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From 1787 free settlers in New South Wales could be granted land by the Governor. A single male was entitled to 30 acres, while a married man received 50 acres and an additional 10 acres for each child if his wife and children were with him at the time the land grant was made. In 1825 the sale of land by private tender began and restrictions were imposed on the maximum size of land that could be granted freely. At the same time a survey of the Colony was undertaken that divided settled areas into Counties, Hundreds and Parishes.
Documents relating to original land grants and purchases are held in State Records NSW or, as further States were created, in the relevant State archival repository. After the original land grant, records of further transactions on a particular piece of land will be found in the relevant State’s Titles Office.
How can I find out if my ancestor owned any land?
There are a number of surname indexes to land records that are available in the State Library of Queensland collections and/or online. Most of these are organized by State.
Note: For records relating to Queensland prior to Separation in 1859 check land records for New South Wales.
Queensland State Archives holds an extensive range of early Queensland pastoral maps showing the names of the original land owners. Land selection files for the period 1868 -1884 have been indexed and can be located in a surname search of their catalogue. A number of online Land indexes are also available.
The indexes include:
- Land orders 1865-1866
- Land selections prior to 1884
- Mineral leases 1871-1940
- Miners rights 1874–1880
- Register of land sold 1842-1859
- Register of lands 1861-1868
- Register of lands sold 1849-1861
- Register of Pastoral Holdings 1863 - 1880
- Rents payable on pastoral runs 1860-1911
- Soldier Settlement Ledger 1917-1929
- Transfer of runs 1848-1874
There are also the following guides available at Queensland State Archives:
State Library of Queensland holds:
- Crown land sales in Queensland 24 Sep 1842 - 21 Jan 1861 [microfiche] / compiled by Eileen B. Johnson (MFC 333.3309943 2000). In 2 parts: Pt 1. Alphabetical index of tenants; Pt 2. Index of joint tenants
- Crown land sales in Queensland: country volumes 1-100, town volumes 1-70, preemptive sales [CD-ROM] /Eileen B. Johnson (QCFS 333.3309943 2000). Country and town sales cover 1860-1889; Pre-emptive sales cover 1860-1869.
- Crown land sales in Queensland [CD-ROM] / Eileen B. Johnson (QCFS 333.3309943 2010). Contains 3 indexes covering the years 1842 to 1911, and indexes material from Queensland State Archives as well as information from the New South Wales Legislative Assembly – Votes and Proceedings 1854.
- Crown land licenses : Maranoa 1850 to 1857 / Geoff Reynolds (P 333.1 rey)
- Crown land licenses : Wide Bay and Burnett 1850 to 1857 / Geoff Reynolds (PAM 333.1099432 1992)
- Queensland early pioneers indexes 1824 - 1859 [CD-ROM] (QCFS 929.3943 2004). Previously published as ‘Pre-separation population index of the Moreton Bay Region, 1824-1859’ [microfiche] (MFCB 929.3943 1990). The index includes references to early Queensland land records.
- Index to Queensland land records 1856-1859 [microfiche] / compiled by Marianne Eastgate and Pearl Whatling (FICHE 333.3232 eas). A supplement to land records indexed in the Queensland early pioneers index 1824-1849 (above). Covers land titles for the period 1856-1859 that were not previously indexed.
- Register of land & town purchases for Morton [sic] Bay 1842-43 [microfilm] (MFL 929.3943 200- ) AO/SR Reel numbers 1397, 2701. These lists give name of purchaser and city or town of residence. Includes a full description of the land purchased and the name of the county and parish. Covers Moreton Bay and New South Wales.
State Records NSW provides online indexes to various land records at their website.
Some of the indexes available are:
- Closer Settlement and Returned Soldier’s transfer files, 1907-1951
- Closer Settlement Promotion Files, 1913-1958
- Closer Settlement Transfer Registers, 1919-1925
- Depasturing Licenses 1837-1851
- Land Grants and leases, 1792-1856
- Squatters & Graziers index, 1837-1849
- Surveyor General’s Crown Maps & Plans
- Surveyors’ field books 1794- 1860
- Surveyors’ letters, 1822-55
Also try Colonial Secretary Records such as:
See also the following guides to land records available at State Records NSW:
State Library holds:
- Australasian Genealogical Computer Index vol. 2: NSW Government Gazettes 1832-1863 [CD-ROM] / Society of Australian Genealogists (QCFS 929.394 2004). Includes references to government notices about land transactions.
- Colonial Secretary’s Papers, 1788-1825 [microfiche] (MFC 994.02 1989) Microfiche nos. 3001-3312; (MFL 994.02 1989) Microfilm nos. AO/SR 6001-6072. Microform to be used in conjunction with user’s guide 'The Colonial Secretary’s papers 1788-1825' (MFA 994.02 1989).
- The first title holders of land in the Counties of Camden, Cook, Hunter, Durham, Gloucester [CD-ROM] (QCFS 333.309944 1997) AND The first title holders of land in the counties of Cumberland & Northumberland [CDROM] (QCFS 333.3099441 2004), by Geoff Cannon
- General muster and land and stock muster of New South Wales, 1822 / edited by Carol J. Baxter (FAMHIS944 1988)
- Half a thousand acres: Balmain: a history of the land grant / Peter L. Reynolds & Paul V. Flottmann (G 333.16099441 1976)
- Index to conditional purchase registers of New South Wales: primary sources A.O.N.S.W. [microfiche] / compiled by Jennifer Commons and Alice Jansen. (PAM 929.3944 1989). Library holds vol. 1: 1862; 1863; 1864/65.
