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WHAT IS THE GOLDMINERíS DATABASE.

The New Zealand Goldminerís Database first went online and became freely searchable for the general public in 2005. There are now more than 85,000 records of New Zealand goldminers from the Otago, West Coast and Thames Goldrushes for a ten year period between the years of 1861 and 1872, the heyday of the independent goldminer in New Zealand.

The Goldminerís Database is freely available to search online at no charge and can be found on the website GOLDRUSH ONLINE at www.KaeLewis.com. On reaching the site, most users immediately search the database by entering the name of their ancestor in the search-box. This is a good starting point, but once you have established that you have a goldminer of interest, it is important to then return to the homepage and read the notes in the links below the database search box. Here you will find updated source codes and Ďrecord typeí codes explained, as well as notes on how to further proceed with identifying a miner and information about Minerís Rights and the major goldrushes. Check back from time to time because the database and webpage is being continually expanded.

WHY THE GOLDMINER'S DATABASE IS USEFUL

During the period 1848 - 1870, gold miners roamed the world to seek their fortune, fetching up on distant shores when they heard the call of a recent gold rush. Between 1861 - 1871, miners came to the New Zealand gold fields both from within New Zealand and from all over the world. Sometimes they stayed only a few months before leaving again, perhaps to return to family in another country or to try their luck on a goldfield somewhere else. Others however stayed on in New Zealand, and after the gold or their finances were exhausted, they took jobs, while the lucky ones bought land or established industries with their newfound wealth. Then they married and raised a family, perhaps in a district far from the gold field. The memories of a brief sojourn in a distant goldfield can easily be lost to future generations, and these Miner's Rights may represent the only official record the miners ever left on the goldfield.

In most cases, the goldminers were young single men who had left no other record of their presence in each country, with no marriage registered on the goldfield, few children born there, no court appearances or land purchased. For the vast majority of the goldminers, their only contact with the government authorities throughout their entire stay in the country was with the Gold Wardens. Many did not even sell their gold back to the local banks but left the country with it in their pockets. With the miner eventually leaving the goldfield, then marrying or dying in some other district or even returning to their distant homelands and old occupation, a later genealogist trying to follow the life of a miner could be totally unaware that they were ever in New Zealand or in this line of work.

This is the reason why The New Zealand Goldminerís Database has been developed and made available online. Genealogists and historians from all around the world are using it to find the name of a particular miner. Many of these researchers will never get the chance to come to New Zealand, and this will be their only point of access to the New Zealand mining records.

Before this Database was developed, it took long hours of searching all these unindexed records to find an individual miner, as I soon discovered when looking for my own mining ancestor, Edward Hooper. It took me many months to find even one record for him. It was as I searched through them that the idea for the database was born. For this reason, the Goldminer's Database is dedicated to Edward Hooper (1830 Ė 1899). He is it's raison díetre.

MINER'S RIGHTS

At present, The Goldminerís Database contains the names of miners from more than 85,000 mining records, with 24,000 from Otago (1861 -1866), 15,000 from the West Coast (1865-1871) and 43,000 from Thames (1867 Ė 1872). The Otago records indexed in the Goldminerís Database include the names from the only surviving Miner's Right Register from the Otago goldfield. This Register has the names of the first 6,500 miners to arrive at the Gabrielís Gully goldfield in 1861. Unfortunately, the rest of the Minersí Rights registers from the Otago and West Coast Goldfields have not survived the years. Instead the minerís names and Minersí Rights number for Otago and the West Coast Wardenís Courts have been gleaned from the other Registration records that have survived. The miner's had to renew their Miner's Right every year but if you can find the one with the earliest date, this helps to determine when a miner arrived on a Goldfield.

Minerís Rights registers for the Thames goldfield have just about all survived in excellent condition, and have all now been indexed on the Goldminerís Database, as well as a large number of other Registration Records from the Thames and Coromandel Wardenís Courts.

Since multiple records have been used, an individual miner will probably appear in the database more than once. This gives complete coverage of as many miners as possible, and allows the movements of an individual miner to be tracked. There are 11,842 unique goldminersí names from Otago (1861 -1866) and 13,665 from Thames.

