Inner West Council

Researching your house

How can I trace the history of my house?

You may have just bought an old house and would like to know more about it.

You may have located a house one of your ancestors lived in and want to find out about it.

You may have decided to restore your house as authentically as possible.

You may just be wondering about the people who once lived there.


1. Familiarise yourself with the history of your area

Look at published histories of the area, newspaper and magazine articles, photographs, maps and plans.  Talk to long-time residents.

Ashfield Library holds a range of Local Studies material including:

  • Speed the Plough: Ashfield 1788-1988
  • Ashfield Council advertisements
  • Local newspapers 

  Contact the reference librarian on 97161840 and ask about the Local Studies Collection. The Haberfield Asssociation and the Ashfield and District Historical Society also have useful photographic material and other information. 

2. Obtain the title deed for your property

You may have this in your possession or your bank may hold it.  Work backwards through previous titles to the original Crown Grant OR work forward from the Crown Grant to the current certificate of title.

A plan deposited with the Registrar of Land Titles (NSW) shows the property boundaries each time a piece of land is subdivided and the record gives the names of owners of the land.  Solicitors usually undertake the search at the time of purchase of a property.

3. Look at maps and plans of the area

To view Council's heritage map click here NSW_Legislation_Maps.htm

Parish maps can assist you find out who the original landowner was. 

View parish maps here, courtesy of Land and Property Information (LPI), a division of the Department of Finance, Service and Innovation - the key provider of land information services in New South Wales.

Where to find maps

State Records: 2 Globe Street, The Rocks Sydney.

Western Sydney Records Office 143 O'Connell Street, Kingswood

Dept. of Lands: 1 Prince Albert Road Queens Square Sydney 2000 NSW

Land Titles Office, Map Sales, Ground Floor Dept. of Lands Queens Square Sydney

State Library of NSW and Mitchell Library: Macquarie Street, Sydney

4. Check Directories

Many directories list householders and businesses. Work backwards through the years to trace previous occupiers of your property.

Examples of directories are:

Sand's Sydney and NSW directories, 1858-1933 - Microfiche held at Kogarah Library

Electoral Rolls - Held at State Library of NSW

Telephone directories - Held at State Library of NSW

5. Look at your house

Note its architectural style and carefully examine its design and construction.

The following books may be of assistance:

  • Crow - Tours of Haberfield Past and Present Part 1
  • Crow - Tours of Haberfield Past and Present Part 2
  • Stapleton - Australian House styles
  • Stapleton - How to restore the old Aussie home   
  • Evans - Caring for old houses
  • Evans- The Federation House: a restoration guide
  • Hockman - Edwardian house style: an architectural and interior design sourcebook
  • Cuffley - Australian houses of the twenties and thirties
  • Cuffley - Australian houses of the forties and fifties
  • Butler - The Californian bungalow in Australia
  • Evans - The complete Australian old house catalogue
  • Evans - Getting the details right
  • Evans - Restoring old houses
  • Evans - Colour schemes for old Australian houses
  • Evans - More colour schemes for old Australian houses
  • Pratten- Summer Hill

6. Check local Council records

Work backwards through rates assessment records which contain occupiers and owners names and descriptions of building.

Council rates notice give the DP (Deposited Plan) number.

Council Archives and records usually include past rates, minutes and valuation records; correspondence; zoning information; heritage listings.

Ashfield Council has  archives which include Minute books, Rates and Valuation books, Correspondence, Maps and plans, House numbering plans, Subdivision plans, Building Applications and Register of Transfer of Land.

7. Check local Water Board plans

These plans locate buildings in outline and may include house names and numbers.  Drainage plans of individual properties give owner's name, show positions of buildings and reflect changes in plumbing over the years.  Sydney Water rates notice gives DP (Deposited Plan) number and many also provide the house name.

Consult newspapers and magazines that were published around the time the house was built.

Ashfield Library holds newspapers on microfilm:

Births, Deaths and Marriages records

Use Births, Deaths and Marriages records and Wills to research the families of previous occupiers of your house.

Ashfield Library holds the following:

  • NSW Pioneers Index: Pioneers series: 1788-1888: Index to NSW birth, death and marriage records 1788-1888
  • NSW Pioneers Index: Federation Series: 1889-1918: Index to NSW birth, death and marriage records 1889-1918
  • NSW Between the Wars 1919-1945:  Index to all marriages and deaths registered in NSW between 1919 and 1945
  • Supreme Court of NSW Probate Index 1800-1983
  • Births, Deaths & Marriages Records from other states of Australia: Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia
  • Increasingly, this information is becoming available through the Internet. Check for NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages records

8. Web Sites

Web sites are changing all the time as more and more information becomes available so they need to be checked regularly. Try:

9. Sources

  • House Search
  • How to trace the history of your house - Regan