Author: Samantha Courtier

Senior Analyst, Records & Archives

Many researchers will be familiar with the breadth and complexity of Victorian Government land records. Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) has a large number of these records in the collection, including Soldier Settlement files, Parish Plans, and Applications for Certificate of Title. Land records are some of the most commonly viewed record types in the North Melbourne Reading Room.

PROV and Land Use Victoria are excited to announce the completion of a large and significant transfer of land records into PROV custody – the library of the Registrar-General’s Office. 


a shelf of books
VPRS 18874 Registers of Crown Grants (1838 – 1862)


rows of shelves full of boxes
VPRS 18870 Application Search Notes (1862 – 2020)


Records included in this transfer include Registers of Crown Grants, General Law Plans of Subdivision, Application Examiner’s Notes for General Law land conversions, and the full set of Memorial Books for General Law deeds (a full list of the series transferred can be found at the bottom of this page). We know many researchers will be looking forward to viewing these records at PROV.

History of land ownership under the Victorian government

Between 1838 and 1862, land in Victoria was not guaranteed by the Victorian Government with a certificate of title as it is now. Land sales and ownership were governed by the General Law system, which required landowners to keep possession of a chain of deeds to a parcel of land to prove legal ownership. The chain of deeds showed ownership back to the original Crown Grant, and had to be produced and verified when land was transacted. This system was not particularly secure, as paper deeds could easily be damaged, lost, or destroyed. To mitigate some of this risk, the chain of deeds could be registered with the Registrar-General’s Office as a Memorial. There are over 4000 Memorial Books in this transfer, which contain the registered deeds to General Law land. 

an open book
A look inside one of the VPRS 18873 Memorial Books (1838 – 1998)


In 1862, the Torrens system of land ownership was introduced, bringing with it certificates of title. Landowners were able to convert their General Law deeds to certificates of title, which were guaranteed by the Victorian Government and therefore much more secure. Some researchers may have already viewed scanned certificates of title in our Reading Room, or ordered records from VPRS 460 Applications for Certificate of Title, which were created as part of the title conversion process and are related to the new records now in custody. Researchers will now be able to access even more records tracking the ownership and conversion of land between the General Law and Torrens systems. 

Many record series use the same five- or six-digit application (AP) number to identify each parcel of land as are used in VPRS 460, and which can be found on the top of the first certificate of title created for a piece of land. Others require knowledge of the Parish name and allotment, or the name/s of owners. You can find more detailed instruction on how to use each record type in the series descriptions on our catalogue.

Researchers should note that this transfer doesn’t impact the availability of the online LRView application in the Reading Room – you will now have access to both this and the physical records at the Victorian Archives Centre in North Melbourne.

Now that this transfer is complete, ordering is available from the series listed below.

PROV would like to thank the staff at Land Use Victoria who put in so much effort into getting these records ready for transfer, and their regular researchers who shared their knowledge of General Law land searching.

two photos of boxes of records
VPRS 19215 General Law Land Conversion Application Index Cards (1863 – 1988) and VPRS 19093 Application Examiner’s Notes (1862 – 1936)


Now available to order and view in the North Melbourne Reading Room:

*Note: the indexes are available to view on the Reading Room computers for ease of access, so you don't need to order the physical indexes unless you want to see the original.

Material in the Public Record Office Victoria archival collection contains words and descriptions that reflect attitudes and government policies at different times which may be insensitive and upsetting

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples should be aware the collection and website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.

PROV provides advice to researchers wishing to access, publish or re-use records about Aboriginal Peoples