Sands Sydney Directory: an Introduction to its Use

The Sand's Sydney Directory was published annually between 1858 and 1932. Each issue of the Directory listed householders, businesses, public institutions and officials of the Sydney area, and often rural towns. The layout varied during the 74 years of publication.

The Directories have had a number of different names over the years:

Sand's is not a legal document - the information was collected by Sands' agents who called door to door - and is therefore open to error. Many libraries hold microfiche copies of all available issues.

The two major components of the Directory were the Alphabetical and the Suburban sections as well as directories of trades and government officials.

The Alphabetical section consisted of a single alphabetical sequence of the names of householders, business houses and major organisations, with the address of the associated premises attached.

The Alphabetical listing is very useful for building a profile of a person in Sydney over time. By working backward from the most recently available issue and noting down the details of a person you may be able develop a biography. Details such as names and titles used, addresses over a number of years and trades and occupations followed can often be found.

Be mindful, though, that usually only those Sands considered the head of a household or the principal of a business were listed. Others were usually not listed.

If you discover someone of note occupying or owning a property, biographical works can be checked to determine more about the person. Possible biographical sources include the Australian Dictionary of Biography, A Biographical Register 1788 -1939, Australian Encyclopaedia and microfiche sets of previous editions of Who's Who in Australia. Also check the names in library catalogues and on the Australian Public Affairs and Information Service (APAIS) database.

Information on less notable persons may be compiled using Births, Deaths and Marriage Indexes (usually held on CD-ROMs in libraries) and newspapers (eg obituary notices).


The Suburban section arranged names of householders and business premises variously under suburb, locality or Local Government Area as the Directory developed. Up until 1879/1880, this section consisted of a single alphabetical sequence of names for each given area. From about 1879, the layout of the Suburban section of the Directory arranged entries by street name. Under each street name, occupants are listed according to the position in the street of the premises occupied.

The street-by-street listing of householders in Sand's is useful for undertaking research on the history of properties. The type of information usually included is:

Householder's name and title;
Street number and house name - where established;
Householder's occupation or type of business.

The entries will look something like this:

Smith Street - East side
2 Mellick, J., Draper "Emoh"
4 Malouf, Joseph, "Chez Nous"
6 Harrison, H.
8 Solomon & Sons, General Store

By working backwards from the most recently available issue of the Directory (1932), and noting down the details of an individual property for each year that it is listed in Sand's, you can build up a chronological profile of the occupants of a property, and possibly determine its uses.

The first year in which a property appears in Sand's can be considered an indication of when a piece of land was first developed. Caution should be exercised - sometimes what appears to be the first listing for a property may in fact be the first listing after a period, sometimes lengthy, of omission from the Directory. This can occur if the property was vacant for some years.

The microfiche copy of the Sands Directory is arranged by year. The page parameters appear on the band at the head of each sheet of fiche, and a thorough index appears on the first fiche for each year.

1. Determine the address of the property you are looking for as far as possible. The more information you have before you start, the easier it will be to search through Sand's. Some useful details to acquire are:

Street Name;
Street number or house name if known;
The physical location of the property in a street (eg north or south side of the street and the intersections between which it is located);
The Municipality in which the property was located during the relevant period (mindful of shifts in Local Government Boundaries and the fact that boundaries may bisect streets);
The names of any previous owners or occupants of the property;

2. Find the relevant Municipality in the Suburban section. (See Index on first fiche for each year).

3. Find the relevant Street from those listed for the Municipality (Order is alphabetical);

4. Compare house numbering or location within that street. (Intersecting streets are in italics).

5. Note down details as they are discovered.