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Parish maps were used by Lands Departments to register all land holdings, show boundaries, land use and types of ownership. Many can be viewed online, others can be viewed at the Library.
In addition to being a starting point to finding property related records at Lands Departments, they show the size and position of properties, and other useful geographical information.
1. Locate the parish. For NSW and most other states, all place names are recorded against a parish, within a county. The most comprehensive gazetteer for NSW and ACT is the ‘List of place names in New South Wales’ by Gleeson (1954). It is available in the Library's reference collection, or may be consulted online at the Geographical Names Board of NSW.
Detail from E. C. Gleeson "List of localities in New South Wales", 1954, MAPGZ NSW 1954.
The National Library has county and other land district maps for all Australian states. To help identify the relevant land district map (county, parish etc), on which your place of interest is located, Wikipedia provides a list of administrative divisions of Australia, including maps, for each state. If you are working on-site at the Library, you may also find our collection of state-based gazetteers (listings of place names) useful. Ask staff in the Special Collections Reading Room for assistance.
2. Search for the parish (or hundred, county etc). Once you’ve identified the land district covering your place, enter the name eg “parish of Keverstone” into the search box, and select “Map” from the dropdown menu for format. County maps show all the parishes (or hundreds) located in a particular county, and are useful to identify adjacent parishes.
To request a county map, enter the county name eg “county of Georgiana” into the search box, and select “Map” from the dropdown menu for format. Sort the results by Title (A-Z) to separate county maps from parish maps.
3. Identify the allotment and titleholder
Most NSW parish maps have been digitised. Zoom in on the parish map to identify the titleholder’s name and portion number, and a purchase reference number. Also indicated on each portion is its area in acres, roods and perches.
4. Town maps
Villages and towns were also surveyed and maps drawn up to show the first title holders of smaller town blocks. The Library holds a large collection of town maps for NSW and other states. To search for maps of towns, search on the name of the town (eg. “town of Kiandra”) and select “Map” from the dropdown menu. Note that that the names of some towns have changed over time.
More detailed deposited plans of towns and suburbs (including Sydney) are available from the Land Registry Services NSW Historical land record viewer.
5. Request Historical title search
The names that appear on each portion on parish or town maps are generally the first titleholder. In some cases names may change on later editions of parish maps where land became subject to a mortgage, or if land was resumed by the Crown, or became subject to soldier settlement purchase etc.
If you wish to follow the trail of land ownership for NSW property, Land Registry Services NSW provides a range of services on its Historical research page. The parish map provides references essential to requesting a history of title search from LRS. For example, the portion number 45 allotted to George Picker above, has a purchase number of ‘G3803'. More information about researching land titles in NSW is available through the LRS's Search Guides.
For other states, please contact your local lands department for further advice.