52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: Week 5 Life experiences: Finding Mary O’Brien

Amy Coffin of the We Tree blog, in conjunction with Geneabloggers, has a new series of weekly blogging prompts for 2012 and the theme is 52 Weeks of Abundant GenealogyWeek 5’s topic is Life Experiences: Sometimes the challenges in life provide the best learning experiences. Can you find an example of this in your own family tree? Which brick wall ancestor are you most thankful for, and how did that person shape your family history experience?

This gorgeously framed photo of Mary O'Brien was given to me by my Sydney cousins.

This is a tricky one and after some reflection I decided on my ancestor Mary O’Brien from County Clare.  Why? Well for two reasons really. Firstly, with a name like that from Clare, you’d have had more chance of finding the proverbial needle in the haystack and secondly, her own life experiences gave her the fortitude to make her new life in Australia.

So how do you solve a problem like Mary O’Brien from Co Clare? I’d have to say that to a large degree I got lucky. I’d been doing my family history less than 12 months when I sent out a barrage of letters to people with the Kunkel surname in and around Toowoomba. What’s Kunkel got to do with it? You see Mary O’Brien, an Irish lady, married George Kunkel, a proud Bavarian and also a strong Catholic. Luckily for me, the Kunkel surname is an unusual one and my father always said anyone with that name in Australia was related…not 100% correct as it happened but about 97%.

Anyway, by pure chance one of my letters went to an unknown cousin who had close links to the surviving grandchild of Mary & George Kunkel and after they’d spoken to her, got in touch with me. Before long we’d organised a meeting in Toowoomba…it was the strangest feeling to find myself amidst a group of equally tall strangers who were really 2nd or 3rd cousins. Anne Kunkel, the granddaughter, was by then in her mid-80s and steadily going blind but her memory was as sharp as a tack. She quickly told me the family tree, who was whom, where they lived, and where they fitted in. She confidently knocked on the head that George and Mary had a daughter Elizabeth, but did have one called Louisa….one and the same person as it turned out.

During a few visits over the coming year or two, we met up again and Anne filled in gaps for me about her grandmother Mary O’Brien, telling me she came out to work for a sea captain, that she had a job lined up “before ever she got here”, that she was 16 when she left Ireland and was six months at sea. Despite the fact that Anne thought two of her sisters, Bridget and Kate, came to Australia with her, I have proved that Kate came later but have never found Mary and Bridget’s immigration records. Anne also knew the names of Mary’s siblings who stayed behind in Ireland.

Anne couldn’t remember Mary’s place of birth but thought it was something like Longford. She did however remember the name of Mary’s sisters in Australia including Bridget’s married name of Widdup. Mary’s death certificate hadn’t obliged me with anything more than the usual “Co Clare”. Luckily her sister’s death certificate was more helpful and named Broadford as her place of birth though mixing up the parents’ names. It also enlightened me that Bridget had spent a year in Queensland and the rest of her Australian life had been lived in New South Wales. This tends to support the story that Bridget and Mary arrived together. The benefits of tracing siblings!

Another of Anne’s historical gifts was the name of family members in Sydney. Through these cousins I was able to combine their personal knowledge with archival and other research to confirm the links in Australia and Ireland.  Through them, too, I was able to link up with some of Mary’s sister’s descendants who live in the USA.  The triangulation of the family names in the record sources meant I could pin down the family in the townland of Ballykelly in the Parish of Kilseily, Broadford, Clare.

I’ve never regarded oral history as one of my strong suits so I’m eternally grateful that Anne Kunkel was the perfect interviewee, clear and accurate in her responses in ways that could often readily be verified in the official records. Her closeness to her grandmother as a small child meant that she had kept these stories close to her heart through all those years, to pass on just before her own death. But her gifts didn’t stop there. She also provided me with stories of their farm and the day to day life (she, her brother and her parents had come to live with the Kunkel grandparents in their old age). The stories of George Kunkel preparing his sausages and the ways of the farm are treasured parts of our family history. Without Anne Kunkel’s gifts, her grandmother would have remained just another Mary O’Brien from Co Clare, never to be distinguished from her many compatriots of that name.

