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Proformat News
No: 108
February 2015
February Seminars
22: Nth Adelaide Heritage Walk: The Cathedral precinct 2:00–4:00pm WEA Centre Adelaide
24: Websites for family historians 6:00-9:00pm WEA Centre Adelaide
25: How to be a successful family historian (1st of 7 sessions), 8:00-9:30pm WEA Centre Adelaide

March Seminars
1: Hindmarsh Heritage Walk: A town on the Torrens, 2:00-4:00pm WEA Centre Adelaide
4: How to be a successful family historian (2nd of 7 sessions), 8:00-9:30pm WEA Centre Adelaide
8: Glenelg Heritage Walk: Settlement to resorts, 2:00-4:00pm WEA Centre Adelaide
11: How to be a successful family historian (3rd of 7 sessions), 8:00-9:30pm WEA Centre Adelaide
15: Port Adelaide Heritage Walk: Government precincts, 2:00-4:00pm WEA Centre Adelaide
18: How to be a successful family historian (4th of 7 sessions), 8:00-9:30pm WEA Centre Adelaide
22: Semaphore Heritage Walk: Seaside heritages, 2:00-4:00pm WEA Centre Adelaide
25: How to be a successful family historian (5th of 7 sessions), 8:00-9:30pm WEA Centre Adelaide
29: Adelaide SE Corner Heritage Walk: Village within a city, 2:00-4:00pm WEA Centre Adelaide
31: Effectively using FamilySearch websites, 6:00-9:00pm WEA Centre Adelaide

All bookings must be made with the hosting organisation.

See the seminar program for more details and bookings.

SA BDM indexes now online

In the last news segment I indicated that The South Australian BDM indexes created by GenealogySA are now available at FindMyPast. The site has the full version and not the summary version available at GenealogySA. Correspondent, PF, has rightly pointed out that the full version of the index is available online to registered members of the society.

Co Carlow Catholic parish records
The Catholic parish records of Co Carlow are now searchable online at Rootsireland. The database includes 146,000 baptisms and 58,000 marriages. The website via the above link explains which parishes are included and the time coverage.

Worcestershire parish records
The Genealogist have added over 59,000 baptism transcripts for Worcestershire in partnership with Malvern Family History Society, expanding coverage to 1544–1891.

In this issue:
February Seminars
March Seminars
SA BDM indexes now online
Co Carlow Catholic parish records
Worcestershire parish records

Feature article
Old land records in South Australia


Graham Jaunay

Glandore SA 5037

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Old land records in South Australia
Under English law the land in South Australia at the time of the first settlement belonged to the monarch, that is, it was Crown Land originally held as part of New South Wales. This applied from 7 February 1788 when all the land was claimed by Captain Arthur Phillip on behalf of George III under the principle of terra nullius.

At the settlement of South Australia only the Crown could sell or distribute land in the first instance. From this time until the 1858 Real Property Act land ownership was based on English Common Law.

A deed is any written legal document that gives an interest, a right, or property. It is most commonly associated with the transfer of land ownership, known as conveyancing, but can include a multitude of other processes including commissions, licences, patents, diplomas and powers of attorney. A deed is the modern equivalent of a medieval charter. A Deed Poll differs in that while it is a legal document, it is not a contract because it binds only one party and expresses an intention rather than a promise. Names could be officially changed by this process although there was no legal requirement until recent times to undertake such a process and many just assumed new names.

The whole subject in regard to all deeds is a complex one based on common law and to be valid a deed must fulfil a number of requirements:
  • It must be obvious that it is a deed.
  • It must indicate that the instrument itself conveys some privilege or thing to someone.
  • The grantor must have the legal ability to grant the thing or privilege, and the grantee must have the legal capacity to receive it.
  • It must be executed by the grantor in the presence of the prescribed number of witnesses.
  • It must be signed by the grantor and witnesses are essential.
  • It must be delivered to and accepted by the grantee.
In this era we are dealing entirely with the deeds that are the documents between the parties. Deeds were established on three levels. At the lowest level the document was merely exchanged between the parties concerned. The deed could also be registered at the General Registry Office to give it a higher level of legal status. It is only at this stage that a record of a deed appears in the collection. These are called registered deeds. There is a higher level again when the General Registry holds the deed on behalf of the parties. These are called deposited deeds.

The introduction of deeds was to give landholders some confidence in their transactions. These deeds are known as memorials in South Australia. The application of common law meant that confidence in ownership depended on an unbroken series of transactions from the time the land was owned by the Crown until the present time. The memorials created to summarise the transactions assisted. However, until the advent of the Torrens Title System in 1858 when the process was guaranteed by the State by the generation of a Title; the old title was only good if a better claim could not be established! The old system relied on a chain of evidence in the form of memorials that in turn were supported by sundry other documents.

With every transaction dealing with the land a new memorial had to be produced increasing the chances of loss or damage. The costs and time associated with such activity discouraged people from registering memorials regardless of the fact that registered memorials held more weight in a civil court!

Researching land records in South Australia before the introduction of the Torrens Title System in 1858 is not complex in spite of the complexity already suggested because the material is well indexed.  The complexity begins when the memorial is located as the reader is faced with interpreting the language of the document and the handwriting! Each memorial must be read thoroughly to ascertain the intention of the parties. Diagrams of the parcel of land are rarely found in memorials making locating the site of the property rather difficult.

Prior to the introduction of the Torrens Title System the greatest number of deeds registered related to memorials involving land. Other common deeds remain in wide use to this day such as Bills of Sale and Powers of Attorney.

Look at Newsletter 64 for details about the content of the Memorial.

In South Australia the General Registry Office registers dealings with land under the old system—that is land which was granted by the Crown in fee simple by a land grant prior to 2 July 1858 and land that has not subsequently been bought under the 1858 Real Property Act, accepts various plans and written documents concerning land for deposit, for sale and perpetual custody, and registers miscellaneous other dealings such as bills of sale and stock mortgages.

The revolutionary land title system developed in South Australia by Robert Torrens has spread over much of the globe and only one document is required as evidence of ownership. You cannot misplace it because the official version recorded at the Land Titles Office is the real one and the landholder holds the duplicate! Under Section 37 of the Real Property Act land remains subject to the Old System until the registered owner seeks in writing to have the land brought under the Act. This in effect means researchers seeking the history of a property need to access the records at both the Land Titles Office and the Old Land System Office (General Register Office).

The modern titles system operates under the following principles:
  • The Certificate of Title reflects accurately and completely the current facts and at the point of sale the only change will be the owner’s name.
  • The Certificate of Title requires no supporting documentation as it contains all the information about the property.
  • The State will provide compensation for loss if there are errors made by the Registrar.
The Land Register is the central aspect of the Torrens system. Originally the register was a bound paper record, but today the register is kept in an electronic form. When the land parcel was first registered it was given a unique number (called a folio) that identified the land by reference to a registered plan. Once registered, the land cannot be withdrawn from the system. The folio recorded the dimensions of the land and its boundaries, the name of the registered owner and any legal interests that affected the title to the land. To change the boundaries of a parcel of land, a revised plan must be prepared and registered.
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