A guide to using maps to aid your Victorian local history research.
The following checklist suggests resources that may be of use when researching localities in rural or regional Victoria or a particular property.
1. Library catalogue. To find relevant maps in the catalogue, select Maps from the drop-down menu to the right of the search box and try searching with various keywords relating to the area, such as the name of the region and/or names of local towns or settlements, and/or keywords relating to the specific area of your research. Once you have a list of results, you may find it useful to refine your results using the options on the right, for example, you can limit by creation date.
2. Township, parish or county plans. These plans show the boundaries of each property in the mapped area. They mark the first owner/lease-holder to take possession of allotments from the Crown, but do not indicate the names of subsequent owners or lease-holders. They also show more general information, such as the location of buildings, roads and rivers.
3. Historical maps & plans collection. This set of microfiche contains the earliest maps available for many areas of Victoria. It covers the first 60 years of European settlement in Victoria. The series includes a wide variety of types of maps, including parish plans, coastal surveys, pastoral run plans, mining department maps, maps of roads, trainlines, cemeteries or goldfields, geological and topographical surveys, and many others.
5. Gazetteers. These reference books provide basic information about places, such as the population size and the geographical co-ordinates. There are several gazetteers that provide historical information about Victorian townships.
6. Maps of historical pastoral runs of squatter holdings. To discover the names, locations and owners of local agricultural holdings, look at maps of Victorian pastoral runs and squatter holdings. There are a variety of maps available from different dates. Some of these maps can be viewed online, others can be viewed at the Library.
7. Agricultural/pastoral/squatting directories. These are books which list who held or owned various properties at different times, and include information about the location of properties. Some directories include a map.
Township, parish and county plans (or "cadastral" plans) record information about the transfer of land from the Crown (the Government) to private ownership or lease-hold. Plans were produced for each of Victoria's 37 counties, 2004 parishes and 909 townships. They show the boundaries of lands which were occupied, reserved or sold. Some parishes in remote areas have no parish plan - in these cases the county plans act as record plans.
These plans provide information about land-ownership (such as property boundaries, names of grantees, and dates of grants), as well as more general information about an area. They are particularly useful to local historians who are seeking to identify the properties that a particular local historical figure purchased from the Crown. They also indicate correspondence file numbers (where applicable) which are used to request correspondence files that now reside at the Public Records Office of Victoria (PROV).
It is important to remember that these plans record only the transfer of land from the Crown to private ownership - they do not give information about subsequent sales. Contact Landata to discover this information.
Cadastral maps also provide more general information, such as the size and shape of local settlements, the location of buildings or other structures and the location of natural features such as rivers, lakes or mountains. However, the level of detail provided by parish plans varies greatly. Many parish plans provide very little detail, perhaps just marking major rivers or the outline of the coast, while others provides details such as the location of local schools, churches or shops, the names of streets and parks. Occasionally plans even include notes on types of vegetation growing, and the colour and quality of the soil.
The State Library of Victoria has an extensive collection of over 10,000 plans in print, microfiche and aperture card, but we do not have copies of every Victorian cadastral plan.
Identify your parish: refer to the online township and parish guide. Search for a town in the list of townships proclaimed to discover the name of the relevant township. Alternatively, refer to the online map of Victorian parishes
Find and view plans in the catalogue: Select Maps from the drop-down menu to the right of the search box and enter the terms real property parish, and the name of the parish you wish to find.
Plans in other agencies available online: Significant collections of Victorian parish plans are also available online from PROV as well as closer settlement, land settlement, soldier settlement, county and other miscellaneous working plans.
Collections of parish plans are also available from Landata (click on Central Plan Office Records, then register) and a smaller selection has been made available by the National Library of Australia (NLA).
Georectified parish plans at PROV and NLA
PROV and NLA have launched georectification projects with their collections of parish plans. Georectification uses GPS software to assign geographical coordinates to identifiable features on maps so that historical data can be overlaid with current imagery. These projects call upon the public to rectify the maps by assigning the geographical coordinates or control points.
