A rate book page

Arts & Culture

Discovering history online: rate books digitisation project

Published: 17 Feb 2022 6:19pm

Local historians celebrated the announcement of the Wagga Wagga Rate Books Digitisation Project this week at Wagga Wagga City Library.

Designed to make historical rate records from 1870 through to 1949 available online, the project was a coordinated undertaking between local cultural organisations and the state government.

Manager Library Services Claire Campbell said the Wagga Wagga rate valuation books provide a variety of information on properties and houses in the city.

“We’re really excited to be part of this project as it will give researchers the ability to trace the history of their house or property over a particular time period,” Ms Campbell said.

“You can look up the details of ownership and occupants, as well as the nature of buildings located on specific lots.

“It’s fascinating to be able to gather this information and build a picture of what was happening in your house all those years ago.”

A group of people in a library
TEAM EFFORT: Celebrating the Wagga Wagga Rate Books Digitisation Project in the library this week was (from left) Jillian Salzke, Charles Sturt University Regional Archives; Michelle Maddison, Museum of the Riverina; Member for Wagga Wagga Dr Joe McGirr MP; Leanne Diessel, Wagga Wagga & District Family History Society; Peter Thompson, General Manager Wagga Wagga City Council, Claire Campbell, Manager Library Services; Geoff Burch, President of the Wagga Wagga & District Historical Society; Mayor of the City of Wagga Wagga Cr Dallas Tout; and Wes Fang MLC.

President of the Wagga Wagga & District Historical Society Geoff Burch was the driving force behind the project, approaching the other partner organisations and applying for funding.

“Because I do so much research myself and I’m aware of what others do, I know the significance of the records,” Mr Burch said.

“As I’ve used them personally and I’m aware of their content and condition, it motivated me to seek the funding to have them digitised.”

Mr Burch said the records would help researchers with buildings and people – the two often interconnecting.

“You can track land titles online which will help you build a baseline of who owned properties,” Mr Burch said.

“The rate books give you a brief description, for example whether it was a brick home or a butcher’s shop.

“It’s really handy for being able to determine exactly when it was built, which you can’t find in newspapers or the title deed. Using the rate records, you can see that one year it’s described as a vacant block and the following year it’s listed as a brick home.

“You know not only who owned it but who lived in it and their occupation, so once you’ve got that sort of data, you can start searching those names and, layer upon layer, build interesting stories of the people who are connect to your home, building or business.

“Now that all this material is going to be online, you can sit at your desk wherever you are and start discovering history.”

The Charles Sturt University Regional Archives hold the original hard copy books. Once scanned, the books and the existing microfilm will be digitised to make them accessible online at State Records of NSW. Local historical services will then be able to link to the site to provide access.

The Wagga Wagga Rate Books Digitisation Project is a $17,000 project supported by the Charles Sturt University Regional Archives, The Museum of the Riverina, Wagga Wagga City Library, Wagga Wagga & District Family History Society and the Wagga Wagga & District Historical Society.

The project was supported by the NSW State Government, who contributed $5,000 to the project through the Royal Australian Historical Society 2021 Cultural Grants program.