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  • USE THE WILDCARD FOR FUZZY SPELLING: There is a wildcard facility where the nearest matches to a name will be found. This should be used for all but the simplest spelling. Complex names, especially those from non-English-speaking countries will have many different ways of spelling them. Under the 'exact match' search, the name will only come up if the spelling is exactly as you write it in the search box. Using the 'wildcard' feature, and even just giving the first syllable of the name, all spellings of the name should appear. Always experiment with different spellings, remembering that these records were made under very trying and primitive conditions and mistakes of spelling were frequent occurences. Neither the Gold Warden nor the miner himself always knew the conventional spelling of a name, as it is used today, and they usually resorted to guessing. Even when you can be sure that there was only one miner who returned on two consecutive days, it has been noticed that the Gold Warden did not always spell the name the same way on each occasion. For short surnames with only three letters, (eg KEY or FOX) the wildcard method is not permitted.

  • NAMES:The search box can be used by entering either a surname such as HOOPER or the full name, entered as either HOOPER, Edward or Edward HOOPER. When middle names or initials or other identifying features were given in a record, they are always included in the database. Sadly, all too often, the Gold Wardens recorded the Surname and initial only.

  • FILTERS:The database is not divided into regions of separate goldfields, meaning that with one search, a miner’s presence can be traced in the Otago, West Coast and Thames goldfields and his movements on the goldfield tracked. However there is a Filter available to restrict the result to only one Goldfield Otago, West Coast or Thames. Once you have the results chart, you can scroll down to the bottom to find the advanced search box which allows you to filter your results to the District within the Goldfield by YEAR, TYPE, DISTRICT and/or LOCATION within the goldfield.

  • NINETEENTH CENTURY HANDWRITING AND SPELLING: The originals of the entire database were handwritten lists from the 1860s and 1870s, and as such, the names were often very much open to interpretation. Some of the handwriting was remarkable for its legibility, for example that of the Gold Warden and Assistant Commissioner of the Goldfield of Thames, Mr Allen Baillie whose writing was 'copperplate' and always legible. However there were other Gold Wardens and Clerks (for example nearly all those of the West Coast) whose writing could only be described as appalling. The letters n, m, w, v and u were almost always indistinguishable and left me guessing, based on context. Another difficulty encountered was that there was very little or no difference between the handwritten 'J' and 'I' or between 'W' and 'M' when they stood alone as an initial, or the first letter of a name. What looked like a middle initial 'M' was in fact Mac or Mc, with no indication of which. For instance John M Pherson could be John MacPherson or John McPherson, take your pick. And finally there was the issue of sloppy or hurried handwriting which simply left off the end of names, especially if the spelling was difficult. In many cases, the Warden obviously did not know how to spell a name that was being called out to him, and by deliberately blurring his handwriting, he got it down as best he could. Every care has been taken to correctly interpret the handwriting but it is certain there will be mistakes.

  • FOREIGN GOLDMINERS: With regards to foreign goldminers, the Gold Wardens did not enter mining records for Chinese miners in the same books as the rest of the miners. I have not searched out and recorded the names of Chinese miners in this database. On the other hand, foreign miners from all other parts of the world, such as from the countries of Europe, Russia, or USA are recorded in the same records as those from New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and Great Britain. However the nationality of a miner was never recorded in any mining records used for this database. If it was, it would have been added to the database.

  • WOMEN GOLDMINERS IN THE DATABASE: It was extraordinary how many women came alone to the Warden's Office to apply for a Miner's Right in their own name. Many of them returned over the next few days, weeks and months to take out multiple Miner's Rights, something that needed a lot of ready cash and/or success in finding gold. I personally completely readjusted my prejudices about simpering, housebound and dependent Victorian women after seeing this long list of the intrepid lady gold miners of Thames. My concern is that few genealogists would ever think to check a list of gold miners for the name of their great great grandmother.

  • GOLD MINING COMPANIES: Registered Gold Mining Companies also took out Miner's Rights and Registrations of Water Races, dams, tunnels etc. These can be searched for in the database by using the Wildcard facility in the searchbox and entering just one word of the Company name as a family name, eg for the Golden Crown Gold Mining Company Registered, enter 'Crown' or 'Golden' as a wildcard. There are 133 unique names for Otago mining companies and 285 for Thames (1867 – 1872). Most of mining companies were set up at both places after the initial goldrush was over, and the independent miners had left the goldfields. For this reason, only the earliest companies appear in The Goldminer’s Database, and they were comparatively few in number.

  • BUSINESSES:Businesses such as hotels or shops on the goldfield also had to be registered with the Gold Warden and are all listed on the database. They can be searched under the name of the proprietor.