The Historical Maps & Plans Collection comprises approximately 8000 maps on microfiche, covering the first 60 years of European settlement in Victoria. For many areas, the maps in this collection are the earliest maps available.
The series includes a wide variety of map types, including parish plans, coastal surveys, pastoral run plans, mining department maps, maps of roads, trainlines, cemeteries or goldfields, geological and topographical surveys, and many others.
While many of the plans relate to the early land subdivision of Victoria into counties, parishes and townships, other information shown on the plans include descriptions of soils, native vegetation, or mineral deposits, the location of buildings, tracks used by early settlers, the location of pastoral runs and early place names.
The Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV) have digitised the original maps and plans from their archive. If you find a record for an historical plan on our catalogue you can use some of the details from our record to search the PROV historical plans.
Topographic maps show the natural and constructed features of an area. They are usually created as part of a series published by government departments. It takes many years, or even decades, for the whole state to be surveyed for each series. The oldest Victorian topographic series we hold is the Victorian Army Survey, which was begun in 1916. Over many years approximately 90 maps were created which document the topography of much (but not all) of the state, at a scale of 1 inch to 1 mile.
Key Victorian topographic map series include:
Topographic maps show both natural and man-made features, such as contours, buildings, rivers, lakes, vegetation, parks, roads, train-lines, shipwrecks, cliffs, lighthouses, piers and more. They are produced at a range of different scales. Large scale maps (those showing smaller areas of land) provide the most detail.
For more information: see our website page on Victorian topographic maps.
Gazetteers are reference books which provide basic information about locations, such as the co-ordinates and population size.
Some Victorian gazetteers
Baillieres Victorian Gazetteer covers 1865, 1870 and 1879
Find Victorian gazetteers in the catalogue using the subject Victoria Gazetteers.
Squatting directories list who held or owned various properties at different times and include information about the location of properties.
Key Victorian agricultural/pastoral/squatting directories:
1834-ca.1880 - Victorian Squatters by Robert Spreadborough & Hugh Anderson. Entries lists who held or owned various properties and when, as well as providing a reference number. At the back of the book are maps of each region showing the location of each pastoral run (indicated by reference number). To make it easier to use the maps from this book, the maps team have assembled a complete map of Victoria out of the individual maps featured. You can use this map, with the book or with the reference number, to easily locate a particular property.
1849 - The Squatters' directory (online). Provides a list of all the occupants of crown lands in the intermediate and unsettled districts of Port Phillip.
1874-75 - The Victorian squatting directory. Lists the names of the lessees and runs.
There are many maps which show the location of pastoral runs, stations and squatter's runs at different times in Victoria's history. Some of these maps also include an index or directory, allowing searching by property owner/holder or locality. Many can be viewed online, others can be viewed at the Library.
Maps of early Victorian squatter/pastoral holdings, arranged by date:
1847 - A map of Australia Felix - Thomas Ham
1849 - A map of Australia Felix - Thomas Ham
1851 - Ham's squatting map of Victoria - Thomas Ham
1853 - Ham's squatting map of Victoria - Thomas Ham
1854 - Ham's squatting map of Victoria - Thomas Ham
1856 - The squatting map of Victoria - Thomas Ham
1858 - The squatting map of Victoria - Thomas Ham
1859 - The squatting map of Victoria - Thomas Ham
1860 - Squatting map of Victoria - James J. Blundell & Co
1861 - Squatting map of Victoria, Port Phillip District, New South Wales - James J. Blundell & Co
1863 - Victoria 1863 - Department of Lands & Survey, Melbourne
1864-5 - Squatting map of Victoria - Thomas Ham
1869 - Victorian pastoral stations - W Owen
1927 - Victorian pastoral stations - H. E. C. Robinson Pty Ltd
To find maps of pastoral runs in our catalogue: select Maps from the drop-down menu to the right of the search box using the keywords: land tenure victoria
To find maps of pastoral runs in other collections: search the map section of Trove with keywords such as land tenure victoria . Many of these are available online.
