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.

Fearless Females #10 Religion: Catholic branches in my ancestry.

Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month #10: What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?

Religion played a pivotal role in my family and that of many of my ancestors. Unfortunately sometimes it was a divisive influence in situations where there were mixed marriages (Catholic+Other), or where adult “children” left the church causing separation from siblings or parents. As my family history research has taught me more about my families’ long term religious affiliations, I’ve often found it ironic that my “Catholic branch” actually has a mixed Methodist/Baptist and Catholic ancestry while my nominally “non-Catholic branch” was Catholic through-and-through for generations. Life’s little paradoxes.

The old decommissioned church from Murphys Creek now on a rural block at Upper Laidley. Photo copyright P Cass 2011.

I’ll talk a little about the Catholic branches of my family as I’ve found out more about them, and have a better understanding myself. In the early days of Queensland there were no churches and much depended on gaining the support of the community, Catholic and non-Catholic, to build new churches for the community. My family members were among those who subscribedto these collections to ensure that they could practice their faith in a place of worship. Before churches were built however, they were also said to be among those who had the Mass celebrated in their own home. This oral history was known in Ireland, even 150 years later, which is quite astonishing.

I wonder if they tired of funding one church after the other, as they moved to progressively more rural areas. Thanks to the local historian I learned that the little Catholic church which was built at Murphys Creek (no doubt with the aid of money from the Kunkels), is now a home library on a private block of land not too far away. While there’s quite a lot in the papers about its consecration at the time, I’ve not found a subscription list.

.

Consecration of the family to the Sacred Heart: this would have hung in the farmhouse owned by the original Australian Kunkel family.

Father Dunne (later Bishop), who is known to have said Mass in bush homes around Toowoomba where my Kunkel ancestors lived, believed firmly that “in every country, and in every age, the farming districts were the chief abode of Faith, the choicest dwelling place of virtue”. He knew those agricultural areas around Toowoomba “to be studded over with pure and beautiful homes, as is heaven studded over with its silvery stars. In those homes the parents teach their children goodness, and the children repay by their innocence the parent’s care a hundredfold”.[1] I like this quote and the imagery it provides of parents bringing up their children in faith despite their distance from regular worship. Nonetheless I suspect Dunne was also prone to romanticising the rural lifestyle, glossing over the level of sheer hard work involved.

Catholic homes and families would be blessed and dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Very recently I’ve been given one of these Consecration “posters” which hung in my Kunkel ancestors’ first home, possibly when it was rededicated after my 2xgreat grandmother’s death.

Although I have no firm evidence for my view, I believe that it was probably my women ancestors who ensured the faith was carried forward, by teaching the children their prayers and taking them along to Mass when it was held. In those early pioneering days Mass was far from a weekly event but when the priest arrived on horseback, the faithful would gather together to celebrate: shepherds, stockmen, railway workers, wives and children.

My Catholic ancestry includes the following names: Kunkel, O’Brien, Gavin, McSherry/Sherry/McSharry.

My Methodist and Presybterian families remain under-researched, waiting for me to have discretionary time to follow them up in Queensland. One day!

My non-Catholic families are Melvin, Partridge, McCorkindale, Kent.

——

[1] Published in the Catholic newspaper of the time, The Australian, 1 March 1884.

Fearless Females: The tragic stories of Julia Kunkel and Janet Melvin

Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month. March 11 — Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how this affected the family?

There are two tragic deaths of young women in my family tree. One was my maternal great-grandfather’s first wife, Janet Melvin nee Peterkin and the other my paternal great-grandmother, Julia Celia Kunkel nee Gavin.

Janet Melvin nee Peterkin

Janet Melvin’s story is a truly tragic one. Last Friday, 2nd March 2012, was the 135th anniversary of her death. Janet set sail for Australia from London on the Woodlark in October 1876. With her were her husband Stephen and infant son Lawrence, aged 4 months.

The family were all when the ship arrived in Moreton Bay in January 1877, but not long after Janet fell ill. She died on 2 March 1877 at Peel Island, in quarantine. I feel so sad when I think of her courage in making this voyage then knowing she would leave her infant son motherless. I was consoled that her husband and son were still with her on Peel Island when she died, and she wasn’t entirely alone. Janet had just turned 22.

