Researching the history of your house

Starting your research

Indigenous history

Early suburb history

Local history books sometimes describe early settlement such as Crown grants, parish maps or early subdivisions. Some key suburb histories are:

Heritage Area histories

Histories of areas with heritage overlays can be found in local heritage and conservation studies.

Subdivision / estate history

Street development and maps

Some street names changed over time so it is a good idea to research the street history before you go further. Some street numbers also changed over time. For example, Sydney Road street numbers changed from 1920s - 1940s. Park Street, Brunswick street numbers changed in the early 1970s. To work out the number changes you can try using Postal Directories. Follow the main resident names in the postal directories over various years to see how the house number changed around them. Sometimes the number change is listed on rate record cards.

Design and construction

Conservation and heritage studies

Historical information about some heritage or signficant properties are listed in local conservation reports, heritage studies or databases.

The style of a building can suggest the building date. In Victoria, the main periods of house building were 1887-1890, 1920-30 and 1950 onwards. There was no building after April 1942 during World War II.

If you know the name of the architect, the following resources can give more information about them:

Building permits / plans

Full building plans were only required to be submitted to Councils after 1916.

Coburg Historical Society holds a Building Licence File Index for the late 1940s - 1950s. 

Moreland Council has records for building constructions or alterations after 1994. See property information for information on how to apply.

The local government authority in which the property is located may have changed. You may need to contact neighbouring Councils, such as City of Yarra, City of Moonee Valley or Hume City Counci

Plans for some public buildings are available in the following locations:

Resident and occupier records

Postal directories

The Sands and Kenny (1857-1861) and Sands and MacDougall Post Office Directories (1862-1974) are a good record of who lived at an address each year. To estimate the year the house was built you can try researching back in time through Postal Directories until there is no listing of the house.

Sands and MacDougall Directories are being progressively digitized by the State Library of Victoria and made available online.

If you are searching by house or property, go to the Suburban Streets section. Find the suburb, then the street, then the house number.If you are searching by name of resident, go to the Alphabetical Index section towards the back of the directory.

Electoral rolls

Electorall rolls are arranged by electorate and surname, rather than by street or house number. You can't search Electoral Rolls by street or house number. You have to know the name of the resident first.

  • Australian Electoral Rolls 1903-80 on Ancestry Library Edition at local libraries.
  • Original local voter rolls for the electorate of Wills (1970s and 1980s) in the Local History Room at Brunswick Library
  • Historic electoral rolls can be searched on microfiche at the State Library of Victoria.

Rate records

Council rate records sometimes include a property or house description, information on building material, rooms, residents, owners and property valuations. 

In the past, rates may have been collected by a different Council. Sometimes rates were collected from tenants rather than owners. Records were organised by Council ward. Within wards records follow the path the collectors took. For Coburg and Pascoe Vales streets, use the index at the front of the Sands and MacDougall Post Office Directories for the years 1885-86 to 1937-38.

Wards, street names and house numbers sometimes changed over time. Lot numbers help limit the property you are researching. Lot numbers 1, 2 and 3 can be the result of re-subdivision and may appear more than once. If rates increased a lot in one year it could be due to major renovations or a new building being added to the property.

Rates information is not available for every house for every year. Please be aware there are gaps in records, particularly in the mid-1990s. 

Moreland Council's Rates Department only hold rate information from 2008 onward due to an IT system change over. It is unlikely that Rates will be able to provide information prior to this.

City of Brunswick

Moreland City Libraries have the following Brunswick rate records on microfiche.

1860 - 1959, 1971 - 1982, 1987, 1989 (Les Barnes Local History Room, Brunswick) 1860 - 1955, 1971 - 1977 (held at Coburg Library).

The State Library of Victoria holds City of Brunswick (1860 - 1930) rate records on microfilm.

Original rate books (1871 - 1981) are at the Public Record Office of Victoria.

City of Coburg

Moreland City Libraries have the following Coburg rate records on microfiche.
Pentridge District Road Baord 1863 - 1868 (Coburg Library) Coburg District Road Board 1869 - 1874 (Coburg Library) Shire of Coburg 1875 - 1904 (Coburg Library) Borough of Coburg 1905 - 1920 (Coburg Library) City of Coburg 1921 - 1976 (Coburg Library)
City of Coburg Rates 1863 - 1900 are on Ancestry Library Edition. Select Victorian records. 

The State Library of Victoria holds City of Coburg rate records on microfilm (1918 - 1986).

Original Rate records for the City of Coburg (1863 - 1986) are at the Public Records Office of Victoria.

City of Broadmeadows

City of Broadmeadows 1863-1899 are also on Ancestry Library Edition (available for use at libraries). Select Victorian records. 

Publicans Indexes

The Cole/Tetlow Index provides access to information about Victorian pubs and licensees. The Public Record Office of Victoria also holds publican records.

Newspaper articles

Some historic national, state and local newspapers are now digitised and available to search online.

Try searching with abbreviations as well as the full name of the street (St), road (Rd) or avenue (Ave). If you search on just a street name you will also find articles about other events in the street. Use inverted commas to keep the words together in the search, e.g. "Saxon Street", "Saxon St"

  • Trove Digitised Historic Australian newspapers lets you search across historic copies of The Argus (1848-1957), The Age (1854-1954) and some historic local newspapers (currently digitised to 1914-18).
  • State Library of Victoria has databases of more recent newspaper articles available for their members to search from home. You can become a member online.

Sale and ownership records

Titles

Titles can show when property ownership was transferred. This information was required after 1862. Titles can be searched online for a fee. See property information for information on how to apply for title information.
Once you have a Volume and Folio number, you can view a digitised version of the title on a database at the Public Records Office of Victoria.

Wills and probate

Owners of properties will specify in their Will who the property is to pass to upon their death. Original wills are at the Public Records Office of Victoria and some are digitised and available online.

Probate documents may include important details such as property description, location, valuation, contents and reference numbers. See Wills and probate on the Public Record Office of Victoria website.

Property sales advertisements and results

Advertising and auction descriptions can give good information about how a house has changed. Search for advertisements in the period before you know the house was sold.

There have been many different local papers since the 1850s. Brunswick, Glenroy and Coburg Libraries hold hard copies of some local papers. The State Library of Victoria Newspaper Room should have complete sets either in hard copy or on microfiche.

You can also search the street address on an internet search engine and old online property advertisements are likely to still be available.

Auction results are often listed in The Sunday Age or on property websites on Sunday.

There are businesses that package information about sales history of properties for a fee. These can be found online using search terms such as ‘property sales history’ in a search engine

Photographs

Historic photos of specific properties can be hard to find unless they have a heritage listing and are on the Victorian Heritage Database.

There may be some old photos of the street or road. Try searching on the full name of the street as well as abbreviations, e.g. Dawson Street and Dawson St.

See Historic local photographs.