A conditional purchase application

Conditional Purchases were introduced in 1862 as a way of getting small landholders on the land. They selected a portion of land, paid an initial deposit of %10 of the value, and then had to pay it off. The conditions were that they had to reside on the property, and they had to improve it – build a house, fences, etc. They could select land before it was surveyed, so by the time the surveyor came around there was often some improvements already built, which the surveyor often described and marked on the plan.

My ancestor Richard Eason (1829-1922) selected some land near Blayney in 1871. The land is Portion 199: 40 acres in the Parish of Graham, County of Bathurst, which is just north of the town of Blayney in New South Wales.

The Conditional Purchase number and Richard’s name was recorded on an old parish map:

Graham Parish map 1884 detail

NSW Lands Department, Historical Parish Maps. Bathurst County, Graham Parish, 1884. Detail showing Portion 199.

Historical parish maps can be viewed on the Parish Map Preservation Project website. The names that appear on the maps are those of the first title holders. Conditional purchasers could take 30-40 years to finish paying the land off, and if there was a mortgage involved then the bank became the first title holder. Later maps of this parish show the City Bank of Sydney on this portion.

Once I had the Conditional Purchase number, CP71.252, I could go to State Records NSW at Kingswood and ask to see the Conditional Purchase Register for that year:

Conditional Purchase Register 1871

State Records NSW: NSW Lands Department, Conditional Sales Branch, Conditional Purchase Register 1871.

The register gives a summary of the history of the purchase up until the title was issued by the Registrar General. Transfers of ownership to mortgagees can be seen, as well as the transfers back to Richard when he discharged the mortgage. Each of these transfers required a separate form to be filled in, and these forms are part of the correspondence for the purchase.

You can get quite a bit of information from the register, but if you want the actual documents you have to go further and trace the correspondence through the Correspondence Registers. It sounds easy but it is quite time consuming, and easy to make mistakes and lose your way. You must write down each document number recorded in this register, and then find each one in the relevant Correspondence Register to find out what happened to the document. It was either put away or filed with another document. If you are lucky, all the documents will be filed together and you will eventually find where they are. If not, you have to find and retrieve each one separately. If you are very unlucky, you may lose the trail and be unable to find the document, or the document may have been misplaced.

The documents I eventually found included this one – the original application form:

Conditional Purchase application form

State Records NSW: NSW Lands Department, Conditional Sales Branch, Correspondence files 1877-1951, NRS8103. Letter no. 71/5977.

I am inclined to think that Richard filled out this form himself, product of the Irish Education system as he was. He said he could read and write when he arrived in the colony in 1850, as did most of the people on the Oriental with him. The handwriting looks similar throughout, except for the signatures of others.

There are many other documents for this purchase, including:

  • 1871 – a letter from the surveyor in which he describes the improvements made by the applicant and the land contained an extra 6 acres and 3 roods, which the applicant had agreed to pay for.
  • 1871 – a list of deposits paid, with £1.13.9 against Richard’s name
  • 1874 – the Declaration of the Conditional Purchaser, where Richard declares that he has been in contonuous residence and made £50 worth of improvements
  • 1897 – Notification of Alienation of the land to Richard Chambers (his older sister’s nephew). I believe this to be the result of a mortgage.
  • 1885 – Transfer of Conditional Purchase returning ownership of the land from Richard Chambers to Richard Eason
  • 1891 – Transfer of Conditional Purchase to the City Bank of Sydney in consideration of the sum of £450
  • 1904 – Transfer of Conditional Purchase back to Richard Eason
  • and so on

The title was eventually issued in 1916, at which point the entries in the Conditional Purchase Register end, as control was passed from the Conditional Sales Branch to the Registrar General.

On the map you can see many other names of the people that Richard must have known. Robert and William Ewin were his brothers-in-law. A sister-in-law married a Thornberry. The Easons, Ewins and Thornberrys all came from the same couple of parishes in County Tyrone in northern Ireland.

Richard built a house on this land and raised his family in it, even though his wife died not long afterwards. His son John raised his own family there. John’s son Richard, my grandfather, sold the land and took the materials for his own building.

A couple of years ago I visited this land and saw the remains of the house. I have written about this previously. I met the current owner of the property, who gave me a photo of Richard’s son John Eason, my great-grandfather, that I had never seen before.