Janet’s son Lawrence survived this early tragedy but I’m told his father tended to favour him above his other children – hardly surprising under the circumstances. My family descends from Stephen’s second wife Emily nee Partridge.

Julia Kunkel nee Gavin

Julia Kunkel saw more of life perhaps than young Janet but she also died young, at only 42, in what I feel was a particularly gruesome way. This was her obituary:

OBITUARY: Darling Downs Gazette 21 November 1901

We sincerely regret to have to record the death of Mrs George Kunkel, wife of the respected railway ganger of Geham, and daughter of Mr Denis Gavan (sic), of this town. The deceased was born in Dalby and was 42 years of age, and leaves a husband and 10 children to mourn the loss of a good wife and mother. Deceased, who had been ailing for some time, came in about a week ago to consult Dr McDonnell, who found her to be suffering from a serious internal disorder and at once pronounced the case to be hopeless. On account of the weak state of her heart, the doctors could not administer chloroform and had to perform an operation without its aid. Although the operation was a success, the patient’s constitution was too weak to make the recovery and she gradually sank and expired at 3.45 on Wednesday morning. The husband is at present also in a poor state of health.  Deceased throughout her life has been a particularly devout adherent of the Roman Catholic Church.  The deepest sympathy is felt for the bereaved husband and children in their terrible loss. The funeral leaves Mr D Gavin’s residence off Seaton St at 2 o’clock this afternoon.

Each time I read this I am horrified anew at the prospect of her being operated on without anaesthetic because she had a weak heart. Her husband died only five weeks later on Christmas Day 1901 leaving their children orphaned.

The impact on the family was significant because while some were old enough to be self-sufficient, they took on some responsibility for the younger ones. Over the years the siblings became alienated for different reasons and the younger ones in particular seemed to suffer the loss of their parents the most. I often wonder if my grandfather’s marriage at a rather late age wasn’t influenced by seeing what happened to his mother.

Julia Kunkel was laid to rest with her mother in the Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery on 21 November 1901. The full story of Julia and George Michael Kunkel is told in Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel family.

Tomorrow I’ll be visiting her grave site, so the timing of this post is particularly apt. One of my family history “bucket list” items is to put a grave stone on her grave which she shares with her mother and a friend.

Guess who’s coming to dinner…my ancestors.

Julie over on Angler’s Rest totally inspired me to write this post in her story for NaBloPoMo on Relatives. Thanks Julie for the inspiration!

I’d love to welcome my earliest Australian ancestors to an early evening dinner party so I could get to meet them as real people. I think it would have to be a typical outdoor event, under the shade of a spreading Banyan tree or a Moreton Bay fig so everyone felt at home. We’d have long tables and folding chairs. I’d buy some brightly-coloured melamine plates and drinking glasses to match pretty place mats and napkins (of course).  Hurricane lamps with lightly scented candles would light the tables so the mood was familiar and cosy, and I’d hang some lamps from the trees.

To welcome everyone we’d have a good malt beer to honour my Kent family who were Hertfordshire publicans…before they became Methodists…and some spring water for those who were traditionally abstemious. Thinking on my maternal 2x great grandfather, William Partridge from Coleford, I think we’d need a good Gloucester cheese to go with the beer.

We would have to serve roast pork in honour of my Bavarian 2 x great grandfather, George Kunkel, who was a pork butcher. Instead of slaving over a hot oven in the kitchen we’d cook the pork in our Weber Q – would that seem familiar to them or somewhat wondrous? George also made his own wine and so we’d drink a white wine similar to that traditional in his birthplace…and again that spring water.

The pork would be accompanied by crispy roast tatties for my Irish ancestors, Mary O’Brien Kunkel and the Gavin and (Mc)Sherry families, and, come to that, my Highlanders, the McCorkindales. We might even introduce them to multi-cultural 21st century Australia with an Asian-inspired salad as an accompaniment.

While we ate we’d play some Scottish reels and Irish fiddle music to cross the cultural borders of my ancestry. How much nicer it would be to have a real fiddler play rather than a 21st century i-touch and if our feet wouldn’t stop tapping, we’d dance a quick reel in the twilight. There are so many questions I’d love to ask my ancestral visitors about their lives…another reason to keep that wine and beer flowing. I think they’ll be glad to escape by the end of the night!

McCorkindale brothers informal jam session. Gift of a family member c1988.

