Advent Calendar: Day 4 – Christmas Lights & Illuminations

The Christmas light prompt is: Some families string up a few lights each year while others go nuclear and are destined to force their neighbours into a brown out situation. Did your family put up lights and outdoor decorations around Christmas time? What about the neighbours? And was it a favourite family activity to drive around to look at Christmas lights? What about any local attractions such as parks, zoos and the like which put up displays of lights and outdoor decorations?

Christmas Lights in Darwin 2012

Christmas Lights in Darwin 2012: a very Aussie set of lights with Santa and his snow white boomers (kangaroos) in lieu of reindeer.

As a child, lights were mainly restricted to shops and city streets. With long summer nights the further south you go, the less the impact of house or street lighting, unlike colder climates where the sparkle of lights everywhere brightens the darkness and the spirits.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Christmas window display in the David Jones’ window in Sydney 2006.

Instead it was traditional in those long-ago years to visit the city and see the wonderful Christmas displays (including pretty illumination and moving models) in the windows of our big department stores, like Myer or David Jones (or McWhirter or TC Beirnes). At different times we’ve seen similar window displays in Sydney as well and even in Dublin. Still I think that amazement that one has as a child remains untouched. It’s still lovely to see them but it’s just not as awe-inspiring.

I have no recollection of any houses displaying lights as happens today. It’s only in recent times (relatively) that the Christmas lights tours have taken off. We’ve only been checking out the Darwin lights for a few years and now regret we hadn’t realised the extent of the displays earlier.

christmas-lights-300x300For our family, Christmas lights were probably as much about the Christmas Carols by Candlelight which we attended every year for decades, even when our littlest was only a few weeks old. It was so atmospheric to be in a park singing away to the performers on the stage and with candles swaying. Quite beautiful and helped to define Christmas and our own family’s tradition. Unfortunately, to our minds, the Carols by Candlelight became increasingly commercialised and tacky so we ended up no longer attending in person.

However one tradition that remains is that we watch Carols by Candlelight from the Myer Music Bowl on Christmas Eve: it’s our only Christmas television tradition. Sometimes all the chores are done and we’re chilled out, some years it’s still a mad panic to get presents wrapped. Whatever the day brings, we find the enthusiasm of the crowd is infectious, and the camera crews always manage to find some super-cute babies to profile in their vision.

I was quite astonished today to discover that the Carols by Candlelight tradition started in Australia –well at least according to Wikipedia. Perhaps that’s because our climate is more conducive to spending hours out doors at that time of the year.

This post combines several topics for the Advent Calendar: Christmas lights, Christmas TV/Movies and a dab of Christmas Tradition. The 2011 topic was slightly different focusing on outdoor decorations: you can read my post here.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

Grass Dukes and Shepherd Kings at SLQ

SLQ004If you live within striking distance of Brisbane you might be interested in a visit to see the Queensland State Library’s display entitled Grass Dukes and Shepherd Kings, especially if you have ancestry from the Darling Downs.

I saw this exhibition when I was in Brisbane a few weeks ago and was very impressed with the items on display. It reinforces the points I made during the Beyond the Internet series last year about the vast array of resources which remain undigitised, awaiting the determined family historian’s sleuthing.

There were excellent maps on the walls as well as beautiful paintings – I particularly like Conrad Martens’ paintings of early Darling Downs scenes. Then there are the treasured items of daily life displayed in the cabinets.

But what is really tempting for the family historians are the glimpses of books which would be invaluable to anyone whose family were involved with particular stations eg Talgai Station’s ration book (1866-1868) or Glengallan’s pay register or labour book.  Just imagine those early shepherds on Talgai being issued with their rations.

If you haven’t already dropped by SLQ to have a look why not plan a visit this weekend before the exhibition finishes on 21st April: it’s on the fourth floor near John Oxley Library.

If I get to Queensland again in the next couple of months I’ll be equally interested in their upcoming exhibition Live! Queensland Band Culture. Not only might it provide me clues on various family musicians, but there’s bound to be some happy memories of my own tied up in it.

3rd Blogiversary: Brainstorming Family Folklore

Today is my 3rd blogiversary and rather than reiterate why I blog, which I’ve written about before, I thought I’d tap into my community of Genimates around the world for some brainstorming on a research challenge.

By the way, if you would like to participate in my blogiversary gift competition, why not pop over now to my blog post now and say G’day.

