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Archives In Brief 120 - Gold Mining

This Archives in Brief (AIB) provides a brief overview of the major sources held by State Records that relate to goldmining.


NRS 13889, Surveyor field book [2/4847 p.60] Reel 2625

The field book of Surveyor James McBrien mentions particles of gold on the Fish River near Bathurst in 1823, (see above). This was very likely the first mention of the discovery of gold in the colony but went unreported to the public as the colonial government of the day wanted to avoid a gold rush.
On 23 May 1851 following a proclamation asserting the Crown’s property in gold, regulations concerning the issue of provisional licences to mine gold, and the appointment of a Commissioner of Crown Lands for the Gold Districts were set in place to regulate a ‘gold rush’ following publicity that Edward Hargraves and John Lister had found payable amounts of gold at Ophir.
The Colonial Secretary was responsible for all matters relating to mining before 1856.
From responsible government in 1856 until 1874 the administration of mining was carried out by the Under Secretary for Lands, with local management of the gold fields being undertaken by Gold Commissioners assisted from 1866 by mining registrars. As a result of increased mining activity and general dissatisfaction with the administration of mining by the Department of Lands, the Mines Department was established on 1 May 1874 under the provisions of the Mining Act (37 Vic No13).
The Act also created a new system of mining districts and authorised the appointment of mining wardens.

How to search

Goldmining can be a challenging field for research. The series listed in this Archives in Brief may assist.
Some mining records listed may also contain information on the mining of other minerals not just gold.
It should be noted that State Records does not hold a series of butts or certificates of Miner’s Rights.
To locate information on individual miners it may be necessary to search a number of series. The records are generally arranged by locality. Always start with available indexes.

Published Indexes

Kaye Vernon and Billie Jacobson have compiled the following indexes:

For more information on these indexing projects see:

Colonial Secretary

NRS 973, Copies of Letters sent to Chief Commissioner and other commissioners of Crown Lands for the Gold Districts, 1851-56, [4/3732-33], Reel 2861. Indexes in front of volumes
NRS 906, Special Bundles including, Gold discoveries and diggings at Bathurst and Orange, 1851, [4/1146.1]
See the online Guide to the Colonial Secretary's Correspondence for other records.

Gold Commissioners

Records of the Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands for the Gold Districts, Sydney, c.1851-52, NRS 4298-4306 *I
Northern Gold District, c.1853-75, NRS 4307, 4309-4319 *I
Western Gold District, c.1851-74, NRS 4320-4330 *I
NRS 7946, Copies of Letters sent to Gold Commissioners, 1856-66, [4/6854, 2/1805-6] *I
NRS 8278, Copies of Letters sent to Gold Commissioners, 1867-72, [4/6855] *I
NRS 9988, Letters received from Gold Commissioners, 1853-75, [2/3511A], Miscellaneous correspondence and returns. *I

Gold Escort

A gold escort was formed in 1851 to provide safe passage for gold being transported from the diggings to Sydney.
NRS 10995, Gold Escort returns, 1853-70, [4/5711 part, 4/5712, 7/6291] *I
These volumes record the quantity of gold delivered by escort from the various towns within each Gold District, the weight in boxes, total weight, amount of specie, date and name of constable making delivery to the Mint.
NRS 906, Colonial Secretary Special Bundles, Returns of the Gold Escort 1851-56, [4/7423]


NRS 14339, Invoices of Gold received per escorts, 1852-55, [4/46-49] *I
Invoices forwarded to the Colonial Treasury by either the district Gold Commissioners or Police Magistrates. They show the following details of parcels of gold forwarded by armed escort: number and receipt of parcel, from whom gold received, to whom addressed, cash value, weight.
NRS 14340, Registers of Gold Delivered, 1852-Jan 1856, [4/50-54] *I
Labelled "Gold Delivery Books", these volumes show: name of consignee, cash value of gold, weight of gold, date of arrival of escort, freight cost, date of delivery, signature of person taking delivery. Separate volumes were used for each of the three escorts - Northern, Western, Southern.
NRS 14341, Monies received from Gold Commissioners for the issue of gold mining licenses, 1854-70, [1/2804] *I

Department of Lands

NRS 7934, Indexes and Registers of letters received, 1856-1866 [9/4199-220]
NRS 7933, Letters received 1856-1866
This includes correspondence from Gold Commissioners forwarding reports on gold fields, the discovery of new fields, returns of miner’s rights, gold escort arrangements, and returns showing the numbers of Chinese on the gold fields. [5/3562-712, SR Map No.6385]
NRS 7963, Copies of letters sent to Gold Commissioners, 1870-72 [4/6863] *I
NRS 8135, Copies of Government Gazette notices re gold fields, 1862-72 [9/605-07, 9/654-61]


NRS 9985, Indexes and registers of letters received, 1874-1906
NRS 9986, Letters received, 1874-1906
NRS 9987, Special Files 1851-1874
see Short Guide 14.

