Frequently asked questions

What is the Stonnington History Centre, and what resources does it hold?

The centre is part of the Stonnington Library and Information Service and holds a substantial collection of essentially paper-based and digital records relating to the history of the municipality of Stonnington and its predecessors, the cities of Prahran and Malvern. The Prahran and Malvern historical societies have both played critical roles in the preservation of much of this material, which includes books, photographs, ephemera, documents, building plans, maps, subdivision plans, newspapers and general local history information. Full details are on our local history catalogue.

When can I visit the Stonnington History Centre?

The centre is open by appointment. Our opening hours are:
Monday and Tuesday: 10am to 4.30pm
Wednesday: 10am to 7pm
Thursday and Friday: 10am to 4.30pm
The centre is closed on public holidays. Phone 8290 1360 or email history@stonnington.vic.gov.au to make an appointment.

How can I find out when my house was built?

We have prepared a checklist to assist you in researching your house or other property, or we can do this research for you for a fee.

What sort of information will the Sands and McDougall postal directories provide?

The postal directories provide the name of the 'head' of the household living in a residence; very occasionally they will also include a person’s profession, if a business was carried on at that address, such as music teacher. If the house was sizeable, and was built prior to the end of the First World War, the name of the house may also be included, if it had one. For a shop or business, information can vary, but may include the business name, the name of the proprietor, and/or the type of business such as butcher, florist or builder.

The postal directories are arranged in sections: suburb (with streets listed alphabetically), alphabetical by surname, country (regional), and trade/professional. The information is often a year behind that found in the rate books and other sources. A complete set covering the years 1862-1974 is available to view on microfiche at the Stonnington History Centre.

What sort of information will the rate books provide?

Rate books will show you for each year, the name and occupation of the owner and of the 'head' of the household living there, a rudimentary description of the building (e.g. "Brick 5 rooms"), and the amount of rates paid. Sometimes the dimensions of the land are shown, and perhaps the name of the house. Rate books are arranged first by ward, and then by street, according to how the rates were collected. Copies of the rate books for the former City of Malvern are available to view at the Stonnington History Centre. The rate books for the former City of Prahran have been copied as PDFs onto a DVD lending set that can be borrowed from Stonnington libraries.

Can someone do the research for me?

Stonnington History Centre can conduct research for you, at a cost of $62.50 per hour. We also offer a My Stonnington Home Research Portfolio, whereby we undertake to research the history of a house or property in Stonnington for $280.

Did my house have a name?

Some houses were given names by their owners, as well as, or instead of, street numbers. This information can sometimes be found in the Sands & McDougall postal directories. It may also be recorded on the early Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works plans which can be viewed online on the State Library of Victoria’s catalogue (search ‘MMBW & [street name] & [suburb]’). The Stonnington History Centre may have already compiled a history of your house, or even hold letters from former owners or occupants that include the house name on the letterhead. If so, you will find this listed on our catalogue.

Do you have a photo of my house?

Check the local history catalogue (select the 'advanced search' option) by address and by name. You could also look for a photo of your street which may happen to include your house. Enter your street name in the 'name' field, the word 'photos' in the 'format' field, and the word 'streetscapes' in the 'subjects' field.

Do you have the building plans for my house, as submitted to council?

Most building plans for the former City of Malvern for the years 1917–1975 are held by the Stonnington History Centre. Enquiries should be directed to the council's Building Department (phone 8290 3218).  Fees will apply for the search and copying of building plans.

Unfortunately, building plans for the former City of Prahran have not been retained.

Have the names of some streets been changed?

Yes - there are numerous cases of street name changes listed on our web page. 

How can I research my family history in Stonnington?

The history centre may have records relating to your family, such as photographs or letters to the council, or information on a house they lived in, a school they attended or the business where they worked. Search our catalogue under surname or address, to see if we hold any relevant information. If you do not know where they lived, the best starting point is the Sands & McDougall postal directories, published from 1862–1974, and widely available at public libraries on microfiche. The back section of the directories list people alphabetically, showing their address.

The Stonnington Library and Information Service has a subscription to Ancestry.com, the online genealogy website, which borrowers can use for free on one of the library computers. Ask at any of Stonnington’s libraries for more information.

What is the best way to start to learn about the history of my suburb?

There are many books available on the history of Prahran, Malvern and Stonnington.  An excellent introduction to the main themes in Stonnington's past is provided in Stonnington Thematic Environmental History (2006). This is also available as an interactive CD.

A series of heritage markers have been placed around Stonnington to highlight some of the important themes, places and people that shaped our city.

The Malvern Historical Society also runs regular local history walks.

How can I find out about the Aboriginal history of the area?

A substantial report on the Indigenous history of Stonnington  is available for download from our website. More information can be found on Council's page on Indigenous reconciliation.

What do the names Prahran, Malvern and Stonnington mean?

The origin of the names Prahran, Malvern and Stonnington is explained on our History of Stonnington page.

I think my relative was a local councillor. How can I check this?

See our complete lists of former councillors and Mayors for the cities of Prahran, Malvern and Stonnington.

What local newspapers are available?

A complete list of local newspapers may be found on our website. Most papers have been microfilmed, and are available for viewing at the Stonnington History Centre. The newspapers will be progressively scanned and loaded to the National Library's Trove site for full text online access and keyword searching.

What local electoral rolls do you have?

Few municipal electoral rolls have survived, and these are listed on the local history catalogue. The extant rolls for the former City of Prahran have been included in the DVD lending set of rate books, available for loan from the library. The extant rolls for the former City of Malvern are available to view on microfilm at the history centre. Access to the City of Stonnington’s current electoral rolls is not permitted. Access to Stonnington rolls less than 10 years old is only permitted on proof of identity.

Are there any local historical societies in Stonnington?

There are two historical societies in the City of Stonnington: Malvern Historical Society and the Prahran Historical and Arts Society.

The Prahran Mechanics' Institute is an independent library specialising in Victorian local history publications. It is situated at 39 St Edmonds Road, Prahran.