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Land Grants, Leases & Licences

The records of the Crown Lands and Surveys Department (and its sucessors) are extensive and of great interest to the researcher. The records consist mainly of correspondence, files and registers relating to land grants and sales and leases and licences. A listing of these records can be found in AN 3, the Series Registration System (Agency 42 & Agency 60) and in The Catalogue.

Correspondence relating to land

Prior to 1883 correspondence was unregistered and divided into several sequences. The first sequence is of letters received from settlers 1829-1880 (SDUR=Survey Department Unofficial Received). These are arranged alphabetically under the initial of the surname of the settler. Within each alphabetical class the letters were arranged chronologically in the order of the date on which they had been written and then numbered from 1 continuously. The letters are all written, signed and dated by individual settlers or their agents and are all addressed to the Surveyor General. They deal with matters relating to entitlements to a certain area of land, to a variety of specific pieces of land described by their position or their lot numbers, to transfers to land or a variety of other transactions (CONS 5000/1-15 on microfilm).

The second sequence is of letters received from surveyors 1829-1880 (SDSR=Survey Department Surveyors Received). These letters mainly relate to the land being surveyed - usually to a settler's land or land in a town or district. They are arranged alphabetically by surveyor's name, each letter written by that surveyor, being numbered continuously from 1 (CONS 5000/24-29 on microfilm).

The third sequence is letters received from Resident Magistrates (RM=Resident Magistrate) and these letters usually relate to land in the Resident Magistrate's district or town. They are arranged alphabetically under Magisterial district and numbered continuously from 1 within each district (CONS 5000/15-16 on microfilm).

The Lands Index on microfiche indexes SDURs, SDSRs and RMs and a description of it can be found in the section Indexes and Catalogues - Land Owners.

In 1881 correspondence was divided into 5 groups and given letter prefixes: A for settlers, B for officials, C for surveyors, D for applications for employment and T for telegrams. Letters were numbered continuously from 1 within each group (all CONS 541).

In 1882 the system was again changed, by abandoning the five groups and recording all correspondence in numerical order, but prefacing it by a two digit number appropriate to the last two digits of the year eg 82/1, 82/2 etc. As no indexes for these sequences are extant listings of the A-T sequence can be found in The Catalogue (see preceeding paragraph) and the sequence following can be found in AN 3.

In 1883 correspondence from settlers, surveyors and officials relating to land was placed in a jacket file system, numbered continuously from 1 within each year. In 1892 a modified 'jacket' and 'face sheet' system was adopted. The 'jacket' system was officially abandoned in 1905 and the 'face' sheet system introduced. From 1883 the files were given subject titles. They are unindexed but are listed in AN 3 and the Series Registration System and increasingly on The Catalogue. Pastoral lease applications and personal files are also included.

The other records of the Lands and Surveys Department which may prove useful are land grants and sales and leases and licences.

Land Grants and Sales

The Colonial Office regulations for Western Australia issued in December 1828 and January 1829 offered land to any emigrant in proportion to the value of property, equipment and stock brought with him, land being reckoned as being worth 1s 6d/acre. All grants of land were made on the condition that they were improved within ten years or handed back to the government. This system of free land grants continued until December 1830 and the sale of unoccupied Crown Lands by auction was introduced in January 1832. The term grantee was still used although the land had been purchased.

Description books of grants provide details such as lot number, acreage, name of grantee, date and description of boundaries. An index of grantees is usually included in each volume. The locations were described as required therefore locations do not run consecutively. Registers of land sold were also kept and these list only lot number, name of grantee and date.

This is a huge collection of diverse records and there are two guides which can be consulted at the State Records Office. The first is an Inventory of land records compiled by the State Records Office, which will provide a description and the number of the record in CONS 5000 (it also has an alphabetical index to towns, districts and agricultural areas which provides under the name of the town the dates each volume covers, the inventory page on which you can find the description of the volume and its number). The second guide was compiled by Bruce and Anne Buchanan and is called The Bugtool: the Buchanan Users Guide to Ownership and Occupancy of Land, which lists under town or district name the land records relating to that town or district.

Leases and Licences

The State Records Office holds a vast number of records relating to leases and licences taken out in the period 1852-c1920. During this time various acts and regulations were published under which unappropriated crown lands could be leased.

From 1852-1873 leases were numbered 1-9999 (please note that the Guard Books containing leases 1-7999 are no longer in existence). The A series then began, running from A1-A5999, and ending in 1882. There were also an E series, an N series and a K series, for the East, North and Kimberley districts, running respectively from E1-E415, N1-N2886 and K1-K964.

In 1883 the series 1/lease number, 2/lease number up to 13/lease number was introduced, with the numbers indicating districts eg 1=Central District, 2=South Eastern District (following the E series), 3=Central Eastern District (this may not have been used), 4=Northern District (following the N Series), 5=Kimberley District (following the K series) etc. Pastoral licences generally seem to have been 6/lease number and 7/lease number was used for Special Occupation Licences.

In 1887 a system was introduced whereby leases were taken out under different clauses of the land act eg 66/lease number, 67/lease number etc, with the first number indicating the clause under which the licence was granted. In 1898 this was reversed with the lease number going first and the clause second eg lease number/55, lease number/57 etc. The lease books themselves generally provide the class of lease, place and date taken out, acreage, where lease is and of what duration lease period is, name of lessee, number of lease and a small map of the lease.

The Inventory to land records also has a numerical index to leases arranged by Land Act clauses. Under each clause one can find the lease number, appropriate volume number and page in the Inventory where a description of the volume can be found. A further explanation of the lease numbering system has been compiled and can be located in the Inventory at the beginning of the listing of lease and licence records. The State Records Office has two other guides to leases in Western Australia. The first, produced by Landgate, is the Guide to the Location of Lease Registers and Tenure Numbers which lists leases by Clause number and the second is The Bugtool (see above) which lists leases by location and by clause number.

The Department of Land Information produced an index, the Dead Names Index (so called because it ceased in the 1980s when the information was recorded onto a computer database), which is useful for finding the names of lease and land holders. It is arranged alphabetically and tracks all land actions by an individual, and relates file numbers to those actions. So it is possible through this index to locate all land held by any person until the late 1980s. The cards are not in strict alphabetical order and it may be necessary to search cards either side where a required name should have appeared.

Location and lease numbers held can also be located in the Legislative Council Electoral Rolls for 1904-1962 (for this period a land qualification was needed to vote for the Legislative Council). The Department of Land Information (Landgate) and the Titles Office still hold large collections of records relating to land.
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Page last updated: Wednesday 16 December 2015