THE RESULTS CHARTS FOR THE DATABASE EXPLAINED
Gold Warden's Tent
The results from a search of the Goldminer's Database for HOOPER, Edward, Filter by District: THAMES.
Source: The GOLDMINER'S DATABASE
Click to enlarge the image

The results from your search will appear in columns. The meaning of the headings for each column is as follows:

  • TYPE: This gives you a clue to the type of record, with the categories being designated by the Gold Warden himself. It depended on what type of activity the miner was applying and paying for. By far the most records in this database are Minerís Rights (MR). From California, Victoria to Otago, Westland and on to Thames in New Zealand, no miner could even begin to prosepct and put a pick or shovel to the ground unless he had a Minerís Right. In New Zealand, he paid £1 per year for this exclusive right to mine a defined number of square feet of ground for a year. Once he had his Miner's Right, no-one else could enter and mine his staked-out ground, provided he was present on his claim every day, apart from Sunday. The Wardens, the Police and the Warden's Court all protected this right to his claim.

    Other registrations recorded by the Gold Wardens included claim protection (CP) used when miners had to be away from their claim for a period of time due to illness, to obtain tools, to build a water race, private business in town etc. At Thames, the miner often needed a doctorís note for illness, with the goldfield doctors listed as DR. The miner could not build a water race (WR) or dam (DM) without first acquiring a special license. Claims, dams and water races could be sold, and the details of the sale registered in a claim transfer (CT). In Otago, old previously-worked ground was reallocated to groups of miners to sluice, with a larger but specified claim area. These were called an extended claim (EC). Any miner who wanted to start sluicing his claim was required to register a sluicing claim (SC). In Thames, the Gold Mining Companies could lease (LS) large blocks of land for their buildings, water races and batteries. If you wanted to open a business on the goldfield, such as a store, hotel or restaurant, you needed a business license (BL).

    All these other mining registrations are especially valuable because, unlike the Minerís Right, the miner had to specify exactly where he was working. These details are included in the database wherever they have been given in the original record. There are many other record types not used as frequently in the database. They are all defined in the key which has a link on the home page of the website. The list of Types also appears below the Results table.



  • NUMBER: The number of the record as it appears in the original document. This number will help you locate the original record. Gold Wardens were definitely creatures of habit. Their ledgers were very systematic, even during the rush to Gabrielís Gully in 1861. Each record was numbered in numerical order in the Register. So as long as the Warden had the number and date of the Minerís Right or other registrations, he could quickly find the original record in his ledger. The Miner's Right certificate, besides specifying the minerís name, always included the number and date. Every now and then, the numbers started back at 1 again. This meant that the Warden needed the date of the certificate as well in order to find the correct ledger (or butt book from the pre-printed certificates). The system was essentially the same in both Otago, West Coast and Thames.

    The Miner's Rights and the various Registrations (such as for a Water Race or Dam) had to be renewed by the miner every year. When the Warden issued the replacement Miner's Right or Registration Certificate, it had a new number. This is a good way of working out how long a miner had been mining in one Warden's Court district.


  • NAME: The minerís name, with the surname always given in capitals in the database. The spelling of the names is as it was given in the original record, or as nearly as can be deciphered. Like all handwritten records, there is always some ambiguity. Every attempt has been made to correctly decipher the handwriting but it is certain that errors have occurred. When a name was difficult to spell, or the miner spoke with an accent, the Warden could not always ascertain the correct spelling. Miners were sometimes illiterate or unable to speak English, with no idea how to spell their own name. The Warden then had his ways and means of getting the name down anyway, in the rush of other excited miners queuing up behind. Over and over you see long and foreign-sounding names (and there were a lot of them) being deliberately blurred, with letters indistinguishable and running into each other. In record below that, a familiar name like SMITH would be written in copperplate and perfectly legible. Anyone who has read 19th century handwriting will know that m, w, u, n, v and i, (the latter with a floating dot not necessarily above the i itself) could all be made to appear exactly the same in the rush to get them down. A name like Manning for instance could only be guessed at, when it featured a series of peaks, like a row of identically peaked mountains with a nondescript tail on the end. The letter n always opened up like the letter u, as did m. When J and I were used as a middle initial, they always look the same, both sitting as they do above the line.