Mary’s own life experience and stamina

Mary O’Brien was born around 1834 in rural Clare. She would have been about 12 when the Irish Famine decimated its people. Because the parish registers only start in 1844, there is no record of Mary’s birth, nor that of any siblings born before that time.  Catholic registers don’t usually record deaths and the Church of Ireland records, which did sometimes include all burials, no longer exist, so there is no way of knowing how many of her family may have died, though if they were typical perhaps as many as half would have fallen victim through this terrible time. What is clear from the registers is how the marriage and baptism rates plummet during the Famine.

Mary’s survival will no doubt have given her a high level of immunity to illness, as well as the strength as an adult to persevere when life’s challenges may have seemed insurmountable. She was a country girl, used to hard work and few frills, and life as a pioneer demanded all the skills, courage and stamina she could bring to bear. In her old age she was able to travel by train to Sydney to see her daughter and her sister’s children. I wonder did she ever meet up with her sister Bridget again after they parted in Moreton Bay in the 1850s? No one seems to know. Although she herself couldn’t write, the families plainly knew where each was, and must have kept in touch somehow. Perhaps her husband, who could write, had been able to keep them connected. Sadly no letters survive from their life in Murphys Creek, either in Australia or Ireland…at least as far as I can determine. How strange then, to meet with the inheritor of the O’Brien land in Ballykelly and both be astonished at our mutual knowledge of the family.

The power of oral history and personal knowledge! Oh, yes, and someone, somewhere has photographs.

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).

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 35: Weddings

The topic for Week 35 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: Weddings. Tell us about your wedding. You may also talk about your future wedding, the wedding of a relative or shape this question to fit your own life experience.

Having talked a little about my own wedding under the Fame topic, my thoughts turned first to the prickly issue of religion which affected many weddings in earlier generations. Unless the couple had the same religious affiliations there were often fallings out over family members who would not attend a wedding in another denomination’s church, no matter how close the relationship; families that split asunder over “mixed marriages” and the like. Fortunately, in my view at least, those issues are much less likely to cause family disputes in the 21st century.

My thoughts then turned to the marriage of my ancestors George Kunkel and Mary O’Brien over 153 years ago. He was from Bavaria and she was from County Clare, Ireland but both were Catholic and presumably this was a critical factor for them.

If I could have a magic time machine, these are the questions (among many others) that I’d like to ask them about their wedding and marriage:

This 1910 wedding of one of George & Mary's grandchildren was held at their home at Murphy's Creek. George & Mary are the elderly couple on either side of the flowergirls. Photo kindly provided by a family member from this branch.

  1. Could you both understand each other[i]?  Was George’s English good enough to communicate effectively? How and where did he learn English?
  2. Why weren’t Mary’s parents’ names and her place of birth put on the marriage record at St Mary’s Ipswich, Queensland? Did George even know this information at the time?
  3. Why didn’t the priest, who was Irish, have more interest in documenting Mary’s records?
  4. How did you meet? Was it at work? (He was a servant and she was a housemaid)
  5. Were you sad that no family members could be at their wedding?
  6. Did you write to your families afterwards to let them know? Who wrote to Mary’s family as she could not write?
  7. What was Mary’s relationship to her bridesmaid/witness, Sarah O’Brien?  My research suggests that Sarah was probably the daughter of Daniel and Winifred O’Brien who arrived from Tipperary in 1853 on the Florentia.  George and Mary had continuing links with this family over the years. Might they have been related however distantly or did they come on the same ship? (To this day I can’t find Mary’s immigration, or indeed George’s).
  8. Mary’s sister Bridget had been in Queensland for a year after arrival but married her English non-Catholic husband in or near Albury circa 1860. This couple are separated in death, in different denominational parts of the Urana cemetery. How did Mary feel about this mixed-religion marriage and did she feel sad when her sister moved interstate?
  9. George’s witness, Carl Wörner[ii], was another of the Dorfprozelten emigrants. Carl had been employed to work for John Ferret who owned properties on the Downs as well as Ipswich. Was Carl simply in town in time for the wedding or was he actually working there, if so he was lucky not to suffer the isolation of shepherding on  a distant property? Although living not far away from them in later years he never witnesses another family event. Why?
  10. Did Mary & George enjoy setting up home in Ipswich in those early years and being part of the town’s growth?
  11. Did Mary miss George when he travelled afield for work eg on the Taloom goldfields and possibly the railways?
  12. Were they proud to see all their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren before their deaths? The evocative photo above represents only a small fraction of their descendants in 1910. George and Mary were in their late 70s at the time.
  13. Their marriage lasted 58 years until George’s death in 1916 amidst WWI anti-German hysteria. Were they happy years? Had their culturally-mixed marriage been a success?

