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.

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]

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.


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 - 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.

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


Researching buildings and houses

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.