Climbing your family’s gum tree – or Moreton Bay Fig


I promised no flag-waving.

I promised no flag-waving.

Earlier this week I posed a geneameme challenge to encourage Aussie bloggers to celebrate Australia Day 2014. It’s been great to see all the responses so far, which I’ll collate and post early next week. Meanwhile here’s my own response to the challenge.Since my roots go deep in Queensland soil, perhaps my family tree should be a Moreton Bay fig.

My first ancestor who arrived in Australia is: Now likely to be Mary O’Brien but previously was the Kent family from Sandon who arrived on the General Hewitt in December 1854,

I have Australian Royalty (tell us who, how many and which Fleet they arrived with): No royalty in my gene pool though Mr Cassmob can claim a couple, one Irish and one English (a Pentonvillean).

I’m an Aussie mongrel, my ancestors came to Oz from: Ireland, England, Scotland and Germany.

Did any of your ancestors arrive under their own financial steam? Not as far as I can determine, unless George Kunkel didn’t swim after all. Otherwise I have assisted and nominated passengers. Mary O’Brien’s fare may have been paid for her, if I have the correct voyage, as she’s not among the assisted immigrants.

The sailing ship Florentia. Image from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and reproduced with permission. Image PW 7704

The sailing ship Florentia. Image from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and reproduced with permission. Image PW 7704

How many ancestors came as singles? Three (George Kunkel, William Partridge and Mary O’Brien, though her sister travelled with her)

How many came as couples? None

How many came as family groups? Six: two Sherry families (a year apart), the Kents (Herts), Gavins (Dublin), Melvins (Leith) and McCorkindales (Glasgow).

Did one person lead the way and others follow? The McCorkindale sons Duncan and Peter arrived in Sydney in 1900 and Peter later moved to Brisbane. Ten years later their mother and siblings arrived in Brisbane. With my O’Brien family there is a typical Irish chain migration with a younger sibling following the older ones, and from one generation to the next (nieces and nephews).

What’s the longest journey they took to get here? Assuming my Mary O’Brien did arrive on the Florentia, then her voyage was the longest at 5.5 months. Somewhat bizarrely in researching this question I’ve discovered that five of my immigrant groups took either 106 or 107 days, even though their arrival years, and decades, were quite different. My five-month old grandfather had the luck of the Irish as his journey only took 49 days in 1884 on the British-India ship, the Almora.

The Almora, 1883. Image from John Oxley Library, SLQ. Negative number: 43560, out of copyright.

The Almora, 1883. Image from John Oxley Library, SLQ. Negative number: 43560, out of copyright.

Did anyone make a two-step emigration via another place? None in my own family tree, unless George Kunkel travelled via the UK or USA. However I’ve seen it in other families I research – immigration records offer great clues to this.

Which state(s)/colony did your ancestors arrive? All my direct ancestors arrived in the Moreton Bay colony, later Queensland.

Did they settle and remain in one state/colony? With one exception they all remained in Queensland. My Melvin great-grandfather moved to Sydney late in life (after the death of his second wife, Emily). He’d been in Queensland for forty odd years.

Image from Wikimedia, under Creative Commons.

Regional map of Queensland. Image from Wikimedia, under Creative Commons.

 Did they stay in one town or move around? My ancestors were a mob of gad-abouts. The railway work would explain a great deal, but even some of the self-employed moved around. Only two families stayed put to any extent: the Kents and Partridges in Ipswich.

Do you have any First Australians in your tree? No

Were any self-employed? Yes, my Kunkels (at times), Melvins and possibly Partridge.

What occupations or industries did your earliest ancestors work in? The railway is my number one industry with merchant seamen in close pursuit.  Stephen Gillespie Melvin had been a merchant seaman and ship’s steward.  He owned confectionery businesses/pastry shops in Ipswich, Charters Towers and Sydney. He also dabbled, unsuccessfully, in mining. George Kunkel tried his hand at running a boarding house and also had a “highly operative sausage machine” in Ipswich, as well as selling meat to the miners at Talloom gold fields. The family later had a farm at Murphys Creek, Qld. William Partridge was a carpenter and a sometime undertaker.

