Find your ancestors in London, Dulwich College Register 1619-1926

Did your ancestor study or teach at Dulwich College? Did generations of your English ancestry attend the college? Search through three centuries of registers to discover your ancestor’s birth year, position within the school, parents’ names and achievements after leaving school. Among the thousands of names recorded are the explorers and authors Ernest Shackleton and Stanley Portal Hyatt.

Each record includes a short transcript of the details found in the college register. The information provided can vary but most will include

  • Name
  • Birth year
  • Birth date
  • Event year – In records where event year is not the same as the birth year, the event year refers to the year of the event being recorded. For example, you may find your ancestor’s name on a list of cricket players for subsequent years.
  • Position – This field explains the nature of the entry. For example, ‘Boys’ means that the individual was a student. Other options include a staff title such as Assistant Master or a sports team such as Cricket, if the entry is created from a team list.
  • County and Country


The images were created from the original registers and will provide even further detail about your ancestor. Use the previous and next options to read through the full register. The entries can vary in the amount of detail provided, but many will include the following:

  • Birth date
  • Parents’ names
  • Address
  • Family – name of spouse and children
  • Employment
  • Distinguishing achievements or awards

Discover more about these records

In 1619, Edward Alleyn founded the College of God’s Gift charitable foundation. Alleyn, a contemporary of Shakespeare, was a famous Elizabethan actor and successful theatre owner. Alleyn, whose father was a publican, came from humble beginnings in Bishopsgate. Through his charity, Alleyn established a college by the same name. The college became known colloquially as Dulwich College. On 21 June 1619, it received the letter patent from King James I. The school was started to provide education for the local poor. In the beginning there were only 12 pupils; today Dulwich College educates around 1,500 students.

By the eighteenth century the College of God’s Gift charity was reorganised. It split the institutions into separate schools: Dulwich College, Alleyn’s School and James Allen’s Girls’ School. Since its foundation the college has produced explorers, scientists, bishops, directors, politicians and more. Throughout both world wars, 837 Alleynians (Dulwich graduates) gave their lives.

Old Alleynian Explorers

Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton

Today, Ernest Shackleton is a well-known explorer and inspirational leader. He gained notoriety for his three expeditions to Antarctica. Shackleton was born in County Kildare, Ireland. His family then moved to Sydenham and Shackleton started at Dulwich College in 1887. He ignored his father’s wishes for him to study medicine and instead joined the Merchant Navy at the age of 16. By the age of 24, he was a certified Master. His first expedition to Antarctica was as Third Officer, a part of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Expedition from 1901 to 1904. They set the record for marching the furthest south to latitude 82° south. During the expedition, Scott sent Shackleton home because of ailments to his heart and lungs.

When he returned a second time, it was as the leader of his own expedition, Nimrod, in 1907. They did not achieve their goal to reach the South Pole. The expedition was forced to turn back after a pony fell into a crevasse and the team lost most of their rations. Shackleton knew it was not possible to get to the pole and return with the whole team alive. However, the expedition was successful in other ways. They set the record for reaching the farthest south, only 97 miles from the South Pole. It was the first expedition to set foot on the South Polar Plateau, ascend Mount Erebus and discover the Beardmore Glacier passage. Shackleton returned as a public hero and was knighted by King Edward VII.

Ernest Shackleton would not succeed in being the first person to reach the South Pole. This distinction went to Roald Amundsen, who arrived at the South Pole in 1911. Captain Scott also reached the South Pole, but died during his return voyage.

As he could no longer aim to be the first to reach the South Pole, Shackleton changed his goals and set out to complete the first cross-continent expedition across Antarctica. On 8 August 1914, Shackleton and his team set out on the ship Endurance. However, by January, disaster hit and the ship was trapped in ice. They hoped that by spring the warmer weather would free the ship, but the thaw broke the ship’s hull and they were forced to abandon ship. The crew camped on sea ice and survived on penguins and seals until the ice disintegrated. When the ice broke up, they launched 3 small lifeboats and set off for Elephant Island. It took them seven days at sea to reach the island. The conditions there were inhospitable and it was necessary to continue further north to South Georgia Island. Shackleton, along with some of his crew, set sail in the lifeboat, James Caird, across 720 nautical miles of dangerous waters, where waves could reach up to 16 metres, and hurricane force winds. After fifteen days, they reached the island and had to trek for 36 hours across mountainous terrain to find help. They arrived at the whaling station at Stromness on 20 May and immediately sent a ship to rescue the rest of the crew.

Ernest Shackleton returned to England in the midst of the First World War and volunteered for the army despite his age and heart condition, made worse from fatigue. After the war, Shackleton set off to return to Antarctica again; however, he would not reach the continent. The Shackleton-Rowett Expedition left on aboard the Quest in 1921 in order to circumnavigate the continent. Unfortunately, on 5 January 1922, Ernest Shackleton died of a fatal heart attack in South Georgia at the age of 47.

At the time, Shackleton’s bravery and accomplishments were not recognised as they are today. Today, his courage and excellent leadership skills in the face of peril have become the subject of many books, films and memorials. The famous James Caird, which took his team to safety at South George is on display at Dulwich College.

Stanley Portal Hyatt

Stanley Portal Hyatt became a great traveller, explorer and author after he left Dulwich College in 1892, where he had trained to be an engineer. At the age of 18, he left England to travel to Australia. However, by the age of 19, he had returned home broke. In 1897, he set out again, this time to Africa, to make his fortune in the gold mines with his brother Amyas Porter Hyatt. Their lives became a series of great successes and disastrous failures. They left Africa in 1903 penniless and through lecturing and journalism managed to continue their travels. The brothers made their way to the Philippines and Hyatt fought as a mercenary in the Philippine-American War in 1904.

Afterwards, they set their sights to Vladivostok, Russia, but before they could reach their destination, Amyas Hyatt died of infection from an insect bite. Stanley Hyatt continued to travel through Singapore, China and Japan before returning home to England. He tried to continue a career in journalism but was met with disappointment. Then his first book, Marcus Hay, became a success and Hyatt started to work in fiction, writing adventure and travel books.

Throughout his life, Hyatt tried his hand at many careers: author, engineer, sheep station hand, lecturer, cold storage engineer, trader, hunter and solider. Despite his many financial losses and hardships, Hyatt never stopped exploring and traveling the world. In 1914, he died from Tuberculosis and Malaria.