D visits Ireland, Australia and Bavaria


I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which).

D is for Dublin, Ireland

Dublin airport reindeer welcome.

The first time I visited Dublin it was the end of November in the late 80s and Prancer, Rudloph and mates had already taken up residence at the airport. The shop windows were alive with animated Christmas displays, with families stopping by to admire them.

As we walked around town (don’t ask me where now), the fug of peat smoke hung densely over the city and Gypsy women sat on the footpaths begging, their children at their laps or also begging. In the few short years to my next visit there was no evidence of the peat smoke and the Gypsies had largely been banished. Over the decades since, I’ve visited Dublin a few times and seen it change enormously. Not at its heart because take away the lighting and modern clothes and somehow it’s easy enough to imagine it centuries ago.

I’ve thought that my family history links to Dublin were transient, believing my Gavin family had only been there a short while before emigrating to Australia, even though Denis and Ellen had said they’d married there. It’s only recently that I’ve had my first genealogical sighting of them in Dublin. Tune in tomorrow for an exciting second sighting!  Next visit I’ll have a specific area to look at, even though St Catherine’s church in Meath St has recently been gutted by arson.

National Library of Ireland.

Dublin is manna for heaven for an Irish family historian. One of my first stops is inevitably the National Archives of Ireland in its unprepossessing building. The National Library is as magnificent in its architecture as the NAI is not. Its treasures are equally magnificent and when parish registers were not digitised, and mostly unavailable through the LDS church, it was a requisite port of call to try to pin down those ancestors. Visits to the BDM Registry brought forth certificates and helped my searches. The Land Registry and Register of Deeds was a goldmine in those pre-digitisation days. I remember visiting the first time as they pulled down old (green?) books off the shelves and wondering who on earth this person was who’d taken over the O’Brien family’s farm…I found out later when it all fell into place. In their newer building, years later, with steep research and copying fees, I was able to explore the GV revisions in more detail and see the original maps.

Today many of these records are online as Ireland tries to tempt us “home”. I’m thrilled by this increased openness, but somehow sad to know this rich experience is probably one newer researchers will miss. Still there’ll be far more time for sightseeing in Dublin’s fair city where the girls are so pretty…those hilariously, and vulgarly, named statues, the exquisite Book of Kells and the serried ranks of antiquarian books, Trinity College itself, the bookshops, the Liffey’s bridges…….

D is for Dalby, Australia

There were no roads cutting a swathe through the country, no X marks the spot in the sky. The early pioneers relied on learning their environment and following cuts in the trees along the way...their lives depended on their success.

Dalby was to become the home of Denis and Ellen Gavin, formerly of Dublin and originally from Ballymore Eustace, Kildare (Denis) and Davidstown, Wicklow (Ellen). In those early pioneering days, Dalby was a small town which Denis would first have known when he was (apparently) a carrier or bullock driver from Binbian Downs Station near the Condamine. We more or less followed his route last year while en route from Darwin to Brisbane, and I wondered how on earth a newcomer to this country could have successful navigated the unmarked bush to get to and from his destination. As a carrier he would have been responsible for working with a team of bullocks bringing the wool clip into Ipswich and returning with stores for the property, a seven week round journey.  They were tough survivors, our pioneer ancestors…not just the men but the women and children who waited for them.

After the term of his Denis’s contract, the family apparently moved to Dalby where they lived for some time. My great-grandmother, Julia Gavin later Kunkel, was baptised there by Father McGinty. The family’s eldest daughter, Mary, married there and, dying young, was buried in the Dalby cemetery as was their infant daughter Rosanna Ellen. It’s many years since I’ve had the opportunity to visit Dalby other than in transit but I look forward to exploring more of Dalby, and the Darling Downs over the coming years.

D is for Davidstown, Co Wicklow, Ireland

Taken nearly 20 years ago, this is the parish church of Davidstown, Parish of Donaghmore (I hope my notes are correct on this point). I've learned today that this church had not been built when my Ellen Murphy lived there.

My 2xgreat-grandmother Ellen Gavin, who I’ve mentioned above, was born in Davidstown, County Wicklow. Her husband’s ability to calculate age seemed to fluctuate wildly, and probably deliberately, but I find it difficult to believe he’d just fabricate this as the townland of her birth. Just the same I’ve been unable to find her in the Irish records or registers (she had the unusual surname of Murphy!). Since I’ve no intention of paying over E300 to Wicklow Family History Centre, and as her baptism doesn’t appear in RootsIreland, I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact I’m unlikely ever to know more about her ancestry. (Or perhaps not, more comments to follow).

And just to cause confusion, there’s another townland of Davidstown across the border in Kildare (her husband’s home county).

D is for Dorfprozelten, Bavaria, Germany

Dorfprozelten is a 1000 year old village in Bavaria on one of Germany’s great rivers, the River Main. It’s the birthplace of my George Kunkel (my 2xgreat grandfather) and also another set of emigrants from the village to Australia. You can see more about my research here and here or by clicking on the categories for my blog posts.

The baptismal font in the Catholic parish church of Dorfprozelten.

I’ve been fortunate to visit Dorfprozelten a number of times and it is truly a privilege to do so. Although there have been changes, including the demolition of the inn owned by my 3x great grandmother’s Happ family for centuries, much remains the same. It’s possible to walk down the streets and have a very good sense of what it looked like when George Kunkel lived there. The church is not the same one, as it was replaced in the C19th, but the baptismal font is the one in which he would have been christened. Old photos and local histories reveal the continuity of the village’s community life and I’ve truly felt that I was able to get an insight into his life there, as much as possible 150+ years later.

All photographs from this post were taken by me and are subject to copyright. No copying or reproduction without permission please.

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13 thoughts on “D visits Ireland, Australia and Bavaria

    • Thanks Catherine…I love that my ancestor would have been baptised in the font. It is just gorgeous with the local stone and burnished “lid”.

  1. I really enjoyed this. You so vividly show that there’s no substitute for visiting the places our ancestors came from. Or for seeing original documents – you brought back my own visits to Dublin and the National Library. Happy memories.

  2. I’m loving this travelogue and history month, and only 4 days into April. This is going to be quite a race to the finish — hope you keep tea and cookies, or what ever close at hand as you post away.

  3. Pingback: Second Gavin Sighting in Dublin….Shocked speechless | Family history across the seas

  4. Pingback: L loves Loch Fyne and Loch Awe | Family history across the seas

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