Author: Sandra Hopper

As the State’s archival authority Public Record Office Victoria  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 the Port Phillip District in the mid 1830s 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.

You can start searching for a person by simply entering their name into the search function on our website. However, this my turn up hundreds of results, therefore when looking for a person in our collection you need to establish what contact that person would have had with the government. For example were they born, married or did they die in Victoria?  Did they arrive in or leave Victoria?  Did they have a Will and grant of Probate? Did they divorce in Victoria?  Did they go to school in Victoria?  Were they employed by the government, as a school teacher, railway employee etc? Did they purchase crown land or pay rates on a house?  Was there a criminal trial or prison term? Were they a prisoner?  Did they have correspondence with a government department?

Your first step is to establish that the person arrived or lived in Victoria, ways you can establish this is to check the following:

Passenger Lists - 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 passenger lists created after 1923 please contact the National Archives of Australia.

Births, Deaths and Marriages Indexes - 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.

Wills 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.  1926 - 2003 order these records for viewing.

Koorie Heritage - See the Koorie Index of Names.

Inquest Deposition Files - Was there a coronial investigation into the cause of death of the person? PROV holds original inquest records up to 1985.

Land Places and Local History - 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. A digitised set of parish plans VPRS 16171 Regional Land Office Plans Digitised Reference Set are available on PROV's online catalogue.

Rate Books and valuation records - If you have found an address in Victoria at which the person you are researching lived, you can search through our wide selection of rate records for Victorian municipalities, which will enable you to establish how long they occupied that address.

Other sources for locating a person include - Divorce Records Courts Records, Prison Records and Convicts Records Police Records Education and Teachers Records Health & Welfare Adoption, Wardship and related Records Railway and Tramways Correspondence from Government departments Digitised Records and Online Indexes - A range of records have been digitised and online indexes are available on PROV’s website which contain many names.

For information about records held at PROV, see the PROVguides as a starting point which gives you information about the records and how they can be accessed.  

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