Researching your ancestors' occupations

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

State Library Victoria

Library catalogue

Search the Library catalogue for books, biographies, directories, law journals, images, personal papers and other records relating to legal practitioners, legal firms or the law in Victoria.

Use the catalogue drop-down menu to limit your search to 'Pictures & photographs'. 'Journals & Newspaper titles', 'Online' or  'Manuscripts'.

You can also browse through many of our resources by clicking on the following catalogue subject headings -

Lawyers -- Australia -- Biography
Lawyers -- Australia -- History
Judges -- Australia -- Biography
Women lawyers -- Australia -- Biography 
Women judges -- Australia -- Biography

Or browse through our journals by going to these subject headings -

Lawyers-- Australia--periodicals
Law reviews--Victoria


Law Institute of Victoria - Reception to His Honor Sir John Madden K.C.M.G.,  H37433

Directories and law lists

The State Library holds a selection of law lists and directories. The information in these publications varies, but usually includes a name and the year a person was admitted to the bar.

See also titles under the subject heading - Lawyers -- Victoria-- directories.

Public Record Office Victoria

Prior to 1891 individuals were admitted to practice as either barristers or as attorneys, solicitors and proctors. The passing of the Legal Profession Practice Act of 1891 meant that every person admitted by the Supreme Court would be admitted both as a barrister and solicitor.

The following records, created by the Supreme Court, are held at the Public Record Office Victoria

Roll of Barristers 1841-1932 (online)
This roll records the names of those 'called to the bar', those allowed to practice as a barrister in the state of Victoria. The Roll records the barrister's full name or signature, (from 1892 onwards), date of admission and remarks, (barrister's death, or elevation to the bench or disbarment).

Roll of Attorneys 1841-1891

Barristers and Solicitors Admissions Files 1892-1990
This series consists of the admission files for those persons seeking admission to practise after 1892, when the Act came into effect. Use the following indexes to find number allocated to that persons file. Index to barrister admission files 1857-1891 and Index To Barristers and Solicitors Admission Files 1892-1990

Barristers and Solicitors Admission Files, by Admission Date. 1990 -
From 1990  files are arranged chronologically by date of admission and then alphabetically by surname.

Articles of clerkship files 1840 - 1892
A person who planned to seek admission to practise as an attorney, solicitor and proctor was obliged to serve five years as an articled clerk and to file his articles in the Supreme Court within a certain time of entering into them.
To access the files of a specific person consult the following register for the number allocated at the time of registration. Register of articles of clerkship. 1843 -

Further information on these collections can be found in the following blog -

‘The legal profession in colonial Victoria: information in records of admission held by Public Record Office Victoria’, Provenance: The Journal of Public Record Office Victoria, issue no. 13, 2014. ISSN 1832-2522. Copyright © Richard Harrison

Court cases in Australia

For information about court cases, including law reports, judgments, newspaper articles, police records and commentaries, see our Court cases in Australia research guide.


The registration of legal practitioners did not begin until 1996. A list of current registered legal practitioners and practices can be found on the Legal Services Board and the Australian and NZ law list.

In 1885 all Victorian Justices of the Peace, were re-licenced The Victorian Government Gazette no. 64 (10 July 1885) includes a list of all JPs in Victoria at that time.

Barristers and solicitors, August 1904. H37438

Newspaper articles

Newspapers can be particularly useful for finding information on legal practitioners. They can be used to trace their career, find information on their cases or find personal news.

The Trove Digitised Newspaper database provides full text access to a range of Victorian newspapers, published between 1803-1954.
Try searching Trove for a name, a name and place, or an event. Use quotation marks around keywords to search as an exact phrase, i.e. "Thomas Bent" Brighton


The first woman Queen’s Counsel in Victoria was appointed this week

Woman QC, The Australian Jewish Herald 19 November 1965, p. 1.

If the newspaper isn't on Trove you may need to explore the collections held in the State Library's Newspaper & Family History Reading Rooms.

Newspaper databases

Our Library subscribes to a wide range of current and historic Australian and international newspapers databases. They are available in the Library and many can be accessed offsite by Victorian residents who are registered State Library members.

More information can be found in our Newspapers research guides.


Arthur F. Rice, Barrister and Solicitor, Maffra, Vic. H2011.158