Gold mining guide

Goldmining can be a challenging field of research. The record series listed in this guide may assist.

Historical overview

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.

Goldmining can be a challenging field for research. The series listed in this guide may assist. Some mining records listed may also contain information on the mining of other minerals not just gold. It should be noted that we do 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.

Tip: 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:

A Select list of records

Colonial Secretary

NRS 973[4/3732-33], Reel 2861
Copies of Letters sent to Chief Commissioner and other commissioners of Crown Lands for the Gold Districts
Indexes in front of volumes 
Special Bundles including
Gold discoveries and diggings at Bathurst and Orange, 1851, [4/1146.1] See the item list in the catalogue »

Gold Commissioners

NRS 4298 to NRS 4306
NRS 4307, NRS 4309 to NRS 4319
NRS 4320 to NRS 4330
NRS 7946
[4/6854, 2/1805-6]*I
Copies of Letters sent to Gold Commissioners 
NRS 8278
[4/6855] *I
Copies of Letters sent to Gold Commissioners 
NRS 8542
[2/3511A] *I
Letters received from Gold Commissioners, 1853-75
Miscellaneous correspondence and returns

Gold Escort

A gold escort was formed in 1851 to provide safe passage for gold being transported from the diggings to Sydney.

NRS 10995
[4/5711 part, 4/5712, 7/6291] *I
Gold Escort returns
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.
Colonial Secretary Special Bundles
Returns of the Gold Escort 1851-56, [4/7423]See the item list in the catalogue


NRS 14339
[4/46-49] *I
Invoices of Gold received per escorts 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
[4/50-54] *I
Registers of Gold DeliveredLabelled "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
[1/2804] *I
Monies received from Gold Commissioners for the issue of gold mining licenses 

Department of Lands

NRS 7934
Indexes and Registers of letters received
NRS 7933
[5/3562-3712, Map No. 6385]
Letters received
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. 
NRS 7963
[4/6863] *I
Copies of letters sent to Gold Commissioners 
NRS 8135
[9/605-607, 9/654-661]
Copies of Government Gazette notices re gold fields 


Indexes and registers of letters received
Letters received

Mines – Lease Branch

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

NRS 10093
[7/3112-20], copy of 7/3112-19 on Reels 1530-1532
Registers of leases of auriferous lands, Bathurst Mining District (Bathurst, Orange, Trunkey, Carcoar, Tuena) 
NRS 10094
Registers of leases of auriferous lands, Lachlan Mining District (Parkes, Cargo, Forbes, Grenfell, Bourke, Young, Barmedman, Temora) 
NRS 10095
Registers of leases of auriferous lands, Mudgee Mining District (Hargreaves, Gulgong, Peak Hill, Windeyer, Wellington, Parkes, Tomingby) 
NRS 10096
[7/3134-3137], copy of 7/3134 on Reel 1537
Registers of leases of auriferous lands, New England and Clarence Mining Division (Drake, Fairfield, Lionsville, Tenterfield, Boorook)
NRS 10097
[7/3138-3146; Reels 1540-1543]
Registers of leases of auriferous lands, Peel and Uralla Mining District (Barrington, Glen Innes, Armidale, Bulladelah, Nundle, Bingara) 
NRS 10098
[7/3152-3159], copy of 7/3152-56 on Reels 1538-39
Registers of leases of auriferous lands, Southern Mining District (Nowra, Braidwood, Araluen, Nerriga, Nerrigundah, Moruya, Little Creek, Pambula, Milton) 1875-1908
NRS 10099
[7/3160-3166], copy of 7/3160-3165 on Reels 1544-1546
Registers of leases of auriferous lands, Tambaroora and Turon Mining District
NRS 10100
Registers of leases of auriferous lands, Tumut and Adelong Mining District (Adelong, Tumut, Tumbarumba, Gundagai, Kiandra, Queanbeyan, Captains Flat, Albury, Cooma)
NRS 10101
[7/3179-3229, 7/3686-3688], copy of 7/3192-3193 on Reel 1529 and 7/3194-3195 on Reel 1548]
Registers of leases of auriferous lands, various districtsThese 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 related series are not included in the Index to Auriferous (gold) Leases, 1874-1928 but are of interest.

NRS 10134
Miscellaneous lease documents This series is incomplete.
NRS 10090
Indexes and registers of letters received
NRS 10091
File movement registers 
NRS 10092
[19/605-1259, 19/2646-72, 10/42651-42656.1, 7/2282-85]
Letters received 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 our catalogue by searching locality — for example ‘Forbes’ to locate:

NRS 10337
Forbes [Warden’s Office], Register of gold lease applications 
NRS 2783
[7/86] *I
Bathurst Court of Petty Sessions, Invoice register of gold forwarded to the Colonial Treasurer
NRS 3079
[4/6595pt] *I
Hill End Court of Petty Sessions, Copies of Letters sent 
NRS 3745
[7/140] *I
Bathurst District Court, Register of Mining Companies (Act 24 Vic. No 21) 

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
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.
1888, 1892-1932

Others series which may be of interest are:

Company Records

NRS 1803
Dissolved mining partnerships
See the item lists of partnerships held in the reading room.
Registers of No Liability Mining Companies
Index of company names in front of volumes.

We hold an Index to Dead (defunct) Companies (pre 1969) which can be checked if you know the name of the gold mining company.


Crown plans
Maps listed under gold field, gold diggings or place. There is an online index available to search and a card Index to Maps and Plans in the reading room (look under Gold Fields).
NRS 10187[Map No.6186]
Geological map to accompany the Surveyor General's report on the goldfields in the counties of Wellington and Roxburgh 
NRS 10169[Map Nos. 10735-13430, 18922-43, 19113-53, 30000-31934, 32263-361, 32678-705, 32706-37, 33000-887]
Cancelled maps [Mines]
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 our catalogue under the following agencies and activities:

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. Digitised copies of the Government Gazette are available online through the National Library of Australia's Trove website.


The lure of gold led many immigrants and others to come to NSW see:

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.

Insolvency/Bankruptcy - online indexes

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.


[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.

*I Indicates the records are included in the Index to Miscellaneous records relating to the Gold Fields of NSW, [c.1847-1908] which is available on the stand-alone computers in the reading room.