Inventive Australians

Charles James Polain, architect of Belmont Park Racecourse and inventor of the starting gate ca. 1890 4395B

Presented as part of National Family History Week 1 – 3 August

Perhaps one of your relatives wrote a musical, a play or book, designed a goldrush brooch, an Australian flag or patented an improvement relating to signal alarms for those brand new mechanical road vehicles!  Many family historians know about or have used the National Archives of Australia’s (NAA) amazing range of Immigration and Defence records to further their research but there is another group of records that will show ancestors in a different light – intellectual property. NAA holds a wonderful selection of copyright, patent, trademark and design records, most of which are described on RecordSearch, the online database. Come along and find out more about these wonderful records. Presented by Marjorie Bly from the National Archives.

Date: Friday – August 3 2012 Time:  11:30 AM – 12:30 PM   For details of all seminars and tours visit our website:

Family Stories – Family Histories

 Presented as part of National Family History Week 1 – 3 August

Charles Brown and familyHow much do we really know abut our family’s background?  Are those family stories really true?  Partly true? Wishful thinking? Here is some background to the three family stories I am going to talk about during my seminar.  Two are about my family and one is about the family of a lady who has given me permission to use the story of her grandmother.  I hope you will enjoy the unravelling of these stories, and find inspiration to start or continue your own family history journey.

FAMILY STORY   1:  My mother’s maiden name is Eyre.   My great-aunt maintained that, while staying with the Eyre family, Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre.  She also told me that we were related to Edward John Eyre, who crossed Australia.  She told us that before she died she would fill in all the details of our family history, and true to her word, she wrote to my mother, setting out what she knew and what she surmised about the family history.  Her brother, my great-uncle, also wrote down his version of the family history.

FAMILY STORY   2:  A lady approached me wanting to enrol for a beginner’s seminar I conduct regularly at the City of Vincent Library and Local History Centre because, in her words, she wanted ‘to find out who my Nanna really was.’  When her grandmother died here in Perth in 1991, she and her mother were asked to provide details of the deceased’s birth, parentage, marriage, offspring etc.  It was in trying to find this information by going through the documents she had left that they realised a number of details just did not add up.  Intrigued,  I said I would do a bit of looking up for her.  And the more I looked the more curious the story got…

FAMILY STORY   3:  My father’s family knew very little about my grandfather, Charles Brown.  He was orphaned at a very early age and grew up in a workhouse.  His memories were few and the details were sketchy.  My uncle had tried to find out more in the early 1980’s, checking up on what little his father had revealed of his life, and personally searching the records.   I took up the challenge some twenty years later, and my book Who are you Charlie Brown?  is the story of the unearthing of his life and family. 

Presented by Wendy Brown, historian.  Date: Wednesday – August 1 2012 Time:  11:00 AM – 12:00 PM   For details of all seminars and tours visit the State Library website:

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!

Family History Week at the State Library

Unidentified family portrait

Unidentified family portrait, example of an ambrotype [069321PD] Do you recognise these people? If so, we’d love to hear from you!

National Family History Week is being celebrated at the State Library from Wednesday 1 August to Friday 3 August. There will be tours, digital scanner training and talks on topics such as getting started with your family history, choosing genealogy software, pensioner guards, research in India, electronic historic newspapers, Ancestry, Findmypast and more. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced family history researcher you are sure to learn something new!
Experienced volunteers from the WA Genealogical Society will also be available each day to help you get started or overcome those brick walls. See our full program and information on how to book at What’s On – National Family History Week.