Research Guide 2: People

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Researching historical figures in the Canterbury area is a rewarding but sometimes challenging task. Unlike buildings or businesses, persons do not always have records of their movements and achievements that are readily accessible. Researchers are encouraged to engage with key institutions such as State Library of NSW, State Records NSW, and the National Archives of Australia.

Please note: This is not a guide for family history researchers, but has a focus on local history individuals. An excellent guide to family history for Canterbury residents can be found on the library website here.

Using Find My Past

Find My Past is an excellent resource full of records that are easily searchable. This is a subscription service similar to Ancestry. Search for individuals by name at home and then come into the library to access the records in full. Please visit the access point at the library's webpage here.

Electoral Rolls

The library holds NSW electoral rolls (Commonwealth Division) [1903- 1928] on microfiche in the Family History Room. Some assistance may be required in locating the current electoral divisions. Please ask the community history or family history librarian.

Electoral rolls provide details such as name, address and occupation.

Births, Deaths and Marriages

The library holds an extensive collection of microfiche and cd-rom for you to search for births, deaths and marriages in Australia. These are located in the family history room at Campsie Library. Additionally, NSW records can be searched online at BDM NSW

Shipping and Passenger Records

Persons travelling to and from Australia by ship are recorded in logs such as Shipping and Passenger Records. These records usually detail name, age, date of departure and arrival, additional persons, occupation and more. Many of these records

Information on Passenger Recordsand Shipping Records is available from the State Library of NSW website.


Unfortunately only 3 rate books survive as follows:

  • 1879-1884
  • South Ward 1885-1887
  • East Ward 1900

Rate Books include Lot Number, Owner Details, Tenant details, land and may include building descriptions and values.

Council Minutes

Council meetings record the proceedings of ordinary council meetings where aldermen and the mayor met from 1879 onwards to decide on matters ranging from construction to celebrations. They are a good source to check if a smaller date range has been identified and the individual in question was of some historical importance. It is possible they are mentioned in council proceedings. Canterbury Council Minute Books 1879-1920 have been microfilmed and are available at Campsie Library. Please ask the community history or family history librarian.

LPI Torrens Information

The Land and Property Information Office provide essential documents such as Torrens Title that detail accurately the history of land purchases. They include a complete list of previous owners and is essential for any thorough research into a house or property. LPI also over vendors and purchasers indexes that allow the history of individual's land ownership to be traced.

Trove Online Newspapers

Trove is an excellent resource that contains digitised, searchable newspapers from the Sydney Morning Herald and a variety of other local, important newspapers. Click newspapers and search by person, address, house name or other key terms to bring up relevant data such as advertisements, notices, articles and more.

Military Records

Important war records such as service records and red cross reports can be located through national institutions such as the Australian War Memorial and the National Archives of Australia. Many records are readily available online.

Colonial Secretary Records

The first governors of New Sout Wales were responsible for many matters relating to the colony, and the governor's colonial secretary managed documents such as permissions to marry, convict petitions, court cases, applications for land grants and more. Dating from 1788-1825, these records are searchable online via an index available at State Records.

Pictorial Canterbury

Pictoral Canterbury contains an extensive collection of over 10,000 images relating to persons, houses and subjects concerning the local area. A simple search is all that is required.