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Friday, June 19, 2015

Was Your Ancestor a Miner? Mining Resources for Genealogists

In some parts of the world and across the United States, many of our ancestors were employed in the mining industry. At least in the United States, Federal Census records for the years from 1850 to the most recent censuses have asked for the profession, occupation or trade of each person over 15 years of age. See U.S. Census: Index of Questions. In the many years I have been assisting patrons in Mesa and Provo, I have almost never had a question arise about doing research into mining and miners.

I think this lack of questions is due more to a lack of understanding of the need to use occupational records and, very likely, a lack of knowledge about the existence of such records and how to locate them. One of the first places to start such a search is with the Research Wiki article on United States Business Records. Here is a quote from that page that tells about the importance of these types of records:
There have always been business records but the challenge to genealogists is that they are seldom identified as genealogical records. Governments from the earliest times have issued permits and licenses to allow businesses to operate. Also from the earliest times there have guilds and trade unions governing the activities of their members and keeping records. Many businesses have also produced biographical collections of the company's officers and employees. In the Unites States publicly owned companies often produce an annual report in printed form. Cities have produced city directories listing all of the businesses in the city and included, in many cases, all of the residents. It is also important not to overlook advertisement which may contain information about the owners or operators of a business.
Mining records are among those listed as types of records that contain important information about individuals and their activities.
  • Mortuary records
  • Farming and agricultural records
  • Slaves, Apprentices and Indentured Servants
  • Insurance records
  • Newspapers
  • Union records
  • Mining records
  • Business formation records
  • Churches
  • Railroads
  • Shipping and other transportation records
  • Business licenses and bonds
  • Professional licenses
  • Medical and Dental office records
  • Photography businesses
  • Business and other types of directories
  • Utility records
It is important to understand that there are mining records in every state that has mines and almost every state does have mining activity. Here is a sample a few record links from around the United States to get you started thinking about these records:
For example, here is a screenshot of the information for a mine in Arizona:

Sometimes we all need to break out of our habitual comfort zone and realize that we are missing the greater view of genealogy. Start your search on Google with a search for your ancestor's location and then mining records. 


  1. Don't forget that Utah has a significant mining history.

    Some miners, mostly non-LDS, went to Park City and extracted silver there at the request of a prominent, non-LDS businessmen, Kerns and Keith. And many non-LDS iron workers went to Cedar City to help the Mormons extract the iron ore west of Cedar. Brigham Young sent folks to Iron County to mine the ore. Called the mining mission. I have a great grandfather who came West from Virginia to mine in Cedar City and Minersville Beaver, Utah. He met my lovely LDS great grandmother, fell in love and married her. The history of mining in Utah is on-going. My family owns 50% of an iron mine west of Cedar City which US Steel mined heavily for WWII after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The US gov't wanted the war machine to have mining and smelting at Geneva in Provo inland and not on the coast, where they might be attacked as Pearl Harbor was. Anyway, mining brought a lot of non-LDS to Utah, most of whom became friends to the Mormons and stood up for them in the hard times of polygamy. And many, like my GGpa, married a Mormon and into the Faith. I might add, just googling the subject produces a ton of information.

  2. Hi! I wanted to let you know that I've included your post in my NoteWorthy Reads this week: