Looking for a person?
Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) holds a range of historical records that can assist with looking for a person in Victoria and can help you to uncover a person’s history.
What records does PROV hold?
As the State’s archival authority Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) holds records created by Victorian Government departments and authorities, the State’s courts, municipal councils, schools, public hospitals and other public offices. The records date from the establishment of Government Administration in the Port Phillip District in 1836 and include information relating to areas of activity managed or regulated by government such as the administration of justice, health and welfare, education, Indigenous communities, planning, transport, land, immigration and resource management.
At PROV, you often cannot search records using an individual’s name, and there is no single record or database containing every reference to an individual in our Collection. When looking for a person, you need to establish what form of interaction that person would have had with a specific government agency. For example, were their births, deaths or marriages likely to have been registered in Victoria? Did they arrive or depart Victoria by ship prior to February 1923? Did they leave a Will that required a grant of Probate or did they die intestate requiring the grant of a letter of administration? Did they divorce in Victoria? Did they go to a Government school in Victoria? Were they employed by the government or employed as a public school teacher, railway employee or police officer? Did they purchase crown land, lease crown land or pay council rates on a house? Were they prosecuted in a Victorian court or sentenced to imprisonment in a Victorian prison? Were they convicts? Did they have correspondence with a government department?
For information about records held at PROV, use the PROVguides listed below as a starting point which provides you with information about the records and how they can be accessed.
First step is establishing that the person arrived or lived in Victoria
Establish if the person arrived in Victoria. PROV holds passenger lists for voyages to and from Victoria up to 1923. The indexes to early passenger lists can be searched online. For detailed information about using these indexes, see PROVguide 50 Locating and Copying Ships’ Passenger Lists
For passenger lists created after 1923 please contact the National Archives of Australia.
Births, Deaths and Marriages Indexes
Establish if the person was born, married or died in Victoria. Database indexes to Victorian births, deaths and marriages are available at PROV’s Reading Rooms; for details see PROVguide 26 Using Births Deaths and Marriages Indexes at PROV
You can search online indexes to Victorian births, deaths and marriages for a small fee, and order certificates on the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages website: Web: www.bdm.vic.gov.au
Will and Probate
Did the person have a will and grant of probate? Wills, probate and administration records 1841-2003 are available through PROV.
1841 to 1925 have been indexed and digitised and are available online free of charge. See PROVguide 29 Wills and Probate Records 1841 – 1925
1926 – 2003 see PROVguide 68 Wills and Probate Records from 1926 for details
Further information on Wills and Probate Records see PROVguide 70 Wills and Probate Records
Was the person of Koorie Heritage? PROV holds records relating to the administration of Aboriginal Affairs in Victoria. Its main holdings are records created by the office of the Chief Protector of Aborigines (VA 512) and its successor, the Guardian of Aborigines (VA 513), which administered Aboriginal Affairs in the early years of the colony.
Inquest Deposition Files
Was there a coronial investigation into the cause of death of the person?
PROV holds original inquest records up to 1985. For information see PROVguide 71 Inquest Records
Was the person you are looking for divorced?
Courts Records, Prison Records and Convicts Records
Did the person have dealing with the justice system? PROV holds a range of records created by courts, prisons and other agencies of the justice system.
PROV holds records relating to Victoria Police officers, for details see
Education and Teachers Records
Information on various school records and teachers employed by the Education Department, for details see PROVguide 56 Education Records
Health & Welfare
PROV hold extensive records from many institutions which provide some form of care or control over people with a mental illness or an intellectual disability see PROVguide 59 Mental Health Records and PROVguide 23 Digitised Records and Online Indexes
Adoption, Wardship and related Records
For information relating to children who were wards of the state, for details see
Hotels and Liquor Licensing
Did the person hold a licence to sell liquor? For details see
Land Places and Local History
Establish if the person owned crown land. PROV holds an extensive range of land records including parish maps, historic maps and plans, pastoral run and selection files, correspondence files and land sales registers. For information about PROV holdings see PROVguide 55 Land Records
Parish and township plans
Created by the Victorian Lands Department, parish and township plans show Crown reserves, such as cemeteries, school sites, church and police reserves, as well as the names of the original purchasers of land from the Crown. A digitised set of parish plans VPRS 16171 Regional Land Office Plans Digitised Reference Set are available on PROV’s online catalogue. For details see PROVguide 30 Parish and Township Working Plans Online
Property and Building Research at PROV
PROV holds a wide range of records for researching buildings and properties in Victoria, for details see
Rate Books and valuation records
If you have found an address in Victoria at which your relatives lived, PROV holds a wide selection of rate records for Victorian municipalities, which would enable you to establish how long they occupied that address. For details see PROVguide6 Property and Building Research at PROV
Railway and Tramways
Did the person work or have a connection with the railways or tramways ie employment, correspondence. For details on railways and tramway records see
Correspondence between a person and a Government Department can be a source for finding information about a person. PROV’s holds correspondence files from most Government Departments. Search for records online at www.access.prov.vic.gov.au by using the Agency number for the government department that you think they may have had dealings with.
Digitised Records and Online Indexes
A range of records have been digitised and online indexes contain many names. For details of available digitised records and online indexes see PROVguide 23 Digitised Records and Online Indexes
Other sources for finding a person
Historical electoral rolls covering all states of Australia can be viewed at the State Library of Victoria, Genealogy Room. The date ranges vary for each state with Victoria starting in 1856. Access to early rolls is by the electoral district/ward. The more recent years cover all states alphabetically. Access the current rolls at either the State Library of Victoria or the Australia Electoral Commission. The microfiche include the persons address and electoral district.
State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston Street, Melbourne, Vic 3000
Australian Electoral Commission
A small selection of directories 1839 to 1900 in microfiche format can be viewed at PROV. The State Library of Victoria Genealogy room holds the Sands and McDougall Melbourne directories for 1860 to 1974.
Newspaper can be a great source for finding information on events and people. Newspapers are available at the State Library of Victoria.
Search the phone books for each state for names and addresses. The phone books are available either in hard copy format or you can search online at: www.whitepages.com.au
Red Cross Tracing Service
Red Cross offers a tracing service for lost family members. Contact the Red Cross on the web address of www.redcross.org.au
Salvation Army Family Tracing Service
The Salvation Army offer a service for tracing long lost relatives or friends. They can be contacted online at www.salvationarmy.org.au/familytracing/
The following web sites specialise in locating school friends
If someone has been listed as a missing person you can contact the Missing Persons Bureau in your state or contact the Australian Federal Police at www.missingpersons.gov.au