Researching your ancestors' occupations

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

State Library Victoria

Library catalogue

The State Library Victoria holds many resources useful for researching members of the Victoria police. Resources include books, journals, indexes, images, journals and police gazettes.

Search the Library catalogue for the name of the town or station where a person worked, the name of a branch i.e. Mounted Police or a selection of keywords i.e. Police "Swan Hill". Enclosing keywords in quotation marks will ensure that the words are searched as an exact phrase.

A panoramic photo of several dozen Mounted Police - on their horses

Mounted Police, Victoria. H2014.1061/140

The following indexes are a good place to start. They will confirm the name and registration number of those who served in the Victoria Police. This information can then be used to help find additional records.

Police Manual

Released in 1856, the following Police manual, provided a "code of instruction" for members of the police force. This is an excellent resource, providing details on admission to the force, promotions, clothing and ammunition allowances, duties of different ranks etc. Additional police manuals can be found here.

Public Record Office Victoria

The Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) holds surviving copies of the following Victoria Police records.

  • Victoria Police employment records including - muster rolls (a chronological, monthly list of officers in attendance and their duties), information on appointments, promotions, resignations, retirements and salaries.
    These records may help you to identify an officer's number, surname, rank, year of appointment, resignation or promotion, duties and district where stationed.
  • Police Correspondence Records (Record Series VPRS: 937) - 1853-1920
    These files are arranged by District and focus on the administration and management of the Police Force. They include details of training, officer supervision, pay and communications.
  • Police -  Inwards Correspondence Files (Record Series VPRS 807) -  1894-1935
    Unlike VPRS 937, these files are not arranged or listed by district. To view records you first need to order the relevant registers and indexes which cover the relevant date range. View them in the PROV Reading Room and try to identify subjects and/or people of interest, Then make a note of the relevant file numbers for correspondence related to them, which are contained in this series.

 Group of officers and men at Russell St. Police Barracks Melbourne. H96.160/519

Victoria Police Museum

The Victoria Police Museum holds:

  • Records of Conduct and Service for Victoria Police from 1855 to 1989.
    This collection lists the particulars of a police officer’s career during their employment with Victoria Police. The records include personal details, information on rank, where the officer was stationed and comments from superior officers.

    Records dating to 1956 have been digitized, Please contact the Victoria Police Museum for details regarding access. Please note that access conditions apply.

The Museum also holds many items relating to the social history of policing in Victoria, including photographs, uniforms and memorabilia. 

Victoria Police Gazette

 The Victoria Police was formally established on January 8, 1853 and the Victoria Police Gazette commenced publication in December of that year. It was distributed each week to city and rural police stations and to government offices and newspaper publishers. It’s main aim was to keep the police up to date on current police affairs including recent appointments, promotions and retirements. It also provided a detailed list of recent criminal activities.

State Library Victoria holds the Victoria Police Gazette for the years 1853 to 1971.

  • Dec 30,1853 - Dec 27,1870 - Microfiche - in the Newspapers and Family History Reading Room, GMF 102 / Box 1
  • 1871-1939 - Microfiche (onsite storage)  MF 371
  • Dec 30,1853-Dec 23, 1971 -  (offsite storage)

Digitised copes of the Police Gazette, for a selection of years can be found on the following databases.

  • Ancestry (available in the State Library Victoria and most Victorian public libraries) 1855, 1864-1924
  • Find my past (available in the State Library Victoria and in some Victorian public libraries). 1855, 1864-1865, 1898-1876, 1885-1900.

Several supplements to Police Gazette were produced in the first half on the 20th century. These included police orders, photo supplements, and wanted persons supplements. Further information on these publications can be found here.


  • A consolidated Victoria Police gazette index for the years 1853-1868, is available on microfiche in the Newspapers & Family History Reading Rooms. GMF 102 / BOX 1A
  • A compendium index  is available on PC's NFH 1-5 in the Newspapers & Family History Reading Rooms.

Further information

To find out more about the Victoria Police Gazette, please go to the State Library's blog - Using the Victorian Police Gazette to research your ancestors, or watch the following video.

Newspaper articles

Search the Trove Digitised Newspaper collection for articles about an individual. You may find stories about their policing activities, promotions, transfers and retirements.

Search for variations of their name, including their rank if known  i.e. "Ned Holden", "Edward Holden", Constable Holden","Detective Sargent Holden". Or try searching for a name and place, i.e. Holden "Melbourne CIB"
Using quotation marks around the keywords ensures that the word are searched as an exact phrase.


Newspaper article reporting on the retirement of Sergeant Holden

"Terrible Ten" leader retires.The Herald, 6December, 1929, p. 4.


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.

Further reading

The following titles may help you with your research.

Police life - the official newspaper of the Victoria Police Force,
First published in 1955 it features articles about police across the state, true crime stories, police station profiles and the latest policing initiatives. Issues from 2010 onwards are online.

Victoria Police HIstorical Society

The Victoria Police Historical Society Inc focuses on all aspects of Victoria Police history. The society has produced a number of important titles on the history of policing in Victoria and is also responsible for the Journal of police history, available online here.

 Police sergeant O'Keefe Vic. Copyright State Library Victoria. H2005.100/3763

Public Servants lists

See also the Victorian Public servants lists, which hold details relating to those employed by the Victoria Police.