21 Report of the District Common Schools established within the District of Niagara, Province of Upper Canada for the year ending on the 31st of May, 1817.
29 teachers have been paid. 26 schools 732 scholars established Niagara 31st May, 1817 Robert Addison, Chairman
Also P.A.C. RG5 Al – Vol 43 for teacher information for Report of the Common District Schools taught in the District of Niagara for the Year Commencing 1st June 1818, and ending 31st May, 1819
ii) Notes from Niagara -2007 November.pdf– NPBOGS newsletter has a Report of A District School For the Year 1830 in the District of Niagara
-SS #6 Decou School 1845
1828 student list
iii) Notes from Niagara -1994 August.pdf – NPBOGS newsletter contains-
REPORT OF COMMON SCHOOLS The following is located in the Appendix to Journal of Assembly: 1831-2 (Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada) Report of Common Schools, Established in the District of Niagara, for the half year ending 31st May, 1831. The Township will be followed by the teacher’s name:
Also from the Journal of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada is a list of Inn-Keepers from 1825. Names of persons Licensed as Inn-keepers to Retail Spirituous Liquors between the 5th January and the 4th October 1825, as far as reported by the Inspectors.
FROM THE DESK OF ESTHER SUMMERS Did you know that only the families using the school system paid for their children, grandchildren or others living on their property? The following is for the DeCEW School which was near the DeCew House. The original records are in the possession of Esther Summers. RATE BILL Rate Bill of persons liable for Teachers wages in Union School District No. six Township of Thorold and Grantham for the Quarter ending the 31st of May 1845. Names of Parents or Guardians of Children and number of children in school.
Rate Bill for the quarter ending the 30th day of September 1846.
Rate Bill for the quarter ending the thirty first day of December 1846
- iv) M014 SS6 Drummondville 1874.pdf– school register with names of pupils and grade level
- v) Notes From Niagara 1981 July.pdf– NPBOGS newsletter article of notes from a meeting on March 17 1981 by Alan Hayne about “Ontario School Records” – a series of dates chronological synopsis from his presentation
- Local Libraries
Most central public libraries will have information about public and separate schools in their area. The libraries will also have copies of the local township Centennial histories, school yearbooks and possibly searchable databases of local newspapers with references to school awards, events and team sports.
They will also have local city directories, which you can use to locate the address of your ancestor. This may help you determine the closest school to your ancestor’s address.
i) St. Catharines Public Library information Portal
Please note that all of the Niagara Peninsula Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society’s publications and library holdings reside at the St. Catharines Public Library. The collection can be found on the second floor of the Central Library at 54 Church Street. There is parking both beside and underneath the library off of Carlisle Street. Parking is free after 6 PM on weekdays and all day on Saturdays.
Tuesday – Thursday 10 am – 9 pm
Friday 10 am – 6 pm
Saturday 9 am – 5 pm
Sunday (May to October) Closed
Sunday (October – December and January – May) 1:30 pm – 5:00 pm (see the Library website for specific Sunday hours: http://www.stcatharines.library.on.ca/index.php/locations)
When using St. Catharines Public Library’s catalogue https://cath.ent.sirsidynix.net/client/en_US/default to search for resources and records pertaining to education in the Niagara area you could try doing a subject search and typing in the keywords “education” and “Niagara”; ”schools” and “Niagara” or “schools” and “St. Catharines”.
A few books that might be of interest are:
Education in the Niagara Peninsula: some rural and urban schools in the Niagara Peninsula: field trip guide/ tenth annual Niagara Peninsula History Conference, April 30 – May 1, 1988. Brock University,
St. Catharines, Ontario. SPEC COLL 371.009713 Nia
McArthur School, Port Dalhousie, Ontario, attendance records: register title, public school daily register for recording the attendance of pupils in public school: McArthur School registers 1888-1927 (sporadic), Port Dalhousie, Ont.: McArthur School SPEC COLL 373.71338 McA
Niagara schools (excluding St. Catharines): a history v.1 – v.3., compiled by the Special Collections Dept., St. Catharines Public Library SPEC COLL 371.009713 Nia
St. Catharines Schools: a history v.1 & v.2, compiled by the Special Collections Dept., St. Catharines Public Library SPEC COLL 371.009713 Sai
The library also owns vertical files containing newspaper clippings of local schools, school boards, teachers and more. These files are located in the Special Collections room on the second floor of the Central Library.
Pictures of some schools can be found on our Historic Images of St. Catharines & Niagara database http://bmd.stcatharines.library.on.ca/en/search. A search of this database will also produce results from our Local Names Index. The index contains notices for births, marriages, deaths, adoptions, and anniversaries. Records have been entered up to the middle of 1930 and from July 2005 to present. More names are being added daily.
ii) The Welland Public Library (main branch) has the following online database which may help your search.
Welland Public Library on line Marriage, Births, death newspaper search:
The library also has an extensive Local History collection, with maps, Vernon’s directories, and microfilm of local newspapers dating back to the 1850s. They also have folders with articles and clippings related to local schools.
The following books are very helpful:
History of the Development of Public Education in the City of Welland Ontario, Canada (1788-1968) – Author J.J. Claude Trudel
Call Number : 370.971338 TRU
The development of separate schools in the County of Welland, Ontario / by Joseph M. Noonan
Publication Date: 1970
Call Number: LHC 377.5 Noo
The following is one of many smaller resources that are available at the library-
A short history of the union grammar and common schools of the Village of Welland in the County of Welland, A.D. 1866 to A.D. 1876 / Frank M. Burwell.
Publication Date: 1969
Call Number:LHC 370.971338 Bur:
iii) Niagara Falls Public Library
This link accesses the Historic Niagara Digital Collection. The search term “school” produces over 900 images. Part of this collection is an index to selected headlines and names from Niagara newspapers from 1905 to the present.
The following books will aid your research:
Education in the Niagara Peninsula – tenth annual Niagara Peninsula History Conference, Brock University April 30-May1, 1988 by Love, James H.
Call Number: Vic Adult LHC 370.971338 Nia Acorn Room
Catholic Education; a gift from the past…a present for the future, celebrating Catholic education in the Niagara Region by Ferren, Peter W.
Call Number: Vic Adult LHC 371.0713
A short history of the Township of Niagara: touching upon transportation, education and municipal affairs from 1793 to 1893 by Crysler, John Morden
Call Number: Vic LHC 971.351C957 Oakes Room
Loretta Academy Niagara (1861-1969) education under the rainbow by Smyth, Elizabeth
Call Number: Vic Adult LHC 377.82 Smy
iv) Fort Erie Public Library link:
Fort Erie Library Local History and Genealogy:
v) Niagara-on-the-lake Public Library:
I) Niagara Community Information Database
This website hosts contact information and descriptions for institutions and groups in the Niagara Region (former Welland and Lincoln Counties) that might be helpful for your research. On the homepage, you can sort the groups by type and geographic area to narrow your search for educational records.
Use this link:
These three groups were sorted from this database which to help your search.
Historic Preservation Groups (19)
Usually only the main or central library for each area holds the historic records or special collections material.
Museums and Historical Societies (35)
Forms have been signed to allow NPBOGS to use these images on the NPBOGS website to promote Researching Educational Records in Niagara. We are grateful to the Niagara Falls Public Library for allowing us to use these images from the Historic Niagara Digital Collection.
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