I have asked a question previously about my great grandfather William Rouse (1860-1948) in Finding 1896-1897 residence of William and Emily Mountjoy Rouse in Adelaide, South Australia? and as I get further into the online Sands and Macdougall South Australian Directories I have become keen to learn more about a family story that was passed down to me about his "rose gardens that were compulsorily acquired by the South Australian Government".

So far I have learned that he actually had two nurseries:

  • Kent Town Nursery at 11 North Terrace, Kent Town (see picture from 1910 Sands and Macdougall directory below) which is adjacent to the CBD of Adelaide and only a stone's throw from the Adelaide Botanic Garden; and

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  • another about two miles away at 96 Seventh Avenue, East Adelaide (abbreviated E.A. and often called St Peters; see picture below from 1939 Sands and Macdougall directory below).

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I will be able to look at more directories to get the exact years that his nursery is listed at each address but the move from Kent Town to East Adelaide (St Peters) was between 1910 and 1920.

The Kent Town nursery is often referred to in the directories as Exotic Nursery and seems to be the same one written about in the South Australian Advertiser of 7 Feb 1881.

In the meantime I am wondering what sources there may be to investigate SA Land Ownership and Transfers in order to try and find the basis of our family story about "compulsory acquisition by the South Australian Government"?

  • 1
    My first approach would be to determine the location of the parcels and look for them in property tax records. Then try to narrow down the time frame, look for maps, etc. Start with contemporary records and work backwards. Plus, have you checked Trove? If the government was using eminent domain, there might have been some discussion in the news.
    – Jan Murphy
    Feb 28 '15 at 4:29
  • Thanks @JanMurphy - I'm not sure what our equivalent to property tax records are, but the two nursery locations are easily found in Google Maps. I'll target narrowing down the time frame first. I'm thinking that the story must link to leaving the first nursery rather than the second (which seems to have only been when he died aged 88 in 1948). I had not heard the term "eminent domain" before but in 1906 it looks like the town clerk of Adelaide was not keen on it: trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/14799180 This is not long before the time I am zeroing in on - interesting!
    – PolyGeo
    Feb 28 '15 at 11:40
  • If the rose gardens still exist today, one other avenue of investigation would be to look for books on the history of the rose garden, maps of local parks, etc.
    – Jan Murphy
    Feb 28 '15 at 19:19

Finding out when your great-grandfather owned his land and working forward may reveal when it might have been taken from him.

Australian land records

The FamilySearch Research Wiki's article Australia Land and Property outlines events in the history and development of Australia. According to their timeline, land records for South Australia begin in 1836. Another important waypoint is 1858:

1858: Torrens system of land conveyance and registration in South Australia provides title registration for first time; other states follow.

Wikipedia's article Torrens Title says:

Torrens title is a system of land title in which a register of land holdings maintained by the state guarantees an indefeasible title to those included in the register. Land ownership is transferred through registration of title instead of using deeds. Its main purpose is to simplify land transactions and to certify to the ownership of an absolute title to realty. It has become pervasive around the countries strongly influenced by Britain, especially those in the Commonwealth of Nations and has spread to many countries in that group.

The FamilySearch Wiki also says:

Many land records are held in the states’ Land Title Offices. Land Title Offices also have parish maps that can be used as plat maps to identify your ancestor’s land holdings, as well as to identify the land owned by other individuals in the surrounding areas. Parish maps are divided into areas that provide names of the original grantees and landowners.

For holdings in the Family History Library catalog, do a place search for AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA. There may not be any records for the time period you're looking for, but these categories may be of interest, and could be searched for in other archives:

  • Archives and Libraries and its subcategories (for lists of holdings, and books on how to use the archives and libraries)
  • Business Records and Commerce
  • Directories (to find directory years that you may not have seen yet)
  • Land and Property (the FHL holdings are mostly from 1830s-1840s)
  • Law and Legislation (the FHL holdings are too early) for the eminent domain bill
  • Maps
  • Newspapers and other Periodicals
  • Public Records (one entry has business licenses, but too early for your inquiry)

Now that we have the groundwork of how land ownership is recorded in Australia, let's turn to the subject of how land can be taken away.

Compulsory acquisition (Australia) / Eminent domain (United States) / compulsory purchase (UK)

Eminent domain is the term used in the US for "the power of a state or a national government to take private property for public use"; Wikipedia lists the terms from many countries and says Australia uses the term compulsory acquisition (as in your question), and resumption.

The subsection Australia gives the history of compulsory acquisition in Australia and notes:

The term resumption is a reflection of the fact that, as a matter of Australian law, all land was originally owned by the Crown before it was sold, leased or granted and that, through the act of compulsory acquisition, the Crown is "resuming" possession.

For Australian legal words and phrases, see Guide to Online Legal Research Publications at Southern Cross University. If you cannot access the online versions of the printed law dictionaries, search Google Books for the same title -- sometimes older editions are available for download.

Local histories and political writings may also be of interest. If the government was executing its power of resumption on a wide scale, you might find contemporary reports in newspapers, plus later discussion and analysis in local histories, and academic papers and dissertations.

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