Dessert would certainly have to be spectacular to impress my pastry chef ancestor, Stephen Gillespie Melvin, with perhaps a real Aussie pavlova (great pic) decorated with King Island cream and superb fruits like passionfruit, mango, kiwi fruit and fresh summer berries. Maybe we could even buy some delicious Haig’s hand-made chocolates to see if they match SGM’s standards…I’m realistic here, I couldn’t make them myself.

As this wonderful inter-temporal gathering came to a close, I would ask one of my McCorkindale great-uncles to play Auld Lang Syne on the pipes, and with a wee dram, toast the courage of these ancestors who came to Australia. I’ve nary a doubt I’d share more than a few tears as I farewelled my guests who’d visited all too briefly.

I raise my glass to all my Aussie immigrants: George Kunkel and Mary O’Brien, Denis and Ellen Gavin, Annie Sim McCorkindale and her adult daughter Catherine, Peter and Mary McSherry/Sherry and their son James Joseph, Stephen Melvin and later his mother Margaret Gillespie Melvin/Ward/Wheaton, James and Bridget McSharry/Sherry, Richard and Mary Kent and their adult daughter Hannah and her future husband William Partridge.

52 weeks of Abundant Genealogy: Week 3: Celebrate the generosity of free websites

This week’s questions are gifts in themselves. I have two sites that I routinely sing the praises of, one international and one for regional Australia, and one that I think deserves to be better known.

Ennis has delightful narrow streets. This image is from Wikipedia. Unfortunately I've now discovered my Ennis photos have gone AWOL.

Clare County Library is my all time favourite resource for free family history and Clare history, aided and abetted by CLASP (Clare Local Studies Project). In the real world you will find them in Ennis, County Clare where the Local Studies Centre is a treasure trove. The good people there have been leaders in the field of promoting the county’s history at a personal, regional and international level for many years. While the rest of Ireland languished in a “what can we get from you” mindset, Clare Library was generously sharing its information and harnessing the enthusiastic energies of volunteers around the world. Careful scrutiny of transcriptions have ensured their indexes are reliable. The townland and parish indexes are particularly helpful.  The value of the site is really only fully appreciated when you go to look up something in another county only to find blank walls or minimal information. I can’t thank them enough or praise them highly enough! If you have Clare ancestry you just don’t know how lucky you will be with this site.

Drayton & Toowoomba Cemetery

Closer to home, my much-used Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery grave search, hosted by Toowoomba Regional Council, is my top contender. I couldn’t have done without it when writing my Kunkel family history or in researching “my” Dorfprozelten emigrants or other Darling Downs ancestors. It not only tells you who is buried there with their grave location, but also gives you a death date and tells you how old they were as well as who is buried in the same grave revealing further, sometimes unanticipated, links (like the stray Gavin buried with my female Gavin ancestors). Other councils have followed suit and offer similar services, but like the Clare County Library they get the honours for being truly innovative as well as tremendously useful.

Another site I use less regularly but which deserves to be better known is one which is dedicated to photographing gravestones in cemeteries in South-East Queensland. This is a personal rather than an organisational website and again was among the leaders in this type of activity. If you have ancestry in South East Queensland, do have a look at what they have to offer.

The abundance of free sites available to us as family historians is quite remarkable and is truly something to be grateful for.

Surname Saturday meme: Names, Places and Most Wanted Faces

Geneabloggers set this Surname Saturday meme last Saturday but with family commitments last weekend and coming in late, I decided to wait until this week.  This meme is a revival of an old topic by Craig Manson of Geneablogie.

How The Meme Works
To participate, do the following at your own blog and post a link back here in the comments:

1. List your surnames in alphabetical order as follows: [SURNAME]: State (county/subdivision), date range

2. At the end, list your Most Wanted Ancestor with details!

3. Post your comment at Thomas MacEntee’s blog, giving your link.

I jumped the gun with my Most Wanted as I wanted James Sherry to have prominence.

So here is my list of surnames, places of origin, places of immigration/residence at the great-great-grandparent level. I’ve also included some sibling families that I’m keen to link in. This meme has helped me to highlight some lines I need to do some more work on, like my Callaghan line from near Gorey, Wexford (Peter Callaghan was a fisherman when his daughter married).

