A guide to family history research using the major Victorian resources
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 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..
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].
Lands guide: researching records of Crown land in Victoria (ebook) by Phillippa Nelson and Lesley Alves;
Parish and township plans
This PROV information page 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
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. Also available: PROVguide 55: How to search land selection 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]
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.
Gazetteer of Australia - place names
Search the Gazetteer to find information on the location and spelling of more than 370,000 geographical names across Australia and its external Territories (as at January 2012).
Place names - abbreviations
The Victorian BDM Place Name Abbreviations List will help you to decipher many of the abbreviated place names that appear on the Index to the Victorian Registry of births, deaths and marriages.
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.
As of Monday 16 March 2020 our Library buildings are closed to the public due to the rapidly changing coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.
Our Ask A Librarian reference service is still available to assist with your research inquiries.