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Coalminer Records (Occupations)

Nature of Source

Records of those involved employed in the extraction of coal. Modern coalmining began from the early 18th century with coal miners frequently changing places of work.

After WWII, the coal industry was nationalised with the establishment of the National Coal Board in 1946. In 1987, it was renamed as the British Coal Corporation and later its assets were privatised. In 1994, the newly established Coal Authority assumed control over the management and licensing of coal mines and other management issues.

The following sources will assist in researching coalmining ancestors:

Colliery Personnel Records
Coalminers had few employment rights and therefore coalmine owners had little need to keep records of those in their employ in the 19th century. The frequent movement of the miners between pits has resulted in very few extant employment records. As coalmining evolved into a more permanent means of earning a living, the personnel records increased in the quality and coverage. If the name of the colliery is known, the local record office should hold employment records. If the colliery is not known, then the records of the surrounding collieries will have to be consulted. The Durham Mining Museum has a useful finding aid on its web site which allows the user to locate local collieries within a five mile radius of that colliery or an address.

Poor Relief Records
Many miners lived in poverty and were likely to be recipients of some form of social assistance. Details on a miner ancestor might be found amongst the records of the Overseers of the Poor and later the Poor Law Unions.

Accident Records
Many of the records relate to the high amount of accidents with frequent deaths that occurred in a notoriously dangerous industry. The records generated from a mining disaster are detailed in the official enquiry reports. Within the report the names of the deceased and their occupations will be mentioned. Local and national newspapers will also provide some additional information on a mining accident. Many deaths took place on a weekly basis that were not recorded amongst the official disaster inquiries. The Coal Mining History Resource Centre web site maintains the National Database of Mining Deaths in Great Britain. The database contains the names of over 120,000 people killed in mining accidents from 1850 to 1972. The web site has a number of other useful resources such as a list of coalmines and mining disaster reports.

The many mining history societies and museums provide background material into the daily lives of mining ancestors and trade union records could give further biographical information on a person.

The Colliery Year Book and Coal Trades Directory began publishing in 1922 and was published annually until 1964 when it became a directory for the coal distributive trade. It listed all collieries in production, their location, numbers of workers employed and seams worked.

Also see
Apprenticeship Agreements, Trade
Apprenticeship Indentures, Parish
Directories, Trade, Professional, Telephone & Street
Friendly & Fraternal Society Records
Guilds, Freedoms & Freemen's or Burgess Rolls
Occupational and Labour Records (Includes links and guidance on calculating historical wage rates and the cost of living)
Trade Union Records

Where Found

The National Archives (Series COAL, Records created or inherited by the National Coal Board and of related bodies concerning the coal industry including nationalised coal board and inspectors’ reports into mining disasters and surveys, maps and photographs)
County Record Offices (Individual colliery and mining company records including deposited personnel files. ARCHON Directory: Find the details of a UK archive from a searchable list of over 2,500 archives The catalogue can be found on the TNA Discovery home page)
Parliamentary Archives (Parliamentary papers dealing with the industry)
National Coal Mining Museum Library (The Library holds a wealth of information on the history of coal mining in England - not only the geographical and technical aspects of mining coal, but also the social, economic and political aspect of the industry and the communities it touched)
National Mining Museum Scotland (The collections at the museum comprise over 60,000 items, including objects, archive material, photographs and books. The reference library at the National Mining Museum houses books, journals, trade catalogues and periodicals covering the history of the coal mining industry)
The Coal Authority (Historic Mining Records and Records Management)
British Library Newspaper Collections (Coal related publications such as The Mining Journal and its rival the Mining World)
South Wales Coalfield Collection (Few records on individuals but much background information on the coalmine communities and their trade unions)
Durham County Record Office (Colliery personnel records and other coalmining records. Information and guides to the records can be found here and information on individual collieries can be found here)

Period Covered

1750 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Names, addresses, dates of death, career.

