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Archives In Brief 80 - County and parish maps

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Overview of county, parish and town/village maps created by the Department of Lands and its predecessors. Related records may be identified in Archives Investigator.

See also the Land and Property Information NSW website for more information on parish maps.

Background to the maps

In 1825 Royal Instructions were issued to Governor Brisbane ordering a general survey of the colony of New South Wales and its division into counties and parishes. County and parish maps have been used for over 150 years to record Crown land dealings.

Two sets of county, parish and town/village maps were created and maintained by the Department of Lands and its predecessors. One set of maps, for a particular area, was kept at the Local or District offices and a duplicate set for the whole State was kept in the Head Office of the Department.

Both sets were annotated to show changes in the status of the land. The District Office maps, however, often contain information not recorded on the Head Office versions. Once a map could no longer be easily annotated it was 'cancelled' and a new edition printed.

Types of Maps

County maps

There are 141 counties in New South Wales. Each county has an area of about 40 square miles. The maps show the division of counties into parishes, major physical features and large portions with their numbers. County maps have a scale of 4 miles to an inch.

Parish maps

The 141 counties are divided into 7,459 parishes. Parish areas range from fifteen to twenty five square miles. Parish maps are produced for the Eastern and Central divisions of New South Wales. They have not been compiled for the Western division, or for 'private' towns subdivided out of privately owned land. Parish maps are at a scale of 4 inches to a mile.

Features on a parish map

Portions with area and original grantee or tenure, references to Crown Plans and the survey plan reference are shown. Other features can include place names, notes, boundaries, roads, reserves, freehold, incomplete purchases and reference notes. Parish maps are a very usefulsource when researching a locality or as a starting point for researching a portion of land.

Cancelled parish maps

Parish maps are annotated to show changes in the status of land. A new edition is issued when it becomes difficult to record new information on a map. The older edition is then marked 'cancelled'.

To locate a parish name

Researchers should consult Gleeson: An alphabetical list of names, which is available in the reading room. Parish names are often duplicated across New South Wales. It is therefore necessary to identify the parish by including the name of the county.

Town and village maps

Town maps are similar in detail to parish maps. Town maps refer to allotments rather than portions, and are at a larger scale than parish maps.

Crown plans

‘Crown plans’ or ‘Portion plans’ are compiled to provide historical information about a portion of land.
Some Crown Plans are held at State Records as NRS 13859. These plans are listed in the online Index to Surveyor General’s Crown Plans.
Other Crown Plans are available from Land and Property Information NSW (LPI). Digital copies of the plans will be progressively available on the LPI’s PIXEL public terminals at State Records.

To locate a Crown Plan you need to provide names of the county and parish, the portion number and the catalogue number.
These details are shown on a parish map.

How to access the maps

Digital copies

Digital copies of surviving county, parish, and town and village maps of NSW were made as part of the Parish Map Preservation Project. For more information about this project, consult Archives in Brief 81.

Digital copies at State Records

Images of the maps copied in the Parish Map Preservation Project are available to be viewed on CD in our reading room.

Digital copies via the Internet

Images of the maps copied in the Project may also be viewed on the Land and Property Information NSW website.

Original maps

When a map has been copied

To protect and preserve original maps once they have been copied, for example, onto CD or aperture card, the original will not be made available in our reading room.

When a map is not copied

Maps that have not been copied, such as those created and maintained by other branches of the Department of Lands (for example Roads Branch) or other public offices can be identified by using the card index to maps and plans held in the Western Sydney Records Centre Reading Room. In most cases the original is held at the Western Sydney Records Centre. If the map has not been copied, and it is not damaged or fragile, we will provide access to the original.

Getting copies of maps

Parish Map Preservation Project maps

Information about accessing the Parish Maps Preservation Project maps is available on the Land and Property Information NSW website.

Maps copied onto aperture cards

Many maps have been copied onto aperture card. It is possible to obtain reader printer copies of these in our reading room.

Uncopied original maps held at State Records

A3 size black and white photocopies of most uncopied maps can be ordered from State Records. Please discuss your order with reading room staff. For further information about our copying services, consult Archives in Brief 75.

Alternatively you are welcome to photograph the map in the reading room.

If a map is copied, you may not copy from the original.

Further reading

Land and Property Management Authority (now Land and Property Information NSW): User Guide - the parish map and Crown plan in family history and genealogical research. Available on the Land and Property Information Baseline website.

Researchers should consult the Register of Access Directions to confirm the public availability of records. State Records' staff can advise you on the availability of records if they are not listed on the register.

© State of New South Wales through the State Records Authority, 2003.
This work may be freely reproduced and distributed for most purposes, however some restrictions apply. See our copyright notice or contact us.