Researching your ancestors' occupations

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

On this page you will find brief information on a number of occupations including:

Blacksmiths, Building practitioners, Clockmakers and Watchmakers, Hairdressers, Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works staff, Private security agents, Postal service and Telegraph workers, Shorthand writers, Surveyors and Veterinarians.

For these and all other occupations, we recommend that you search our Library catalogue to find resources which may help you with your research.

Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) employees - 1891-1958

The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) was a public utility board providing water supply, sewerage and sewage treatment functions for the city. Other responsibilities included town planning, management of parkland and other open space, maintenance of metropolitan highways and bridges, foreshore protection and improvements, and monitoring waste discharges.

Lists of employees at the MMBW are included in the publications below. Employee lists were published up until 1958, but don't necessarily include manual labourers. Lists were not published every year. Please note that MMBW employees are not listed in the Public Service lists of employees.

Postal Service and Telegraph workers

The following indexes, compiled by John Waghorn, are an excellent starting point for researching postal and telegraph workers and mail contractors.

Details relating to the appointment, transfer and promotion of postal, telegraph and telephone workers can be found in the Commonwealth Government Gazette. For information on how to access the Commonwealth Government Gazette, please see the Australian Public servants 1901 - section of this guide.


You're right its me, Bob Kent, age 14 yrs, telegraph messenger, Queenscliff, 1923. H2010.120/1

Building practitioners

Lists of building practitioners appear in the Victorian Government Gazette from 1838–1996. Registration was not required prior to 1993.
A current list or registered building practitioners and plumbers appears on the  Victorian Building Authority website.


A list of land surveyors can be found on the Victorian Government Gazette for the years 1896–1997 approx.

A current register of licensed surveyors can be found on the Surveyors registration board of Victoria.



Several men standing outside a wooden shed in the bush

Village Blacksmith, Gembrook. H36145/97


A list of registered hairdressers appears in the Victorian Government Gazette between the years 1937–1984 approx.

Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) holds the Register of hairdressing schools from 1937-1982. This can be ordered for viewing at PROV.
Registration has not been required since 1985.

Shop Window, John H. Frost, Tobacconist and Hairdresser. H92.20/4286

Private agents

A list of private agents can be found in the Victorian Government Gazette between the years 1967–1997 approx.
Search tip - Use keyboard shortcut Ctrl F to find keywords in the gazette. Use keywords - inquiry agents, process servers, guard agents and commercial agents.

A current Register of Licence, Registration and Permit Holders is available on the Victoria Police website.

Shorthand writers


A list of Veterinarians appears in the Victorian Government Gazette between the years of 1872–1898.

A current list of registered Veterinarians can be found on the Veterinary Practitioners Registration Board of Victoria website.

Eminent Australian veterinarians. Produced by the Australian Veterinary History Society, this website features short biographies of Austraian veterinarians.