My 2nd great grandfather Edward Sleep, with his wife Charlotte Hancock, immigrated to Port Adelaide, South Australia aboard the William Prowse on 22 Sep 1853. Edward's occupation was recorded as Miner.

From the birth, marriage and death records of their nine children, all born in South Australia, I have established a timeline for their known residences:

  • arrived in Kooringa (formerly called The Murray) before 29 Dec 1854
  • left Kooringa after 2 Dec 1859
  • arrived Green's Plains (between Paskeville and Moonta) before 25 Oct 1861
  • left Green's Plains after 29 Nov 1861
  • arrived Moonta before 12 Mar 1864

At Moonta they may have had several residences because events are recorded as Moonta, then Moonta Mines and finally East Moonta, but these three locations are within a few miles of each other so changing residences would not imply that Edward changed workplaces.

From the timeline and locations above I would expect that Edward as a Miner would have had three employers:

  • South Australian Mining Association (at Kooringa)
  • Cumberland Mining Company (at Green's Plains)
  • Moonta Mining Company (at Moonta, Moonta Mines and East Moonta)

The mineral being mined mostly at each of these locations was copper and the workforce came primarily from Cornwall (like Edward).

I would like to try and find some details of Edwards employment and for many South Australians this can be done simply by looking them up in the Boothby, then Sands and McDougall, directories but Edward appears to be missing in all that I have searched so far.

Assuming he is found absent from all of them (and I have looked each 5 years up until his death in 1903) is there another source, perhaps mining company records, that I could use to try and get more detail about where and when he was mining?

2 Answers 2


On the State Library of South Australia webpage linked in the question:

Why can’t I find my ancestor in the various almanacs and directories?
The almanacs and directories were produced essentially for commercial purposes. There is evidence to suggest they were compiled by publishing companies who employed people to door-knock the suburbs and country towns. As this method was not foolproof many people are likely to have been missed and therefore their names not listed. Occasionally homeowners may also have declined to be included.
Note only the ‘head of household’ is recorded in each instance. Single women and widows were not named if they were living with other (male) relatives. Similarly boarders, guests, servants and other adult dependants were not included. More detailed records of home ownership and occupation are contained in local government assessment (rate) records available through State Records or individual councils. More information about directories can be found at: http://guides.slsa.sa.gov.au/directories

A quick glance at the early directories show that some miners were listed, but not all (for the reasons given above).

I would be careful assuming who the employer was based only on location. Also, since I suspect some of these locations mentioned in the question came from the birth registrations for the children, keep in mind that the family may or may not have worked and lived where the children were born.

  • Thanks for your thoughts on this. My understanding is that while the time they spent at Burra and Green's Plains was in less "civilized" times for SA by the late 19th century Moonta was a big place (second biggest in SA after Adelaide at one stage) and I think the directories would have been very interested in it. I am not expecting to find other mining employers in these locations but this and the vital records to employment link I am drawing are only working assumptions at the moment and I am happy to be proved wrong.
    – PolyGeo
    Apr 29, 2015 at 21:08

In the United State, even today, tracking down a miner and where they 'might' have been at a given time frame is tracking down mining claims in their name (which they may or may not have worked).

So this is basically countering your assumption that they worked for a mining company and that they would have been a self-employed small scale miner.

This page on the miner permitting process is for Victoria, not South Australia but would assume S.A. might have something similar.

As that page mentions though:

Accessing miners' rights and licences Most miners' rights and licences have not survived to the present day. There is no central index to surviving miners' rights or licences.

That said the timeline also seems to coincide with an Australian Gold Rush. There is some supporting KML Map Files. This website (CoraWeb) has some resources for finding details on individual miners, in particular this one.

The Australian Mining History association may be able to point you where to find specific individual claim records as well if none of the above prove fruitful.

  • Thanks for your thoughts on this. I should have mentioned that the mining my ancestor would have been involved in was copper. I've edited that in now. South Australia was developed for free settlers by the South Australian Company rather than as a penal colony first and perhaps this is why it was companies rather than individuals that seemed to do the mining there. I think my assumption that he would have worked for a company is sound but I have to confess that, as someone who grew up in Moonta, I do not know as much about its mining heritage as I would like to.
    – PolyGeo
    Apr 29, 2015 at 21:00

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