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, images, maps and manuscripts. Search for the name of a town and the keywords miners, "gold miners" or mining -  i.e. Beechworth miners or Beechworth mining.
Enclosing keywords in quotation marks will ensure that the words are searched as an exact phrase.
You can also use the catalogue drop-down menu to limit your search to 'Pictures & photographs', 'Online' or  'Manuscripts'.


The following titles outline useful research techniques and resources -

Fred Cahir's free ebook Black gold: Aboriginal people on the goldfields of Victoria, 1850-1870, describes the lives of Aboriginal people on the goldfields.

The experiences of Chinese miners can be found on this page of our Gold miners and mining research guide.

Image of over 30 men standing or sitting in front of a building.

 Group photograph of Bendigo miners. H2019.28

Several indexes have been compiled from names listed in specific collections and resources. Here are some of the main indexes -

Miners' rights & licences

Accessing miners' rights and licences
Most miners' rights and licences have not survived to the present day. There is no central index to surviving miners' rights or licences. A very small number of rights and licences are held by the Library, local historical societies, museums and individuals.

Gold Licence issued to William Pettard, Upper Lodden, March 1852.

Gold licence, 1852, MS 8203

Ballarat mining maps

We have over 500 digitised mining maps spanning from approximately 1870-1890. Specific to the Ballarat district, they cover the subdivisions of Gordon, Creswick and Ballarat, along with some maps of Bendigo.

The maps show plans of land for gold mining lease applications, along with details regarding whether the applications were successful. They are of particular interest to local and family historians, as they include names of individuals. Only the names of the people applying for mining permits are included in our catalogue records, however the maps themselves include names of people who occupied the surrounding areas.

You can search the online catalogue for the name of an individual. Enter the name of the person into the search box and select Maps from the drop-down menu to the right. If you don't get any results at first, try searching using just the surname, as sometimes only the first initial and the surname appear on the map.

Sluicing on the Crooked R (River). H87.16/35

Gold miners

Detailed information on gold miners, mining companies and daily life in historic Victorian goldfields can be found in our Gold miners and mining research guide.

Nuggeting, Eagle Hawk Bendigo. S.T. Gill.

Coal miners

Register of Employees, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi 

Available on microfiche at the State Library, this series comprises of five self-indexed volumes of employees' names and personal details, including marital status, number of children, and age. Employment dates cover the years 1909 to 1969.
To locate all relevant details for a particular employee, it may be necessary to check several volumes. Refer to fiche headers to identify the fiche that contains the volume which covers the date range you are interested in.

This register is also available online through the Ancestry database (see below)

Library catalogue

Search the Library catalogue for material on coal miners and mines in specific areas i.e. Wonthaggi miners, Wonthaggi mines, Yallourn miners or Yallourn mines

The following books may be useful.

The Wonthaggi Coalfields : A Story of the Men and the Mines by Philip Harper.

Up from the Underworld : Coalminers and Community in Wonthaggi 1909-1968 by Andrew Reeves

Read about the history of the Wonthaggi coal mine and the development of the town of Wonthaggi in this State Library blog.

 A Bunch of Miners Emerging from the Tunnel Leading 200 Ft. Underground in the Sunbeam Colliery Company's Mine, Korumburra., 1953. H2004.101/112

Newspaper articles

Newspapers can be a valuable source of information, reporting on life in the goldfields, personal stories, births, deaths and marriages, accidents etc.

A range of Victorian newspapers from the years 1803-1954 are available on the Trove Digitised Newspaper database.

Try searching Trove for a name, a name and place, or the name of a mining district. Use quotation marks around keywords to search as an exact phrase, i.e. "Jabez Bellingham" Creswick

Large gold yields.The Age, 24 September 1877, p. 3. 

If the newspaper isn't on Trove you may need to explore the collections held in the State Library's Newspapers & 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.