I’ve decided to colour code the countries of origin so they stand out. I’ve also listed the names of the Dorfprozelten immigrants to Australia whom I also research.

CALLAGHAN: Ireland (Wexford, Gorey) c1860-1882, Australia (Queensland, Rockhampton, Longreach, Townsville) 1882-1950.

CAMPEngland (Hertfordshire, Sandon c1795 – 1854), Australia (Queensland, Ipswich 1854-1870)

FURLONG: Ireland (Offally/King’s, Tullamore c1840-) Australia (Queensland, Rockhampton, Maryborough) 1882-

GAVIN: Ireland (Kildare, Ballymore)(Dublin, Dublin) c1830-1854; Australia (Queensland, Darling Downs) 1855-present

GILHESPY/GILLESPIE: England (Northumberland, North Shields) c1800-c1850, Scotland (Midlothian, Leith) 1850-.

KENT: England (Hertfordshire, Sandon) 1650-1854; Australia (Queensland, Ipswich) 1854-present

KUNKEL: Germany (Bavaria, Dorfprozelten and Laufach) 1600s-c1855; Australia (Queensland, Ipswich and Murphys Creek) c1855-present

McCORKINDALE: Scotland (Argyll, Loch Fyne and Loch Awe) 1790s-1889 (Lanarkshire, Glasgow) c1860-1910, Australia (Queensland, Brisbane) 1910-present

McCORQUODALE: Scotland (Argyll, Loch Fyne and Loch Awe) 1790s-1870 (England, Gloucestershire) c1870-1883,  Australia (New South Wales) 1883-present

McSHARRY: (Also see SHERRY in Ireland) Australia (Queensland: Maryborough, Rockhampton) 1882-present

McSHERRY: (Also see SHERRY in Ireland) Australia (North & Western Queensland: Rockhampton, Longreach,Townsville, Brisbane) 1883-present

MELVIN: Scotland (Midlothian, Leith) 1790s-1877; Australia (Queensland, Ipswich and Charters Towers) 1877-1914, (New South Wales, Sydney) c1914-present

MORRISON: Scotland (Argyll, Strachur) 1700s-

MURPHYIreland (Wicklow, Davidstown) c1830-c1850; Australia (Queensland, Darling Downs) 1854-1896.

O’BRIEN: Ireland (Clare, Broadford) c1830-c1855, Australia (Queensland, Ipswich and Murphy’s Creek) c1855-1919

PARTRIDGE: England (Gloucestershire, Coleford) c1834-1854+; Australia (Queensland) 1855-present

REDDAN: Ireland (Clare, Broadford) c1830-1880s

SHERRY: Ireland (Offaly, Tullamore)(Wicklow, Arklow)(Wexford, Gorey) 1857-1882.

SIM: Scotland (Stirling, Bothkennar) c1700-c1900

WIDDUP: England (Yorkshire pre-1855), Australia (New South Wales 1856-present)

WOOD: Scotland (Stirling pre-1850)

PART 2: See my MOST WANTED post here.

DORFPROZELTEN, BAVARIA

I also research the immigrants to Australia from Dorfprozelten, Bavaria. This list needs some updating. The original immigrant families are in capitals with their descendant families following and their place of settlement behind the immigrant surname (Qld=Queensland/Moreton Bay) and (NSW = New South Wales):

BILZ (Qld, Brisbane), Coe, Morse

DIFLO (Qld, Toowoomba), Muhling, Ott, Erbacher

DIFLO (Qld, Ipswich, Rockhampton), Nevison

DÜMMIG, (Qld, Darling Downs, Brisbane Valley, Ipswich) Dimmock

GÜNZER (Qld, Gowrie Junction, Murphys Creek), GANZER, Volp, Hock, Gollogly, Bodman, O’Sullivan

HENNIG (NSW, Dungog), HENNY, Courts, Robson, Paf, Middlebrook

HOCK (Qld, Gowrie/ Meringandan)

KAÜFLEIN, (NSW Cooma, Monaro, Hunter Valley) Kaufline, Afflick, Agnew, Engelmann, Foran, Goodwin, Lawless, Murrell, O’Keefe, Worland

LÖHR (Qld)

KREBS (NSW Sydney) Würsthof, Wistof, Ambrosoli, Miller

KUHN (NSW, Sydney) Brigden, Rose, Miller

KIRCHGESSNER (NSW)

KUNKEL (Qld, Murphys Creek) O’Brien, Paterson, Connors, Lee

NEBAUER (NSW, Lithgow)

NEUBECK (NSW, Hunter Valley)

SEUS (NSW)

WÖRNER (Qld, Darling Downs)

ZÖLLER (Qld, Darling Downs), Schulmeier, Brannigan/Branniger, McQuillan, O’Brien

ZÖLLER (NSW, Sydney).