    Some of the names had a prefix, such as Captain, Doctor and Lieutenant, and there was even an H.R.H and a Lord. Other records had a comment afterwards (suffix), most often the word Ďnativeí, denoting that the miner was a Maori. The prefixes and suffixes are all included in the database. The Maoris sometimes used Pakeha nicknames.

    Many of the names in the database have a link to further information about the miner where there was not room to add it on the table. There is nothing extraordinary about a miner with a link, except that there is added information available to help in tracking his movements. ALWAYS CLICK ON THE SURNAME LINKS. That seems obvious but I can't tell you how many people who contact me have not clicked on the surname links.


  • DATE: The date on which the miner presented himself at the Gold Wardenís office to obtain his Minerís Right or Registration.

    I noticed that my great great grandfather, Edward Hooper went one month past his one-year renewal date before he returned to the Wardenís office on 26 August 1869 to renew his Minerís Right. He was located on the Tapu Creek goldfield (Waikawau), some 20 km from the Wardenís Office at Shortland, Thames. In addition, he was restricted, not being able to leave his claim except on Sundays. Edward Hooper would most likely have had his renewal back-dated in 1869, so that the new Minerís Right would expire on 29 July 1870. The Warden visited these remote areas from time to time to ensure the Miners were registered. It has been noticed the miners were frequently overdue or unregistered and back-dated, especially in the remote regions of Otago and the West Coast.


  • LOCATION: The location of the minerís claim, where the township, gully, hill, river or creek is specified.


  • DISTRICT: The name of the Goldfield or Wardenís Court District. This varies from Gold Warden to Gold Warden, and it is left up to him how his district is described in the database. For instance in 1861, the area of Gabrielís Gully was known as Tuapeka. But by 1862, it had become the Lawrence Wardenís Court District, while Tuapeka Flat had become a location on its own within the Lawrence Wardenís Court.

    The Main Warden's Courts covered by the Goldminer's Database are:

    • The Lawrence Wardenís Court, Otago
    • The Waitahuna District Warden's Court, Otago
    • The Dunstan Warden's Court, Otago
    • The Arrowtown Wardens Court, Otago
    • The Hokitika Warden's Court, West Coast
    • The Ahaura Warden's Court, West Coast
    • The Camptown Warden's Court, West Coast
    • The Greymouth Warden's Court, West Coast
    • The Thames Warden's Court, Auckland.

  • COUNTRY: Only New Zealand records are included in the Database.


  • SOURCE: This is the Archive NZ, Library or Museum source code for the particular record.

    some of the most frequent source codes used in the Database are:

    To locate an original record for a Database entry, you will need the full source code, the record number, the name of the miner and the date to access the original records and the page number if specified. Original records can be ordered online at Archives New Zealand or the Alexander Turnball Library website or by a personal visit.


  • SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING ARCHIVES NZ, DUNEDIN:AABO denotes the Lawrence Wardenís Court, and the records are located at ARCHIVES NEW ZEALANDArchives New Zealand, Dunedin. However Archives NZ at Dunedin have now changed the source codes of many of their records, and you will have to obtain the equivalent new Source Code in order to find the original record. Therefore you will need the full title of the record to help locate the original records are Archive NZ, Dunedin. The record titles corresponding to each Source Code used in the database are fully described on the Otago Records webpage.


  • COMMENT: This area is for short comments only. Longer comments are linked to the surname, where available. Dont forget to click on the link found on some of the Surnames. This denotes a longer comment is included.



The Goldminerís Database is only an index and cannot be used as a substitute for viewing the original records themselves.


HOW THE MINERS CAME TO BE ON THE GOLDMINER'S DATABASE

When a goldminer arrived at the site of a goldrush, his priority would have been to find some form of shelter. This would be especially important in the winter months in New Zealand. Then, he would listen to the gossip amongst the old-timers, perhaps in one of the many bars, to discover where the best finds were being made. It was here in the bars that he would often make friends with like-minded miners, and they woudl team up as mates. They would walk the hills to discover a likely spot, especially if they were experienced miners and knew the 'look of the land' that would make good gold-bearing dirt.

After they had finally made up their minds about where to stake their claim, they would present themselves at the Warden's Office or tent to apply for their Miner's Rights. This could easily be a day or two's trek away from their claim. On most days early in a goldrush, the miners would have had to wait in a queue to get in the door at the Warden's Office. They would need one pound sterling, a considerable sum. According to the MeasuringWorth webpage, £1 sterling in 1868 would be worth about NZ$1200 or US$900 today.

