Pubs and publicans

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How does information on pubs and publicans help ancestry researchers?

Pubs played an important role in ancestors’ lives. They were important landmarks and centres of social activities in many towns and cities and as such settings for a number of significant events. They also provided employment for the publicans and many workers. Illustrations of hotels may be found in Trove. There are many more materials than this available but the list below indicates the types of records to be found.

What records are available?


National Archives of Australia

Using Record Search and key words such as ‘hotels’ or ‘publicans’, it is possible to find 20th Century records, mainly of commonwealth territories. Digitised copies of records can be requested free of charge.

Beyond the ladies lounge : Australia's female publicans / Clare Wright (G 647.9494 2003).

Trove Australian historic newspapers
Notices of renewals of licences regularly appear in newspapers so search the digitised newspapers.


Queensland State Archives

The Queensland State Archives holds original documents relating to publicans. These documents include: Registers of publicans’ licences; Registers of fines collected; Register of Applications – Publicans and Register of Country Publicans. The brief guide lists government gazettes by year and page where the names of licensees may be found. State Library holds the Queensland Government Gazette on microfilm and on microfiche. For further information check Brief Guide - Hotel Records.

The following register may be found at Australia; Publicans, Inns and Hotels Index:
Mackay Hotels (Queensland)
Glen Hall and the Mackay Historical Society and Museum provide this database which contains a list of Mackay hotels and the publicans’ names and dates for each hotel. It also gives extra information such as fires, name changes, demolitions etc. The site also lists primary and secondary sources for the information.

Index to persons called before Queensland Government Committees (1860-1901)
Index to persons called before Queensland Government Committees (1902-1920)
These government committee sites are organized alphabetically by surname. Publicans are included.

A pattern of pubs : hotels of Townsville 1864-1914 / Dorothy Gibson-Wilde and Bruce C. Gibson-Wilde (CHG 647.94943601 1988), includes the Register of licensees 1864-1914.

Queensland hotels & publicans' index 1843-1900 [microfiche] / researched by Merle Norris (MFC 647.940994 1996).  There are 3 alphabetical sequences in this index: Part A - Index of hotels; Part B - Index of publicans' names; Part C - Index of towns listing hotels and publicans (Queensland country only).

Brisbane hotels and publicans index, 1842-1900 / compiled by Merle Norris (REFJ 994.31 013, and PAM 647.959431 1993).
The 3 alphabetical sequences are the same as those for the Queensland index as listed above.

Queensland publicans' licenses (REFJ 647.9494301 que)
9 volumes photocopied from Queensland Government gazette 1860-1914.
Vol. 1: 1860-1869; Vol. 2: 1870-1879; Vol. 3: 1880-1889; Vol. 4: 1890-1894; Vol. 5: 1895-1899; Vol 6:1900-1904; Vol. 7: 1905-1909; Vol. 8: 1910; and Vol. 9: 1911-1914

Mine host of Maryborough and district, Queensland : licensed publicans 1860-1924 / compiled by K. M. Adams and J.M. Downman; Maryborough District Family History Society Inc. (REFJ 647.95 min and
PAM 647.959432 1995)

Publican’s licences Rockhampton is a list of licensees for 1864 only.

Some Warwick hotels and hoteliers / P. J. Brixey (P 647.94 bri)

Licensed Victuallers: annual and interim lists for period 1874-1914 in Queensland Government Gazettes (VF 647.94943 LIC)

New South Wales

State Records New South Wales

Searching the database by using key name search will pick up references to the Concise Guide, Archives Investigator and online indexes held at the State Records Office. The State Library will hold most material of interest and available on microfilm.

See also the following guides for publicans available at the State Records NSW website:

Publicans’ licences 1830-61

Certificates of Publicans’ Licenses 1830 – 1861 [microfilm] Archives Office of NSW (MFL 929.3944 1986).  Licenses issued by the Internal Revenue Office (1830-Mar. 1837); the Revenue Branch, Colonial Treasury (June 1837-1849); and by the authority of the Colonial Treasurer (1853-1861). Consult Archives Office of NSW Information Leaflet no.37, How to use the genealogical research kit ( MFA 929.3944 1988), or Archives Resources Kit – Professions and occupations

The following records are included:

  • Butts of publicans’ licenses, June 1830 – 1849. (SR/AO Reels 5049 – 5062 and 1236)  Contains licence number, date of issue, name and address of licensee and sign of the hotel, period covered by the licence, amount of duty received, names of licensing justices and date and place of meeting of justices authorizing the issue of the licence.
  • Certificates for publicans’ licenses, July 1853 – June 1861. (SR/AO Reels 5063-5066 and 1236-1242)  Comprises certificates authorising the issue of Publicans’ General Licences as well as some for Confectioners, Billiard, Night and Packet Licences. Each certificate contains the following information: name of district, date of justices’ licensing meeting, name of proposed licence and type of licence issued, situation of Public House and sign, names and residence of sureties for licensee and signatures of justices.
  • Index to certificates for publicans’ licenses, 1853-1855 (SR/AO Reel 5063)  Contains two indexes: an index of publicans, arranged strictly alphabetically by surnames within each of six parts, corresponding to the six volumes they index (4/84-89); and an index of hotel names.
  • Printed lists of licenses issued, 1866-82, 1895-1900, 1907-1910 (SR/AO 1243)

