Maps, Plans and Family Stories

 Discoveries in Western Australia: from documents furnished to the Colonial Office by J.S Roe, Esqre. b1775631

Discoveries in Western Australia: from documents furnished to the Colonial Office by J.S Roe, Esqre. b1775631

Many maps are objects of beauty, works of art in their own right, or marvellous in their precision and attention to detail…

but have you ever thought how maps can assist you with your family history?

The State Library and the State Records Office have large collections of maps and plans. These can be used to locate and trace the history of a house or commercial property. For residences built in the Perth area during the first half of the twentieth century you may even discover house plans.

Freemasons Hotel, Bridgetown b2896300

Freemasons Hotel, Bridgetown b2896300

Townsite plans may include numbered allotments, sometimes named.  You will be able to see how built up an area was at a particular time. Group Settlement plans show individual properties.  The Lands and Surveys chain series maps often give the names of land owners.

Freemasons Hotel, Bridgetown b2896300

Freemasons Hotel, Bridgetown b2896300

Railway maps may tell you when the railway arrived at a particular town.  Some plans show lots, streets and buildings surrounding stations, and land resumption information.

Electoral maps show the boundaries down to which electoral district a street was in. Road maps show street name changes and indicate how built-up a suburb was during the period it was produced.

Group settlement map, Cowaramup to Cape Leeuwin b3086567

Group settlement map, Cowaramup to Cape Leeuwin b3086567

Exploration maps may include the first documented comment on the local countryside.

There are maps indicating mining leases, collections of real estate plans and much more.

You are invited to join us on Thursday 27th August for a day exploring our map collections. We will also be including a talk on how to get the most out of an oral history with a family member.

Launch of Mapping Memory online exhibition – speaker Wendy Lugg

Travels in the Archives – speaker David Whitehead

Where the hell are we? – speaker Steve Howell

Don’t put it off! Why you should record your family stories now – speaker Susanna Iuliano.

Talks are free. Please book at Eventbrite.

Upcoming Seminars

The Family History Subject Specialists will be out and about over the next two weeks. We will be giving talks at Warnbro and Fremantle Public Libraries.

Taking the census. From a sketch by Thomas Worth, Harpers Weekly 19 Nov 1870

Taking the census. From a sketch by Thomas Worth, Harpers Weekly 19 Nov 1870

Warnbro – Black and White and Read all Over
One of the most exciting developments for family history researchers is the rapidly expanding collection of digitised newspapers available. For family historians who think that they have reached the limits of what they can reasonably expect to discover about their forebears, think again!
The State Library subscribes to digitised historic newspaper archives from Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland and the United States. These are all available to search from home to members of the State Library.
Warnbro Community Library, Swallowtail Parade, Warnbro
Wednesday 6th May 10.30am – 12pm
ookings essential: 9528 8577

State Library family history bookmarks

State Library family history bookmarks

Fremantle – Catalogue conundrums and website whimsies
Have you ever struggled to find what you are looking for in our catalogue or website? This talk introduces some of the family history resources we have at the State Library and how to find them. Whether it is our blog, Facebook page, subject guides, bookmarks, eresources, catalogued items or private archives – you are sure to discover resources you were not aware of. See some of the wonderful items we have digitised and learn a few tricks along the way.
Fremantle  City Library, 8 William Street, Fremantle
Tuesday 12 May 2.30pm – 4pm
Bookings essential: 9432 9739


Family History Beginners’ Day

Family group late 1890s

Family group late 1890s

Presented by the State Library of Western Australia as part of the Western Australian Heritage Festival
Warning! Family history is addictive!
Always wanted to find out where you came from but didn’t know where to start? This event is for you! The Family History Subject Specialists at the State Library can inspire you to begin your journey of discovery with a full-day program of talks and tours: 

  • Pathways to the Past, family history for beginners.
  • Getting the best out of Ancestry and Findmypast: how to get the best results from two of the most popular family history subscription sites with tips to improve your searches.
  • Fantastic Websites: our pick of the top websites for family history from around the world.  

Take introductory tours of the Genealogy Centre and Battye Library for an overview of our family history and WA heritage collections.

State Library,Perth Cultural Centre
25 Francis St, Perth

Wed 8 May 9.30 am – 4.30 pm
Bookings essential: Phone 9427 3111
For full catalogue of Festival events:


The Western Australian Genealogical Society and the State Library present…

A medal for long service and good conduct which was conferred on certain policemen on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Officers received gold medals and men silver medals.

Two seminars for your delectation…
Australian Joint Copying Project: what is it and where do I start?
Have you always wished you could get your hands on documents hidden away in archives in the UK? You may be surprised to learn that many of them are available on microfilm right here at the State Library. Records include documents relating to convicts, soldiers, early settlers and more.

Black and white and read all over
Newspaper stories and notices – even advertising can reveal a lot about our ancestors. We offer an introduction to digitised historic newspapers including Trove, the Times Digital Archive, British and Irish Newspapers, and more.

Australian Joint Copying Project: what is it and where do I start?  10.30am – 12.00
Black and white and read all over     1.00pm – 2.30pm
When: Thursday 6 September
Where: Great Southern Room, State Library of WA, Northbridge

The talks are free but you MUST register.
Register in person at WAGS library, Unit 5, 48 May st, Bayswater or call (08) 9271 4311 during library hours.

UK genealogist and author, Michael Gandy, to present talks at the State Library

Well-known UK genealogist , professional researcher and author, Michael Gandy, will be presenting a series of talks in the Library theatre on Saturday 29 August. Anyone who has heard Michael speak will tell you that he is an extremely entertaining and knowledgeable speaker. Topics include the Irish poor in England, the British in India and tracing middle class ancestors. With additional sessions on hidden family history treasures from the Library stacks by Leonie Hayes; and getting the most out of the FamilySearch website by Mike Murray; this promises to be a wonderful day for all who attend.

The seminar has been arranged by the Western Australian Genealogical Society Inc. (WAGS) as part of their 30th anniversary celebrations and is sponsored by the State Library. Tickets to this special event can be purchased from the Society. For more information please phone Margaret Hickey on 9450 4006 or email

Pathways to the Past: family history for beginners

aaron-orloffs-children-state-library-pictorial-collection-111065pd.pngAre you exploring your family history? Or, have you been thinking about doing your family tree, just haven’t got around to starting it yet, and wouldn’t know how to start or what resources are available to help you anyway?

If these questions apply to you, then you need to visit the State Library so you can attend our beginner’s introduction to the family history resources available at the State Library and on the internet sessions. Make a booking today!

       Dates: 6th of February & 7th of May

       Days & time: Wednesdays 2:00pm – 3.30pm

       Venue: Room 2.9, second floor, State Library of Western Australia

       Make a booking! Call: 9427 3111