Researching your ancestors' occupations

How to identify your ancestors' occupations and find more information their employment history.

State Library Victoria

The State Library Victoria has a rich collection of resources that can help you to research pastoralists, squatters and farmers. Records range from those relating to the land such as parish plans, land titles and maps, to personal records, newspaper articles, directories, personal papers and local histories.

Search the catalogue

Search the Library catalogue to find books, maps, images, personal papers and much more. You may find books on the history of the township where your ancestors lived, maps and images of the region, or the personal papers of a family from the area.

For a general search, try searching for a selection of keywords, such as family name and the town where they lived i.e. Chirnside Werribee or Chirnside "Western District". Enclosing keywords in quotation marks will ensure that they are searched as an exact phrase.

If you can't find anything on a family name, try looking for material on the area where they lived. A history of the township and it's early pioneer and settlers may include information on the people you are researching.

Our Australiana Index can also be searched for place names and local history subjects.

Terrinallum homestead, 1869, H82.130


In the Library you will find many other resources which can be used to research land and land owners. Some of these resources are listed below.

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.

Pastoral and squatting directories

Squatting directories list who held or owned various properties at different times and include information about the location of properties.
Key directories include -

Some directories are also available through the following databases -


Maps showing the pastoral runs of squatter holdings

The Library holds 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.
A list of pastoral run maps can be found here.

Historical maps & plans collection

The Historical Maps & Plans Collection comprises of 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 maps, some of which show information relating to property holdings, such as run plans, pastoral run plans, parish plans, agricultural area plans and pre-emptive rights plans.

To locate relevant items in the online catalogue, enter the terms historical plans and the area you are interested in, i.e. historical plans Gippsland. Items can be ordered and viewed in the Library.

Digitised copies of the Historic plans collection can also be accessed on the Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV) website.


Image of a map of Victoria showing Squatting properties.

 The squatting map of Victoria (Port Phillip District, New South Wales) ...

Pastoral papers

The Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) holds copies of

  • Pastoral Run Files (VPRS) 5359 which contain a lease, license or correspondence relating to the run, a description of the run, requests for a transfer of a lease or license, returns of livestock and complaints made by leaseholders.
  • Pastoral Run Plans (VPRS) 8168 which may include its boundaries and dimensions, topographic or geographic features, the name of the leaseholder, the date the plan was drawn.

Copies of Pastoral run plans have been digitised and can be accessed via the PROV Pastoral Runs website (go to the website and scroll to the bottom of the page for instructions on how to locate the plans).

Copies of the Pastoral run papers have been digitised and are available on the Ancestry database in a collection called - Victoria, Australia, Selected Trial Brief and Correspondence Registers and Other Images, 1837-1993, The Ancestry database can be accessed onsite at the State Library and in most Victorian public libraries.

Before you access the papers on Ancestry, you need to know the name of the run. This information can be found in the online publication Pastoral pioneers of Port Phillip by R.V. Billis and A.S. Kenyon.

Research guides

For detailed information on land records, rate books and directories please go to our Researching your Victorian ancestors research guide.
For further details on historical maps, gazetteers, and township, parish and county plans see our Maps for local and family history research guide and for information on agricultural production, see our Food in Victoria research guide.

Land titles

A land title is an official record of land ownership, so they are particularly useful for confirming when a property was purchased or old. Title records include a description and outline of the property, a record of dealings, the names of previous owners, and information on any caveats, notices and encumbrances, including mortgage details.

Recent land titles can be obtained from Land Use Victoria. the Victorian Government's key agency for land administration and property information.Go to their Landata website and follow the prompts to purchase land titles and other property information..

Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) holds copies of early land titles, deeds and application numbers (used for pre-1862 purchased properties). Further information on how to access early title records from PROV can be found on their Certificates of title (1862-1996) website.

Public Record Office Victoria

Public Record Office Victoria. Records (PROV) holds a vast collection of records that document the administration of Crown lands in Victoria, such as land selection and occupation, crown reserves, pastoral runs and survey records.
Information on these collections can be found in the following publication -

Lands guide: researching records of Crown land in Victoria by Phillippa Nelson and Lesley Alves.

Soldier Settlement records

Soldier settlement records, detail the Victorian soldier settlement scheme created in 1917 to lease land to returned soldiers and nurses for farming after the First World War.

Records are held by the Public Record Office Victoria. On their Battle to Farm website you can search by a soldier’s name, or by clicking on the map and selecting settlers based on their geographic location. Information about the soldier applicant, including: name, age, marital status, occupation before the war, correspondence and details about their land allotment.

Hand feeding cattle on Claude McNamara's farm on the soldiers settlement at Wurt Wurt Koort. H2002.199/1394

Newspaper articles

Newspapers can be particularly useful for finding information on farmers and their land. They can include personal stories, advertisements for stock and land sales and local community news.

The Trove Digitised Newspaper database provides full text access to a range of many regional Victorian newspapers, published between 1803-1954. It includes the Weekly Times from 1869-1954.
Try searching Trove for a name, a name and place, or the name of a property. Use quotation marks around keywords to search as an exact phrase, i.e. "William Skene" Hamilton

Advertising, Hamilton Spectator and Grange District Advertiser, 10 August 1861, p. 2.

If the newspaper isn't on Trove you may need to explore the collections held in the State Library's Newspaper & Family History Reading Rooms.

Newspaper databases

Our Library subscribes to a wide range of current and historic Australian and international newspaper databases. They are available in the Library and many can be accessed offsite by Victorian residents who are registered State Library members.

More information can be found in our Newspapers research guides.


Victorian historical journal - online access to articles covering the history of Victoria.
Agriculture in Victoria - list of publications dating from 1855 to present day.
Weekly times - published in 1858 as Bear's weekly circular and rural economist. Also available online through Trove from 1869-1954.
National Agricultural Society, later the Royal Agricultural Society publications.
Horticultural Society of Victoria - including schedules of prizes, map of the experimental gardens and lists of exhibits at the Intercolonial Exhibition of 1866.

Local and Family History societies

Personal stories and histories may be found in the collections of the local history society, family history society or public library for the region where your ancestors lived.

These organisations have unique collections of material relevant to the area, including published and unpublished works, local indexes, guides, histories, photographs and maps. Their staff usually have an in-depth knowledge of the area and can offer specialised expert advice.

You can find a list of local and family history societies here.

Homestead, Cobram. H91.50/2392