Maria Brown and the mystery portrait

Photographs of our Australian colonial ancestors are hard to come by. Painted and sketched portraits are even rarer. Fortunately, one of my ancestors (my maternal grandmothers great-grandmother) was not shy of camera or canvas. Stashed behind an old refrigerator, in my grandparent’s garage, are two portraits that were among items passed down and stored after my Nanna’s passing in 1996. One was identifiable thanks to a thoughtful label written on its reverse; Maria Brown (nee Wheatley). The second picture did not have the same treatment and is yet unidentified…some possibilities are suggested below.


Maria Wheatley was born in Gunning in 1848. Her parents were James Wheatley and Eliza Holgate. Both Maria Wheatley and her husband, John Charles Brown, had well connected families. Maria’s great-uncle was the man who converted John Charles Brown’s uncle to the Methodist church in the locally well-known story of John Wheatley and Old Tom Brown. Maria was married to John Charles Brown at the home of John’s parents, William and Susannah Brown (nee Parris) in Dalton in 1867. According to local tradition the couple then moved to a property they called ‘Fairview’ near Bevendale, in the parish of Preston. The story of Maria and her family is covered in more detail in my previous story: ‘William Brown’s Bible’, (see also the Wheatley family tree). I suspect that the unidentified portrait may be one of several suspects. It may be that of John Charles Brown, albeit at a younger age than the one of his wife Maria. It could be Samuel Brown, who had the pictures in his possession before passing them to my Nanna, however it does strike an overly convincing likeness to the one photo I have of him. Samuel was never married and had no children. Unfortunately I have no photo of John Charles Brown to compare it to. It may be neither of these men, but who, I do not know. Maria Brown and her grandson Samuel (as discussed above) were captured together in the photo below.

Samuel Brown and his Grandmother Maria Brown

If anyone has any suggestions or ideas, please leave a message below, or contact me directly.

Mentioned in this post:
William Brown b.1812 d.1878
Susannah Brown (nee Parris)  b.1814 d.1880
John Charles Brown b.1843 d.1914
Maria Brown (nee Wheatley) b.1848 d.1927
Samuel Brown b.1899 d.1975
John Wheatley b.1792 d.1872
James Wheatley b.1828 d.1899
Eliza Wheatley (nee Holgate) b.1831 d.1898
Thomas Brown (Old Tom) b.1806 d.1871

See Brown and Wheatley family trees for more.


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