First sighting of my elusive Gavin family in Dublin, Ireland…alleluia!

For years I’ve been trying to locate something, anything about one of my families while they were still in Ireland. Despite evidence on their shipping records, their death certificates, obituaries etc, the Irish lives of Denis Gavin and his wife Ellen nee Murphy have remained elusive. The daughter who arrived with them on the Fortune in December 1855, was Mary, aged 2, born in Dublin. The parents were said to have married in Dublin, and Denis was supposedly born in Ballymore, Co Kildare and Ellen in Davidstown, Co Wicklow. Research into these has so far been unproductive despite visiting both places.

In October 2011 the Irish Department of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht released new Dublin church records on its wonderful site, Irish Genealogy. Ever optimistic I gave the new records a chance with my Gavin-Murphy search. It’s a little fiddly compared with many of the sites we typically use, but well worth persevering….and it’s FREE!

Imagine my astonishment and delight to find a baptism of a daughter, Mary, to this couple at St Catherine’s Church in Dublin on 5 December 1851. This is the first sighting of this family in Ireland so a cause for great celebration. It’s clear this child cannot be the one who arrived with them in 1855 despite having the same name as it would be difficult to claim a four year old as a two year old. So it’s likely this child was one of their children who died young.

Extract from the St Catherine's registers which show Mary Gavin's baptism from the IrishGenealogy site.

Research indicates that the church in which Mary was baptised is the Roman Catholic church of St Catherine of Alexandria in Meath St, Dublin. This blogtalks a little about its architecture and provides some images. This Irish Ancestors link also provides some information on the parish in general.

This may be a small step in my search to trace the Gavin-Murphy family back to their Irish roots but as we all know, each little chink in the armour leads us on. The progressive digitisation of records is invaluable in the search for missing ancestors in a city as large as Dublin.

The Ancestors’ Geneameme challenge from Geniaus

Geniaus has set us another challenge with The Ancestors’ Geneameme. This is my response to the challenge.

The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type
You are encouraged to add extra comments in brackets after each item

Which of these apply to you?