- Index to the historical records of Australia, 1788-1848 [CD-ROM] (QCFS 994.02 2004). Includes references to early land records.
- Index to itineraries and returns of the Commissioners of Crown Lands 1837-1849, and itineraries of Foster Fyans returns of population and livestock 1844-1846 [CD-ROM] (QCFS 929.3944 2008)
- Indexes and registers of land grants and leases 1792-1865 [microform] / Colonial Secretary (MFL 929.3944 1986). SR/AO reels 2548-2550; 2560-2562
- Land grants, 1788-1809 / edited by R.J. Ryan (G 333.1609944 1981). A record of registered grants and leases in New South Wales, Van Diemen's Land and Norfolk Island
- [Land grants New South Wales and Tasmania 1810-1862] [microfilm] (FILM 0709) CY reel 2212
- [Letters from individuals re land, 1826-56] [microfilm] / Colonial Secretary’s Office (MFL 929.3944 199-). SR/AO reels 1081-1200. These include letters from individuals as well as memoranda, reports, applications and petitions relating to a land grant, purchase, rent or lease of land in the colony.
- Letters received and copies of letters sent by Allan Cunningham to New South Wales government officials, 8 January 1817 - 1 January 1831 [microfilm] / Colonial Secretary. (MFL 929.3944 198-) SR/AO reel 2654.
- List of runs assessed, 1844-1845 [microfilm] / Commissioner of Crown Lands, Portland Bay (MFL 929.3944 1816-1856) SR/AO reel 2756. Indexed on the CD-ROM “Index to itineraries and returns of the Commissioners of Crown Lands 1837-1849, and itineraries of Foster Fyans returns of population and livestock 1844-1846”
- The New South Wales military volunteer land grants / Laurel Burge for the Council of the New South Wales Military Historical Society (G 333.1609944 1976). Compiled from lists originally published in NSW Votes and Proceedings. Lists grants made 1867-1878 to NSW military volunteers who had completed 5 years service.
- The original colonial landholders of Sydney from 1792: featuring a broad section of colonial grants, and the acreages held by those pioneers / Bryan Thomas (GSB 333.16099441 1982). Reproduction of map ‘City of Sydney & Environs 1892’ in back pocket shows original grantees of land.
- Register of notices of the intention to issue deeds of grant for lands, 10 February 1840 - 1 February 1856; Register of notices of the intention to issue deeds of grant for town allotments, 4 May 1939- 31 December 1845; AND Returns of free settlers and other free persons to receive land grants 1810-1828 [microfilm] / Colonial Secretary (MFL 929.3944 198- ). SR/AO reel 2654
- Yewen’s Directory of the Landowners of New South Wales (1900) [CD-ROM] (QCFS 919.944 2004). Provides information on over 70, 00 NSW landholders. Organized by district and postal address.
Check our One Search online catalogue for further titles.
Public Records Office Victoria (PROV) have an online index to Treasurer’s Correspondence relating to pastoral runs, 1838-1855
State Library holds:
- Crown Lands pre-emptive right applications Victoria 1850-1854 / Marjorie Morgan. (PAM 333.332 1987)
- Land tax register and valuation for Victoria, 1888 [CD-ROM] (QCFS 336.2209 2005), provides name of owner, address, nature of interest, situation of land, section, allotment, area, class of land, valuation and sums payable.
- Searching land records in Victoria: an introduction / Wendy Baker (G 333.309945 1996)
- Victorian Crown grantees index. Part 2 1838 to the present day [CD-ROM] (QCFS 929.3945 2008)
- Lands guide : a guide to finding records of crown land at Public Record Office Victoria [CD-ROM] (QCFS 333.109945 2009)
Tasmanian Archives and Heritage has an info guide, Tasmanian Land Grants, which includes what can be found online.
State Library holds:
Hobart Town land and stock 1827: returns of produce, stock and cultivation in the district of Hobart Town with names of landholders / [compiled by Irene Schaffer]. (FAMHIS 994.602 1996)
Muster rolls and land grants, 1816-1818: Convict lists, 1826; Convict lists, 1826-1830 [microfilm] / Convict Dept. (MFL 929.3946 200- ). Reel CY 957
Index to early land grants, VDL, 1804-1823 / Thelma McKay (FAMHIS 333.1609946 1991)
[Land grants New South Wales and Tasmania 1810-1862] [microfilm] (FILM 0709) CY reel 2212
Register of land grants : VDL 1824-1832 / compiled by Thelma McKay (G 929.3946 1994)
Northern Territory pastoral permits from 17/11/1902 to 14/04/1924 [microfiche] (MFC 929.39429 1988)
How can I find out about land owned by an ancestor in a particular area?
Parish maps record original land grants and are a very useful family history resource. The State Library of Queensland holds some early parish maps and related material for both Queensland and New South Wales. Examples include:
County & parish maps of New South Wales with index / compiled by Alice Jansen (ATLAS 912.944 1991)
This map of the Colony of New South Wales: exhibiting the situation and extent of the appropriated lands, including the countries, towns, village, reserves &c … [map] / Robert Dixon. (MAPS 811 00500 r 1837). Shows property boundaries with landowners' names 
The Parish map in family history research / Crown Lands Office, Department of Local Government and Lands [Sydney]. (PAM 912.944 1982)
Along the line: Theebine to Kilkivan, Gympie to Croydon Junction, Maryborough: extracted names from maps / compiled by Eileen B. Johnson. (P 929.3943 alo)
Check our One Search online catalogue for additional titles.
Post Office and pastoral directories can assist in determining the period that an individual held land in a particular district. See our Directories, almanacs and gazetteers for more information.
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