Land and Property

Surveyor's compassLand records can give you a wealth of information about your ancestor. The ownership of land has long been an indicator of wealth and status, and even of eligibility to vote until the mid-1800s. Land records show where the land was, what it was used for, how much was paid for it, who owned it before and who it passed to.

Records of land in NSW are held in the NSW Department of Lands in Sydney (previously the NSW Land Titles Office), although some have been moved to State Records NSW. Information on transfers and mortgages can be obtained which can give you an insight into your ancestor’s movements and financial position over time.

A number of indexes can be searched for your ancestor’s name:

  • Land Grant Registers 1792-1862 This index gives the names of all persons who were granted land until the introduction of the Real Property Act (1862) in 1863. Although called “grants” the land had to be paid for over time after 1831.
  • Old System Vendors Indexes 1825-1960s This index was established in 1825 and records sellers of land under Old System Title. Your ancestor should be in this index if he/she sold land and it was under Old System Title.
  • Old System Purchasers Index 1896-1960s This index was only established in 1896, and records the names of purchasers of Old System Title land.
  • Torrens Title Purchasers Index 1863-1960s With the introduction of the Real Property Act (1862) in 1863 came the introduction of the Torrens Title system of recording land transactions. The index is therefore separate to the index covering Old System transactions.

A search of these indexes will give a list of NSW land transactions with varying amounts of information which may include the type of transaction; (eg transfer, mortgage), the other person/entity in the transaction; the county and parish; the area of the land in acres, roods and perches; and the names of other parties in the transaction, eg family members, and the reference to the actual document or title deed.

These index entries will lead to many different types of records, including:

  • Torrens Title deeds
  • Old System transaction documents (include transfers and mortgages)
  • Primary Applications (from Old System Title to Torrens Title). These can contain a wealth of information, including original Crown Grants, Statutory Declarations, and sometimes even birth, death and marriage certificates – whatever was necessary to prove ownership of the land. These records are held at State Records NSW.
  • Conditional Purchases required that the purchaser remain on the land for a specified period and made improvements to the land. The documentation up until the land was paid for and the title issued is held at State Records NSW, including the original application form or letter requesting land, signed by your ancestor.
  • Crown Plans
  • Parish Map references

Research into land and property can be time consuming but the rewards are many. It may involve work at the NSW Lands Department and State Records NSW.