 Does anyone in the family still follow that occupation? I’m the first Kunkel, and the first McSherry, in my direct family line to have no employment with Queensland Rail. There are still a few Kunkels involved in farming. I do wish someone still worked as a confectioner though.

The Aorangi: my SGM sailed on its maiden voyage. Painting by Gregory, C. Dickson . Image from State Library of Victoria http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/182145878

The Aorangi: my SGM sailed on its maiden voyage. Painting by Gregory, C. Dickson . Image from State Library of Victoria http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/182145878

Did any of your ancestors leave Australia and go “home”? None made a permanent return that I know of. My Stephen Melvin made regular trips back to England and Scotland for business and to see the brother who remained there.

NOW IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU

What’s your State of Origin? Queensland. (Yes, I’m a banana bender…go the mighty Maroons!)

Do you still live there? Not for the past 17 years, though we plan to return there in a year or so. I’m a maroon boomerang.

Where was your favourite Aussie holiday place as a child? Magnetic Island off Townsville.

Any special place(s) you like to holiday now? In Australia, Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast, Lennox Heads in NSW or quick trips to Kakadu in the NT.

 Share your favourite spot in Oz: Camping at Hastings Point in northern NSW is one of them…so many choices. Perhaps also the mid-north coast of Western Australia –their beaches are spectacular, which is quite a concession from a Queenslander.

Whale sharks are amazingly huge but gentle creatures. Image from Shutterstock.com

Whale sharks are amazingly huge but gentle creatures. Image from Shutterstock.com

 Any great Aussie adventure you’ve had? Swimming with the whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef.

What’s on your Australian holiday bucket list?  Doing another driving tour of Tassie, and revisiting Uluru and the coast of Western Australia.

How do you celebrate Australia Day? Usually writing an Australia Day challenge response and maybe something casual with family…very unpatriotic.

I thought this post would be quick and easy, but it turned out there was quite a bit to research after all.

A billabong along the way -beautiful reflections

The Top End in the Wet Season.

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15 thoughts on “Climbing your family’s gum tree – or Moreton Bay Fig

  1. A confectioner – mmm! I had one of those but he didn’t do it after coming to Australia – how sad.
    Hastings River – I must put that on my list – looks like a great beach.
    See you in less than 2 weeks!

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  2. Lovely to read your own story Pauline. Beautiful illustrations too. My mother spent most of her retirement years near the Hastings, at Red Hill, above Telegraph Point and in Port Macquarie. I too have many fond memories of the area as an adult.

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    • hi Jenni, I think we have confusion…Hastings Point is not far south of Tweed Heads – I hadn’t realised the potential confusion. Seems like I need to go to Port Macquarie as well.

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    • Whale sharks only eat plankton Kerry….I’m not that brave…or do I mean foolish? Why not add more to your replies if you feel like it. I can’t locate it at present. Did you take it down until you add more?

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    • The Pentonvillean belongs to Mr Cassmob and since that is going to be a retirement project it’s not too progressed. I will send your email to him if that’s okay so he can reply….I try to keep my sticky research fingers out of his future retirement pie :-)

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  3. Pingback: Climbing Your Family’s Gum Tree - Watson / Canet Genealogy

  4. A very enjoyable read. I like the “Maroon Boomerang”. I wonder if American or English will understand that?
    Your photos are always wonderful.

    Happy Australia Day.

    Sharon

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    • Thanks Sharon, sometimes we just have to keep them on their toes…Oh okay! Queensland football colour is maroon, hence the term. When against the Blues (NSW) it’s a tough fought contest.

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  5. Pingback: Australia Day 2014: C’mon Aussie Compilation | Family history across the seas

  6. Pingback: Climbing Your Family’s Gum Tree - Watson/Canet Genealogy Blog

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