Researching your ancestors' occupations

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

State Library Victoria

Library catalogue

Search the Library catalogue to find books, journals, images and plans. Search for the name of an architect or architectural firm, the name of a known building or do a general search on Australian architecture.

Use the catalogue drop-down menu to limit your search to 'Pictures & photographs'. "Journals & newspaper titles" or  'Manuscripts'.

Architectural drawings

The Library's collection of architectural drawings is held in the Pictures Collection and is made up of architects' drawings of 19th and 20th century buildings. Search for the name of an architect i.e. Albion Henry Walkley, or browse through the catalogue results for architectural drawings.

The drawings are mostly of Victorian buildings, but also include some examples of interstate and overseas buildings. Several collections of drawings by landscape architects or designers are also represented.

Plan and front elevation of a single storey brick house. Allan Raglan Summers and Summers Bros Builders. H2015.35/2


The State Library's Manuscripts Collection includes unpublished papers, architectural plans and drawings by some prominent Melbourne architectural firms including;

Search the Library catalogue for the name of an architect i.e. Robert Russell or browse through this list of manuscript holdings.

Some architectural drawings collections have a descriptive list which describes in more detail what is in the collection. For enquires call the information desk on 03 8664 7002.

Australian architectural index

The Australian architectural index is an excellent source of information on architects and buildings. Compiled by Miles Lewis in 1986, it covers the 19th century to the 1950s and was prepared from a substantial card index held in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Melbourne. 

There are three sequences to search by: architect, building type and location, which include entries for tender advertisements, press reports, published illustrations, architectural drawings and books.

This index includes the `Chronological index of 'notices of intent to build' lodged with the Melbourne City Council from 1850 to 1916 and the Index of architects named in 'notices of intent to build'..., both compiled by Winston Burchett.

The Australian architectural index is available online and is also available on microfiche in the Newspapers and Family History Reading Rooms.

Newspaper articles

A range of Victorian newspapers from the years 1803-1954 are available on the Trove Digitised Newspaper database. Search for newspaper articles and advertisements relating to an architect, an architectural firm or a building. When searching Trove, try searching for a number of keywords ie. Snelleman house Ivanhoe or try enclosing a phrase in quotation marks i.e. "Chancellor and Patrick"


Image of Mr D. C. Ward   

Successful Architect, Weekly Times,10 Nov. 1934, p. 8.

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. In this room you can access a collection of card indexes for various Melbourne newspapers which include references to architects and architecture. The cards are arranged chronologically then alphabetically. Titles include:

Herald, (Melbourne),  Jan. 1926 - 12 Nov. 1970
, (Melbourne),  Jan. 1929 - 12 Nov. 1970

The microfiche Agesearch index indexes Melbourne's Age newspaper from 1982 to May 1992.

Search under the following subjects -  architecture; architects and architecture; building property or housing.             

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.

For more information on newspapers and newspaper indexes please go to our How to find items in newspapers research guide.

Melbourne databases

Many databases hold information on significant Victorian buildings and places. Often the profile will include a statement of significance and a brief history of the building.

The City of Melbourne's database, i-Heritage, includes sites for 12 suburbs of Melbourne. The studies include building grading, architectural style, heritage status, notable features, statement of significance, historical information and an image of the building. It is an excellent resource for lesser known buildings.

The Victorian heritage database provides information on Victoria's most significant places and objects, with images of many sites. Inclusion on this government register offers legal protection for the site.  Conservation studies can also be found.

The Melbourne Mansions database was compiled by architectural historian and author, Professor Miles Lewis. It includes suburban villas and larger houses, many of which are no longer extant.

 Sherwood, H95.200/1326


Informit can be accessed within the Library. Registered Victorian users can access it from home.

The Australian Heritage Bibliography (formerly HERA), is also available via Informit. Produced by the Australian Heritage Council, it is an index to journal articles and reports on Australia's natural and cultural environment from 1987 onwards. 

Researching buildings and houses

For detailed information on researching architects, buildings and designs, please go to our Researching buildings and houses research guide.

Image of house in Beaumaris

House. 50 Wells Rd. Beaumaris. Vic. Chancellor & Patrick architects 1959-59. Copyright State Library Victoria. H91.244/956


The Architects Registration Act of 1922 introduced the regulation of architects and the establishment of the Architects Registration Board of Victoria. A register of architects appears in the Victorian Government Gazette between the years of 1924 and 1991 (approximately).

The Public Record Office Victoria holds Individual Architect's Registration Files (VPRS 8838) from 1923-95. This series contains correspondence between individual architects and the Architects' Registration Board of Victoria.

From 1922 to 1930 a directory of architects can be found in The architects' and builders' index: an invaluable handbook to all interested in building construction. Copies of the Register for architects from 1989 to 2007 are held in the State Library and can be ordered for viewing in the Library.

The current register can be accessed on the Architects Registration Board of Victoria website.

The encyclopedia of Australian architecture, edited by Philip Goad and Julie Willis.
Port Melbourne, Vic.: Cambridge University Press 2012.

At over 700 pages and including 500 photographs and drawings, this book provides a comprehensive account of Australian architecture, from indigenous beginnings through colonial, modern and contemporary works.

University of Melbourne Archives

The University of Melbourne Archives hold records relating to the architectural history and social geography of Victoria including the records of both architectural firms and individual architects. These include architectural plans from tens of thousands of Victoria’s buildings and built structures.

The Archives also hold other material that may be of use when researching buildings and houses, including sales brochures, newspaper clippings, various maps, records of architectural historians, and photographs. 


Search the State Library's Australiana Index to locate newspaper and journal articles on local buildings and people. 

Entries in this index will point you to either a newspaper or magazine article or a file. The files - called either Biography or Local History files - are manila folders full of ephemeral material including brochures, newspaper cuttings, research letters and occasionally auction brochures.Files can be ordered for viewing in the Library.


Browse our catalogue holdings of journals using the subject heading Architecture Australia periodicals.

Some popular titles include:

Photo of Ernest Fooks and another man working on a drawing. A large window in the background.

 Ernest Fooks and unidentified man working on architectural drawing. H2016.153/1