Blue Books

Download the PDF version of Blue Books: family history info guide [PDF 82KB]

The Blue Books (also known as Civil Establishment, Returns of the Colony, or Statistical Returns) were usually published annually and listed most of the public servants currently employed by the government.

What family history information can be found in the Blue Books?

If your ancestors were government employees you may be able to trace their careers through the Blue Books.

The information found in these publications varies from state to state but may include:

  • name
  • position and department within the public service
  • salary (including allowances)
  • date when first appointed to current position
  • date when first appointed in the public service

Example from the 1869 Blue Book of Queensland

Colonial Secretary – Police Department

Office Name Date of Appointment By Whom Appointed Annual Salary Date of First Appointment
Inspector of Police in St Lawrence & Marlborough Frederick Wheeler 22 July 1864 Governor & Executive 345 pounds (plus 55 pounds travelling expenses) 1 June 1858

This publication contains a wide variety of public service occupations including teachers, police, members of parliament, customs officials, postmasters and station masters.

Each Blue Book contains an index of names at the beginning or end making it easy to locate individuals.

The Blue Books are usually (but not always) arranged by government department such as Marine Board, Treasury, or Postmaster-General.

The Blue Books do not provide a comprehensive list of all government employees. They list mainly those positions which have a higher status or perform clerical/administrative duties. For example in the Railway Department lengthsmen and labourers are not usually listed.

How can researchers access the Blue Books?

Most of State Library of Queensland's holdings of the Blue Books are found within government annual publications (usually the Votes and Proceedings for the Legislative Assembly). A list of these publications and the State Library's holdings are outlined later.

Sometimes the Blue Books are difficult to locate within these government publications and may require some searching.

A Biographers' Index of Parliamentary Returns (New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria) 1850-1889 (FAMHIS 015.944 1969)

Contains the year, volume and page number reference to easily locate the Blue Books within the Legislative Assembly Votes and Proceedings for Queensland, NSW and Victoria between 1850 and 1889.

Queensland

Queensland Blue Book for the year... [microfiche - located in white folders] (FICHE/B 354.943 que)
Covers the years 1869 to 1916. Each year contains an index of names.

Votes and proceedings / Queensland Legislative Assembly [microfilm] (MFL 328.943)
Years: 1860 to 1916.
This series of microfilm usually contains the Blue Books for each year. If you are looking for dates between 1869 and 1916 it is easier to search the titles listed above first.

N.B. For government officers in Queensland pre-1859 please search the New South Wales Blue Books.

New South Wales

State Records NSW Blue Books (Returns of the Colony) 1822-57

Returns of the Colony... [microfiche - located in white folders] (FICHE/B 994 ret)
Years: 1822 to 1857.
Each year contains an index of names.

Public Service lists, 1858-70 [microfiche] (MFC 929.3944 1985)
Extracted from the Statistical Returns of the Colony (Blue Books) 1858-1861, 1862-70.

Votes and Proceedings / New South Wales Legislative Assembly [microfilm] (MFL 328.9441)
Years: 1860 to 1897.
This series of microfilm usually contains the Blue Books for each year.

Victoria

Votes and Proceedings / Victoria. Legislative Assembly [microfilm] (MFSCA 328.9451)
Years: 1860 to 1902.
This series of microfilm usually contains the Blue Books for each year.

Tasmania

Tasmanian Blue Books, 1822-1858 [microfilm] (AJCP reels 1194-1201)
This series of microfilm contains copies of Colonial Office (London) returns C.O.284 which have been made available through the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Journals / Tasmania. Parliament. House of Assembly and Legislative Council [microfilm] (MFSCA 328.9461)
Years: 1856 to 1902.
This series of microfilm usually contains the Blue Books for each year.

South Australia

Proceedings of the Parliament of South Australia [microfilm] (MFSCA 328.9421)
Years: 1869/70 to 1901.
This series of microfilm usually contains the Blue Books for each year.

Western Australia

Western Australia. Blue book set 1: 1871-1905 [CD-ROM] (QCFS 351.941 2009)
This CD-ROM contains highly scanned images of the original books. Each year contains data which may include office, name, date of appointment, appointed by, instrumentality, salary and date of appointment.

Download the PDF version of Blue Books: family history info guide [PDF 82KB]

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