Further References

Anderson, Maureen. Northumberland and Cumberland Mining Disasters: Wharncliffe Books, 2009  
Anderson, Maureen. Durham Mining Disasters c1700-1950s: Pen and Sword Books, 2008  
Arnot, Chris. Britain's Lost Mines: The Vanished Kingdom of the Men who Carved out the Nation's Wealth: Aurum Press, 2013  Buy Now on Amazon
Bates, Denise. Pit Lasses: Women and Girls in Coalmining c.1800-1914: Pen and Sword Books, 2012  
Elliott, Brian. Yorkshire Mining Veterans: Pen and Sword Books, 2005  
Elliott, Brian. South Yorkshire Mining Disasters: Pen and Sword Books, 2006  
Elliott, Brian. South Yorkshire Mining Disasters Volume II: Pen and Sword Books, 2009  
Elliott, Brian. Tracing Your Coalmining Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen and Sword Books, 2014  
Elliott, Brian. Coalminers: Images of the Past: Pen and Sword Books, 2015  
Emery, Norman. The Coalminers of Durham: The History Press, 2009 Buy Now on Amazon
Galloway, Robert Lindsay. A History of Coal Mining in Great Britain: David & Charles, 1969  Buy Now on Amazon
Mason, Peter Ford. The Pit Sinkers of Northumberland and Durham: The History Press, 2012  Buy Now on Amazon
Nadin, Jack. Lancashire Mining Disasters 1835-1910: Wharncliffe Books, 2006  Buy Now on Amazon
Tonks, David. My Ancestor Was a Coalminer: Society of Genealogists, 2003  Buy Now on Amazon
Vernon, Robert. Mining Heritage Guide: National Association of Mining History Organisations, 2000  Buy Now on Amazon

TNA Research Guide: Mines and mining

Websites (National Mining Memorabilia Association, includes extensive links to tracing miners) (Coal Mining Oral History Project: Glossary of Mining Terms and Pitmatic) (University of Sunderland: The North East England Mining Archive and Research Centre. The collection contains records from The National Union of Mineworkers Durham Area [NUM], The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers [NEIMME] and the Durham branch of the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers [NACODS]) (Durham Mining Museum: Site includes information on mine related deaths, memorial rolls, individual collieries and mines) (Scottish Mining Website: Information on Scottish miners and mining areas, compiled from old reports, gazetteers and newspaper articles) (TNA Your Archives Guide: Coal and Coal Mining) (National Coal Mining Museum)
(Durham County Record Office: Coal Mining and Durham Collieries. Information about mining history and coal mining records in Durham County Record Office. Find out how to search our collections and online indexes to Durham Collieries and Durham miners) (Scottish Mining Museum) (Big Pit: National Coal Museum, Wales) (National Archives of Scotland Research Guide: Coal mining records)
(List of mines in Great Britain and the Isle of Man, 1908) (South Wales Coalfield Collection) (Mining History Network) (Welsh Mines Society) (Resources for Welsh Mining Research) (Record of the mines within the Welsh Coalfields) (Working Life General Information Gateway) (National Association of Mining History Organisations. The organisation was formed in 1979 to act as the national body for mining history in the UK and Ireland in order to promote education and research in Mining History) (A brief guide to primary sources for mining history)
Tyne & Wear Archives User Guide: (Coal Industry Part 1)
Tyne & Wear Archives User Guide: (Individual Collieries) (Ancestry Message Boards: Occupations)

Online Databases

Online Catalogues (Listing of online catalogues for the partial whereabouts of records including Access to Archives [A2A], National Register of Archives [NRA]) (Durham Mining Museum, includes lists of mines, maps, names of miners, images of original documents and names of those killed in accidents) (Durham County Record Office: Search Durham's Hidden Depths: Search for miners working in the Durham coalfield. The Mining Durham's Hidden Depths database, created by volunteers, contains over 220,000 entries)
(Durham County Record Office: Coal Mining and Durham Collieries. Information about mining history and coal mining records in Durham County Record Office. Find out how to search our collections and online indexes to Durham Collieries and Durham miners) (Oaks Disaster Victims. Online database of the names of the men and boys killed in the 1866 Oaks Colliery Disaster, Barnsley) (Fatal Accidents and Disasters database)