Researching the History of Your Property

There are a number of sources that can help to research the history of your property.

Subdivision and Building History

Knowing when an area was subdivided often provides clues for when a place was built as subdivision was often closely followed by development.  Useful information of the subdivision history can be found in:

  • Subdivision plans (available at the Mitchell Library and a selection are available at Five Dock Library).  Copies of many plans advertising large subdivisions often provide information on buildings that were already there at the time of the subdivision.  Because development often followed subdivision, these plans also provide a clue to when a house might have been built
  • Deposited plans from the Department of Lands (Land and Property Information Division)
  • Metropolitan Detail Plans.  Detailed plans of the Sydney area showing the location of all buildings at that time were prepared by the Metropolitan Water Service and Drainage Board (now Sydney Water).  Finding a plan that shows your house will depend upon when your area was first sewered and connected to reticulated water.  Initial inquiries should be directed to the Historical Officer at Australian Water Technologies (the trading arm of Sydney Water) on (02) 9334 0238.  Some of these plans are also available at the Mitchell Library
  • Rates books (Council archives).  Rate books often provide accurate information about when a house was built and who owned the property.  The Local Studies collection of Five Dock Library has many of the rate books from the former Five Dock Municipal Council for the years 1871-1901.  The rate books of the former Municipality of Drummoyne for the years 1894-1928 are held at State Records at Kingswood
  • Valuation books provide clues of whether a property has been developed.  Valuation books for the former Municipality of Drummoyne covering the years 1903 through to 1980 and for the former Municipality of Concord covering the years 1938 – 1963 (incomplete) are held at State Records at Kingswood.

History of Ownership and Occupants

A number of sources can be used to find out who lived in a place and who owned a place. These include:

  • Certificates of Title (Department of Lands – Land and Property Information Division).  Houses were often built soon after a subdivision and/or the purchase of land.  Researching the ownership of a property through the certificates of Title provides an accurate record of ownership of a property
  • Sands Directory (available at the Local Studies Collection, Five Dock Library and at Mitchell Library).  Sands published a directory of names and addresses for most areas of suburban Sydney from 1858 to 1932.  The directory provides listings under street addresses and peoples’ names.  Listings are sometimes 2-3 years out of date but do provide a useful guide of who was living in a place.

Useful resources for finding out more information about the people who lived in a place include:

  • Australian Dictionary of Biography (contains biographical information of people of importance)
  • Royal Australian Historical Society and the Society of Australian Genealogists (both have a large collection of family histories and can provide clues for finding more information)
  • Local Studies Collection, Five Dock Library
  • City of Canada Bay Heritage Society

If the previous owners of a place or their descendants are known, they might have early photographs of the place. Often a family photo taken on the front verandah of a house could provide valuable information about colour schemes, details and changes to the place.

Information from the web site of the City of Canada Bay Council

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