McDonald family folklore

Now, returning to my puzzle: A few weeks ago I was asked by a friend if I could prove or disprove family folklore that his McDonald family were at Glencoe when the massacre occurred. Being of a cynical disposition my first thought, was “not a chance”! I did say it was unlikely to be able to be proved but I’d see how I’d go tracing the family, working backwards. Luckily I was also given a bundle of Australian certificates which were very helpful. So I set to work determinedly to try to pin down as much as possible before Christmas.

I’d been told there were some likely trees on Ancestry, but being fond of recreating the wheel as well as being cynical, I set forth under my own steam to confirm ancestry. This worked well for a while as I quickly found the whole family’s immigration to Queensland in 1862, interlinking this with the family’s presence in the 1841 to 1861 censuses. The head of the immigrating family was Peter McDonald with his wife Ann nee Gard(i)ner and their six children along with Peter’s brother John.

Peter McDonald family in Queensland

In Queensland I traced the family’s life events through the online indexes and cemetery records and hit road blocks with electoral rolls, wills and school enrolments. Other options would be worth exploring (e g hospital records, land records) but only at the archives in Brisbane. Peter was impoverished at the time of his early death in 1870 and while there is one will at QSA, they have confirmed it is not for this man. Trove also gave me an interesting snippet about Peter’s death. Peter’s second wife, with whom he emigrated, died in 1864 only a couple of years after their arrival.

The Brisbane Courier, Friday 14 October 1870, page 2.

The Brisbane Courier, Friday 14 October 1870, page 2.

Census records

The census records told me of the family’s migration around the UK:  from Greenock (1841) to Bradford, Lancashire (1851) then Bury, Yorkshire (1861). Helpfully my friend’s direct ancestor had been born in London and the parish was nicely specified on the 1851 census and less specifically on the 1861 which took place within the year the family emigrated. I also found what I was reasonably certain was the birth of Ann Gardner McDonald on FreeBMD which could also be ordered.

Peter’s UK marriages

Peter McDonald’s death certificate had confirmed his parents’ names and this tallied with the presence of people with the same names in his Greenock household in 1841 (no relationships stated, as we know). His certificate had also alerted me to his first marriage which I found via ScotlandsPeople. As his second wife (with whom he emigrated) had been born in London like their daughter, I initially checked for their marriage in England via FreeBMD.

No luck there so back to ScotlandsPeople (SP) where I found it in Peter’s home place of Aberdeen, parish of Old Machar. Ironically having just been checking Ancestry’s online trees, I’ve found that Peter’s marriage to Ann Gard(i)ner is also referenced in the English records –the banns were published in April 1848 at St George the Martyr in Southwark, which begs the question of how Peter came to be in London[i]. There are certainly families with Ann’s mother’s maiden name of Sangster in Aberdeen so perhaps she’d been visiting Scotland when she met Peter. Searches for Peter’s first wife’s burial were unsuccessful but that is inconclusive given burial records are the least reliable of all the pre-civil registration records.

Looking for Glencoe

Originally my goal was to go backwards in time, hoping I’d be able to find Peter’s McDonald family residing nicely in one parish for a long time, perhaps enabling me to reach some conclusions about the possibility of whether they’d been in Glencoe in the late 17th century. No such luck! This is a family that moved, then moved, then moved some more. On the up side, they kept gravitating back to/near the Old Machar parish in Aberdeen.

 Peter’s parents

Peter’s father is shown as Daniel McDonald on Peter’s death certificate and mother as Elizabeth Martin.  This is the couple who were living with Peter’s family in 1841. Searching SP and Family Search might reasonably have been expected to turn up their marriage, but despite using wildcards, no joy! Logically they might have married in Old Machar as this was Elizabeth’s home parish. Were they not part of the established church? Did they not pay the fee to register their marriage? Were they married in the old Scottish tradition without a church service? Were they perhaps Catholic….no. Was my search incorrect in some way? I also checked the English records given their propensity to flit around…again zip.

Daniel was also known as Donald McDonald as Family Search and SP reveal the births of at least some of their children. This Daniel/Donald interchange is not a great worry as these are common Gaelic aliases. Unfortunately without their marriage date, and not certain I have all the children (there appears to be at least one gap), I can’t confidently use naming pattern conventions either. Nor does son Peter seem to entirely stick with them with his children.

