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Book Review - Lands Guide: A guide to finding records of Crown land at Public Record Office Victoria

Lands GuideLands Guide: A Guide to Finding Records of Crown Land at Public Record Office Victoria by Phillippa Nelson and Lesley Alves, published by Public Record Office Victoria ( PROV) in association with Gould Genealogy & History, Melbourne 2009

Available for order (in three formats) online from Gould Genealogy & History 

ISBN 978 0 9751068 7 7 (pbk) $49.95

ISBN 978 0 9751068 8 4 (cd-rom) $19.95

ISBN 978 0 9751068 9 1 (pdf download) $19.95 

This is not an easy book to read but then it is not meant to be read cover to cover in a single sitting. It is a comprehensive reference book designed to assist researchers find their way through the maze of records relating to Crown lands in Victoria. The paperback edition (with 430 pages including a comprehensive index), is well laid out and illustrated with relevant examples of various documents. There are a number of case studies throughout the guide providing practical examples of how to search for a particular land record. A useful Glossary and Bibliography complete the Guide.

Lands Guide CDI would have liked to have seen place names included in the index but this would have added even more pages to what is already a very big book in paperback format. This might be where the CD and PDF formats have an advantage over the paperback in that you can easily search for a particular place name in these formats.

The Lands Guide consists of seven parts:

  • Orientation
  • Introduction to Crown Lands in Victoria
  • Surveys, Squatters and Aboriginal People – Early Land Administration in Victoria
  • Sale and Selection, Leases and Licenses – the demand for more access to land
  • Settlement Schemes – Crown Land Administration in the Twentieth Century
  • Environment, Industries and Infrastructure
  • Other Resources

Part One Orientation consists of two chapters. It is essential to read Chapter 1 Getting Started as this provides an overview of Crown land in Victoria since the 1830s and it has some useful case studies and FAQs (frequently asked questions). The information in this chapter is needed to make efficient use of the remaining chapters. Chapter 2 is an excellent introductory essay Unlocking the Land by Charles Fahey .

Part Two Introduction to Crown Lands in Victoria has nine chapters:

  • Records of the Crown Lands of Victoria
  • Victorian Land Legislation
  • Locating and Identifying Land in Victoria
  • Using Parish Plans
  • Types of Land Files and How to Find Them
  • File Numbers and Recordkeeping Systems Relating to Land
  • Summary and Source Records
  • Using Microfiche Catalogues VPRS7311 and VPRS 7312
  • Administration of Crown Land 1836-1983

Part Three Surveys, Squatters and Aboriginal People has four chapters:

  • Victorian Survey Records (includes maps and plans)
  • Grants of Land for Special Purposes, Crown Reserves and Commons
  • Pastoral Occupation and Pre-emptive Rights
  • Aboriginal Occupation of Land in Victoria from 1835 (includes two case studies)

Part Four Sale and Selection, Leases and Licenses has eleven chapters:

  • Crown Lands Sales by Public Auction (includes case study)
  • Crown Land Sales other than by Public Auction
  • Land Selection under the Sale of Crown Lands Act 1860
  • Residences and Cultivation Licenses, Sale of Crown Lands Act 1860 (includes country lands and goldfields lands)
  • Land Selection under the Land Act 1862
  • Land Selection under the Amending Land Act 1865 and Section 33 of the Land Act 1869
  • Land Selection under the Land Act 1869 and Land Act 1878
  • Land Selection under the Land Act 1884 and Subsequent Acts
  • Mallee Lands (includes closer and soldier settlement in this area)
  • Miscellaneous Leases and Licenses (includes non-agricultural uses of land)
  • Grazing leases and licenses

Part 5 Settlement Schemes has eight chapters:

  • Land on the Goldfields (includes case study)
  • Residence Areas (includes under the mines Acts and before and after 1935)
  • Village Settlements, Homestead Associations and Labour Colonies (includes case study)
  • Closer Settlement (includes estates, settlement, advances and assistance)
  • Types of Closer Settlement Schemes (includes workmen’s homes, agricultural labourer’s allotments and small improved holdings)
  • Soldier Settlement (includes a case study)
  • Immigration and Lands (looks at before WWI and land schemes after the British Empire Settlement Act 1922)
  • Rural Assistance and Indebtedness (includes bushfire, flood and drought; closer and soldier settlement and unemployment relief)

Part 6 Environment, Industries and Infrastructure has 3 chapters:

  • Special Provisions for Special Industries (includes novel industries, wattles and bee-keeping)
  • Life Event Registers, Rabbits, a Coalmine and Roads (of particular interest noxious weeds, State Coal Mine at Wonthaggi and the Great Ocean Road)
  • National Parks and the Port Phillip Authority

Part 7 Other Resources is, as the title suggests, additional information in 16 appendices which list individual series of records under a common heading that they all relate to.  For example, Appendix 9 is Rent Rolls Section 32 Land Act 1884 and 17 Rent Roll series are listed for the following places – Alexandra, Ararat, Beechworth, Benalla, Bendigo, Castlemaine, Geelong, Hamilton, Horsham, Kerang, Melbourne, Omeo, Portland, Sale, Seymour, St Arnaud and Stawell. This detail easily allows researchers to go online and pre-order records they want prior to visiting PROV.

Appendices include:

  • Registers of Crown grants
  • Registers of correspondence and correspondence files
  • Local land board schedules
  • Reports of land sales by auction
  • Registers of lessees Section 12 Amending Land Act 1865
  • Registers of lessees Section 33 Land Act 1869
  • Indexes of applications Sections 19 and 20 Land Act 1869
  • Registers of applications Section 32 Land Act 1884
  • Rent rolls Section 32 Land Act 1884
  • Registers of applications Section 80 Land Act 1898
  • Registers of licensees Section 42 Land Act 1865
  • Registers of application Section 49 Land Act 1869
  • Rent rolls Sections 47 and 49 Land Act 1869
  • Registers of application Section 65 Land Acts 1884, 1890 and 1898; Section 103 Land Act 1901
  • Registers of application, other sections, Land Acts 1884, 1890, 1891, 1898 and 1901
  • Crown lands records located at Ballarat Archives Centre

Unfortunately there are no overall name or place indexes into Crown lands in Victoria but in the absence of this, the Lands Guide now provides a way into the records. As you can see from the detailed listing of Chapters and my additional comments in brackets, this is a very detailed publication which facilitates, and should encourage, the use of Crown land records. It is now much easier to find relevant land records or at the least, identify series of records which may be worth looking at. In fact, I don’t think you can do research into Victorian Crown lands without a copy of this Guide!

Shauna Hicks

Shauna Hicks History Enterprises