52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: Week 42 – Greatest Genie Achievement


It’s ages since I participated in the 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy by Amy Coffin and hosted by Geneabloggers as I’ve been rather preoccupied with my own 52 weeks Beyond the Internet series.

This morning I read that the topic for Week 42 of Abundant Genealogy is Biggest Genealogy Accomplishment. What do you feel is your biggest genealogy accomplishment? What were the steps you took to get there, and what was the end result?

 My first thoughts turned to an earlier Abundant Genealogy post from Week 7 when I wrote about discovering my Bavarian ancestor’s roots. It was only later that I thought, no that’s not my biggest genealogy accomplishment, even though it was certainly a critical point in my family research.

 MY BIGGEST GENEALOGY ACHIEVEMENT?

The thing I’m most proud of, genealogically, is writing the history of my Kunkel family in Queensland: a pioneering family who, although not important as individuals, participated in important events in our country’s and our state’s achievements and progress. It was the family’s everyday ordinariness that gave me the name of the book: Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel Family.

Thanks to the discovery I mentioned above, and fantastic oral history connections that were uncovered, I was able to include the background story of my Happ-Kunkel families in Bavaria and my O’Brien ancestors from Ballykelly near Broadford in Co Clare, and a little about the other emigrants from Dorfprozelten in Bavaria.

I knew literally nothing about this family when I started out other than the fact Kunkel was plainly a name of German origin, and that my grandfather had several siblings only one or two of whom he had anything to do with. I also knew that he had originally been a Catholic and one of the points of contention had been his marrying a Scots Presbyterian.

 GOING ABOUT IT

My research started in the pre-internet era so I accumulated every snippet of information I could find from as many sources as possible. One day I realised that if I didn’t write up this family story, it would become a major regret.

So what did I do? One of the strange things I did was to decide not to look at other family histories because I didn’t want to pinch their ideas. In retrospect this was fairly silly as there are so many strategies that can be used – you don’t have to recreate the wheel. Instead I launched in, started writing and kept at it, day after day, until the story came together. I was still working full-time so I wrote in the early mornings and late into the evenings.

Sir Cassmob is knighted for services to genealogy.

As I found gaps in the story I chased down more clues, did more research, and phoned more people. I’m proud of all the research, determination and sheer persistence that went into writing up this story, including challenging my reluctance to contact formerly unknown relatives.

Like the Oscars I have to acknowledge that many people helped me along the way with their stories, photos etc, but my greatest debt is to Mr Cassmob, who got a Family Knighthood for Services to Genealogy! I’ve said many times, either the book wouldn’t have been written or I’d have been much thinner.

Sir Cassmob receives his award.

When I first held my “baby” in my hands I was just so thrilled and besotted. Now of course I can see its flaws, mistakes, and things I could have done differently, but even so it was, and remains, an achievement to be proud of.

THE END RESULT

The book was launched by one of my distant O’Brien cousins, who always tells me “oh you’re wonderful” but what she really means is that I’m quite mad to keep doing all this family history. We launched the book in Toowoomba not far from where the family had lived for many years and as far as is known it was the first Kunkel family reunion in close to 100 years.

A mob of Kunkels chatting hammer and tongs.

It was a great day and there was a non-step level of chatter even among people who’d never met before. Many were astonished to discover they had Kunkel ancestry and everyone appreciated learning more of the story. The genealogy chart stretched along the walls and everybody had fun finding their name. Another great thing, retrospectively, is that quite a number of the third generation of Kunkel descendants were able to attend even though in their eighties or nineties Many have now left us so it was a special privilege to have them there. The reunion and all the pleasure people got from it and from the book was definitely the icing on the cake.

My beautiful Alexander Henderson Award was hand-delivered to the GSNT.

The glitter on the cake was winning two awards for the book. I was so proud to be joint-winner of Queensland Family History Society’s annual award with Joyce Philips’s book The Wrights of Tivoli.  And then to my utter astonishment I also won the Alexander Henderson Award from the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies.  I was over the moon with excitement and pride as you might imagine.

It’s very counter-cultural to blow one’s own trumpet, certainly in Australia where there’s an absolute dislike of people who puff themselves up, so it feels very brazen to be telling this story.

There’s something special about knowing you’re leaving a family history for posterity and that you’ve opened up your family’s story to many family members. It’s certainly one of my proudest moments.  So if you’ve been thinking of writing your own family history, give it a go and don’t let the fear stop you. I guarantee you will be so pleased to have provided this inheritance for generations to come.

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17 thoughts on “52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: Week 42 – Greatest Genie Achievement

  1. I am in awe of anyone that writes and publishes a family history. The YEARS of research that go into creating a family history is phenomenal. So well done Pauleen getting your book published, and having a very successful reunion. And to top it receiving awards for it … what a magnificent achievement.

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  2. What a great achievement. Well done and well deserved for all the research and writing hours you would have put into it. I am hoping to put all my Fullerton research into a family history book…I keep saying some day. You’ve inspired me to seriously discipline myself in the writing task, starting in January I think. :-)

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    • Thanks for your comments Aillin. I really believe that it’s worth writing up your family story either in fully published form or even just for the family. Happy to be part of what I call a “cheer squad”…those who believe in what you’re doing and offer positive encouragement. I know about the “one day” idea…I used to think that then realised if the proverbial bus came round the corner I’d be really annoyed I hadn’t done it, so that’s when I put my head down and started writing. Good luck with the project and use the next few months to let the ideas float around in your head.

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    • Thanks Frances. It’s a while ago now so I guess I don’t think about it all that often but I’m very pleased I did it because of its value to the family (the awards really were just the sparkles on the cake). Pauleen

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    • Merron, Hi and thank you. It’s actually a whole lot of fun – you get to go to some surprising and quite often beautiful places, and acquire useful skills such as reading Irish headstones, looking for the former occupant of the empty snakeskin in the Queensland country cemetery, applying back-rubs…absolutely seriously, I wouldn’t have missed it for quids

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  3. I can only echo was has been already said, congratulations Pauleen, writing such a well- recognised and awarded family history is a wonderful achievement. I am in awe of your dedication.

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    • Thank you for your kind words, Merron. I think another word for dedication is madness in this case, or as my cousin says “oh you’re wonderful” when she means I”m quite loopy :-)

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  4. When you finished, did you read the family histories and compare? Or did you do that before you published? Congratulations on writing the book! You are an inspiration to me.

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    • I had a quick look at the time awards came out but unfortunately I wasn’t near the libraries which held the others to read in depth. It’s a good idea for when libraries are closer or on inter-library loan (so many things, so little time). No, I published the book without looking at other examples -not sure that was my brightest idea, but I didn’t want to pinch anyone’s ideas. I’m still happy with it overall though I can see editorial corrections we all missed and some corrections needed with hindsight & further research. Thanks for your kind comments Kristin, I really appreciate your support.

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