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The National Portrait Gallery is calling on family history enthusiasts and amateur historians to help reveal more about the people in Dempsey’s People: A folio of British street portraits from 1824-1844.

Match woman, c.1823 by John Dempsey
Match woman, c.1823 (detail) by John Dempsey

The National Portrait Gallery is calling on family history enthusiasts and amateur historians to help reveal more about Dempsey’s People.

After almost 20 years of research, curator Dr David Hansen has identified 25 of the subjects, but is keen to find more information on the characters in Dempsey’s eclectic folio.

‘The folk in Dempsey’s portraits are from a largely marginalised group in the history of art. They are the urban poor of the early 19th century, representatives of the most numerous class of this country’s early settlers, both convict and immigrant. They are ancestors of many contemporary Anglo-Celtic Australians,’ said Dr Hansen.

‘While we have been able to identify some of the subjects, I am eager to hear from the people of Australia to assist us in filling in gaps in the information we do have, and possibly identifying some of the unknown subjects. If you are interested in becoming a ‘citizen historian’, the portraits are all on display at the Gallery until October, or can be viewed online.’

If you have a family connection to any of the 52 individuals, let us know by sharing your story on social media and tagging @PortraitAu, or send an email to info@npg.gov.au.