 Are you still with me?….or have you hit the snooze button …..zzzzz.Snooze

 1851 census: Peter’s parents

Back to the 1851 census: luckily Daniel and Elizabeth were both still alive and living back in the Aberdeen area. Unluckily Daniel’s place of birth looks like Miffee, Perthshire on the census forms (shown the same way on Ancestry and Findmypast transcriptions). Google search for Miffee–no outcome, or anything close. I posted to the Family Search forum and also the RootsWeb Aberdeen forum where someone kindly pointed out that FreeCen’s transcription has this edited as Methven. Try as I will I can’t get Methven from the written form but perhaps the enumerator just didn’t know how to spell it or couldn’t get Daniel’s pronunciation right. One possibility is that it might even have been Muthill?

Extract from the 1851 census providing Daniel McDonald's place of birth.

Extract from the 1851 census providing Daniel McDonald’s place of birth.

 Death of Peter’s father

Fingers crossed I hoped for an 1855+ death for Daniel/Donald…only to miss by a couple of months! So near and yet so far! I did find his burial in the churchyard of the Old Machar parish in November 1854. On the plus side the ages for Daniel are reasonably consistent so I searched SP for Perthshire under D*, and came up with too many hits for confidence. Fewer for Methven, and so I have a tentative birth for him with father Donald (no mother stated) when the family lived at Lonleven (Loanleven). However I would be reluctant to use this as definite. Nor does the family continue to appear in the Methven parish registers for more than a brief period, so it’s unlikely it’s their home parish. If there had been a mother-father/husband-wife combination I might have had a better chance of picking them up elsewhere but with Donald McDonald…..

 Death of Peter’s mother

Elizabeth lived well beyond her husband’s death and after flitting back to Greenock where it appears to be her living with a daughter and son-in-law, Jane Seal*, she dies back in Old Machar parish in 1866 of “irregular habits” – in the workhouse. Her certificate reveals her parents and from this I could find her baptism, but of course this goes nowhere to establishing the McDonalds potential association with Glencoe.

If I were in Scotland I’d be hastening towards the Kirk Session records for Old Machar for both Daniel and Elizabeth to see what they might reveal about the family’s history. Ditto in regard to the workhouse records available through the Aberdeen Archives. Ditto in regard to Valuation Records.

Across the various records Peter’s UK occupations are listed as wool comber (1839), wool carder (1841), file grinder (1848), wool scourer (1851), and machine guider (1861).

What have I missed? Is there a stone I’ve left unturned, a blind spot I’m not seeing? I keep wondering if they may have come across from northern Ireland but as yet I haven’t fully explored that option for which I have no evidence or justification. I’m sure I’ve left some information unstated but otherwise it would be a treatise.

Any brainstorms welcome, please.


[i] Ancestry’s London Marriage records, as alerted by the Wilkie family tree on Ancestry. http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/13694603/person/343643346?ssrc=

Beyond the Internet: Week 47 Police and Railway Staff records

This week I’m writing Week 47 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens and this week’s topic is Police and Railway Staff records.

Archives can be a rich source of occupational records, ranging from publicans to police, railways or business, mariners or teachers. As always which records survive for your area of interest is variable and dependent on historical chance.

RAILWAY STAFF RECORDS

Firstly a word of warning: not all railway workers will have been employed by the government-owned railway even in Australia. Lengthsmen and gangers, the labourers of the railway line, may have been employed directly by large railway contractors such as O’Rourke & McSharry.

Overseas where the railway infrastructure and operations were undertaken by different companies it will be necessary to see if those business records have survived. Findmypast UK has some railway staff records online but others may remain elusive.

The steam train arrives at Murphys Creek station.

The steam train arrives at Murphys Creek station.

Where they exist, railway staff records can be rich in detail. My ancestral ones include dates of birth, commencement of service, progression through the ranks, commendations or penalties, relocations around the region and illness. Some of mine came directly from Queensland State Archives but others were obtained from dusty old card systems in Ipswich long before the Railway Museum was built.

There are also some excellent indexes to Queensland Railway staff and these may highlight the employment of women as gatekeepers or cleaners. It was not uncommon for married women whose husbands had a responsible role at a particular station to take on these duties, or for them to be given this type of work if a husband died at an early age. Government gazettes and parliamentary papers may also list railway workers.

Time does indeed make the heart grow fonder for Qld Rail as it seems the closer in time we are to the person the less likely we are to find staff records. While I have some from my 2xgreat grandfather, two great-grandfathers and my grandfather, my own father’s records were destroyed some time ago even though he retired less than 40 years ago!

Roma St Railway Station -the old shunting yards extended up to and beyond the right corner of this image. Photo taken P Cass about 2006.

