Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Texas Scholastic Census

Vital records in Texas started in 1903 but did not become mandatory statewide until the 1930s. As a result birth certificates are very sporadic during this time period. Texas Scholastic Census, which is underutilized, is a great substitute for birth records. I discovered the value of these records during my first trip to the Cass County Clerk’s Office in Linden, Texas. While looking for birth records for my maternal grandmother and her siblings, I was unable to locate any records for my grand-aunt Agnes Stanley (1925-2002) who was born in 1925. After spending a couple of hours examining the birth registry, the clerk suggested that I look at the scholastic census. And to my surprise the census provided me with the names and birth dates of all the school-age children of my great grandparents as well as the name of the school district. The census was signed by my great grandfather (R. Matthew Stanley, 1878-1932) in 1931. This was the first time I saw his signature.

As with most records the information collected on them varies from county to county and over time. For example, the census for 1936 Leon County, Texas collected information on nationality and length of stay within the county.

The origin and development of the scholastic census was outlined in an article by W. E Marshall, Executive Secretary of the Texas State Department of Education. The article titled “Our Public Schools" was published in The Victoria Advocate on 13 June 1939. According to Mr. Marshall, it began in 1854 with an act to establish a system of schools and annual scholastic censuses, to be taken by each county assessor-collector. The law required that a list of the free white population between the age of six and eighteen years be made each year in every county. The age was lowered to six and sixteen in 1870. It was not until 1884, that the census would include all children in the county between the ages of eight and sixteen. In 1895, it was ordered that the scholastic census would be conducted between the first day of May and the first day of June for all children over eight and under seventeen on the first day of the following September. Once again in 1925 the age requirement was changed. This time the required age was between seven and eighteen. And finally in 1929, the law changed the age to six through eighteen, which remained in effect until 1975 when the scholastic census was abolished.

These records are kept and maintained by the county clerk and sometimes the county judge. They can also be examined through inter-library loan. Also check the Texas State Library and Archives’ website to see if the scholastic census for your county has been microfilmed.