Publicans' licences in Sydney & the colony of N.S.W., 1839 (P 647.95 pub)

Some Hunter Valley innkeepers : index from 1825 to 1900 / compiled by Catherine Foggo (PAM 647.949442 1990)

Australia; Publicans, Inns and Hotels Index, Jenny Fawcett’s Genseek Genealogy website, covers her indexes and those of others throughout Australia. The following indexes are included:

  • New South Wales Publicans Index (known as Sydney Publicans Index) 1822
  • New South Wales Publicans and Pubs Index (known as Sydney Publicans Index) 1830
  • New South Wales Publicans and Pubs Index (known as Sydney Publicans Index) 1831
  • Sydney Publicans Index 1834

These are indexes to publicans, innkeepers and hoteliers mentioned in Sydney newspapers for the years 1822, 1830, 1831 and 1834 unless otherwise noted.

  • New South Wales Maitland Publicans 1845 – Jennifer Willett’s list originates from the Maitland Mercury 19th April 1845.
  • New South Wales Ulladulla Hotels 1888-1907 – Cathy Dunn provides references featured in licensing court ledgers held by Milton Ulladulla Historical Society.

New South Wales West – Hotel Publicans Licenses 1865 – 1900 and
Part of Central NSW Hotels & Publicans Licenses 1865-1870
Rusheen Craig has compiled in this list hotel name, district, situation and name of licensee. There are some hotel photographs and other interesting information about the hotels such as newspaper reports and advertisements.

Pubs and publicans in the County of Cumberland NSW to 1850 / compiled by Ken Knight & Allan Rost for the Society of Australian Genealogists [CD-ROM] (QCFS 647.949441 2007), contains details of over 2500 pubs and publicans in the County of Cumberland, New South Wales, 1788-1850, covering from the Hawkesbury-Nepean River in the north, to the base of the Blue Mountains to the west and to Bulli in the south.

Earliest pubs in CBD and outer Sydney 1788 to 1848 : index to sources & listed by name of publican & pub [CD-ROM] (QCFS 929.39441 2009), contains names of pubs and publicans (and brewers) of the earliest days of the settlement of New South Wales in the County of Cumberland. It lists the names of the first publicans and the names of the pubs in the central business district (CBD) and outer suburbs of Sydney from 1788 to 1848, by showing them listed with reliable sources.


Australia; Publicans, Inns and Hotels Index
Jenny Fawcett’s Genseek Genealogy website includes these indexes:

  • Victorian Publicans 1838-1855 Correspondence Index – This database gives access to the Treasurer’s inward correspondence (1838–1855) that details publicans’ names, hotel names, hotel addresses, and the names of persons to whom hotels were transferred (if applicable).
  • Publican Index of 19th Century Victoria – Sue O’Neill lists the publican’s name, hotel name and address, date of licence and source of the information are provided at this site.

Tetlow index to the Robert K. Cole collection of hotel records: city and suburban hotels, Melbourne, Australia [microfiche], compiled by Eric Tetlow (MFC 647.94945 2004), provides an alphabetical compilation of over 21,000 entries of names of hotel licensees and others taken from the Melbourne city and metropolitan volumes of Robert K. Cole's hotel records held at the State Library of Victoria.


Australia; Publicans, Inns and Hotels Index
Jenny Fawcett’s Genseek Genealogy website includes the following index:

  • Tasmanian Publicans Index 1825-1845 – The index contains references to publicans, mostly in Launceston and sub-districts, Tasmania compiled from colonial newspaper articles and advertisements.

South Australia

Hotels and publicans in South Australia, 1836-1984 / by J.L. (Bob) Hoad (G 647.94942301 1986)

South Australian hotel records prior to 21 February 1839 : including identifying South Australia's oldest hotel by identifying the State's first licensed publicans, and the title and location of the premises / by J.L. (Bob) Hoad (PAM 647.94942301 1988)

Publicans of Port Macdonnell and Allendale
Lucy Thompson of the South-East Family History group has drawn on the Border Watch for the years 1862-1916 for this list of publicans.


Innholders' company 1642-1643, 1654-1670, 1673-1800 / abstracted and indexed by Cliff Webb (PAM 929.34212 1998). Apprenticeship records of the City Livery Companies deposited at Guildhall Library.

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