Questions reflecting a 21st century perspective admittedly, but nonetheless I’d love to know the answers.


[i] A friend we knew in PNG used to say “He knew no Dutch, I knew no Italian, so we made babies”.

[ii] His name is indexed as Mosrins or Blomai in some records. The Dorfprozelten local historian promptly identified it as this immigrant.

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.

Australia Day 2011 meme: the importance of church records and archives to my early documents.

Shelley from http://twigsofyore.blogspot.com/ has invited us to submit an Australia Day post on our blogs. She suggests that we “Find the earliest piece of documentation you have about an ancestor in Australia. If you don’t have an Australian ancestor, then choose the earliest piece of documentation you have for a relative in Australia”

On Wednesday 26 January 2011 post your answers to these questions:

  1. What is the document?
  2. Do you remember the research process that lead you to it? How and where did you find it?
  3. Tell us the story(ies) of the document. You may like to consider the nature of the document, the people mentioned, the place and the time. Be as long or short, broad or narrow in your story telling as you like!

The earliest Australian documents I have for many of my ancestors is their shipping documents: the extended Kent family on the General Hewitt into Moreton Bay in 1854 or two lines of my families arriving on the Fortune into Moreton Bay in 1855: the Gavin family along with another ancestor, William Partridge on the same ship, even though they had differing views of the success of the voyage.

But these documents posed no real challenge so I opted for ones that were a little later but were absolutely pivotal to my family history research. [It didn’t help that these ancestors don’t appear anywhere in the shipping records and have defied all my attempts over 20+ years.]

Like pretty much everyone else I started out buying the marriage certificates of my first Australian couples. In particular the one I was most curious about was George Kunkel’s marriage to Mary O’Brien. The certificate duly arrived, probably helpfully collected from the Registry by my daughters on their way home from school. You might well imagine I had visions of every section of our wonderful certificates comprehensively completed and sending me back to my ancestors’  “Old Country” to locate further branches of their families.

My early-research illusions were quickly shattered when the certificate revealed the following:

THE OFFICIAL MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE

When & where married: 26 September 1857 at Ipswich
Name & Surname: George Hatheas Kunkel Mary O’Brien
Condition: Bachelor Spinster
Birthplace: - -
Profession: Servant Housemaid
Age: - -
Usual place of residence Ipswich Ipswich
Parents-Father’s name and surname, mother’s name and maiden surname
Father’s rank or profession

George had signed and Mary made her mark. The witnesses were stated to be Carl Blomai and Sarah O’Brien. Officiating Minister was Wm McGinly. (Qld Birth certificate 140/81 of 1857 registered in the Colony of NSW)

I could have wept….so many blanks just where I needed them and an additional puzzle because I knew nothing about Sarah O’Brien. Somehow I concluded George & Mary were married in the Catholic Church Ipswich (because I knew they were Catholic, and I suppose I’d read that Wm McGinly was actually Father William McGinty, parish priest of Ipswich. In those days in the late 1980s I was allowed to look at the parish registers (no longer possible) but still there were blanks.

Sometime later I was talking to an experienced researcher at the Genealogical Society of Queensland who told me there were actually two registers at St Mary’s Ipswich, as they’d discovered when GSQ was indexing the records. I needed to go back there and ask for the second one. This wasn’t quite as straight-forward as it sounds, because I needed to get time off work, drive to Ipswich, and then get the staff to find the correct book.

However, when the register was finally delivered to my table, all the trouble was worth it. There, in faded writing, was so much I hadn’t known and which had been omitted from the certificate!

THE PARISH REGISTER from St Mary’s Catholic Church, Ipswich (not quite in this format but easier to see how the gaps are filled)

When & where married: 26 September 1857 at the Catholic Church Ipswich
Name & Surname: George Mathias (not Hatheas) Kunkel Mary O’Brien
Condition: Bachelor Spinster
Birthplace: Dorfprozelten, Germany -
Profession: Servant Housemaid
Age: 23 -
Usual place of residence Ipswich Ipswich
Parents-Father’s name and surname, mother’s name and maiden surname Adam KunkelCatherine Happ
Father’s rank or profession Innkeeper

You can imagine my excitement! I figured that if an Irish priest had bothered to write down a difficult name like Dorfprozelten it had to be correct. I’d earlier tried buying almost every one of George & Mary’s children’s birth certificates and he’d persistently said he came from “Bavaria” and nothing else, except for one time when he put Aschaffenburg, again, who knows why. Research into that had turned up blank prior to finding this marriage register.

