On who I am: the story of my genes


The other night as I lay in bed, unable to sleep, I was reflecting on how much our name defines us. One thought led to another as my mind followed the genetic path of my ancestry: each family, their names, occupations and religious affiliations. Their successes and failures, what made each generation unique.

I may have carried the Cass name for many decades, since I was a young adult, but I am not a Cass in my bones and nor will I ever be. My own inheritance is different and is not to be denied.  I’ve tried to capture that essence here.

Generations of Kunkels
Bavarian and Queenslander
From Laufach and Dorfprozelten
To Ipswich and the Fifteen Mile
Innkeepers and pork butchers
Railway workers and farmers
Multi-cultural marriage
Queensland pioneer.

O’Briens from eastern County Clare
Townlands of Ballykelly and Killaderry
Famine survivors and emigrants to the
Faraway land Down Under
Ipswich and Murphys Creek
Farmer, wife and mother
Strong women
Keepers of the Faith.

Elusive Gavins
From Ballymore, Kildare and Dublin’s slums
Bullock driver in Queensland’s west to
Dalby, Toowoomba and Crows Nest
Gardener in Queensland’s garden town
Grandparents to war heroes
Garrulous yet obscure
Catholic to the core.

Centuries of Kents
Through the villages of Hertfordshire
Publicans, farmers, and labourers
Anglican workers in Sandon
Methodist despite the pubs
Emigration as a family
To Pre-Separation Queensland
Their Ipswich lives hidden by time.

One solitary Partridge
Founder of a large Aussie family
Born London but from the Forest of Dean
Groomsman, carpenter and builder
Worker of colonial timbers
Occasional undertaker or publican
But regularly insolvent
Pre-Separation pioneer of Ipswich.

Hibernian Sherrys of unknown counties
Sherry, McSharry or McSherry
To Tullamore, Wicklow and Wexford
Builders of railways in Ireland and in Queensland
Tracks follow their family lines
Through the furthest reaches of their new home
Yet ever loyal to an independent Ireland
Queensland Hibernians.

Melvins from the docks of Leith
Generations of seamen
Dollops of confectioners
Entrepreneurs and businessmen
International travellers
Proud Scots, Presbyterian and Methodist
Ipswich, ChartersTowers, and Sydney
Back in the soil of England.

McCorquodale or McCorkindale
Embedded in Argyll but displaced to Glasgow
Emigration of the family to Brisbane Queensland
One son a builder of Canberra
Pipers and highland dancers
Caledonian festivals
Judging or scooping the prizes
Proud Scots through and through.

The female line through my genes
The Sims at Backrow, Bothkennar
Fisherman Callaghans in Wexford
Murphys from Davidstown, Wicklow
A railway line of Sherrys
Farmer Furlongs from Tullamore
North Shields merchant seaman Gilhespy
The Reeds, miners in Northumberland and Durham.

Each and every one of these genetic lines has contributed to who I am. As I look at these photos it’s easy to see why I am tall: George Kunkel, the McSherrys, Mary Callaghan McSherry and William Partridge.

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16 thoughts on “On who I am: the story of my genes

      • The connections between our ancestors and ourselves is one of the things that’s really struck me since I’ve started researching my family. I have been pestering any and every living relative for photographs and old documents, and, because I’m such a visual person, have begun to use these images in a series of collages where I’m trying to understand and illustrate the connections. As you know, when you start to build up information about people, there are so many connections and almost parallel stories. I found that both my husband and I had great uncles who died, unmarried and childless, in war, leaving behind mothers who we’d already lost husbands. While there are quite a few differences in their stories, I felt the central theme of a mother’s loss.
        Thanks again; I enjoy your blog.
        Su

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      • hi Su, thanks for commenting. I’m impressed at how you’ve been chasing down all the stories, images and docs….glad people are cooperating. I like the idea of them as collages with connections. The thing I notice with my own family is how so many of them must either have known each other, or tripped over each other, in south east Queensland in the pioneering days. I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog. Pauleen

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  1. I really love the way you have identified your family links… though it encompasses so much research, it looks simple enough that we can all understand it a glance. Great idea, as usual…
    I also identify with remaining who you were at birth, we carry the ‘new’ name perhaps, but not the soul.

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  2. A fascinating post – the thought and execution. I liked the way you gave a succinct summary of each line and the traits they bestowed on your inheritance – backed up by the photographs. How wonderful to have them all. My favourite the Sim mother and sisters. What struck me about the Melvins was the man got the chair and his wife had to stand! We share an interest in the mariners of Leith and miners of Northumberland and Durham,. Your post made me want to find out more. What a marvellous fund of blogging posts.

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    • Thanks Susan for your kind comments. Yes we do share similar ancestral backgrounds. My NBL lot were in North Shields (mariners but previously weavers), her parents, the Reeds were miners back and forth across the Tyne. I think she was standing because she may have been taller than he was – same situation with their wedding photo as well…..he wasn’t very tall. I too love the Sim/McCorkindale photo – my Grandma is the tall girl on the left.

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