  • IDENTIFYING A PARTICULAR MINER: The Goldminer’s Database does not give the user any way to actually identify an individual miner from a genealogical point of view. Even two entries of the same name may not necessarily be the same miner. The Wardens on the New Zealand Goldfields simply did not add a miner’s date and place of birth or their parents’ names, or even their nationality to any of the mining records. However this problem is inherent in many databases, such as shipping records and electoral rolls, and most genealogists today are adept at finding ways around it. Databases like The Goldminer’s Database are designed to make it easier to know where to look for more definitive records of your ancestor, such as birth, death and marriage records, court records or land records etc. Many of these resources are listed on this website under LINKS.
    It is difficult to understand the mindset of the Gold Wardens who obviously had no wish to identify just who they were dealing with and where the men came from originally. You would think that they would realise that they would be unable to differentiate between all the goldminers named John SMITH for instance unless they made more effort to record other identifying features such as a middle name or date and place of birth, as we do today.


Since 2009, there have been over 145,000 searches made on the Goldminer’s Database. This kind of traffic has led to a large number of queries coming my way over the years I would like to end by presenting an email sent to me recently. This typifies the type of genealogical query I receive:

Dear Kae Lewis,
My cousin and I have recently discovered your wonderful database, and perhaps a missing ancestor, named James Page, who is thought to have gone to NZ, perhaps to Otago, in the early 1860s. We have been searching for many years, and this may be him! There are several references to a James Page, any or all of which might be relevant.
We were wondering if it would be possible to discuss our findings with you? As you will appreciate, it's a common name and it would be great if you could suggest some ways we might access some records which might shed some further light on his movements.
Cheers, and thanks again for all your efforts in creating the database.
Cheryl R.

results page
Click to enlarge the image

On the left hand side of the above results sheet, under the column TYPE, is the type of each record. By looking up the TYPE, and it is repeated also just below the results table on the database, we see the following record: MR = Miner's Right (Gabriel's Gully) GR = Gold Receipt (Arrowtown) WR = Water Race (Dunstan)

These are the results Cheryl found when she searched the name of her missing ancestor. There was indeed a James Page who was goldmining in Otago from the earliest days, arriving at the Tuapeka Warden's Court on 4 September, 1861, a month after the goldfield opened in August 1861. He applied for a Miner's Right (MR) at Gabriel’s Gully and was issued number 838 which was entered in the first Miners’ Rights register at Tuapeka. (ATL denotes that this register is held by Alexander Turnball Library.)

Although we cannot be sure its the same man, a James Page joined the rush further inland to Arrowtown and was there for at least a year. We can tell this because in April 1863 and again in April 1864, he deposited a total of 49 ounces of gold at the Arrowtown Police Station for safekeeping. The gold was then forwarded to Dunedin under escort and the duty paid. The miner was receiving about £5 5s an oz in Arrowtown at that time, so James Page would have netted about £250 for his gold. This was a princely sum in these days and could have set him up with land back in Australia.

James Page then moved to the Dunstan where he registered a water race at Clyde Warden's Court on 25 October 1864.

There is no record for him at either West Coast or Thames so the possibility remains that he may have given up chasing gold and returned to Australia at that stage or he could have settled in New Zealand and bought farming land with his new-found riches.

I then checked the ‘Passenger Lists – Victoria, Australia Outwards to New Zealand 1852 – 1923’ available online at FamilySearch and found the following record:

Victoria Outwards Record
Click to enlarge the image

This gives our researcher, Cheryl some great clues about the identity of the James Page who arrived at Gabriel's Gully the following year. We know he left from Melbourne to go to New Zealand which fits with what Cheryl knows. Now we also know that this James PAGE was 27 years old in 1860. Also on the same FamilySearch records, are the original passenger records which can give further information about any accompanying family members, the Port of Arrival, the occupation of the passenger and the date of disembarkation.

The enquirer now needs to calculate the age of her ancestor in 1860, and she will be a lot closer to determining if this is the man she is seeking. A look at the original passenger record may also help if known relatives or friends from the same town in Australia were travelling together. And the Port of Embarkation for a goldminer on his way to Gabriel's Gully will be Dunedin or Port Chalmers.

Typically this type of genealogical enquiry leads to more questions than answers, but as in this case, the database has lead the researcher to a new line of enquiry which may well lead to the breakthrough they are looking for. Further research within New Zealand may help to locate other clues on the identity of the miner, such as birth, death and marriage records, court and land records and newspaper reports on PapersPast. The links to genealogy websites for these types of research and for further information about the New Zealand Goldfields can be found on this website on the LINKS page.

Contact: Kae Lewis