Armed with the correct information I was eventually able to confirm (after multiple visits and letters) that George had been baptised Georg Mathias Kunkel in Dorfprozelten Bavaria, to parents Adam Kunkel and Catherine Happ. Technically it was Catherine who was the innkeeper as the inn had been in her family for generations. Adam came from another part of Bavaria, but that’s a story for another day.

There’s another interesting fact about this marriage: that of a German immigrant to an Irish woman. I’d been confidently told by the German expert at GSQ that there were no Bavarians and no German Catholics in Queensland. Wrong on both counts as my research, and other’s, has clearly demonstrated. So a tip for those with German ancestry: if you find a marriage in the Catholic church, there’s a good (but not inevitable) chance that they were actually Catholic, not Lutheran, which is why they sometimes married Irish men or women who shared their faith.

Still there were all those blank spaces against poor Mary’s name: did George not know this detail? was the register filled out when she wasn’t there? Actually to give him credit George did well, my best estimate is that he’d arrived in Australia c1855 and could plainly speak enough English to get by. Mary’s death certificate gave me the name of her parents but not her birth place, other than County Clare. Mary O’Brien from County Clare is like finding a needle in the proverbial haystack.

It was oral history that solved the final puzzle of this couple’s ancestry. One of their youngest surviving grandchildren, Anne Kunkel, told me in the late 1980s that Mary had arrived with her sisters Bridget & Kate (actually Kate came later). She knew that Bridget had married a man named Widdup and lived in NSW. Luckily it was such an unusual name as I was also able to get her death certificate. This confirmed that her place of birth was Broadford, Co Clare, although that document had mistakenly put down her parents as Michael & Bridget not Michael & Catherine. Although the parish registers for Kilseily (Broadford) post-date the birth of Mary and Bridget, the fantastic oral history known by Anne Kunkel and other O’Brien descendants in Sydney gave such a good triangulation of data that Mary’s background could be confirmed.

But wait, we still have the mystery of the witnesses for whom I searched for many years. Carl Blomai looked more like Carl Mosrins per his signature on the church document but eventually turned out to be Carl Wörner as deciphered by the Dorprozelten local historian (thanks Georg!). Sarah O’Brien was the daughter of Daniel and Winifred O’Brien who came from Tipperary to Ipswich, Queensland. I still can’t find any family connection between these O’Briens and mine but as Broadford is in East Clare it’s quite possible, and the families do continue to witness each other’s church events for a long time.  I still haven’t managed to get to the bottom of the puzzle of these inter-connecting families.

Which just goes to show, quite often one document is just not enough to tie up the ends, but persistence, oral history, and multiple records can solve the problem if you’re lucky.

Irish Ancestry and County Clare research

It’s popularly believed that Irish research is nigh on impossible and that all the records were “lost” in the Troubles.

Not so, there are a range of records which can be used but it does require a little lateral thinking. Of course it is critical to know where your ancestor came from, and in particular their nearest town or preferably their townland. Without this all the O’Briens, Byrnes, Hogans etc meld into one undifferentiated mass. So if you strike this problem, don’t focus only on your own immediate ancestry. The Irish are famous for migrating as families -either in one migration or in sequences (known as stage migration). Australians are very fortunate to have at least the possibility of  a wealth of information on their birth, marriage and death records. However if you find you’re unobliging ancestor repeatedly says they’re born in Ireland or just “Co Clare” try to follow up whether other siblings came. You may be more fortunate if you obtain the certificate for their sibling. eg my ancestor Mary O’Brien Kunkel (or her husband) was very fond of the easy “Co Clare” option, however her sister Bridget O’Brien Widdup’s death certificate stated clearly that she had been born in Broadford, Co Clare. All of a sudden the oral history that she came from somewhere like “Longford, Co Clare” made some sense and the records could be verified to establish the link. Also the presence of other siblings lets you triangulate the children’s names and their connection, verifying that you have got the right family.

If you’re lucky enough to have ancestry from County Clare I can highly recommend the County Clare Library website.: http://www.clarelibrary.ie/

Check out the tabs for history and genealogy for a wealth of information, both general and family-specific, on Clare, its residents and its history. The site is not only fantastic but also reliable because information is cross-checked before publication.

