When was my house built?: a checklist
A good introduction to researching your home is the Historic Homes research guide, available as an e-publication from the Public Record Office Victoria.
Other sources – such as plans, postal directories, rate books and valuation records, certificates of title, housing styles – are outlined below.
Research on your house may already exist
Check the following:
Stonnington History Centre catalogue
State Library of Victoria
Previous owners or neighbours
Melbourne Mansions Database (for houses of two or more storeys)
Try Googling your address!
Land subdivision plans: many can be found on the History Centre catalogue, or at the State Library of Victoria.
Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) plans: many plans produced between the 1890s and 1950s have been digitised by the State Library of Victoria, and show the footprint of houses built in this period. Search the State Library’s catalogue for “MMBW & [street name]”. House names can often be found this way.
MMBW drainage plans for individual properties: historic drainage plans for individual properties in the former City of Prahran are held by South East Water. Charges apply. The equivalent plans for the former City of Malvern are on microfiche at the Public Record Office Victoria.
Building plans (Malvern only): the Stonnington History Centre holds many building plans for properties east of Kooyong Road (the former City of Malvern area), that were constructed or altered between 1917 and c1975. Equivalent plans for the area west of Kooyong Road (i.e.: the former City of Prahran) have not survived. Newer plans are held by Council’s building department, which can be contacted on 8290 3516.
Sands & McDougall postal directories (1862-1974): these are arranged in sections, including an alphabetical listing (much like a phone directory) and a suburban listing, whereby information is sorted by suburb then by street (in alphabetical order), then the numbers on one side (eg. north) followed by the numbers on the opposite side (eg. south), with cross streets also recorded. Note that it is occupants rather than owners that are listed.
Many of these directories have now been digitised and are available online. See the State Library of Victoria and the University of Melbourne's Melbourne History Resources.
Microfiche copies of the complete set of the postal directories are available at the Stonnington History Centre and many public libraries. Contact us to make an appointment to use these records.
Council rate books and valuation records
Former City of Malvern rate books and valuation records: microfiche/microfilm or PDF copies may be viewed at the Stonnington History Centre. Contact us to make an appointment to use these records.
Former City of Prahran rate books and valuation records: DVD Rom lending sets are available for loan from Stonnington libraries.
See our guide to using the rate books and postal directories for more information.
Certificates of Title
Land titles can provide useful information relating to ownership of the land, rather than to a particular building on that land. The records are maintained by the Victorian government. Charges apply.
Housing styles and architecture
'What House is That?': Heritage Victoria and the Building Commission have developed a publication covering nine key housing styles in Victoria. 'What House is That?' is available in various formats — a hard copy booklet, a downloadable PDF, or an interactive webpage (all free) — on the Heritage Victoria website.
Databases: see Professor Miles Lewis’s databases on buildings, architects and Melbourne Mansions.
Genealogy records: once you have the names of some of the people who lived in your house, you can search genealogy databases such as Ancestry.com. Here you can access electoral rolls and find other family members of voting age who also lived there, along with births, deaths and marriages registers (these registers are also available on CDRom at the History Centre and many public libraries). A library edition of Ancestry.com is available for use in Stonnington’s libraries, free of charge. See the library website for more information.
Stonnington History Centre catalogue: search under surname to see if we hold any correspondence or other records of relevance.
Local history books: Good introductory books on crown land sales, street development and important houses can be found in the relevant editions of Betty Malone’s Discovering Prahran series; while the Walk Into History series provides short histories of streets and key houses in Stonnington, with a focus on the former City of Malvern area. See our section on local history publications for more information.
Trove: search the National Library of Australia’s digitised newspaper database, Trove, using the street address, surname or house name (if you have one), to learn more about the people connected to your house.
Wikipedia has an overview of Australian architectural styles.
What to do with your research
The History Centre is always interested in material related to people and properties in Stonnington. Consider donating a copy of your research, photographs and other supporting documents, for the use of future researchers.
If you have any questions along the way, please contact the History Centre.
Remember, you can also commission the Stonnington History Centre to undertake this research on your behalf, presented as a My Stonnington Home Research Portfolio.