Roma St Railway Station -the old shunting yards extended up to and beyond the right corner of this image. Photo taken P Cass about 2006.

These staff records can be used in conjunction with other sources to reveal more detailed information about their specific location location eg while posted to South East maintenance, a man might actually be working in a number of places in that area. School admission records are a great way to track movements within a region. Similarly Trove may provide useful tidbits about their lives.

Other Sources: If you want to know a little more about what life was life as a railway employee, or a member of their family member, this book, Living on the Line, provides first hand oral histories of railway life. You can also search my blog (top right hand corner) for search terms “railway” or “Queensland Rail” for my own experiences in a railway family. Also don’t forget to see if you ancestor was involved with railway operations during either World War I or World War II.

POLICE STAFF RECORDS

 Police staff files are generally even more valuable to family historians than railway staff records (especially if you have policemen in your family!). They include much of the same detail but are more likely to include pages of documents rather than just a card index summary.DSC_1877

I have made significant finds in police files so I’m pleased that some of my family members diverted from serving the railway to the police.

 Character references had to be obtained when applying to enter the police and one for Thomas Kunkel is elusively enlightening. A letter from Patrick O’Sullivan, MLA in Ipswich states that he had known my 2xgreat grandparents “so long and so well”. Had it perhaps been Patrick for whom George Kunkel had worked as a servant in his hotel? Or is this just my imaginings? Ironically nearly 100 years later I would know Patrick’s great-grandson who was the Jesuit priest with responsibility for the Newman Society at The University of Queensland.

Spouse checks: In the old days (not sure when it ended), Police had to obtain permission to marry. They advised the name of the woman they wanted to marry and there was then a character check on that person and her family.  One can only assume that he must have asked his bride-to-be before sending off her name, otherwise the proposal would hardly have come as a surprise!

Thanks to this, I learned that one of my grandfather’s uncle applied to marry a particular woman, whose family provided a glowing reference from Archbishop Dunne, previously their parish priest. What went wrong after that is lost to time, but Thomas never did marry her. Adding insult to injury she married his brother Edward not long afterwards.  Thomas’s performance record had been of a good standard before that but all of a sudden he was going AWOL, being drunk on duty, losing prisoners. Coincidence, I hardly think so.police hat and cuffs

Another relative’s file reveals his problem of “borrowing” a small amount of official money – when he volunteered this information and was repaying it, he was promptly discharged. I can imagine him confessing his sin to the priest and being told to make restitution only to then be tossed out – entirely justifiably, but no doubt distressing for all the family. The timing of this event coincides with his mother, Bridget McSharry, moving to Rockhampton and setting up a boarding house. Around this time or a little earlier, his father, James Sherry, entirely disappears from view – did he desert the family (not in police gazettes) or did he die but his death not get recorded? Was the timing a coincidence? Not sure.

Police staff files are subject to closure periods which may affect your ability to look at all or part of the file.

 Other sources: once again try Trove to learn about arrests or events your ancestor may have been involved with and also look at Police Gazettes or Government Gazettes.

I think you’ll find these sources to be very helpful if you are lucky enough to have railwaymen or police on your family tree.

New Gavin family blog

Long-term followers of my blog will have read many posts about the Gavin family, either searching for them in Ireland, their links to the convict Gavans, or the young men who went to World War I.

Thanks to my recent posts and last year’s Anzac Day post, a 3rd cousin has got in touch with me. She holds many photos of her branch of the Gavin family and we’re hoping we can sort out some blanks on photos we each have. She’s been inspired to start her own blog and has put up some wonderful photos of the young Gavin men in uniform and their parents. I’ve been thrilled to finally put faces to the names of these people I’ve known about and been researching for so long. Louise also has lots of family anecdotes so it will be interesting to learn more about the family through her stories rather than just through documents.

I’m really hoping I may yet be able to put names to some of the faces on  this Wordless Wednesday photo.

This is the link to the Gavin Coman blog. Why not pop over and have a look at the photos and say g’day to Louise.

Racing through R in Retford, Rotterdam and Rocky

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). Today I am going to keep comments on each place succinct and refer you back to earlier posts.

R is for Retford (Nottinghamshire, England)

Grove St, Retford where Susannah Cass had her school for ladies. © P Cass 2006.

Mr Cassmob’s Cass ancestors lived in Retford where his 2xgreat grandmother Suzannah Cass and her sisters ran a school for young women with her sisters. The women lived in the adjacent area of Moorgate. Back in 2006 we had a great time on this particular leg of our family history adventures. You can read about it here.