While so many counties in Ireland are determined to extract maximum dollars from enthusiastic family historians, Clare is a beacon which shows its belief in the importance of its history and people. The Clare Local Studies Project or CLASP have published several fantastic books on Co Clare history.

Check them out, they’re great!!

This is my absolute favourite Irish site, probably because I have Clare ancestry but even so it offers so much information. The team at CLASP and the library in Ennis, and the powers-that-be who continue to fund the projects, can’t be commended highly enough! Well done County Clare!

Widdup Hodgson and Bracewell connection updated

One of the positive things about internet genealogy is the capacity to make connections with relatives or other family historians around the globe.

A couple of years ago I posted my research on the connection between the John Widdup family from Urana and his cousins John Bracewell (UK) and Jesse, Jonathan, and Joseph Hodgson from near Bendigo. This posting was on the One Guy from Barlick website which is great resource for people from that area of England. http://oneguyfrombarlick.co.uk/ It has become clear too in the course of the research that Jesse Hodgson who emigrated with his brothers Joseph & Jonathan was not a bachelor but had married prior to emigrating, leaving his wife and two sons behind.

A personal message from Anne in Yorkshire has now helped to confirm that the parents of John Widdup were James and Mary Widdup and that Mary was originally Mary Wright, sister to Amy Wright who first married Henry Bracewell and after his death, Daniel Hodgson. (thanks Anne for additional information on this family). The Hodgson family went to Glossop, Derbyshire with Mary’s brother, John Wright, where they set up as cotton spinners in a factory. Their involvement in the cotton industry was unsuccessful and they filed for bankruptcy.  They later moved to Bugsworth (aka Buxworth) where they took up running the Navigation Inn (1851 census) and later the Dog & Partridge Inn (1861 census).

John Widdup’s parents lived at Sand Holes a farm in Foulridge, Lancashire. This farm had previously been owned by Mary’s grandfather, Jonathan Wright, a yeoman from Oakworth near Keighley whose will required that it be sold after his death. John & Mary Widdup lived at Sand Holes over several decades. Thanks Anne for providing additional information on this family.

I also believe that John Widdup was probably the John Widdup a merchant seaman who was documented on the 1851 census living as a boarder in Hull and stating his place of birth as Salterforth (spelt slightly differently on the record).  The Widdup family anecdote is that he was a sailor from Denmark but educated in England. This seems highly likely to be one of those stories that become changed over time -perhaps he sailed to Denmark as part of his job, but as the Widdup name is heavily concentrated in the Yorkshire-Lancashire area and there are no indications of it in the Danish IGI records it seems highly probable it is a red herring.

My original purpose in pursuing John Widdup was to try to see if it led back to his wife’s (Bridget O’Brien) arrival in Australia which unfortunately it hasn’t done, but at least it appears to have expanded our knowledge of John’s own ancestry. It may be this John who arrives in Australia on 19 June 1853: Mr J Widdup, 23, sailor (but not crew), English is on the list of intermediate pax on board barque “Jane” from San Francisco via Auckland to Melbourne.

One day a photo of Bridget Widdup may turn up which will let us see whether she looks like her sister Mary O’Brien Kunkel who lived in Queensland and her sister Honora O’Brien Garvey who lived near Bodyke in Ireland.

Meanwhile it seems the puzzle of the pioneers Hodgson brothers from Eaglehawk near Bendigo and John Widdup a pioneer from Urana in southern New South Wales seems to have been solved.

Some mystery remains as to which John Bracewell we’re looking at in the English census and whether indeed he remained in England rather than emigrating perhaps to north America. However that puzzle remains for another day.

Widdups from Urana & Bracewell-Hodgson connection

I originally posted this question on another site. My interest in the Widdups from Urana arises from the fact that Bridget Widdup nee O’Brien was the sister of my original Australian ancestor, Mary O’Brien later Kunkel. They came from the townland of Ballykelly in the Parish of Kilseily in East County Clare, Ireland. This is centred on the small town of Broadford which is not that far from Limerick.