  1. Can name my 16 great-great-grandparents
  2. Can name over 50 direct ancestors
  3. Have photographs or portraits of my 8 great-grandparents
  4. Have an ancestor who was married more than three times
  5. Have an ancestor who was a bigamist (he wasn’t but his 4th wife was)
  6. Met all four of my grandparents ( I was lucky enough to have three of them into my teens or beyond.)
  7. Met one or more of my great-grandparents (all pre-deceased my arrival)
  8. Named a child after an ancestor (coincidentally though I knew it was similar)
  9. Bear an ancestor’s given name/s (not having an ancestral name was apparently intentional –ironically I’ve always felt like a Kate, a recurring family name on all sides: too late to bother changing it now)
  10. Have an ancestor from Great Britain or Ireland (all branches except my German one).
  11. Have an ancestor from Asia
  12.  Have an ancestor from Continental Europe (George Kunkel always said he was from Bavaria, not Germany)
  13. Have an ancestor from Africa
  14. Have an ancestor who was an agricultural labourer
  15. Have an ancestor who had large land holdings (a few with centuries of property either leased or owned but not large land holdings)
  16. Have an ancestor who was a holy man – minister, priest, rabbi (with all those Catholics, no direct ancestors, and none in the Protestant denominations either that I’ve found though lots in one family serving as churchwardens, overseers of the poor etc)
  17. Have an ancestor who was a midwife
  18. Have an ancestor who was an author (oh, how I wish)
  19. Have an ancestor with the surname Smith, Murphy or Jones (but try googling Partridge or Kent)
  20. Have an ancestor with the surname Wong, Kim, Suzuki or Ng
  21. Have an ancestor with a surname beginning with X
  22. Have an ancestor with a forename beginnining with Z
  23. Have an ancestor born/died on 25th December (my great-grandfather died on Xmas Day, six weeks after his wife died. They left a large family orphaned ranging from 21 to 2)
  24. Have an ancestor born on New Year’s Day (not a direct ancestor, but a few siblings)
  25. Have blue blood in your family lines (blue babies with Rh- blood, but no blue-blood royalty)
  26. Have a parent who was born in a country different from my country of birth
  27. Have a grandparent who was born in a country different from my country of birth (two: Scots Presbyterian on one side and Irish Catholic on the other)
  28. Can trace a direct family line back to the eighteenth century
  29. Can trace a direct family line back to the seventeenth century or earlier
  30. Have seen copies of the signatures of some of my great-grandparents
  31. Have ancestors who signed their marriage certificate with an X
  32. Have a grandparent or earlier ancestor who went to university (no, mine is the first university-educated generation as far as I know)
  33. Have an ancestor who was convicted of a criminal offence (he and a few others went to jail over perjury but released soon after appeals to the Qld Executive in relation to the court case)
  34. Have an ancestor who was a victim of crime (only minor events: one ancestor had his chickens stolen, as he was a butcher this would have been a hassle, another had his horse stolen. However one was a witness to an event in one of Qld’s first court cases which gave me new evidence on his own life.)
  35. Have shared an ancestor’s story online or in a magazine (I use my blog to tell some of my ancestor’s stories, have had the story of my great-grandmother’s rather gruesome death published in GSNT’s Progenitor magazine, and published a large number of short family histories as part of the Q150 projects with QFHS’s Founding Families, GSQ’s Queensland Pioneer Families 1859-1901 and Muster Roll, and TDDFHS’s Our Backyard, Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery.)
  36. Have published a family history online or in print (Grassroots Queenslanders: The Kunkel Family tells the story of the Kunkel family from Dorfprozelten, Bavaria and the O’Brien family from Ballykelly, Broadford, Co Clare, Ireland. It was published in 2003. Time for another?)
  37. Have visited an ancestor’s home from the 19th or earlier centuries: I’ve lacked the courage to door-knock current owners of most family homes overseas while in situ but we have stood on the land and among the house ruins where ancestors lived in Ireland, Scotland and Bavaria. Writing in advance to visit the surviving homes is on my courage wish list: one in Hertfordshire, one in Stirlingshire. And whoops, I forgot my Kunkel ancestor’s house in Australia which dates from the 1870s and which I have visited.
  38. Still have an ancestor’s home from the 19th or earlier centuries in the family
  39. Have a family bible from the 19th Century (I know one exists but no idea where it went to before my grandmother died).
  40. Have a pre-19th century family bible (again I could wish, and wish)


The Irish population haemorrhage: mapping 160 years of data

Alerted by tweets from @IrishWattle @CaroleRiley and @QueenslandFHS, I investigated the link they’d provided for 160 years of Irish population data. The National Centre for Geocomputation’s (NCG) Online Atlas Portal is an absolute goldmine for family historians with ancestry in Ireland. There are two options: mapping and data relating to 2002 together with a timeline chart for population changes across the decades, and the other relating specifically to the impact of the Famine comparing census data from 1841 to 1851. Both are invaluable tools for your background research.

Kilseily parish % population loss 1841 to 1851 from NCG website listed. Kilseily is in orange and the bar on the bottom right indicates it had a severe loss of people.

The population loss from Kilseily parish 1841-1851 from the NCG website listed.

Over the years I’ve read widely on the Famine, and crunched raw census numbers for my parishes of interest, primarily Kilseily and Killokennedy in East Clare. In my paper at Shamrock in the Bush 2009 I referred to the haemorrhaging of the people, a description which seems melodramatic but which is reaffirmed by the census data. Despite knowing the my ancestor’s townland suffered a massive 47.24% loss of population between 1841 and 1851, seeing the long-term impact on the 2002 graphs  is still heart-wrenching. In 2002, Kilseily had only just (by 14 people) regained the population it had in 1926, with a very long way to go to reach earlier population numbers.

