Part 3: What some land records may contain

Land Selection & Pastoral Leases Lease Records – Series 14033 (LAN/AG) and 14050 (LAN/DF) at Queensland State Archives

This series of land blogs was developed from research done by historian Ruth Kerr

The land selection records at Queensland State Archives (QSA) are exciting and stimulating record series. This is because they contain enormous detail about the settlement and development of Queensland. They are a microcosm of Queensland history and its economy.

The key public servants were the land commissioners, land agents, surveyors and land inspectors. Their roles brought ordered processes and accepted administrative arrangement understood by the selectors.

The files themselves may contain the following documents for the administration of the selection:

  • Application form signed by the selector showing occupation and place where form signed and name of witness. The document also gives details of the proclamation in the Queensland Government Gazette of the land as open for selection. The proclamation in the Queensland Government Gazette detailed the level of annual rent and the portions of land available for selection and closing date and place for applications to be received. The Application Form also shows the name of the estate and selection group where relevant. It provides the name and occupation of the selection and place where application was filed. The minimum age for a selector was 16 years. The applicant had to be a natural born subject or naturalized. Selection was competitive in that the land was notified by the government by proclamation in the Queensland Government Gazette as open for selection. Land Orders could be utilized in payment of the deposit for a selection. In these cases the name of the ship that the selector arrived in Queensland on is stated along with the land order number.
  • License to Occupy dated and signed by the Land Commissioner. It shows the date accepted by the Land Commissioner and the subsequent date on which the Land Court approved the selection. This was after the selector paid the first year’s rent and survey fee. The license was not capable of being mortgaged or transferred (except in the case of death of the licensee).
  • Application for Certificate of Performance of Conditions on Selection. Fulfillment of the conditions to occupy the land entitled the selector to a lease. The improvements on the land were specified in detail – house / hut, yards, wells, fencing, crops, cattle, dairy, bails, cooking galley, pig styes, orchards. The value of each improvement was also stated so that the total invested could be compared to the legislative requirement. Clearing of timber and planting with grass was defined as an improvement. Subdivision into paddocks and fencing was calculated in the improvements. Where a selector held several selections located close together the selector could use residence on one as proof of residence for another.
  • Reports of the Land Ranger on the selection and whether the selector was living on the land or whether a bailiff was employed. This document specified the type of improvements (buildings, crops, clearing, fencing, wells) and their value and location on the property. It also specified if the selector was living on the land and what the land was utilized for. This document is one of the most useful for understanding and interpreting the use of the land. A lease document was transmitted to the selector after the Governor of Queensland had approved the lease at an Executive Council meeting.
  • Survey Plan showing scale, date, name of surveyor and vegetation types (in most cases) on the land and topography. Items of interest such as bora rings, explorer’s trees and camp sites are shown where relevant. Exclusions such as beds of creeks and esplanades are shown.
  • Rent levels
  • Transfer forms showing date and signatures of both transferor and transferee and place where forms were signed. The department always checked that the proposed transferee did not hold more than the permitted leased area under the particular land act.
  • Inspection Reports on Presence or otherwise of Prickly Pear.
prickly pear
QSA, Digital Image ID 3035: Prickly pear forest, c 1930
  • Certificate of Fulfillment of Conditions of the selection.
  • Departmental copy of the lease for the land. This document records and provides for the alienation of the land under the particular act. It records the purpose of the lease, the date the lease commenced and the term, the level of annual rent, the name of the Governor of Queensland who approved and signed the lease, a scale diagram of the land leased showing the area and description of the land (viz portion number, parish and county), mortgages, transfers and sub leases, and extensions of term of the lease. Selections could not be applied for or held by companies. However when banks or other financial institutions such as insurance companies foreclosed on the selectors the land was transferred to the bank or financial institution until the selection could be sold (usually at auction).
  • Approval of Sub Leases. The dates indicate the use of the land for other agricultural industries such as bananas. The sub lessees are named.
  • Resumptions for roads, railways, and reserves for churches, schools, public halls etc. where relevant.
  • Agreements regarding business partnerships and alteration in shareholdings where this applies.
  • Dispensations of fencing requirements on boundaries in particular cases.
  • Special Licenses regarding personal residence and occupation. (s.90 Land Act 1910)
  • Bases of Valuation Forms in twentieth century after valuation processes were introduced. These also contain details of rates of stocking.
  • Surrenders, Forfeitures and reasons. These documents often show the Government Gazette reference for the re-opening of the land for selection and the new selection number.
  • Application to freehold and payment of final rent installment, survey fee and deed fee. This document is usually notated with the date of the Executive Council meeting and the Executive Minute number. It also shows the date that the Deed of Grant was prepared.
  • Survey description of the land. This was done just before the documents were sent to Executive Council so that the Deed of Grant could be prepared.

In connection with the administration there may be a range of other documents in support of the administration process, as relevant:

  • Naturalization documents where relevant to prove the nationality of the lessee.


  • Enlistment details of lessee for war service. Lessees obtained extensions of leases and other benefits from the department on return from war service.
  • Birth Certificate of selector to prove identity.
  • Marriage Certificate in the case of married women selectors or transferees.
  • Will and Death Certificate where selector has died.
  • Published Maps showing stock routes, topographical features, telegraph lines etc.
  • Death Duty Returns where relevant.
  • Correspondence between the selector and the Department of Lands (known as Public Lands in the nineteenth century) on a multitude of topics relating to the use of the land, fulfillment of conditions, employment of bailiffs, effects of natural disasters, payment of rent and relief for failure to pay rent on time if approved. There are cases of immigration details being stated eg. to other colonies. During the two World Wars there was correspondence if the selector had enlisted for service overseas and in the case of death the arrangements for transfer of the land. In some cases of land selections in remote areas or in rough tropical vegetation there are records outlining details of when selectors have been injured or murdered by Indigenous people eg. Kuranda area.

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3 Responses

  1. kay adams

    I am searching for information on a Thomas Mason who was a selector in Emerald in the early 1880’s. Would you keep these records and am I able to access them online? Thank you.

  2. The Land Selection & Pastoral Leases Lease Records in Series 14033 (LAN/AG) and 14050 (LAN/DF) at Queensland State Archives are invaluable repositories of historical land data. These records offer a deep dive into the intricate processes of land selection and pastoral leases in Queensland. Researchers, historians, and land enthusiasts will find a treasure trove of information that sheds light on the evolution of land use policies in the region. These archives serve as a vital resource for anyone interested in Queensland’s land history.

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