The two girls emigrated from Ireland around the mid-1850s but no shipping records have been found (despite looking at every O’Brien entry in the records). Bridget O’Brien Widdup’s death record shows that she spent a year in Queensland before moving to New South Wales where she married John Widdup. Although rumour has it that he was a Danish seaman I have found no proof of this and I believe he was probably born in the north of England.  I have put what information I had on this family at the time into my family history of the Kunkel family, which also included the O’Briens from Ballykelly. The book is called Grass Roots Queenslanders: the Kunkel family and was published in 2003.

Information from another family historian suggests that there is a connection between this Widdup family and the Hodgsons in Victoria. There does not appear to be a connection to the Widdops in Victoria though spelling can vary as we all know.

This is a somewhat convoluted saga but hopefully someone, somewhere may know more….every tiny tip helps. 

I am seeking help in finding the origins of John Widdup born circa 1828 or 1829. He came to Australia in the 1850s and settled at a small place called Urana in southern NSW, near the Victorian border. He married a woman called Bridget O’Brien from Co Clare circa 1860. In theory his Australian marriage or death certificates should give his parents’ names and place of birth. However, neither of these appear to have been registered so no joy there! He is, in summary, elusive. Oral history suggests he was a mariner with the British Navy and born in Denmark. My own view is that his roots are almost certainly in Yorks-Lancs. I did find a mariner named John Widdup born 1829 living in Hartlepool and lodging with a couple on the 1851 census. He states his place of birth of Salterforth.  It is possible this could be him I suppose. 

His Salterforth origins may tie in with a posting on the OneguyfromBarlick site & also with a letter between a John BRACEWELL and John WIDDUP (late 19th century), searching for Jesse, Johnathan and Joseph HODGSON who had settled in Eaglehawk near Bendigo in Victoria. John Widdup is said to be John Bracewell’s cousin.  

By searching the IGI and also census records I think I have found the correct family of Hodgsons in 1841. In Hayfield & Glossop district, Derbyshire, Daniel Hodgson is head of household with his wife, Amelia (later Amy) and children including Jesse, Johnathan and Joseph who emigrated, as well as other children including Wright Hodgson and also John Bracewell (relationships not being stated as we know for 1841). Amy Wright’s birthplace is stated in later census records as Keighley, Yorks. 

Daniel married Amy Bracewell nee WRIGHT at Manchester cathedral in 1825. Amy had previously been married to Henry Bracewell in 1816 at St Bartholomew’s Colne (per an LDS member submission-not an extracted entry). Hence John Bracewell, baptised St Bart’s Colne in 1818, is probably half-brother to the Hodgson children incl Johnathan, Jesse and Joseph.  

Wright Hodgson remained in England and married a Martha WIDDUP on 29 April 1860 at Manchester Cathedral, Lancs. They had a daughter, Amy Hodgson, who was born c1861 in Derbyshire. It seems that she would be the one staying with James Widdup and wife Mary Wright at Sand Hole Foulridge on the 1871 census. This would mean that it was their daughter Martha (b 1834) who married Wright Hodgson.  

At this point I wondered if Amy Wright-Bracewell-Hodgson and Mary Wright-Widdup might be sisters as both are listed as born Keighley per the census. The IGI suggests this is the case as Amy DOB (1794) and Mary’s (1801) fit closely with census info.  

If so then this provides a possible link which would fit with John Widdup being cousin to John Bracewell and the Hodgson boys. HOWEVER, the John Widdup who is son to James and Mary Widdup apparently has died in England in 1882.

Perhaps people with more familiarity with the area might see something I’m missing or there might be a rellie out there who knows more. 

The following are the names of John & Bridget’s children with a note of which don’t “fit” with O’Brien naming patterns. 

Children of John & Bridget (O’Brien) Widdup (NSW):
Amelia                          c1859  (no known family link for name re O’B)

 Louisa                          c1860  (no known family link for name) married Edward (Harry) Luckie.

John                             c1863  (probably after father, John Widdup)

Michael James              1864    (after her father Michael O’Brien; James-may be his father ??)

Walter Ireland              1867    (no known family link for name re O’B)
Alfred England                c1869  (no known family link for name re O’B)

Martha                         1870    (no known family link for name re O’B)

Bridget Ellen                 1872    (her  sister Ellen O’Brien)
Catherine Agnes           1874    (her mother Catherine O’Brien; Agnes??)  

For interest: in Australia John Widdup became a pound-keeper in charge of impounding wandering stock. Some of his sons became shearers and drovers.

I’d be grateful for anyone’s insights/comments.