Delve into Geelong’s past

Whether you are fact-finding for a local company history, researching a Geelong personality or wondering who else has lived in your home, there is a good chance you will satisfy your curiosity at the Vault on level 3 of the Dome.

For decades, visitors have discovered Geelong’s unique history, the identity of our people and places, mirrored in the stories told in the bounty of documents, photographs and other objects held in our archives.

Delve into a vast array of public and private historical records from 1838 to the present day. Our collection is diverse and multi-layered, bringing together materials produced and collected by councils, churches, organisations, businesses, clubs, societies and individuals.

Narrow down your search with access to indexes and catalogues or ask our experienced team members to advise you. They might just point you in the direction of a record you hadn’t thought of.

Can I find out more about my house or property?

How old is my house? Who was the architect? Who else lived here? We can help you answer these questions (and more) about the history of your house and land.  Maybe we can guide you to an early image or site plan or a connection with a previous occupant. There are many ways you can go about finding the answers. Our friendly team is available in the reading room to help you.


Resources for house and land research

Perhaps you’re not the first to wonder? It's worth checking our reference library catalogue to see if someone has already researched your house or property. You might find a few passing references or an entire conservation report with images and plans.

Our extensive collection of postal directories is usually the next stop. It’s easy to look up your address in the Geelong section of our copy of Sands & McDougall's Victorian Directories and see who’s listed. You can work your way back through the decades.

We have various earlier directories for the Geelong region to help you trace people and properties back to the 1850s.

Once you have worked out an approximate year or decade of interest, it's time to delve into the rate books.

The Vault holds rate/valuation books for the former councils of Bannockburn, Barrabool, Bellarine, Colac, Corio, Geelong, Geelong West, Leigh, Meredith, Newtown, Otway, South Barwon and Winchelsea.  Most are available on DVD or microfilm in our reading room.

The rate books usually list the names of owners/occupiers, indicate the locations of properties and give a description of any structures. The plot thickens – you should by now at least know who first lived in your house and approximately when it was built.

Particularly useful for looking up 19th century families, homes and businesses, the Geelong Advertiser and the wonderful Morrow Index are integral to the centre’s resources and can help you with your search.

Now that you’re armed with the name of the first occupier of your house, you can look them up in the indexes. You might find tender notices or auctions, business partnerships, birth notices, marriages and deaths.

We hold thousands of parish maps, subdivision plans and sale notices in our collection and every one of them tells a story. We also hold the archives of one of Geelong's biggest architectural firms Buchan, Laird & Buchan with drawings, specifications and contracts dated 1897 to 1973.

Perhaps you are hoping to locate an historic image of your house.  Try looking in our photo indexes for specific addresses and house names – this will be easier if the property is heritage listed or otherwise considered important. If you know the surnames of the families who lived in your home, see if we have a collection under their name.  Many families were photographed outside the front of their homes.

Your individual property might not be listed in the index, but a streetscape indexed under the street's name might just show it.  A number of Geelong's former councils conducted photographic surveys of their municipalities; it's worth checking our indexes to see if one was completed in your area.

Are there any landmarks nearby, such as a school or hotel? Searching for a major landmark nearby might yield views that incidentally show your house.

Elevated or aerial views may also assist.  Many of Geelong's tallest buildings have attracted photographers throughout the years, and some beautiful 360° views have been captured in the city and suburbs.  If you can see the top of a tall building from your property try looking for views taken from there.   Various individuals, councils and government agencies conducted aerial surveys of Geelong over the years.  Ask us to help you find aerial views of your area.

Back to Heritage