Do you want to find out about the people who once lived in your home? Or maybe you want to renovate or restore your house to its original state? Whatever your reasons, it's likely to be a fascinating project.
Where to start
Think about what you actually want to find out, for example:
- How old is the house?
- Who was the house built for?
- Who designed it?
- Who lived here before me?
- Has the house been altered since it was built?
We recommend you read one of these books to understand the research process:
- How to trace the history of your house by Des Regan
- The National Trust research manual: trace the history of your house or other places edited by Celestina Sagazio
- A heritage handbook edited by Graeme Davison and Chris McConville
The City of Boroondara was established in 1994, so knowing which municipality your house belonged to before this, for example, the City of Camberwell, Hawthorn or Kew, is helpful. The City of Boroondara is in the Parish of Boroondara in the County of Bourke.
Also check the location of your house on a map and identify cross streets nearby. Is your house on the north, south, east or west side of the street?
If you need help with your research, librarians at each of our libraries are happy to help you or ask a librarian.
Resources at our libraries
In addition to the resources listed on the research your local history page, our libraries have a wealth of information to help you research the history of your house.
Photographs and research
Our libraries may hold historic photographs of your house or street, or some research or information about your house.
To find out search our library catalogue using your house name, street address, or just the street name. For houses in Kew, also search the local history card index at Kew Library.
Heritage studies are very useful for house research. They contain information about the development of an area, a survey of streets and descriptions of estates and significant buildings. See heritage studies for more information.
If you can identify the architectural style of your house, this will help you date your house. These books might help:
- A pictorial guide to identifying Australian architecture: styles and terms from 1788 to the present by Richard Apperly and others
- Recognising house styles 1880s-1990s by Lawrence Burchell
- Encyclopedia of Australian architecture
Check for your address in post office directories for Melbourne and Victoria, available on microfiche at our libraries. Some are also now available online for free in our libraries from the eResources Find My Past and Ancestry Library.
Historic records of the former cities of Camberwell, Hawthorn and Kew are invaluable, and include:
- Rate books: list the owners, occupiers and occupations, the construction material, number of rooms and so on, and the rate set for each property. Some are held in our libraries or at the Public Record Office Victoria (it's helpful to know the Ward that your address was located in).
- Building permits and plans: provide valuable information about when building works (or renovations) commenced. Council may hold records of permits issued for your house and even some house plans.
- Council meetings minutes: may contain references to properties or streets. Microfilm copies of minutes are held at some of our libraries or the Public Record Office Victoria.
Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW)
Drainage plans produced from the 1890s-1950s have the numbered plans showing streets, railway lines and property boundaries as well as the location of buildings and outbuildings. House names and numbers may also appear, depending on when the plans were drawn up.
Hawthorn Library has a complete set for the Hawthorn area and Camberwell and Kew libraries have small collections for their areas.
The State Library of Victoria has extensive holdings and has digitised the most-used plans. Search for these online from their catalogue using the terms MMBW and the name of your street.
Maps and auction plans
Parish maps record the first transfers of land and auction plans were used to advertise land for sale. Some maps and plans are held in the Camberwell, Hawthorn or Kew libraries.
The State Library of Victoria has an extensive collection, some of which may be viewed online via their catalogue or in person by arrangement with the library.
Newspapers and magazines
Newspapers and magazines published around the time your house was built can provide a glimpse of the social period and the local history of the area. Also check these newspapers for 'calls for tender' for the construction of your house and auction notices.
Our libraries hold some early newspapers in bound volumes and on microfilm and microfiche. Historic newspapers may also be accessed at the State Library of Victoria and online via Trove, the discovery platform of the National Library of Australia.
For more recent notices for your house, check real estate files in the Local History Vertical File collection at Camberwell and Hawthorn libraries.
Other helpful resources
A government website providing integrated access to land, resource and property information and services for Victoria. Register as a user, then search online for your property. Order and pay online to have land-related certificates sent to you. Visit Landata.
The website of architectural historian Miles Lewis. The research database Australian Architectural Index covers items from as far back as 1830, including notices, published descriptions of buildings, illustrations and information on architects. The research database Melbourne Mansions covers major Melbourne houses of the 19th century and can be searched by name, architect, and so on. Visit Miles Lewis.
Victorian Heritage Database
Displays the Victorian Heritage Register which lists the state’s most significant heritage places, objects and historic shipwrecks protected under the Heritage Act 1995. See Victorian Heritage Database.
Manages historic buildings and nature reserves, lobbies to protect the nation's heritage, and runs access programs through more than 60 museums and collections. Visit National Trust.
Victorian Heritage Register
Lists and provides legal protection for heritage places and objects that are significant to the history and development of Victoria. Visit Victorian Heritage Register.