One Place Study -Broadford, Co Clare, Ireland

Okay enough of the frivolous business of Paris and Provence – back to some hard core family history.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been studying the coursework from another Pharos course, this one on One Place Studies (OPS). I was so tempted to focus on one of my easy ancestral places in England or Scotland where I know there are lots of sources, but in the end I knew I had to bite the bullet and look at Broadford in east County Clare.

A Google Earth map of Broadford and surrounding areas, including the townland of Ballykelly.

The main street through Broadford. P Cass 2006

Now I’m going to do some thinking “out loud” so to speak. My hope in doing that is to see if any of my readers have experience in this process and can offer some advice, especially around how to store the data.

As I mention on my blog page about Broadford and East Clare, I have an interest in the emigrants from this area. Some years ago as part of an online Advanced Diploma in Local History, I built a database of anyone I could identify as coming to New South Wales (including Moreton Bay and Victoria prior to separation) between 1848 and 1870. I used the NSW Board’s Immigrant Lists and the Immigration Deposit Journals[i] (both of which I’ll be talking about in a later Beyond the Internet post).

There are limitations to the data for a variety of reasons I won’t go into here, but in the early 1860s Broadford played a pivotal role in the Australian migration process.  Over the years I’ve played with my database trying to take the study a step further and make linkages between the emigrants and the records in Broadford with only limited success.  Every now and then I have another dabble then give up in frustration. Part of the problem is that I don’t like the database (no one to blame there but myself!). The One Place Study course was a strategy for making myself look at it further.

View towards the Catholic Church in Broadford, built when my ancestor Mary O’Brien was a young girl.

My ultimate goal is not to do a One Place Study per se. Even though I’ve visited Broadford four times, I don’t really have the in-depth knowledge of a local person born and bred. There is a researcher who has expertise in the area, Pat O’Brien (unfortunately not related to my O’Briens from the same area). Pat did his Masters thesis at Limerick University on Broadford 1830-1850[ii] and has also written several articles for the East Clare magazine, Sliabh Aughty.  Perhaps my contribution will be to analyse the emigrants, make some linkages, and crunch some data.

As a general rule, a One Place Study aims to reconstitute the families in a parish or village, revealing their kinship links and also learning more about population changes and who lived in that place. Of course other documentary sources are also used to build up the story of the village, its industry or occupations, migration patterns etc. The One Place Study website is useful but there aren’t too many studies for Ireland, though I was pleased to see a couple. Interestingly there are a few in Australia too which I’ve used without realising their formal role as an OPS.

This graph gives a fairly good idea of the impact of the Famine in the Parish of Kilseily where Broadford is situated

Now I’m going to stick my neck out here, and say it’s pretty difficult to do family reconstitution in the Republic of Ireland. The primary reason for that is the paucity of parish records. For example in Broadford, the RC parish registers start in 1844 but they’re very difficult to read, and initially they don’t mention which townland the person comes from. The Church of Ireland registers are no longer extant. Add to that the absence of (almost all) census records until 1901, and family reconstitution takes on a whole new level of complexity. Throw in the Irish Famine, An Gorta Mór, with its horrendous toll of death and migration and it gets worse.

As a trial I have focused on my ancestral townland of Ballykelly in the hills near Broadford.  About 15-20  families lived there c1852, so as I work through initial phases of this process it’s manageable. The documents I have to work with are:

  1. My transcription of the RC parish registers for Kilseily parish from 1844 to 1866 (in Excel and also my DB)
  2. Transcription of the townland residents, and owners, from the Griffith Valuations (GV) of 1852 (in Excel).
  3. Some information on the changed inheritance under the GV revisions (more to come from the microfilm)
  4. Transcription of the 1827 Tithe Applotments (TA)
  5. Link between the GV and TA data.
  6. Analysis of 1901 and 1911 census data with a particular focus on those people who were born between 1840 and 1870.
  7. Australian migration data 1848-1870 which mention Broadford or east Clare parishes or townlands. It does however include parents’ names, whether they were alive or dead at the time of migration and relatives in the colony. I’ve also done some work on linking them to relatives on board the ship.
  8. I have occupation and literacy analyses from my previous study and drawing on the DB data.
  9. Findmypast Ireland has some records which in theory should be searchable by place but don’t always work and Ancestry can also be searched by place.
  10. Newspaper downloads after place searching.
  11. Valuation maps which can be annotated with residents in the Griffith Valuation.
  12. Census statistics from Histpop. I also have some data I collected previously through a site link that’s no longer active.
  13. Reference books, theses and journal articles.

