Solving Mysteries using South Australian Land Titles

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: South Australia, Australiamap
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Land Services SA

Land Services SA has a free, searchable, online database of historic land titles, etc. They can help flesh out the lives of your ancestors, and even solve a mystery or two - see Bourman Australia Brick Wall for an example how.

This page was created to explain the non-obvious method of searching historic South Australian land titles. Feel free to add your own advice.

If you don't have the Volume and Folio numbers

Historical Name Index searching can be used to search for information about property ownership for the period 1858 to 1975.

The only way of searching the Historical Name Indices is rather tedious.

Choose Image Search -> Historical Name Index Search in the menu or click here. You will be presented with three fields and a Search button. Enter the first letter of the last name of the individual of interest into the First Character field. Choose a range of years in the second Year dropdown. Leave the third Type dropdown as Private for an individual. Press Search.

The result should be a table in which the first column is filled with Select buttons, and the last column is the corresponding page number. The top of the table will say something like Search Results 1 to 50 of 80. The names in the index will be in alphabetical order.

The quickest way to find the correct page is to think about the second letter in the name. Let's say we're looking for Willoughby for example. We've chosen W as the first character, 1863-1868 as the year range, and our results say "1 to 50 of 101". The second letter in Willoughby is i which is the 9th letter of the alphabet, or between 1/4 and 1/2 of the way through the alphabet. Given that we have 101 pages, one would expect it to be somewhere between page 25 and 50. It won't be exact (because the distribution of letters in names is not uniform), but it's better than sequentially downloading every page.

If we press the select button on page 50 we get names Whellum through Whitbourn. OK, we're not high enough. On page 60 we have Whittle to Wicker - still not quite there. After a few more attempts (70, 80 then down again), we find that the Willoughby's are on page 74 (as I said, the distribution of letters is not equal).

On the page 74 PDF the Willoughby I'm interested in is William Absalom Blakey Willoughby. Under his name is the line Lot 53. Bremerton T 15353 XCVIII 168. The things of interest here are the T (it's a Title, not a Lease) and the last two numbers XCVIII (Volume number 98) and 168 (Folio number 168). The other number, 15353, is the transfer number, which may be useful for some searches.

Now that you have the Volume and Folio numbers you can go to the next section.

If you do have the Volume and Folio numbers

On the Image Search -> Title Image Search page (or click here) you will see a dropdown and two fields. The dropdown allows you to select (from Glossary of Property Terms):

  • Certificate of title (CT) - a certificate issued pursuant to the RPA, which certifies that the person named therein as the registered proprietor has title to the land described in the certificate. It can exist in a manual (Imperial or Metric) or computerised format. The original title is retained by the Lands Titles Office.
  • Crown lease (CL) - a lease of Crown land authorised by statute (e.g. the Crown Lands Act 1929). Crown leases are dealt with in a similar way to certificates of title.
  • Crown record (CR) -a computerised record of un-alienated crown land. It must not be confused with a certificate of title (to which it bears some superficial visual resemblance).
  • Limited title (LT) - a certificate of title issued as part of the conversion process from the old system, where either survey data or proof of ownership is insufficient to issue a regular certificate of title.

Downloading the actual title from the Willoughby example above is simply a matter of choosing CT and entering 98 into the Volume field and 168 into the Folio field and pressing Search.

For most historic titles this will open a new page with the image details, a Customer Reference field and a checkbox. Enter something into the customer reference (I usually put in the initials of the person - it doesn't seem to matter), acknowledge the terms and conditions, and press Confirm Order. A PDF should begin downloading.

Part of the Willoughby title is attached to this page - and we can see that he is a child of 14 (actually 12) when he buys the family home (his father passed when he was nine).

Have fun - and let us know if you solve any mysteries!

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