R is for Rotterdam (Netherlands)

My 2xgreat grandfather, Laurence Melvin, worked as a merchant sailor, travelling between Leith and the northern European ports. He was a young man, with a wife and three small children, when he took ill on one of his voyages. He died overnight and is buried in Rotterdam. I’m not sure I’ll ever know precisely where.

R is for Rockhampton (Queensland)

Rockhampton was the Queensland hub for my McSherry/McSharry ancestors after they arrived in 1884/1883 respectively. Last year I posted about discovering the sale of my great-grandfather, Peter McSherry’s estate on Trove. More recently I wrote about how his mother, Bridget McSharry, had a boarding house in Rockhampton and the hardships she experienced in her new Queensland life, and the on-going mystery and brick wall of her husband, James McSharry.  Peter, his wife Mary, and mother Bridget are all buried in the Rockhampton cemeteries. Although I’ve visited Rocky briefly in recent decades, for me the mental associationis stopping there on the Sunlander train, and Dad making a mad dash to get us beautiful fish and chips for our lunch.

St Mary's Rushden is just delightful. © P Cass 2010

R is for Rushden (Hertfordshire, England)

Although my Kent (name, not place) ancestors belonged to the Sandon parish in Hertfordshire, it’s likely they also visited the Rushden church from time to time as it was just as close to the Red Hill area of Sandon. I too have visited this church several times over the decades. It may only be “just another 14th century church” to quote a family member, but I love its simplicity and its peace, tucked away up a lane. When the daffodils flower in the churchyard among the graves it is simply lovely. The village has many gorgeous old homes with timber work and thatched roofs. I’m also enamoured with the name of the local pub The Moon and Stars. In one of those flights of fancy I usually never apply to my ancestry, wouldn’t it be nice to think my Kent publicans might have worked there once.

I investigates Ireland, Inishail, and Ipswich (Qld)

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) and today’s post explores interludes in Ireland, Inishail, and Ipswich (Qld, Australia).

I is for Ireland

As soon as I arrived in Dublin in the late 1980s there was a sense of recognition, a realisation of how much like the Irish we Australians are in so many ways…the sense of irony, mickey-taking, disregard for authority. At the same time it seemed unfamiliar because I’d expected the inflexibility and conformity learned from my life in an Australian Catholic school and church with Irish nuns and priests, and a stern Irish-born grandfather. It was a delight to discover that Ireland was full of joie de vivre and craic (good fun) as well as the darker, more morose side with which I was familiar.

Allihies, West Cork on the Beara Peninsula

Without the urge to learn more of my family history I may never have visited Ireland, and so would have missed out on far more than adding leaves to my family tree. Ireland fulfils so many stereotypes that you’ve heard about: the green patchwork fields, the distant blue hills, old stone cottages, the soft rain, and the quirky sayings and greetings that seem quintessential yet somehow difficult to remember when you leave. Coming from Australia with its wide open spaces and vast distances, it’s easy for a tourist to think “ah I’ll get there in no time” but everywhere there are those signposts that can all point to the same place, via twisty Irish roads that only change how much time it takes you to get to your destination. Despite the number of times I’ve visited I still make the mistake of not allowing enough time!

Beautiful Achill Island, Co Mayo. © P Cass 2006.

Over the years we’ve visited 20 counties and each has its own beauty. Despite my Clare ancestry I have to say my favourites are the rugged, more isolated areas: Achill Island (Mayo), Beara Peninsula (Cork), the wide-open spaces in south-west Donegal, tragic site of many evictions, and the steep cliffs near Dun Choin by Dingle (Kerry).

Over the decades as the Celtic Tiger stirred, and then roared, the social atmosphere has changed. There was cash to splash and everyone was busy, busy. There was a brashness to life, in Dublin especially, that I didn’t really like…it had turned into a typical big city (or perhaps I’d got used to living in a smaller city). In the rural areas people remained both friendly and reserved, much as always. The standard of living had improved which made life more comfortable for people…the decades and centuries of disadvantage were slowly being turned around. It’s sad to think that the Irish people are now going through such difficult times.

Wherever you go, there is that essential kindness and welcome that the Irish share with the visitor. It’s a grand place to visit and if you have the opportunity it’s well worth going. Even if the trip doesn’t uncover specific family history, you’ll get a much better sense of the place and its people, and, intuitively, the loss your ancestors experienced when they left it all behind.