Do you have any thoughts on how I can link these up?

I’m wondering if it would work to document each person in a genealogy program which would then let me link up those I know to be families, or have them as stand-alone individuals until I know more.

Could I link all the Broadford families under a hypothetical set of pseudo-parents, called for example, Male Broadford and Female Broadford? I thought this might be a way I could see everyone who comes from Broadford and slowly see what the linkages are. Has anyone else done this and found it will work? Perhaps for a One Name Study?

I love Excel and can use databases, but somehow there’s still a dysjunction between the data. I’m not a fan of genealogy software (yes, strange I know) which is part of why I’m floating these ideas.

Any pearls of wisdom or lateral thoughts would be much appreciated.


[i] Pastkeys originally indexed the IDJs. See http://www.pastkeys.com.au/Images/Irish%20in%20the%20NSW%20IDJs.pdf.  The indexes are now also on Ancestry, I’ve just discovered.

[ii] O’Brien, P. Broadford. County Clare 1830-1850: A study of a rural community. Unpublished MA (History and Local Studies), University of Limerick, 1999.

H hops into Hughenden, Herston, Hastings Point and H ships

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).

H is for Hughenden

Hughenden is a small town on the road between Mt Isa and Charters Towers and Townsville. We’ve visited in passing a few times but I can’t say I feel any empathy or true understanding of it…perhaps the most noticeable feature is this stretch of road is ancient dinosaur country and the locals are making the most of this tourism opportunity.

Hughenden's main drag. I love those old country pubs with their imposing presence.

My great-grandfather McSherry and his family lived in Hughenden for several years when he was an inspector with the railways. My grandfather McSherry was also working here with the railway when he met my grandmother who lived in Charters Towers. How they came to meet I don’t know, but I’ve always assumed (yes, I know!) it was through her family’s refreshment rooms in Charters Towers. I’ve heard the Melvins also had railway refreshment rooms but I’ve found no evidence whatsoever of that, so I’m assuming it was probably a furphy, albeit a credible one.

On our last visit the people at the Visitor Centre were very helpful and tried to put me in touch with the local historian who wasn’t available. This H post reminds me that I’ve still not followed this up….the “to do” list is growing with each letter.

H is for Herston

Clydesdale c1900 John Oxley Library image, copyright expired. This was the convent during my school years.

School days, school days, good old golden rule days! My school and parish church were both “over the border” into the Brisbane suburb of Herston. Neither the church nor the school remain, replaced by a post-Vatican II church of simple architecture, while the old building shared by church and school have disappeared into memory…another job on my “to do” list is find a photo. Time, it’s always time, that catches us out.  I talked quite a lot about the school here so I won’t repeat myself in this post.

One thing of relevance to family historians: if you find your relative has been buried from St Joan of Arc church Herston and are wondering why…it’s because the priests were the curates for the hospital, and some people either converted at the last minute or came back to the church. I recall singing as part of the school choir at any number of funerals, many with no connection to the parish.

The other interesting aspect to Herston parish was the influx of European immigrants in the 1950s and especially the Dutch migrants. Don’t ask me why so many came to Herston, because I really don’t know, but as a result of the numbers, we ended up with Dutch priests for a number of years. Recently I commented on the fact that Family Search has digitised parish registers from the Netherlands: an invaluable resource for Australians with Dutch ancestry.

