Researching your ancestors' occupations

How to identify your ancestors' occupations and find more information their employment history.

Subject librarian

Profile Photo
Ann Copeland
Librarian, Family History Team
State Library Victoria

Contact me via our online reference service citing my name and the title of this guide.
Subjects: Family history


Welcome to the State Library Victoria's guide on researching occupational records.

Occupational records can be a valuable family history resource. You can use them to trace an ancestor's working life, help to determine where they lived and to indicate their social status. Records can often provide useful personal information such as dates of employment, salary and qualifications. By evaluating the dates and locations of their places of employment, you can also plot out your ancestor's movements – within Victoria, interstate or overseas.

On the next page you will find information on how to identify the occupation of an individual. Each additional pages focus on specific occupations or industries and includes a range of known resources that may help you with your research.

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of all occupations and although it focuses primarily on Victorian records, similar record collections may be available for other states and territories. It is also a work in progress. If you find errors, or if you can suggest other information sources or approaches to the topic, please contact me.

For more family history information please consult our research guides, which appear on the right hand side of this page. For detailed research queries please use the Ask a Librarian service or talk to staff in the Newspapers & Family History Reading Rooms.


Image of female workers at the Central Telephone Exchange

  Workers at the Central Telephone Exchange, Melbourne, H25298.   

Whats on

  • Finding families In this introductory webinar, learn the principles of family history research and find out how to access family history resources through the State Library Victoria.
  • Researching your home This webinar will help to answer the questions and curiosities you may have about your family home, whether it’s the house you’re living in now or the scene of your childhood memories. In this session we will include ways to research your family home, finding previous occupants and uncovering  the social history of the area.
  • Newsworthy learn how to navigate the Library’s extensive newspaper collection in this live and interactive online session. You'll dive into the millions of words printed on both current and historical articles in our online databases, and discover how to find specific newspapers in hard copy, online and on microfilm.


Family history guides