Do you have a convict in your family?

Individual convicts can be named in these volumes – this table even gives wives’ maiden names [Convict system, volume 8, page 65 of section on Western Australia]

The State Library is adding new digital content to its website all the time, which means that you can do some of your family history research from home. For instance, if you have a convict or guard in your family, you might be interested in the Convict system. This eight-volume set, housed in our rare book collection, consists of corrrespondence about the convict establishment from the Comptroller General.

Lots of convicts are named, as you can see from the example here, and there is plenty of background information too. For instance, I was able to find out when the government ceased the practice of recouping passage money from convicts – 1857. There is a notice to this effect on page 29 of the same volume.

The easiest way to access this wonderful resource is to type convict system under Title in our catalogue and select State Library Online from the drop-down box. Once you’ve selected a volume, you can browse through the pages by placing your cursor on the edge of a page and clicking. This makes a very satisfying page-turning noise! If you want to search for names, scroll down and select the Download button. This means you can save a searchable PDF version to your PC. The files are fairly large so you may need to be patient.

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: www.slwa.wa.gov.au/whats_on/national_family_history_week
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!