We have over 500 digitised mining maps spanning from approximately 1870-1890. Specific to the Ballarat district, they cover the subdivisions of Gordon, Creswick and Ballarat, along with some maps of Bendigo.
The maps show plans of land for gold mining lease applications, along with details regarding whether the applications were successful. They are of particular interest to local and family historians, as they include names of individuals. Only the names of the people applying for mining permits are included in our catalogue records, however the maps themselves include names of people who occupied the surrounding areas.
You can search the catalogue for the name of an individual. Enter the name of the person into the search box and select Maps from the drop-down menu to the right. If you don't get any results at first, try searching using just the surname, as sometimes only the first initial and the surname appear on the map.
Large scale maps show a small area in great detail.
1:480 (which is 40 feet to 1 inch) is an example of a fairly large scale. At this scale 1 cm represents 4.8 metres.
Small scale maps show a larger area in less detail.
1:100,000 is an example of a fairly small scale - at this scale 1 cm represents 10 kilometres.
Victorian aerial photo mosaics 1930s – 1940s
Aerial photographs taken by the R.A.A.F. in 1933 and Adastra Airways Pty. Ltd.in 1946 for the Department of Lands and Survey, Aerial Survey of Victoria. Mosaics prepared in the Department by comparison with cadastral survey. The JPG files can be found in folders sorted alphabetically by general locality. They can be accessed only within the Library building.
Digitised Victoria photomap series
These digitised photographs are part of the State Aerial Survey produced by the Department of Crown Lands & Survey between 1945-1965. They cover mostly regional Victoria from Albury to Willaura. The majority are scaled at 1:15,840.
To locate them using the catalogue, choose Maps from the drop-down menu to the right of the search box and search for the locality name and the phrase “820 BR [1945-1962]”. For example, Murchison AND “820 BR [1945-1962]” gives this result. To identify a precise area and its name, consult the online VicMap index. The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) have digitised this series and it can be accessed via this online index.
The Library has digitised another series of aerial photographs published by the Department of Crown Lands and Survey and other government agencies from the late 1960s through to the early 1980s. They cover most of metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria. Most are scaled at 1:25,000. To locate these, search for the locality name and the phrase “Victoria photomap”. For example, the search “Swan Hill” AND “Victoria photomap” gives this result. There are around 80 photographs from the series that are in colour.
Airspy is a collection of photographs taken from aeroplanes. The photographs cover some Victorian country towns from the 1920s to the 1960s. Search the catalogue using keyword 'airspy' and the suburb you are interested in, for example, airspy bendigo.
Other photomap resources
While Google Maps and Bing Maps offer comparatively current aerial photomaps, the University of Melbourne has an extensive collection of historical Victorian photomaps, many of which have been digitised and are free to download. See the university's online research guide, Aerial photography resources.
A planning scheme is a statutory document setting out objectives, policies and provisions for the use, development and protection of land in the area to which it applies. It regulates the use and development of land through planning provisions to achieve those objectives and policies. Planning schemes include maps that show how the land is zoned and overlays affecting the land.
Current and historical planning scheme records are available online through the Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning website.
The Department have also created an interactive map using data from planning schemes. The map allows searching by a property address, Melways reference or lot and plan number and the ability to view planning zones and overlays with the facility to customise your view of each planning scheme.
Planning scheme records from 1946-1997 are available at the Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV).
You can find a number of items relating to rural/regional planning schemes by searching the Library's catalogue. Use the name of the area followed by the words planning scheme for eg. Benalla planning scheme.
GeoVic is a free web mapping application produced by the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources that allows users to search geospatial databases and display the results as maps or tables.
Data covered includes location of current and expired tenements, land status for exploration and mining, old mines and shafts, airborne surveys, geological sites and topography.
There are also geological maps available to download for free from the Earth Resources Online Store.