Blog post

Friday, March 23, 2012

Land records: Preparing for my first look

I’ve taken another first step. I’ve arranged to have some land records held at the Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV) digitised and sent to me. This is the first time I’ve looked at land records so I can’t wait until they arrive.

Archive envy!

Have I ever mentioned that I have a terrible case of archive envy? Whenever I see posts exhorting genealogists to look beyond the internet I think “I know!!! but I can’t get there!”

The archive most relevant to me, the Public Record Office of Victoria, is 600+km away and with small children the idea of making a research trip is a distant dream. I have used research agents occasionally to collect things for me but it can be hard to know exactly what to ask for when you’ve never explored archival records yourself. I guess I don’t feel entirely comfortable with something unless I’ve had some hands-on experience with it, however minor. Fortunately, the Public Record Office of Victoria has quite a few indexes online and some records (eg probate records) have been digitised and put online for free. I’m also slowly finding my way through their catalogue which provides a fantastic amount of very useful contextual information about each series.

Back to the land records

Between the PROV online guides, their brick of a Lands Guide (which weighs in at 1.2kg. Yes, I weighed it), and various other sources I have been able to find the “fractions” written on the plans that relate to the relevant correspondence files. I also now have some idea of the processes by which they acquired the land.

All this relies on knowing where the land is. In most cases I’ve found that information recorded in probate files. For some reason I have never followed up to see exactly where all these Allotment x Section y’s were before. I think I’ve scrutinised the detail of overseas maps more carefully than Australian ones, perhaps because I have a general idea of Australian locations but not such a good knowledge of Scotland, for example. At any rate, I got a huge kick out of it when I saw “J.W. French” written down on the parish plan right where it was meant to be!

In the case of my Bennett family, the process of discovering that they even had any land was a bit more circuitous, but I’m confident that the records I’ve asked for will be the right ones. I think that finding the Bennett land should be a separate post.


  1. I know what you mean about archive envy. One day when our children have grown up I might run into you somewhere in an archive!

  2. I feel your pain! Living in QLD when the ancestors are from Tassie and Vic certainly frustrates me. I'm so grateful there is so much online :) even if it's not everything!

  3. Land records are my passion! I'm catching up on posts so I'll read yours in order. Can't wait to see what you get!

  4. Strange to say as a "beyond the internet" fanatic, I too have archive envy. Living in Darwin 3300kms from Brisbane where I need to do most of my research I never have enough time in the archives -about 2 or 3 times a year (max) I get a day or two in the archives and each time is like a commando raid. Ironically when I lived in Brisbane I was 5 minutes from the archives but a demanding full time job and three kids meant it was still commando-raid-country. Life is so frustrating at times!

    All you can do is keep a check list and work through it as and when the opportunity arises. Slowly but surely it will come together and you'll tick things off. Sounds like the Lands explorations are going well. Good luck!