I is for Inishail (Scotland)

Inishail is part of the combined parish of Glenorchy and Inishail in Argyll, Scotland. Inishail lies over the hills from Inveraray and borders the starkly beautiful Loch Awe. The MacArthurs and Campbells are powerful in this area, and history abounds. I’m not planning to talk about that here but if you want to investigate further you might find this linka helpful starting point.

Highland cattle near Cladich, Argyll. © P Cass 2006

My interest in Inishail parish arises because my 2xgreat grandparents, Duncan McCorquodale (various spellings) and his wife, Ann Campbell lived there for about 50 years, apparently having moved across the Loch from Kilchrenan parish. They both appear in the 1841 census, and Duncan in the 1851 census, living in Drimuirk. It took some work locating this little hamlet as it’s rarely indexed on maps. My starting point has been the village of Cladich which in its day, was on the drove road for cattle to Inveraray and points south and west. The long haired Highland cattle are still a feature of the area, and of a local estate. In the colder months, when we tend to visit, the clouds hang low, and the mist filters through trees draped in moss and lichen…dimly among the trees appears a woolly Highland cow. It can be kind of spooky.

Drimuirk by Cladich, Parish of Inishail, Argyll. © P Cass 2010

On previous trips I’d estimated from maps where Drimuirk was located, and taken photos, but this time I was given a great privilege…the opportunity to “walk the land” where my ancestors lived. At ground level, and with local help, I could see that what had seemed random rocks were actually the remains of the rude cottages of the long-ago residents of Drimuirk. Of course I have no idea which of the small handful of house foundations was theirs, but I like to imagine it was the one with the view over the loch and where the travellers could be seen coming over the hills. Afterwards I read the Kirk Session records for the parish, and found a reference to the “small house” of Duncan McCorquodale. The reiteration of “small house” suggests that even by the standards of the day it must have been tiny, yet there’d have been half a dozen people living there at times. You can read my post about it here. I’m forever grateful to have been given this chance to see what remains of this little settlement.

Dorothy Wordsworth passed through the area in 1803, around the time my family came to the area to live. She describes the children of the Macfarlane family thus: The children, after having collected fuel for our fire, began to play on the green hill where we stood, as heedless as if we had been trees or stones, and amused us exceedingly with their activity: they wrestled, rolled down the hill, pushing one another over and over again, laughing, screaming, and chattering Erse (Gaelic)…[i]Reading this it’s so easy to imagine my own great-grandfather playing with his siblings in this way.

Genie tip: when searching for Inishail, also try spelling it as Innishail, especially in archive searching, which will add to your results.

I is for Ipswich (Queensland, Australia)

View over Ipswich, March 2012, with St Mary's Catholic church prominent. © P Cass 2012

Ipswich is the place where my Melvin, Partridge, Kent and Kunkel families first settled in Australia. New immigrants would sign work contracts and then travel by boat up the river system to Ipswich from where they  would be dispersed to the most distant reaches of the Moreton Bay settlement, as happened with my Gavin family and most of the Dorfprozelten immigrants who came to Moreton Bay. No doubt the employers were keen to keep them on the move before the immigrants had any idea of just what they were taking on, and how very isolated many of them would be.

Those who came to Ipswich to live and work arrived in a small but bustling town with minimal, but developing, infrastructure. They quickly became part of the social fabric of the community and could, if they wished, make their mark there. William Partridge worked as a carpenter, George Kunkel ran a boarding house in Union Street with his wife Mary and also a pork butcher’s establishment, before they moved west with the railway construction. Richard Kent was an older man when he arrived and remained a labourer as far as I can tell, though he’d run a public house in England. Stephen Melvin arrived later, in the 1870s, and before long was establishing himself with a well-regarded confectionery shop(s) and factory.

My families were on opposite sides of the religious divide with the Kunkels attending St Mary’s, the Catholic church, and the others associated with the Anglican or Methodist churches at different times. Despite this it would have been difficult for the Kents, Partridges and Kunkels not to be aware of each other in such a small community through the 1850s and 1860s.

A well preserved Ipswich home.

One of the interesting things about doing family history from those early days of Moreton Bay/Queensland, is how often you come across someone whose ancestry lies in the same places as yours…not all that difficult when the European population was so small. I wonder from time to time, whether these distant links are part of why we instantly “click” with some people and others, without doing a thing, get our backs up. It intrigues me that much the same thing can happen with people whose names I find bobbing up in the overseas parish registers of my families…kind of weird really.

