Resources for Research - Main Page


by Malcolm Ward

© Malcolm Ward 2005-2011. All rights reserved





The Department of Lands still holds most of the land dealing Deeds from about 1828 to the late 1900s in the basement of their office at 134 Macquarie Street, Hobart. Access can be gained by applying at Level 1 of that building, and the payment of a fee (currently $20) gains access for a day (sometimes longer if you ask the right staff member) including copying.

The Deeds are indexed by name in index volumes in the basement (note: different people sharing the same name are indexed together). The Deeds are mostly bound in volumes in the basement, although early ones, "folio 1" are un-bound in cardboard boxes on top of one of the shelves. Copies can be made in the basement; the volumes can be big and very heavy so a digital camera is also advised.

Also in the basement are "Certificate of Title" documents and these are in separate index volumes. If the CT index reference ends in a "g", this means the document will be found in the separately bound "Purchase Grants" series of land documents. Ask for an explanation of what's in the basement and how the records are arranged when you pay the fee. If a staff member will go with you to show you the lay-out on your first visit, it will save you a lot of time.

Coloured maps showing property boundaries at district and town scale are held on the first floor and can be viewed and copied. Sometimes properties are marked "Granted to ."; caution should be exercised in interpreting this as meaning a primary grant from the Crown - it can also mean a later purchase. These maps are the surviving copies of a series that was progressively up-dated. Therefore the maps you see will be a snapshot at the time they were taken out of service and may contain some old information as well as very recent information. If the information and outlines are early enough, these plans can be used in conjunction with the Deeds and Certificate of Titles, as the boundaries in these are frequently referenced by the neighbouring property owners. It is often easier to find the neighbours than the individual property.

On the "grant maps", small markings within property boundaries that look like fractions (eg D2/39) represent later detailed survey plans. These surveys, as well as very early survey and grant maps are also held in the basement, but in a separate locked area. Access for copying these under supervision is possible.

Also in the basement are copies of wills where land is involved. If you have evidence that a will exists (and its approximate date), but cannot find it in the Archives Office index, it might be worth looking here. The advantage of this collection is that you can browse the volume containing the will copies - so if one has been mis-indexed or missed entirely you may come across it.

"Land Settlement in Early Tasmania" by Sharon Morgan (1992) is a useful work on the subject. A ring binder of notes by Maurice Cornish in the basement of the Lands Department is a useful explanation of how land was granted and organised before the establishment of the "Deed" system in the late 1820s.




A Valuation or Assessment Roll for Hobart Town was first published in the Hobart Town Gazette in 1847; from the mid 1850s both Hobart Town and Launceston had Valuation Rolls published annually for places within the town boundary. In 1858 other districts were added, each appearing every few years at least. The Valuation Rolls recorded the occupier of a piece of land, its owner, area, annual assessable value, its capital value (in later years) and a brief description (eg "house", "cottage and garden", "workshop and yard" etc). These rolls are invaluable for seeing what property was owned by individuals and where people lived, owner or renting. For cities and larger towns the information is presented by street and in order as the valuation proceeds up one side of the street and down the other, so information on neighbours can be gained as well. See: at this web site for an example from a country district.

The Valuation Rolls are therefore a proxy for a census and an excellent finding aid for persons who didn't own land.

The Valuation Rolls for Hobart Town and later Hobart covered only the gazetted town; thus for example before 1858 the information stops at Arthur Street in the North Hobart area. During 1857 the boundaries of Hobart changed, so more streets in North and South Hobart are included from 1858. Even into the 1900s not all of "metropolitan" Hobart is presented in the "Hobart" valuation roll so look at other areas for areas that today are called North or West Hobart, Sandy Bay etc.

The Valuation Rolls are held at the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, Hobart (and possibly elsewhere). The 1858 Rolls for the City of Hobart, Southern Tasmania, Northern Tasmania and Central & Eastern Tasmania have been compiled and indexed (separately for occupier and proprietor) by Trudy Cowley; see: . These would be available in libraries as well.

The TFHS (Hobart branch) have similarly compiled the owners and occupiers for the City of Hobart for 1847, 1868, 1878, 1888 and 1898 and the Town of Launceston for 1868, 1878, 1888 and 1898. These will be at libraries and are for sale via the Hobart Branch of the TFHS Records and the Launceston Branch:




Applications for Land Grants have been indexed by the AOT and are searchable by name via the card indexes in their search room. These applications often contain ancillary information such as letters written by the applicant in support of their application, with details on their backgrounds. Of course not all applications were successful, so this is a useful resource in addition to the actual land grant index, mentioned below.

An index book of actual Land Grants under 'General Law' from 1833 is held at the AOT and also in the basement of the Lands Department (this is a better copy than the AOT's). These land grants are on microfilm at the Archives Office under the series "RD1". Further information here:

An on-line index to land grants to 1824 is at this web site on page:




For the pre 1825 period when Van Diemen's Land was under the control of New South Wales, a search of the NSW Colonial Secretary's Correspondence relating to Land may be worthwhile:




See for other land grant indexes and publications by the TFHS, including Index to Early Land Grants VDL 1804-1823 and Register of Land Grants VDL 1824-1832 by Thelma McKay and Land Musters, Stock Returns and Lists, VDL 1803-1822 by Irene Schaffer.




Post Office Directories are a good source for finding out where the head of the household lived and/or worked and what they did. In addition to an "alphabetical" listing and a listing by street, there are often separate trade and professional directories. The Tasmaniana Library in Hobart holds Hobart (for the early periods) and Tasmania Directories from 1825 to 1837, 1847, 1852, 1857, 1859, 1867/68, 1875/76, 1890/91 and then annually. Some are on the shelf, the others are on microfilm. Other institutions in Tasmania will almost certainly hold either the above and/or directories relevant to their area.

The Post Office Directory (Wise) from 1890 to 1940 has been digitised and can be searched and viewed here: Note to change the year, select the drop-down box in the blue shaded area.




The Archive Office of Tasmania has an index of public building records 1877 - 1935 on line at:

Plans and drawings of public works (Archives series PWD266) have been digitised and can be found on-line at:

© Malcolm Ward 2005-2011. All rights reserved
Submitted by Malcolm Ward 28-Jul-2005
Updated 30-Nov-2011