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 Use Victoria

Land Use Victoria is the Victorian Government's key agency for land administration, property information and facilitating better use of government-owned land.

Go to their Landata website to access resources on land titles, property information, valuation and maps - including digitised parish plans..

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.

Certificates of title (1862-1996)

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]

Further information can be found on the PROV Certificates of title (1862-1996) webpage.

See also -

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].

Lands guide: researching records of Crown land in Victoria (ebook) by Phillippa Nelson and Lesley Alves;

Researching land and property
This PROV information page 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.

Township, parish and county plans

Parish and township plans record information about the transfer of land from the Crown (the Government) to private ownership or lease-hold. They show the boundaries and size of each piece of land, the allotment number and the name of the first owner or lease-holder to take possession of the land. Information listed on Township and Parish plans can often be used to find land selection files, held at the Public Record Office Victoria. Please be aware that the plans do NOT indicate the names of subsequent owners or lease-holders.

The following resources can help you locate the name of relevant township or parish.

The State Library of Victoria has an extensive collection of over 10,000 plans, many of which have been digitised. Simply search the Library catalogue for the name of the parish together with the keywords parish plan, to see if we hold a plan.

The Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) also holds an extensive collection of digitised parish plans. Information on their holdings can be found on their Parish and townships plans website.

Excerpt from Map of part of Parish of Monbulk, 1929.

Further information on townships, parish and county plans can be found on our Maps for local and family history research guide.

Whats on

  • Finding families In this introductory webinar, learn the principles of family history research and find out how to access family history resources through the State Library Victoria.
  • Researching your home This webinar will help to answer the questions and curiosities you may have about your family home, whether it’s the house you’re living in now or the scene of your childhood memories. In this session we will include ways to research your family home, finding previous occupants and uncovering  the social history of the area.
  • Newsworthy learn how to navigate the Library’s extensive newspaper collection in this live and interactive online session. You'll dive into the millions of words printed on both current and historical articles in our online databases, and discover how to find specific newspapers in hard copy, online and on microfilm.


Research guides

For information on how to research the history of your house or a prominent Melbourne building using the Library’s collection of architectural drawings, maps and online resources, please go to our Researching buildings and houses guide.
For further details on historical maps, gazetteers, and township, parish and county plans see our Maps for local and family history research guide.

Woman standing outside a weatherboard cottage

 Mabel and her house 30.5.37, H84.201/128

Place names

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.

The Composite Gazetteer of Australia

The Composite Gazetteer of Australia is a collation of place names data from numerous state and territory databases. It includes a web based portal that makes it possible to search and download data.

Place names

Blake, L. J. (1977). Place names of Victoria. Adelaide: Rigby.
Newspapers & Family History Reading Rooms - G 994.5 B581P