Researching your Victorian ancestors

A guide to family history research using the major Victorian resources

Land records

Land records are an excellent source of genealogical information. Records will show where and when your ancestors owned land, how much it cost and what was it used for.

Victorian land holdings can be divided into two categories.

Land under 'general law'
Land alienated by the Crown between 1837 and 2 October 1862. A general law title consisted of a chain of title deeds all of which had to be in place to enable a property to be transferred. General law land is also known as  NUA ‘Not under the Act’ land or ‘Old law’ land.


Land under the 'Torrens system'
The Torrens system was introduced in 1862 and simplified land transactions. Land was subject to registration under the Transfer of Land Act and land ownership was transferred through registration of title instead of using deeds.

Victorian land records are held at a number of repositories depending on the type of record and its age. The main two agencies that hold land records in Victoria are Land Victoria and the Public Record Office Victoria PROV.
 

Land Victoria

Land Victoria is a division of the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure and collects, maintains and disseminates land related information for the State of Victoria.

On their Property and land titles website you can access resources on land titles, property information, valuation and maps. Their Land Channel website includes links to online planning maps, Vicmap data and spatial data.

Search the VICNAMES website to find all registered and recorded place names in Victoria. VICNAMES includes more than 200,000 road and place names including landscape features such as mountains and rivers, bounded localities such as suburbs, towns, cities and regions, and physical infrastructure such as roads, reserves and schools.

Go direct to their online search service LANDATA to access title and property certificates, digitized parish plans and Crown land status.


Public Record Office Victoria PROV

PROV holds a range of records that document the administration of Crown lands in Victoria, such as land selection and occupation, crown reserves, pastoral runs and survey records. PROV also holds a variety of records that provide valuable sources for research into property, such as rate books, Public Works Department Plans, Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works records and Public Building Files.

For further information refer to:

Lands guide: a guide to finding records of crown land at Public Record Office Victoria by Phillippa Nelson and Lesley Alves; [editors Sebastian Gurciullo, Kasia Zygmuntowicz].

PROVguide 30: Parish and township working plans
This PROVguide outlines how to access the online Parish and Township working plans (series VPRS 16171). The series contains digitised copies of parish and township working plans, as well as closer settlement, land settlement, soldier settlement, county and other miscellaneous working plans. To access the online digitised plans go to: Regional Land Office Parish and Township Plans Digitised Reference Set 

PROVguide 55: Land records
This PROVguide outlines how to access some of the most frequently used series regarding land selection in Victoria, and other significant land records such as the Historic Plan Collection.  Also available: PROVguide 55: How to search land selection files.

PROVguide 55b: Accessing certificates of title
It is now possible to access, print and save to USB, Certificates of Title in the Public Record Office reading room. Images of the following titles are available:
•Crown Grants and Freehold Land Titles [1862 – early 1990s]
•Crown Lease Titles [1862 - continuing]
•Mining Titles [1862 - continuing]

Researching buildings and houses

For detailed information on researching the history of your house please consult the Researching buildings & houses research guide. This guide describes how to research a building using the libraries collection of architectural drawings, maps, auction plans, newspapers and online resources.