Tracing the History of Your House

The John Oxley Library holds a wealth of information for anyone tracing the history of their house.  Resources held include real estate maps, post office directories which list streets and residents, photographs, newspaper clipping files, local histories and publications about domestic architecture.

House design, ca. 1945.  Image No: 126920

Anytime you begin the house history journey it is a good idea to have a map to guide your efforts. Understanding the history of your house is not just about particular dates and people, it is also about historical trends and patterns.

• Which ethnic group settled in your area?
• When did they arrive?
• Where did they come from?
• What local resources were available for construction?
• What were the prevailing architectural trends of the time?

Answering these and many other questions will provide important context before you begin compiling the particular history of your house.

Timber dwelling, ca. 1935.  Image No: 78138

These resources will provide some important background:

• Local histories that discuss settlement, economic development, and migratory patterns.

• Photographs, recent and old, which can be used when comparing architectural styles or to identify structural changes.

• Certificate of Title, obtained from the Department of Natural Resources & Water.

Certificate of title for Henry William Coxen, 1861.  Image No: 185188

• Oral Sources can be a gold mine of information.  Ask the previous owners or older residents in the area about possible additions to the house, or fires, flood and storm damage. The local residents may also be another source of old photographs, diaries and family papers.

• Picture Queensland website for photographs digitized by State Library.

• Libraries, Archives and Local History Groups, that provide published and original materials.   This may include: art works, pattern books of house designs, newspapers, maps, plans and street directories, biographical information about architects, guides to architectural styles, suburban and regional histories, post office directories and almanacs.

Two useful websites are:

Queensland State Archives brief guides.

Your house has a history: keys to unlocking its past.


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You may also want to ask our librarians.

how do I go about or obtain the information on a property that my Great Grandmother owned in Brisbane, plus a property that my Grandparents lived?

Hi MervIf you would like to fill in our online enquiry form with your details, one of our helpful librarians will assist you with your question. – State Library of Queensland

Hi. We own a property at 44 Progress Parade Alderley. This house was built around 1890 in Cordelia street West end. It was taken down in the 1980s and rebuilt on the current site. It is a large cavity brick duplex villa with third storey dormas. I would like to see if I can find any information about the original building, owners, architect, and early photographs. Thank you.

Hi JohnThis online booklet produced by the Brisbane City Council provides information on how to trace the history of your house.… you would like to fill in our online enquiry form with your details, one of our helpful librarians will assist you with your question. – State Library of Queensland