Hidden Histories - Jason Gunn - Day 5

Jason's male ancestors seem to have four main professions: 
Out at  Sea, Working with Wood, Working on the Railways or on the Land.
What did your ancestors do?

All in a Day’s Work

Tracing an Occupation

You may have already known about an ancestor’s occupation or maybe you have discovered it as you have been researching.

Government Employees

If your ancestor worked for the government, then records should be held by Archives New Zealand (as keeper of the Governments Memory). There are a number of guides to help you with your research that can be found on their website:


There are also several older publications that are a guide to some of the archives holdings. These can be found at Christchurch City Library.

Electoral Rolls

Tracing family through electoral rolls helps to trace where they were living at a given point in time and also what they were employed at.

Think about the last time you updated your electoral roll listing; does the occupation that your listed with really describe what you do? It pays to keep that in mind when you are looking at your ancestor’s occupations.

There were different requirements at different times for people to appear on the electoral roll including age and land ownership. Also remember women were not represented on the electoral rolls until 1893.

Findmypast has some of the New Zealand electoral rolls online.



When searching the newspapers, it could be worthwhile searching for an employer’s name (if you know it) or the occupation/industry rather than the employees name. This can then lead you to reports of what was happening in the business, even if your ancestor wasn’t named. You may also find advertisements.

Old Occupations

Over time occupations change and become redundant as technology changes. If you find an occupation that you’re not sure what it is or what they did, then searching the internet can help. There are also a number of books on old occupations.

This article gives some examples of occupations that are no longer around:



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