The Warden wrote the miner's name in his huge leather-bound ledger with his ink and pen. The miner would then state the area where he intended to stake his claim. The Warden wrote this together with the date in the ledger beside the miner's name, then wrote the details in the Miner's Right certificate book he had beside his ledger. He ripped the Miner's Right out, leaving behind a butt duly filled out with the miner's name and Miner's Right number. He handed the pre-printed certificate to the miner who then needed to keep this valuable piece of paper safe, clean and dry under all conditions. He would need it to establish his claim whenever he was asked for it. With his Miner's Right in his pocket, the miners then went directly to the likey spot they had picked out, and placed wooden stakes in the ground to mark out the 50 x 300 feet for each miner. This would be their land for the period of one year. After that, his Miner's Right was renewable on payment of a further £1 fee.

Gold Warden's Tent
During a Gold Rush, a would-be miner faced a long and anxious wait to get into the Warden's Tent, apply for his Miner's Right and Register his claim. The Warden worked under very trying conditions to record it all in his ledger.
Source: The Warden at Hokitika with Hunt from the film Hunt's Duffer
Click to enlarge the image

INTERPRETING THE RESULTS FROM THE DATABASE

It is important that genealogists are able to find out that their ancestor was a gold miner once. In the case of my own ancestor, it explained why he, his wife and two children moved from South Australia to New Zealand and to date their arrival on the Thames Goldfield in 1868. It helped explain why my great grandfather Herbert George Hooper was born at such an out-of-the-way place as Tapu Creek (on the Thames goldfield) when he lived the rest of his life in Gisborne. It explained why they were at Tapu Creek and why they left so soon after Herbertís birth in 1870. Such were the questions that lead me to the Registers of the Thames Goldfield at Archives New Zealand in Auckland in 2005.

If your ancestor has a mysterious disappearance for a number of years, a sudden unexplained increase in wealth, or arrived in New Zealand around 1861 Ė 1871, give The Goldminersí Database a try. I have had many correspondents tell me over the years that they never would have guessed that this was what their ancestor was up to.

From a search of the Database for my ancestor, Edward HOOPER (see the above results sheet), I discover the date that he arrived on the Goldfield and applied for his first Miner's Right (29 July 1868) and that he staked out three claims at Tapu Creek between 1869 and 1871. I then looked for the birth certificate for his son, Herbert George HOOPER, my great Grandfather and found that he was born in Tapu Creek on 15th August 1870. This confirmed for me that the Tapu Creek entries in the GoldMiner's Database was my ancestor Edward Hooper and that his wife and children were living there too. If I click on the Links under his name in the database, I will find information about his various claims, their location in Tapu Creek, and the names of all his mates.

Identification of individuals can sometimes be achieved by the family groups who presented themselves together to apply for their Miner's Right. Each Miner's Right issued has an identification number, and those who presented themselves at the office together will have successive identification numbers, and the same date of issue. For this reason, it is best to search the surname of interest to ensure that no recognizable family members were with the miner concerned. There were family groups of brothers, father and son(s), even husband and wife, brother and sister as well as cousins and friends from the same home town. The LINKS page has a list of websites to help with genealogical research of your goldminer.

Since 2009, there have been over 145,000 searches made on the Goldminerís Database. This represents about 33 searches every day throughout the 12 year period (2009 Ė 2021). This kind of traffic to the webpage has led to a large number of queries coming my way over the years.

Acknowledgements

  • All transcriptions are entirely the work of the author, Kae Lewis Ph.D. over a period of many years.
  • The online search facilities of The Gold Minersí Database are operated using PHP and MySQL software developed by Dr Evan Lewis Ph.D. M.D. Without this extraordinary software, the database would not operate, and my sincere thanks and appreciation go out to him.
  • Also I would like to thank the staff at Alexander Turnball Library, Archives New Zealand, The Bank of New Zealand Museum and the Lakes District Museum, Arrowtown for their help with accessing the mining records of New Zealand. Their dedication in preserving what is left of these records is amazing and very much appreciated.


Contact: Kae Lewis


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