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See also Calcutta schools c late 1700s

You may be able to find information about your teacher ancestors by contacting schools where they worked.

There is also a possibility that where a register entry indicates a schoolmaster - particularly in the mid nineteenth century - he may be an army man, typically with the rank of sergeant. It may, therefore, be worth also searching military records for an elusive schoolmaster ancestor. See Military ranks for general information, and British Army for record information.

If you have more information on researching teacher ancestors in India, feel free to update this page.

Army Schoolmaster

Initially, the regimental schoolmaster was a suitable Non-commissioned Officer (NCO) appointed by the Commanding Officer. In 1846 civilians also became eligible to enlist as Army schoolmasters. Together they became members of the Corps of Army Schoolmasters.

Four classes of Army schoolmaster were introduced in 1854: the first class ranked as warrant officers and were senior to the sergeant-major, the second and third classes as staff sergeants, next below the sergeant-major, and the fourth consisted of assistant schoolmasters, ranking as sergeants.

Further changes were made in 1863, when the classification of Army schoolmaster was simplified to just two categories: superintending schoolmaster and schoolmaster. The former, reflecting the increased size of his responsibilities and inspection duties, was given the rank of ensign, the first time that an Army schoolmaster had been granted commissioned officer status. The loss of warrant rank in 1863 caused deep resentment.

Further changes came in 1881 with the establishment of a common rank of warrant officers which included Army schoolmasters who had completed 12 years' service. During the next decade this was reduced to eight years' service and in 1899 a limited number were promoted to first class warrant officer when that rank was introduced. However, only those who attained first class warrant rank before the age of 45 were eligible for promotion to a commission.

By the turn of the century all Army schoolmasters were ranked as first class staff-sergeants from the day that they took office and subsequently they could attain warrant officer and commissioned officer status. [1]


  • John Thornton - went to India in 1864 to undertake educational work for the Church Missionary Society. Ran the vernacular training school at Masulipatam, educating Christian trainees for teaching in rural schools. In 1875 left for New Zealand where he became an advocate of Maori educational rights.

External Links


  1. All the information in this section is from The Army Schoolmaster And The Development Of Elementary Education In The Army, 1812-1920" by Elaine Ann Smith 1993, particularly pages 275-284. Refer External links, above