When you’re reviewing the maps etc, don’t forget to use the “select indicator” button near the top left of the page as this lets you change the parameters which are being mapped to review such things as 1841 and 1851 population as well as the changes, acreage under potatoes and housing. For example it reveals that in 1841 Kilseily had 475 inhabited houses and 9 uninhabited. By 1851 there were only 258 inhabited houses and 13 uninhabited: the parish had lost 44% of its housing, presumably “thrown down” with the departure and death of the inhabitants.

It is easy to regard all this as simply mind-boggling numbers, but imagine for a minute you are in a large meeting hall with some 3000 odd people, many of whom are kin or close neighbours, people well known to you. Then in a magic-wand moment, every second person leaves the room, never to be seen again. Bewildered, you leave the meeting hall, only to discover that virtually every other building had also disappeared and the built landscape is changed forever. Your mind and emotions would be reeling I imagine. How the Irish who remained, and those who fled the country in desperation, ever coped with this sense of grievous loss is a mystery. My father had a saying which he repeated regularly over the years: “they left their country for their country’s good”. I confess I would mentally eye-roll and think it was not only melodramatic but irrelevant. It was only last night that it occurred to me that this sentiment may have been passed down as an historical “memory” of the need to leave Ireland because of the post-Famine impact on families: three of his great-grandparents left Ireland for Australia in the early 1850s.[i] In my mother’s Irish ancestry, less can be found on their pre-Famine origins but these great-grandparents of hers also survived the Famine though they did not emigrate until the 1880s.

In my JSTOR reading yesterday I came across a journal article by Sharon O’Brien called “Remembering Skibbereen”, based on her memoir “ The Family Silver”.  Her belief is that these silenced memories of Famine deprivation, hunger, family loss, and the precariousness of housing and land, remain sub-consciously with descendants to this day, sometimes manifesting in depression or bewildering family behaviour patterns.  If there is any validity to this hypothesis imagine the impact of this experience on Biddy Gollagher, Irish Famine Orphan, about whom I recently posted a story.

"Mapping the Great Irish Famine" is an excellent reference book.

I’ve rather diverted from abstract data into the human impact but it does highlight that these are not mere numbers we’re looking at. If you are interested there is another brilliant source of information and mapping on the Famine which includes more wide-ranging data taken from the census. It is a book called “Mapping the Great Irish Famine[ii] and is well worth buying or borrowing if you have an interest in these topics.  This online article provides some background on it.

The census information for Ireland is also available online through the University of Southampton. It’s a little more convoluted to get there than I remember it from previously as you need to search their library catalogue for, say, EPPI Ireland 1851 census and you will then select whichever county you’re interested in. However as yet I’ve been unable to locate the raw data online that I had previously been able to download. Lucky I’ve saved Clare data already!


[i] Although his maternal line were Scottish, they didn’t fare a great deal better in the difficult 1840s and 1850s though theirs was a fairly typical Scottish story of displacement from their home place to an urban environment prior to emigration. His German ancestry was more well-off but perhaps pushed out by the revolutions in Europe in the late 1840s as well as compulsory military service.

[ii] Authors: Liam Kennedy, Paul S Ell, E M Crawford and L A Clarkson. Published by Four Courts Press, Dublin in 1999.

Heritage Pie: a slice or two of ancestral places

Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun included making a “Heritage Pie” chart for the country of origin (birth place) for these 16 ancestors. [Hint: you could use the  chart generator from Kid Zone for this.] [Note: Thank you to Sheri Fenley for the "Heritage Pie" chart idea.]

For a bit of light relief I thought I’d bake a birth pie for my great-great grandparents and their place of origin. This involves a little creative licence as I still have no information on the county of origin of my Sherry ancestor or anything really for my Callaghan g-g-grandparents but I think I’m fairly confident that they were born in Ireland. So here’s my slices of heritage pie. Sorry I didn’t quite get the colour right for my Queensland marriages -it should be maroon! The residual deaths overseas reflects the fact that two branches of my famillies were late arrivals (1883 and 1910). No wonder I identify so readily with the Irish and the Scots.

The Heritage Pie of Deaths: the unknowns probably include two Irish but the third, my James McSharry could be anywhere. The swathe of Queensland deaths shows how embedded my families were in Queensland history. The Netherlands death is that of an ancestor who was a seaman and died on a voyage.

The Heritage Pie of Ancestral Marriages: the pale green was probably Irish but is not certain. The reddish colour here should be maroon for Queensland!

Places of birth for my great-greats.