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In her memoirs, an aunt writes of her nephew having no education. The time is late 1860s, an immigrant lad from England aged 20 when written. He arrived in Australia when 3 years, the son of a station hand on a property in Darlington Point, New South Wales.

As no school existed in the district before the 1880s, would no education indicate minimal home/property teaching or as implied, absolutely no learning.

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Sometimes what seems a difficult question demanding expert genealogical knowledge can be resolved by using a general purpose search engine. Terms such as {Darlington Point school history} can produce good results. – Fortiter Jan 10 '13 at 10:15
I'm not sure if this question is answerable. What the aunt meant by saying that could be different from what any other aunt meant. Do you have access to the whole memoirs? Isn't there any other clue? – woliveirajr Jan 10 '13 at 11:06
Please provide the property and owner. Details of the size and number of staff would also assist. This will allow consideration of some education by the owner's wife or one of the domestic staff, as was the case on some properties of the time. – Gerald Jan 12 '13 at 4:02
The property changed owners and names 3 times between 1844 and 1850. It became part of Tubbo in 1853 when the owner died with large debts. It was only a small run from most accounts, with the main family and 2 regular employees. The rest were all contracted. – Adam Jan 13 '13 at 5:14
up vote 6 down vote accepted

If we assume that 1867 represents "the late 1860s" and "aged 20, when written" refers to that same time, then the nephew in question arrived in what is now the Riverina district of New South Wales in 1850 with a father who was to be employed as what was still called an Ag Lab (agricultural labourer) in England.

So the question is "What is the possibility that a working class child would have received any formal education in a remote location where no school was built until 30 years later?" The short answer is NIL.

Of course, we might need to consider the possibility of a private tutor. The two largest "runs" in the district between 1850 and 1860 were Cuba and Tubbo. This image from the National Library of Australia shows Cuba in 1868. This is not a grand country manor which would support schooling for the families of the staff.

In the context of mid-nineteenth century rural New South Wales, it is reasonable to interpret "no education" to mean "may be able to write his own name".

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I accept this with regard to the comment on the size of Cuba and Tubbo and the small property I am looking at. – Adam Jan 14 '13 at 1:05
@Fortiter Some details from Moreover, John Peter's Tubbo rose from meagre beginnings to become almost a village within itself, comprising of 7 smaller stations, a school, blacksmith and general store for its employees and their families. – Those Legs Jan 17 '13 at 12:33

An aunt writes, describing a nephew having "no eduction." What could this mean?

Updated introduction: In her memoirs, the aunt conveys her impression of another family member. As part of evaluating what her statement meant you will (a) conduct research about the aunt to discover her possible bias and/or motivations, (b) seek other sources of information about the nephew, and (3) put all the information you learn about the aunt and separately about her nephew in a proper historical context.

Some helpful references follow. In particular, see the full article by Marion McCreadie, referenced below, as it explains how "education" was provided prior to the time public schools were available.

1. Who, what, where, why and when?

Kimberly Powell ( does an excellant job of sizing up the challenge in her article, "Analyzing a Historical Document: What Does the Record Really Tell Us." In particular, see the discussion of her third consideration, "Who was the author or creator of the document," in which she concludes, "No source is entirely immune to the influence of its creator's predilections, and knowledge of the author/creator helps in determining the document's reliability." The example questions Powell presents in the extended discussion are directly on target:

  • What was the author's purpose ...
  • What was the author's knowledge ...
  • [Was the author really a] neutral party ... or
  • [D]id [they] have opinions or interests that might have influenced ....

2. Historical Context

Separate from the who, what, why and when, is the research advanced to place what you learn in historical context.

According an article, "History of Australian Education," by Aussie Educator, "Public School systems [developed first as] primary level schools, then expanding into the secondary area beginning in the 1880s. Universities first arose in the middle of the 19th century, with early childhood education in the form of kindergartens and preschools lagging well behind all other sectors."

The article by Marion McCreadie, Internet Family History Association of Australia (IFHAA), "The Evolution of Education in Australia" seems particularly on point. A very few extracts from the article follow

[I]n the 1800s ... [e]ducation was only available to the wealthier middle and upper classes, who could afford to pay tuition.

By the 1830s ... education ... was seen as a means of forging the penal colony of Australia into an organised and orderly society. ... imperative that the government set up schools so that all children could be taught, not only the three "R's," (reading, writing and arithmetic) but how to be good moral, law-abiding citizens. Opponents ... felt that the child of a blacksmith didn't need any more education than what was necessary for him to become a blacksmith ..."

Compulsory education was introduced in the 1870s and was difficult to enforce.

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The general principles oulined by GeneJ can be reinforced by the following specific statement about Darlington Point "In 1882 a public school was opened with Mrs. J. Carroll in charge.". So a man of 20 in the late 1860s who had lived in the district since the age of 3 DID NOT GO TO SCHOOL. – Fortiter Jan 11 '13 at 10:42
@Fortiter Referencing the McCreadie article, I'd probably append your summation with ... "unless his family had enough money to hire a private instructor or send them (possibly away) to school." I might add my own observation that since education was so identified thus by standing and wealth, some references to "not educated" could be intended as "class" distinctions (rather than relative to a whole society). – GeneJ Jan 11 '13 at 16:03
A good degree of research thanks @GeneJ. It does not though seem to address the question - would no education indicate minimal home/property teaching or as implied, absolutely no learning? Adam has already included no school existed in the district before the 1880s. – Gerald Jan 12 '13 at 4:05
@Gerald I have added an updated the introduction. Separately though, the reference I provided explains that education was available prior to the the establishment of public schools--but it could be expensive. I'm happy to discuss the quality of my answer in Meta or Chat if you wish. – GeneJ Jan 12 '13 at 13:32

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