I’ve traced many conditional purchases since then, but none have been as exciting as this first one for my great-great-grandfather!

Further information:
State Records NSW Archives in Brief No 93 – Background to conditional purchase of Crown land

This post is based on a post previously published for Australia Day 2011 on my blog Carole’s Canvas.

NSW Lands Department Research

This is a very brief summary of a talk to be given at the Society of Australian Genealogists on Saturday 22 January 2011, showing links to all the websites mentioned.

You can find land titles, deeds, plans and other records at the NSW Lands Department, now known as the NSW Land & Property Management Authority. Some of these records are available to purchase online, others must be inspected and copied at the Land and Property Information office in Queens Square, opposite St Mary’s Cathedral and Hyde Park.


First you need to find the references. When searching an index, map or other document copy down everything you see, even if you don’t know what it means. It may be that crucial reference that you will need later on.

References to look for:

Volume and Folio – Torrens Title reference   eg. Vol 1234 Fol 123, also written as 1234-123 (manual title) or 123/12345 or 12/3/45678 (computerised, after 1989)

Book and Registration Number – Old System deeds   eg. Bk 2345 No. 321, or Reg 321 Bk 2345

Primary Application Number eg. PA 12345, or Appn 12345

Deposited Plan eg. DP12345

Crown Plan eg. B123.4567

Where to find references

Parish maps

Lands online inquiries

Index volumes at Queens Square

Where to purchase copies of documents

Digital copies

Paper copies

  • Queens Square Basement Wing

Where to learn more

NSW Land & Property Management Authority http://www.lpma.nsw.gov.au/home

Research Guides http://www.baseline.nsw.gov.au/guides.html

Up the country

Carcoar NSW, photo by the author

I’ve just come back from a wonderful week in the sunny red centre of Australia – Alice Springs and Uluru. It was hot, being February, and there were an awful lot of flies wanting to be in my face all day. What amazed me the most, I think, was how much vegetation there is and how varied it is. Still, it is most unpleasant country if you don’t know where to go or where to find food and water, especially water, and it started me thinking about the early white European explorers.

My education was fairly typical in Australia at the time and I must admit that what I learnt about the early explorers was very dry and uninteresting. I learnt names and dates and what the person was famous for and it apparently made little impression because I don’t remember any of it now. What has brought the exploration of Australia to life was actually seeing the desert country they had to survive and struggle across.

So I bought a book at the exhorbitant Ayers Rock Resort rates – Tim Flannery’s The Explorers – so I could learn more on the plane trip back to Sydney. It is a marvellous compilation of extracts from the explorers’ own writings – from Abel Tasman and William Dampier and others almost up to the present day with Robyn Davidson, who travelled alone on camel-back from Alice Springs to Shark Bay in WA. These extracts bring the country alive – what it was like when first seen by white men and what they thought about it.

What has this got to do with genealogy, you ask? No, my ancestors do not come from Alice Springs, they come from western NSW, from the Albury-Wagga area and from Blayney. What my trip to Alice Springs emphasised was that you have to visit a place to understand the people who lived in it, and if you can find contemporary descriptions, or even paintings or photographs, then you even further ahead.

We all want to go back to England or Ireland or Scotland to see where our ancestors came from and get a sense of where we originated, but how many of us travel to the places in Australia where our more recent ancestors lived? Even in Sydney it is possible to learn much more about an area or suburb by visiting and doing some research.

Go to the local library and see what they have, or do a search in the catalogue of the State Library of NSW (SLNSW) at www.sl.nsw.gov.au or the National Library of Australia (NLA) at www.nla.gov.au. You may be able to get an inter-library loan of books about the town or area. And don’t forget pictures – the picture catalogues of both the SLNSW and NLA have many digitised images that can give you an idea of what the place looked like even if your ancestors do not appear in them. Newspapers can also show pictures and descriptions of the area, although harder to find.


The Society of Australian Genealogists’ new integrated library is now open. The library replaces the separate Australian and Overseas libraries they had been running and has much-improved computer access. There are still some kinks to work out, but it is much improved over the old 2-library system. Even the chairs are better. See www.sag.org.au for more details.

(Photo of Carcoar, NSW, taken 2008 by the author)

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