How to access land records in South Australia

Prior to 1858, only deeds were issued, these are held in the General Registry Office located at Building 4A, 300 Richmond Road, Netley SA 5037.

Under the Real Property Act of 1858, transfer of land ownership was made by registration and certification rather than by deed. The certificate of title was retained by the Lands Title Office and subsequent transfers of ownership were recorded. Access to the certificates are available at the Lands Title Office 101 Grenfell Street Adelaide SA 5000

Before 1837
On 15 Aug 1834 the South Australian Act creating the Province of South Australia was passed by the British Government. Before the Act could become law, the Commissioners had to raise £35,000 of which £20,000 had to go to the Treasury as a guarantee. To raise these funds the Commissioners sold land unseen. These 437 lots for £81 comprised 134 acres in the country and one city acre.

1837 to 1858
The records of land transactions prior to 1858, amongst other material, are held by the General Registry Office [GRO] at Building 4A, 300 Richmond Road, Netley SA 5037. This office managed all Deeds and at this time the transfer of land ownership was affected by registering such a Deed with the GRO. The individual filmed Memorials can be accessed via an index located in hefty vellum books. They include records relating to mortgages, conveyances, and leases. Each Memorial is divided into columns which detail: date, witness names, parties to the transaction, value, description of the property, and other notes. It should be noted that some Memorials are connected with the decease of a landowner and may be concerned with executing a Will or Admons and Probate.

The office also holds Deposits and Enrolments and they have their own index available to the public. An Enrolment is an exact copy of a document which has been registered under the Registration of Deeds Act, whereas a Deposit is the original document or a certified duplicate. This material covers a range of agreements concerning land. The potentially informative papers in these files are deemed private and can only be accessed with the written permission of the current property owner. Sometimes this problem can be circumvented if a part of the property is currently in the hands of a government agency as they are much more prepared to allow access!

The only way to access this material is by a personal visit to the office.

1858 onwards
The Real Property Act introduced the Torrens Title System for land management. The certificates are located in volumes (allocated Roman numerals )and each certificate is a folio (allocated Arabic numerals) within and thus the material is typically referenced as CCXXIV/21. You can locate the name of every land owner since the system was adopted by reference to the filmed indexes at the Lands Title Office [LTO]. This index will give you the reference to access the certificate itself. By following the certificate’s sequence you can prepare a full history of the ownership of a particular piece of land.

The only certain way to access the historical material is by a personal visit to the office although current material is available online. You may find that the certificate you seek is held offsite that will require a return visit several days later.

The visitor is able to access Crown Leases by a similar process although to inspect the documents prior to 1927 will require a visit to State Records of SA [SRSA] with the reference number obtained at the LTO.

The GRO holds material relating to all registered Deeds and not just land transactions. Of particular interest to family researchers would be the records of name change by Deed Poll (index only).

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