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PROVguide 51: Family History Research at PROV

Family History – Family History Research at PROV

Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) was established in 1973 as Victoria’s archival authority. It is responsible for the preservation of public records that are considered worthy of permanent retention as evidence of government policy and activity.  Public records are created by government departments and authorities, the State’s courts, municipalities, schools, public hospitals and other public offices.  They have value for historical, genealogical and other research, and document the status, rights and entitlements of the people of Victoria.

The records listed in this PROVguide are some of the most commonly used for family history research.  Records can be ordered for viewing at PROV reading rooms at the Victorian Archives Centre (VAC), the Ballarat Archives Centre (BAC) or are available online, where indicated.  See PROVguide 21 Ordering Records for information about record ordering, and delivery times at PROV reading rooms.

Indexes to births, deaths and marriages

These database indexes are available on the public access computers in PROV’s reading rooms.  

Births Deaths and Marriages Indexes

1837 – 1920

Marriage Index

1921 – 1942

Death Index

1921 – 1985

Marine Births Deaths and Marriages Index 

1853 – 1920

Passenger lists: arrivals at Victorian ports

PROV holds passenger lists for voyages to and from Victoria from 1839 to 1923.  Copies of the lists are available on microfiche and microfilm in PROV reading rooms at the Victorian Archives Centre and the Ballarat Archives Centre and do not have to be ordered. 

The following online database indexes provide references to microform copies of passenger lists held at PROV reading rooms, and were compiled from the existing passenger lists by volunteers. 

Index to Unassisted Inward Passenger Lists to Victoria 1852-1923

Index to Assisted British Immigration 1839-1871

Index to Outward Passengers to Interstate, U.K. and Foreign Ports, 1852-1908

For further information refer to PROVguide 50 Locating and Copying Ships’ Passenger Lists and PROVguide 52 Immigration Records.

Wills and probate

PROV holds wills and probate records created from 1841.  Wills and probate records created between 1841 and 1925 have been indexed, and are being digitised and made available online free of charge.  Public Record Office Victoria, the Genealogical Society of Utah and the Victorian Association of Family History Organisations are indexing wills and probate records up until 1992. 

See the Accessing Wills and Probate Records web page for the current date range of records that can be accessed through PROV.  Generally, probate records created within the last 7 to 10 years can be accessed through the Probate Office of the Supreme Court of Victoria www.supremecourt.vic.gov.au

Inquests and reports of Coronial investigations

PROV holds records for inquests and other coronial investigations held in Victoria from 1840 – 1985.  You can consult the series page on PROV’s online catalogue for VPRS 24 Inquest Deposition Files and VPRS 10010 Body Cards for the current date range of records that can be accessed through PROV. 

For access to records post 1985, please contact the Coroners Court of Victoria Information and Records Manager on 1300 309 519 or alternatively you can access the Court’s website at www.coronerscourt.vic.gov.au.  Information regarding access to documents can be found under “Court Processes- Access to Documents”.

For your request to be considered, you must complete an application form, Form 45- Application for Access to Coronial Documents.  This form can be found on the Court’s website.  The completed form can either be posted to the Court or emailed to coronerscourt.records@coronerscourt.vic.gov.au.  For further information refer to PROVguide 8 Ordering Inquest Records.

Land and properties

PROV holds a range of records that document the administration of Crown lands in Victoria, such as land selection and occupation, crown reserves, pastoral runs and survey records.  PROV holds a variety of records that provide valuable sources for research into property, such as rate books, Public Works Department Plans, Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works records and Public Building Files.  For further information refer to PROVguide 55 Land Records and PROVguide 6 Property Research at PROV.

Civil and criminal justice

PROV holds a range of records created by courts, prisons and other agencies of the justice system, including the following digitised records, available online:

VPRS 10867/P0 Alphabetical Index to Central Register of Male Prisoners, 1868-1947

VPRS 10879/P0 Alphabetical Index to Central Register of Female Prisoners, 1857-1948

VPRS 515/P0 Central Register of Male Prisoners [selected volumes only]

VPRS 5335/P0 Index to Divorce Cause Books, 1861-1924

Index to VPRS 75/P0 Certificate of Discharge, Court of Insolvency, Melbourne, 1848-1875

For further information refer to PROVguide 58 Prison Records, PROVguides 57 Convict Records and PROVguide 61 Divorce Records.

Education and teacher records

PROV holds a wealth of records created by the Victorian Education Department and by individual schools.  For example, the online index VPRS 13719/P1 Database Index to Teacher Record Books, 1863-1959, provides access to a microfilm copy of Victorian teachers’ working histories.  These records are available in PROV reading rooms and do not have to be ordered.  For further information refer to PROVguide 56 Education Records.

Mental health

PROV holds extensive records from many of the institutions which have provided some form of care or control over people with a mental illness and people with an intellectual disability.  Many of these records have been digitised and are available online through PROVguide 23 PROV’s Digitised Records and Online Indexes.  See PROVguide 59 Mental Health Records for more information about Mental Health records.

Further information

Online and microform Records

A range of digitised records and archival finding aids are available online.  Explore PROV’s Digitised Records and Online Indexes.

A selection of records relating to family history research are available in PROV reading rooms on microfilm and microfiche without having to be ordered.  See PROV’s guides to Microfilm, Microfiche and Online Resources at the Victorian Archives Centre, and Microfilm, Microfiche and Online Resources at the Ballarat Archives Centre for more information about accessing records on microfilm and microfiche. 

Family history publication

The PROV publication, Private Lives, Public Records: Family History Resources at Public Record Office Victoria, is available for purchase from PROV reading rooms or via our online shop: http://prov.vic.gov.au/products-page/books/private-lives-public-records.

Search agents

PROV is unable to provide copies of records or undertake research in response to phone or written requests. If you are unable to visit PROV’s reading rooms to view records or place copy orders, you can employ a search agent to undertake this on your behalf. For details of search agents please consult PROVguide 15 Search Agents.

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