Ipswich for a long time was a coal mining town and continued to be a place where new immigrants could afford to settle. Ipswich suffered in the 2011 floods, a history which has repeated itself over the centuries. These days it’s throwing off its former social disadvantage and promoting its history, of which there’s a wealth. If you ever want to see fantastic examples of vernacular Queensland architecture, Ipswich is the place to go. Perhaps precisely because it was economically depressed for quite a while, there are wonderful examples of old Queensland homes with deep verandahs, mostly set on stilts to keep them above the flood waters.

I’m looking forward to having more time in the future to re-explore Ipswich and its historical treasures: the churches, the railway workshops, the architecture and the cemetery.

I ships for East Clare immigrants

Irene (1852) [7] + 7 from Ennis; Ironside (1863) [9] and Ida (1864) [9]

A to Z 2012 Challenge

My nod for today is Catherine Noble’s blog about writing. I especially liked “D for Dedication”.


[i] http://www.ourscotland.co.uk/ebooks/recollectionsweek3.htm. Recollections of a tour made in Scotland AD 1803 by Dorothy Wordsworth. August 31st, 1803.

Second Gavin Sighting in Dublin….Shocked speechless

There I was Dutifully writing my D is for Dublin post and reflecting on my Gavins and their links to Dublin, Davidstown and Dalby. “Perhaps I should have another look at Irish Genealogy”, I thought to myself, “in case new records have been uploaded”. Well, there hadn’t been, but I put in a search for “Denis Gavin Dublin” anyway and was stunned into silence when a marriage entry came up for a Dionysius Gaven and Elleanora Murphy at St Nicholas in Dublin! Heart beating, afraid to believe it really might be mine, I thought I’d best check that Dionysius was indeed the Latin form of Denis. Google took me to a Flemish (!)-Latin translation and, instinct confirmed, I clicked to see the original entry in the church register. No place of origin, occupation or parents but I have no doubt this is their marriage as Ellen appears as Eleanor in her immigration record[i]…perhaps that’s how the priest certified their application for emigration assistance.

The witnesses to their marriage on 23 February 1851 were Jacob and Maria Hughes (so possibly James and Mary Hughes, or indeed Jacob and Maria). Given their names were written this way I’m working on the assumption that they were a couple. I’ve not come across their names in other family references so perhaps they were friends rather than family…but worth keeping an open mind. I also checked to see if they had witnessed Mary Gavin’s baptism at St Catherine’s Meath St…but no, that was a Rose Moorehouse.

So which church of St Nicholas was this? So far I’ve had a preliminary skirmish through Google etc etc, and have reached the tentative conclusion that it was St Nicholas of Myra rather than St Nicholas Without. However I’ll need to do more thorough research to be confident of having reached this conclusion.

Let’s assume for the moment that it was St Nicholas of Myra in Francis Street. This church is only a few blocks from St Catherine’s Meath St, which was recently gutted by arson, and where Denis and Gavin’s first child, Mary, was baptised 10 months after their marriage. (Another detour, this church was supposedly built in 1852, so was this where she was baptised?) Although there’s nothing to say where the Gavins were living specifically, it’s probably safe to assume it was somewhere close to both these churches. This meant they were living in the Liberties of Dublin, which one site suggests was a locus for those fleeing the Famine…obviously I have some more homework to do.

One thing leading to another, as it does with family history, I discovered that the parish church of Davidstown was erected after Ellen left, and that she would have belonged to the parish of Dunlavin…I’ll grant you these things are ever so much easier to discover on the internet. Dunlavin parish is now part of St Nicholas of Myra so it leads us full circle. More research and more homework and they even have a family history link on their web page. Alleluia!

I confess that I haven’t always put as much effort into this family after my early years of Irish research: my 1992 visit to the Wicklow Heritage Centre and the church at Ballymore Eustace had proved expensive (former) and futile (both).  Tempting leads disintegrated as I explored them, and Dublin was just a challenge too far pre-digitisation and indexation. Foolishly I had thought that Denis and Ellen had moved there not too long before emigrating but how wrong I’ve been proven to be. All of which just confirms that revisiting our paperwork, and sometimes checking our online searches, is well worth doing. Another lead I can follow is that on his second marriage, Denis declares his father to have been a huntsman. This suggests to me that he may have been employed on an estate…again another research lead but one which didn’t leap out at me when I was an inexperienced researcher.

A further clue also leaped out at me as I trawled my Gavin folder: Denis and Ellen had a daughter Rosanna Ellen, born Dalby, who died as an infant. Was she named for Rose Moorehouse who witnessed daughter Mary’s baptism in Dublin? Was Rose Moorehouse a relation after all?

