Chester Co (PA) Poor School Children Records

I tend to assume that since my ancestors were of humble means that there will be fewer records about them out there to find. There are few wills or land documents, nor major family studies completed for most of my ancestors. Every once in a while I come across a surprising record, and in this case, one that has allowed me to step one more generation back in my Carman line.

I actually came across the Chester County Poor School Children index several years ago and then lost it. I was not so diligent in documenting my finds back then and the record “disappeared” from Google. In truth the index was converted from a text file which was Google searchable to a pdf file that was not. I could not remember what county in Pennsylvania it was or what repository held the records, so it was lost to me for some years.

When I found it again, I sent for photocopies of the records right away and this was the first piece of evidence I’d found that Elon Carman (d1866) was the father of my 3rd great-grandfather Charles R. Carman. The other pieces of evidence will be detailed in later posts.

According to the Chester County Poor School Children Records page, an act passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1809 “required the commissioners of each county to direct the assessors of each township to receive from the parents the names of all children between the ages of 5 and 12, who reside in the township, and whose parents were unable to pay for schooling.” Those children confirmed to be poor were entitled to free schooling at the county’s expense. This was the precursor to free public schooling which came to Pennsylvania in 1834.

These are the pages of those lists that had Elon Carman & his children:

1826 – London Derry Township

Part of poor school children list of 1826 that shows Elon Carman & children
Click to see full page

Ealan Carman
Elizth Carman (age not reported)
Charles Carman (age not reported)


1827 – London Derry Township

Part of list that shows Elon Carman & children
Click to see full page

Elen Carman
Charles Carman – 9
Mary Ann Carman – 6


1828 – Penn Township

Part of list that shows Elon Carman & children
Click to see full page

Elon Carman
Charles Rich Carman – 10
Mary Ann Carman – 7


D.M. MacGregor bill, Cochranville

Click to see full page
Click to see full page

Teachers submitted bills to the Commissioner’s Office to seek reimbursement for teaching and supplies provided to poor children. I also received a copy of a bill that lists Chas Carman having attended 109 days and Mry Ann Carman having attended 68 days between 28 July 1827 and 2 Feby 1828. Their teacher was D.M. MacGregor.

So, now I have records connecting Charles R. Carman to Elon Carman (d1866), and the names of two probable sisters, Elizabeth and Mary Ann. I lost track of Elizabeth, but Mary Ann shows up in the next records I have as evidence of this connection: the 1812 Widows Pension Files of Elon Carman and his wife Martha Johnson. There are two pension files, one for the federal government and one for the state. One shows a connection of Elon & Martha to Mary Ann and the other to Charles. I will explore these files in my next post.

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