Researching your ancestors' occupations

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


This page lists resources suitable for researching Commonwealth ministers - for both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It includes such resources as directories, handbooks and biographical publications. Information on other government publications i.e. Hansard (debates), parliamentary papers and other documents, can be found in our Commonwealth Government publications research guide.

State Library Victoria

Library catalogue

Search the Library catalogue find books, journals, images and plans. Search for the name of a politician or the name of a political party of era of government. Many notable Parliamentarians will often be the subject of biographies, or be mentioned in works that focus on a particular government or period i.e. the Whitlam government.

Edmund Barton 1902, H37421

The Parliamentary handbook

The Parliamentary handbook of the Commonwealth of Australia (title varies) includes biographical information on current members and senators, current and historical information on the Commonwealth Parliament, election and referendum results and lists of current and past ministers.

A new edition is published for each new Parliament, usually about one to two years after the previous general election. This means the online version is generally much more up-to-date.

Other items listed on this page provide:

  • biographical information on former parliamentarians
  • lists of ministers and ministries
  • recent ministers' financial interests
  • recent ministers' contributions to debates

The Parliamentary handbook  of the Commonwealth of Australia  from the 39th parliament (1998) to the current are available online. See below for links to the relevant handbooks.

Online resources

The biographical dictionary of the Australian Senate.
This web site presents biographies of Australian senators and clerks of the Senate  who completed their service in the Senate between 1901 to 2002.

Print resources

Newspaper articles

Newspapers can be particularly useful for finding information on politicians. They can be used to trace an individuals career, obtain information on elections and report on parliamentary affairs.

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. "Ivy Wedgewood" "Liberal Party".

Three women senators in Perth. The West Australian. 29 December 1950 p.16.

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.