So my participation in the A to Z 2012 challenge has certainly paid off for my family history offering new research paths and giving me a gold-plated “hit”…after 25 years of searching. You can see why I was rendered speechless at least temporarily….I think I needed to wake up and find it was all true…oh happy day! And now I’ve got lots more sleuthing to do as well…bonus!

After a quick dip back into FindMyPast Ireland, was it my Denis Gavin who had a cheque, two watches and wearing apparel stolen in January 1855? Or was this the fellow who was on the Griffith Valuations in the Parish of Chapelizod, Dublin?

SOURCES:

Irish Genealogy baptisms

NSW Immigration records

Queensland birth marriages and death certificates for this family.

On site research of microfilms National Library of Ireland.


[i] The Board Lists on film 2469 (State Records NSW) give more information as to surviving parents and their place of residence.

Beyond the Internet Week 13: Lest we forget: War Memorials

This is Week 13 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. This week’s topic is War Memorial and Plaques.  I’d love it if you wanted to join in with your thoughts on this topic. If possible please provide a link to your post on this page.

Of the Beyond the Internet topics, this is probably one of the most obvious. It’s likely that if you had ancestors or relatives who served in a war, you will have tried to find some memorial to them. In Australia there would hardly be a town, no matter how small, that doesn’t have a memorial to the men (and some women) of the district who served and especially for those who gave their lives. Depending on the size of the town you may find the servicemen on one side of the memorial and those who died on another. There is often a commonality to the type of monument with the Digger, arms at rest, on the top. Still there are others which show a different stylistic approach.

Roma's Avenue of Heroes: a row of bottle trees.

The town of Roma in western Queensland chose to honour its fallen men by an avenue of bottle trees, called the Heroes Avenue. One of my grandfather’s cousins, James Paterson, is honoured in the Avenue. The historic Gallipoli Memorial near the Roma St Transit centre in Brisbane has certainly not registered with me. More recent memorials take a less stylised structure than the World War I structures. The ultimate memorial is of course the Australian War Memorial’s bronze Rolls of Honour near the Hall of Memory.

How did these memorials become such an important architectural feature of our townscapes? The impact of the war affected every town, and directly or indirectly, almost every family. The Australian War Memorialsays that from a population of less than five million, 416,809 men enlisted and 60,000 were killed while 156,000 were wounded gassed or taken prisoner. In practical terms this means that about 15 men in every hundred men served, and of these half were killed, injured etc.

Returned soldiers in uniform surrounding the Digger War Memorial in Chinchilla ca. 1920 SLQ image 4579, copyright expired.

At the recent talk by Dr Tom Lewis, he suggested that these monuments were a way for families to honour their men-folk whose graves they were unlikely to ever see. This seems quite a logical conclusion to me, but perhaps they also served another purpose: to give the families some practical way to ensure their dead would not be forgotten.

If you’re unable to visit your Australian ancestral town in person right now, the internet does provide an alternative way of seeing these memorials. Picture Australiaand Google both provide a way of seeing these iconic features. The notes on the photographs may also tell you more. For example I’ve learnt that the War Memorial in Chinchilla includes the original base while the Digger has been moved to the RSL Club…shame I didn’t know that when I visited.

The updated Chinchilla War Memorial photographed in 2011.

Without a doubt using the internet to help us locate these memorials can be invaluable and we’d be foolish to forgo that complementary process.  For example I’ve just found there is a huge memorial to all Toowoomba Railway employees who served in World War I: something to add to my “to do” list for the next visit. Queensland has a War Memorials Register as I’ve just discovered and it would be an invaluable tool. Other states seem to have similar resources.

A word of caution: there are plaques I’m aware of that are that I’m not finding on the register. There is/was an honour board at Central Railway Station for WWI railway employees which I’ve not found in situor on the register (another “to do” activity). Wallumbilla’s honour board does not appear nor does the small one for Murphys Creek.

The Murphys Creek (Qld) World War I Memorial Board taken P Cass c1988.

Some of these only come to light by reading local or occupation histories, and may include your relative’s name.

As we move into April and Australia’s remembrance of Anzac Day, you might like to research your family’s presence on a memorial, either in person, or if that’s impossible, then online.

Wallumbilla Roll of Honour. Murphys Creek is really a small hamlet while Wallumbilla is a small rural town. Despite this their wartime contributions were significant.

Murphys Creek WWII War memorial

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.

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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.

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