Mines – Lease Branch

Registers of Auriferous Leases (descriptions below) are included in the Index to Auriferous (gold) Leases, 1874-1928, also available on the stand-alone computers in the reading room.

NRS 10093, Registers of leases of auriferous lands, Bathurst Mining District (Bathurst, Orange, Trunkey, Carcoar, Tuena) 1875-1908 [7/3112-20; microfilm copy of 7/3112-19 at SR Reels 1530-1532]

NRS 10094, Registers of leases of auriferous lands, Lachlan Mining District (Parkes, Cargo, Forbes, Grenfell, Bourke, Young, Barmedman, Temora) 1875-1908 [7/3121-28]

NRS 10095, Registers of leases of auriferous lands, Mudgee Mining District (Hargreaves, Gulgong, Peak Hill, Windeyer, Wellington, Parkes, Tomingby) 1875-1908 [7/3129-33]

NRS 10096, Registers of leases of auriferous lands, New England and Clarence Mining Division (Drake, Fairfield, Lionsville, Tenterfield, Boorook) 1875-1908 [7/3134-37; microfilm copy of 7/3134 at SR Reel 1537]

NRS 10097, Registers of leases of auriferous lands, Peel and Uralla Mining District (Barrington, Glen Innes, Armidale, Bulladelah, Nundle, Bingara) 1875-1908 [7/3138-46; microfilm copy SR Reels 1540-1543]

NRS 10098, Registers of leases of auriferous lands, Southern Mining District (Nowra, Braidwood, Araluen, Nerriga, Nerrigundah, Moruya, Little Creek, Pambula, Milton) 1875-1908 [7/3152-59; microfilm copy of 7/3152-56 at SR Reels 1538-39]

NRS 10099, Registers of leases of auriferous lands, Tambaroora and Turon Mining District 1875-1908 [7/3160-66; microfilm copy of 7/3160-65 at SR Reels 1544-1546]

NRS 10100, Registers of leases of auriferous lands, Tumut and Adelong Mining District (Adelong, Tumut, Tumbarumba, Gundagai, Kiandra, Queanbeyan, Captains Flat, Albury, Cooma) 1875-1908 [7/3147-51]

NRS 10101, Registers of leases of auriferous lands, various districts 1875-1928 [7/3179-229, 7/3686-88; microfilm copy of 7/3192-93 at SR Reel 1529 and of 7/3194-95 at SR Reel 1548]
These registers of leases usually record number of lease, application number and applicants name(s), type and term of lease, locality, extent and description of land , date of survey and surveyor’s name and may include a sketch plan, record of payments, rents, and remarks including cancellations.
It may be possible to locate the lease document referred to in these registers in NRS 10134 although it should be noted that the series is incomplete.

The following series are not included in the online index:

NRS 10134, Miscellaneous lease documents c. 1866-1924 [19/2689-3001] This series is incomplete.

NRS 10090, Indexes and registers of letters received 1907-1923 [9/2945A-2961]

NRS 10091, File movement registers 1924-49 [8/1989-2016]

NRS 10092, Letters received 1874-1960 [19/605-1259, 19/2646-72, 10/42651-42656.1, 7/2282-85]
Please note: very little correspondence has survived prior to 1887.

