Who Do You Think You Are - Season 8, Episode 7 recap

Jane Turner


Season 8 of the popular family history show Who Do You Think You Are? screened over several weeks during 2016. Here at State Records of South Australia we recapped each episode at the time and highlighted any records in our collection relevant to topics covered. Now on our blog for your reading pleasure are all of our recaps. 

In episode 7 we followed comedian Jane Turner as she hoped to find more information about her father and his family. This would take her from the Western Australian countryside to the demilitarised zone of North and South Korea.

At her mother's house, Jane was introduced (via photograph) to her first ancestor to arrive in Australia. Jane's 3x great grandfather, James Woodward Turner, was a building surveyor from London and arrived in the new colony of Swan River in 1830.

Jane set out across the Nullarbor to explore James' life after arriving in Western Australia as a free settler. Her first stop was Fremantle, to discover more about James Woodward Turner in early shipping records. On the beach where the family first set foot on Australian soil Jane viewed a passenger list recording their arrival. James was 50 at the time, and the family was amongst the first to arrive in the colony. The passenger list gave names of James' family, and then listed his numerous general servants. Questioning James' intentions behind coming to Australia, as he was obviously a wealthy man in England, she learned that emigrants to Western Australia were given the impression that they were moving to a utopia. As the first non-convict British settlement in Australia, Swan River provided an opportunity to for individuals to self-fund their migration and advertisements of sprawling fertile plains and a favourable climate provided incentives for these investments.

At the State Library of Western Australia, Jane found that James Woodward Turner had created his own survival guide, a "settlers handbook" noting all he would need to survive in the new colony. As it turned out, after his arrival James missed out on selecting favourable farm lands in Perth and took his family to establish what is now the town of Augusta, to the south of Perth on the Blackwood River. Jane travelled to Augusta and met with a distant cousin to find more information about James and his time in this part of the colony. Beginning at the Turner Caravan Park, Jane toured the town and the Turner landmarks including the remains of her ancestor's house. She found that James did not find success in Augusta as the soil was not suitable for farming and the shipping trade down the Blackwood River did not eventuate. Two other families that had settled with the Turners in Augusta eventually abandoned the settlement. James contacted the British Colonial Office to ask for assistance in reviving the settlement, but this was not given to him.

In 1849 with most of his fortune gone and his children moving away, James relocated to Perth. James had not achieved the material success he dreamed of before arriving in Australia. However, through the land sale documents of the Augusta property, Jane found that James was able to improve his family's social status in Australia and late in life was afforded the title of Gentleman.

While in Augusta, Jane met with traditional custodian and Wadandi elder Wayne Webb, who welcomed her to the country and told her of the conflict between their ancestors. In 1839 three Aboriginal men were charged with stealing potatoes from the Turner farm. Being pursued by the British military in the area, one of the men was shot and killed as he tried to flee the arrest. This event was one of many that show the grave consequences of colonisation and opposing views of land ownership.

Leaving Western Australia and James Woodward Turner, Jane was keen to find more information about her father, Avenal Richard "Dick" Turner. As a young man Dick had been a pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force's 77th squadron, occupying Japan after World War II and then serving in the Korean War. Jane met with her brother at the National Archives of Australia in Canberra to view their father's service records. Learning that her father trained in Temora, Jane visited the base to discuss his time in the Air Force with RAAF Veteran Pilot Milton Cottee who lived and flew with Dick Turner.

Jane travelled to South Korea, to learn more about the Korean War, where 17,000 Australians served and more than 1500 were killed, captured or wounded. The 77th squadron was the first Australian military unit deployed in the Korean War in July 1950. Dick Turner served two tours of duty in the conflict, flying Mustangs that are now on display at the War Memorial in Seoul. Jane learned of the activities undertaken by her father and the other pilots of the 77th squadron at the War Memorial, and also within the Korean Demilitarised Zone. One particularly harrowing incident involving a fellow pilot, Gordon Harvey, who disappeared. Dick ws then involved in an attempted rescue expedition. The pilot had been captured and was released after the armistice in 1953.

If you are researching an ancestor in colonial South Australia, we may hold some records similar to those Jane has viewed.

  • State Records holds passenger lists for assisted passengers from colonisation in 1836 to 1940 (though not all lists have survived). Our immigration fact sheet can provide some useful information about records and indexes we hold.
  • State Records holds a number of records relating to early purchases of land within the Government Agency GRG35 Lands Department.
  • Correspondence between early colonists and the South Australian Government may be held within the Colonial Secretary's Office (CSO) correspondence where a number of indexes available on our website may assit with your research.

If you’re just beginning your family history journey, it’s also worth checking out our webpage on Family History Research at State Records.

If you would like some more information on the above records or have a question about how our collection can help you with your family history research then you can send us an enquiry.

More WDYTYA Season 8 recaps can be found on the State Records blog.

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