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Mapping Your Ancestors: An expert Guide to Historic Property Records

Top tips for land records 

  • The names and spelling of towns may have changed over time; for example, Germanton became Holbrook during World War I. Street names changed even more frequently.
  •  House numbers were not used until relatively recently and may have changed. Council rates books can help determine the location of a street address.
  • If you zoom in far enough, Google Maps show property boundaries, which usually correspond to the boundaries shown on the historical parish maps. You can mark points of interest and boundaries and save them under My Maps.
  • All Australian states and territories have a lands department, and all have handed over many of their records to the relevant state archives, including their historical parish maps or plans. It’s worth checking with your state archives first. Most state archives’ guides and factsheets include material on land research.
  • The lands department of each state is responsible for recording and allocating place names. In New South Wales it is the Geographical Names Board, which has an online place name search to find the name of the parish and county of an area you are interested in. Older place names no longer in use can be found in Gleeson’s 1954 Alphabetical List of Place Names, available under ‘Publications’ on the GNB website.
  • The accessibility of records held by different states’ lands departments varies widely. New South Wales maps are all online, and Torrens titles can be purchased online if you know the reference number.
  • The National Library of Australia, the state libraries, and many local libraries and societies have copies of printed parish maps.

To read the full story, see the latest issue of Inside History (issue 28), available now. 

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