Finding Patrick…

066993PD Pensioner Guard Henry Critch and wife Sarah

I had never heard of Pensioner Guards when I started my family history research.  Now I can proudly claim two.  A great many Western Australians are descended from these army veterans who chose to take up the offer of free passage to WA if they acted as guards for the convicts who were transported here between 1850 and 1868.
My gg grandfather Patrick McGovern arrived with his family on the Belgravia in July 1866. 
Patrick was well-travelled. He was born in Cavan, Ireland, joined the British Army in Glasgow, Scotland, and served in Ireland, Jamaica, Nova Scotia and India. He and his wife Catherine had eleven children, the last, Denis, being born in Fremantle in 1870.  Five children did not survive their childhood. Two children, Mary Ann (6 years 6 months) and Sarah (2 years 2 months) died in Poona, India, in what must have been dreadful conditions to try to raise young children.
Do you have a pensioner guard in your family tree? Want to know how I found out so much about Patrick? Come along to the State Library from 1-3 August and attend the free seminar on researching pensioner guards and check the information already available for many of them. We will also be looking at how to begin your research in India.  Take a look at our program at:
There is something for beginners and experienced researchers as well as those just interested in history.  All sessions are free – but please book in advance – 9427 3111.
And to Patrick’s many descendants out there – hello cousins!

6 thoughts on “Finding Patrick…

  1. Hi Jess, If you have information on your John Flynn, the Western Australian Genealogical Society (WAGS) is currently running a project to research and update information on all known pensioner guards. Perhaps you – and any other folks out there with guards in their family tree could exchange details with WAGS. Their website:

  2. My great great great grand father was Patrick McGovern, he had a son John Joseph who was the goaler/warden of the Albany Goal until 1913 when he retired. My grand father was Cecil Melville one of 12 children born to Mary Ann Mannix and John Joseph McGovern. I remember my grand mother would tell tales of India and Jamaica handed down from my grand father…so they were probably true, I always wondered?

  3. The subjects in that photo are Corporal Henry Thomas Critch & his wife Sarah Kennedy, my great great great grandparents. Henry was born in Devon Kent, married Sarah in Armagh Ireland and served in India in 35th (Royal Sussex) Regiment of Foot ( They arrived in Fremantle on the Norwood in 1867. When they first arrived, they lived in the barracks at the end of St Georges Tce, the arch of which still stands today near parliament house (although the rest was knocked down to make way for the freeway). A large fire there forced them to move out soon after while repairs were made, so they ended up in Fremantle.

    One of their sons, Francis Henry Critch, was a pioneer of Geraldton and became a well-known business person there. After completing his apprenticeship in Fremantle as a newpaper printer, he moved to Geraldton and became the editor & manager of the Geraldton Express (42 years overall). He later became Town Councillor for 11 years. Served in the volunteer rifles for 22 years (Sgt) and was awarded a medal for long & honorable service by the Governor and later managed a wool trading business.

    Francis’s son Leo was my grandmother Patricia Mary Critch’s father. She married my grandfather Adrian Sorensen, who was named after his uncle, Adrian KV Sorensen, who arrived in WA with his parents from Denmark. AVK Sorensen fought with landed at Gallipoli (on the ship as Albert Facey who wrote “A Fortunate Life”). Adrian KV fought the war valiantly for many years, but died in France (He was in “A” Company, 11th Battalion, 3rd Division).

    One of Henry & Sarah Critch’s other decendent’s Sgt. Mary Critch (my grandmother’s cousin), served in New Guinea and many other places in WW2, in the army medical service and she wrote the book “Our Kind of War, The History of the VAD/AAMWS”.

    There’s some more detail about Henry here:

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