Mining wardens Offices and courts

Records created for particular mining districts can be found in Archives Investigator searching by locality — for example ‘Forbes’ to locate NRS 10337, Forbes [Warden’s Office], Register of gold lease applications, 1899-1907, [7/8880]

NRS 2783, Bathurst Court of Petty Sessions, Invoice register of gold forwarded to the Colonial Treasurer, 1851-52 [7/86], *I

NRS 3079, Hill End Court of Petty Sessions, Copies of Letters sent, 1871-74, [4/6595pt], *I

NRS 3745, Bathurst District Court, Register of Mining Companies (Act 24 Vic. No 21), 1873-86, [7/140] *I

Prospecting Board

The Prospecting Board was established on 12 July 1887.
The Board was authorised to inspect sites proposed for prospecting by miners and estimate the cost of any work required, with the sum not exceeding 50% of the estimated costs to be provided. [1]
It provided funds appropriated out of public revenue, and referred to as the Prospecting Vote. The funds were used for the promotion of prospecting for gold and other minerals, to encourage the opening of new fields, and to test the mineral deposits in the State, with assistance allotted to prospectors for approved work on sites holding a mining title.[2]
NRS 10204, Ledgers, 1888, 1892-1932, [7/3046-50]
These volumes contain details of name of account (either mining company or miner), location, date and registered number of ministerial approval of prospecting aid, any conditions upon which aid is granted, amount of aid, dates and registered numbers of applications or claims against aid, description of work performed for which aid is claimed, voucher number and amount paid. Other notations included are cancellation of aid with reference to relevant correspondence, the transfer of aid, abandonment and repayments to the department from profits. Indexes in front of volumes.
Others series which may be of interest are NRS 10201, NRS 10202, NRS 10203.

Company Records

NRS 1803, Dissolved mining partnerships, 1862-1967, [8/1376-82]. See the item lists of partnerships held in the reading room.
NRS 12952, Registers of No Liability Mining Companies, 1881-1935. Index of company names in front of volumes.
State Records holds an Index to Dead (defunct) Companies (pre 1969) which can be checked if you know the name of the gold mining company.


1 Votes and Proceedings 1887, Second Session, Vol 4, Prospecting for Gold and Other Minerals (Regulations for Distribution of Vote For), printed 12 July 1887, p.509.
2 Parliamentary Papers 1929-30, Vol 3, Annual Report of the Department of Mines for the year 1929, p.207.


NRS 13859, Crown plans, 1792-1880
Maps listed under gold field, gold diggings or place. There is an index on State Records’ website.
There is a card Index to Maps and Plans in the Western Sydney Reading Room - see under Gold Fields.
NRS 10187, Geological map to accompany the Surveyor General's report on the goldfields in the counties of Wellington and Roxburgh, 1852 [Map No.6186].
NRS 10169, Cancelled maps [Mines], 1880-1976
[Map Nos. 10735-13430, 18922-43, 19113-53, 30000-31934, 32263-361, 32678-705, 32706-37, 33000-887]
These are mostly parish and county maps, but there are a few of towns and mining districts. They record mineral leases within twenty years of issue. Card index to maps available in the Western Sydney Reading Room.

Additional sources

Additional records relating to gold mining may be found in Archives Investigator. Select the advanced search option and then the activity or agency.
Activity 192 — Gold mining 1851-1894
Activity 200 — Mining regulation
Agency 76 — Department of Mines 1874-1891
Agency 84 — Mining Board 1874-1877

NSW Government Gazettes

Proclamations and regulations concerning gold mining, contracts for the conveyance of gold and land being reserved for goldfields and other mining notices were published in the Government Gazette.


The lure of gold led many immigrants and others to come to NSW see Archives in Brief 1 Shipping and Arrival RecordsArchives in Brief 21 Records relating to Crew and Archives in Brief 24 Shipping and Arrival Records-Additional Sources.
Some crew members could have ‘jumped ship’ to get to the goldfields. Jim Melton’s, Ship's Deserters, 1852-1900. Library of Australian History, 1986 may assist in identifying them.


Online Indexes

Insolvency 1842-87

Bankruptcy 1888-1928

Department of Primary Industries: Mineral Resources DIGS Database

The DIGS database delivers exploration and geoscience information. It is comprised of exploration reports, geological maps and plans, plus documents and publications produced by the Department. 

Further Reading

NRS 1407, Royal Commission into the present Gold Fields Act and regulations of NSW and into the best means of securing a permanent water supply for the Gold Fields of the Colony, 1870-71, Final Report and appendices, 71/1999 in [7/6399].
Lynette Ramsay Silver, A Fool’s Gold: William Tipple Smith’s challenge to the Hargraves Myth, Jaranda, 1986.


Researchers should consult the Register of Access Directions, which is online on State Records’ website to confirm the public availability of records. State Records’ staff can advise you on the availability of records if they are not listed on the register.