H is for Hastings Point

View south from Hastings Point

Hastings Point is part personal history and part travelogue. An inconspicuous mark on a map but for our family it’s been a special part of our story, filled with memories and fun times, shared over the years with friends and children’s friends. We have always camped as close to the beach as possible which means that the strong wind bent every tent pole we had. After a day of down-time from the normal rush of urban life with busy jobs and children, we’d take to exploring the rock waterholes which might conceal all manner of marine life. The area off the point is a marine park so there was usually plenty to see on these mini-expeditions and there was always the fun (perhaps less so for the feet) of navigating from one rock to the other. Most of the time there was a small spa-sized pool near the rocks which made the perfect spot for lolling around, unless you were mad keen to get into the surf, which swimming across the creek first, or wading, carefully avoiding the oyster-shelled rocks. On the southern side of the Point the surf near the rocks could be quite fierce and not all that safe for swimming unless you were a strong swimmer or out on a board.

Google Earth aerial view of Hastings Point, New South Wales

Each visit the path of the creek would have changed with tidal and weather conditions so you never knew what you’d find. One visit the creek would have a lovely sandy bank which might luminesce at night time as you walked up to the toilet block. Another time there’d be little sand on the bank and you’d be dodging around the rocks. One visit we even found a low tide mini-aquarium of marine life in a tiny pool in the creek…great fun.

Hastings Point was where we went to see Halley’s Comet uncontaminated by urban lights. Our viewing was much better on an early visit than on the date they’d say it would be optimal.

This aerial view from Google Earth shows some of the beauty of the place. Time was when the northern approach to Hastings was equally beautiful, driving through native bush of banksias. Sadly much has been altered with the bush replaced by resorts.

If you’d like to know a little more about this wonderful place you may wish to read a couple of my posts from last year, here and here.

H is for H-named ships

A ship called Hotspur, but is it the one which brought the Irish immigrants? State Library of Queensland Negative number: 63060, copyright expired.

I have done some research into emigrants from east County Clare, Ireland to Australia. When I was looking at the names yesterday I realised a number of these immigrants arrived on ships whose names started with the letter H. So here’s to them…name of ship (year) [number of east Clare people on board]. You can see the increase in numbers in the 1860s with the American Civil War.

Humbolt (1852) [4]; Himalaya (1855) [3]; Hilton (1855) [2]; Herald of the Morning (1858) [9]; Hornet (1859) [3]; Hotspur (1863) [26]; Himalaya (1865) [6]; and Hornet (1865) [15]

The original source for this data came from the Board’s Immigrant Lists from State Records NSW. The east Clare data has been extracted from my own database.

Today’s A to Z 2012 recommendation:

Somebody has to say it…I love this woman’s bolshie attitude. Her position is set out clearly and logically on her topic of the day. She reminds me of a friend and former colleague of mine.

B is for Ballykelly, Broadford and Backrow, Bothkennar

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).

B is for Ballykelly in Broadford (Co Clare) in the parish of Kilseily

Ballykellytownland is the home of my great-great grandmother, Mary O’Brien from Co Clare. Unfortunately I have no evidence of how long the family had lived in Ballykelly as there are no traces of the family in early records (found so far). Despite Mary’s extremely common name I was able to find her place of origin thanks to oral history linking families in Ireland, the US and Australia, and by tracing her sister’s records in Australia….all of Mary’s said merely “Co Clare”. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Broadford a few times and to visit the actual farmland where the O’Briens lived and worked.

The view from the former O'Brien land at Ballykelly on a typically "soft' Irish day in March.

On the first visit, decades ago, Broadford was shrouded in fog, and the general response to my enquiries was “it’s up there” pointing into the hilly distance. While enquiries at the local shop, owned by O’Briens, directed me to visit elderly parents, that proved to be fool’s gold despite their kindness in trying to help me…they were not my family. It took another visit, and assistance from a missionary priest with whom we’d bonded, to be taken to meet the family who had inherited the farm. Paddy had inherited it after my 2xgreat uncle’s family had died. He and his wife were extremely generous and showed us the property –up a muddy dirt “goat track”, as we call them in Australia. It was a thrill beyond words to stand on their land and look out at the magnificent view Mary had known every day of her young life, until she emigrated with her sister Bridget.

B is for Backrow farmhouse in the parish of Bothkennar in Stirlingshire (Scotland)

Backrow farmhouse Bothkennar in 2010.

The story of my first visit to Bothkennar is the opposite to the Ballykelly one. My young daughter and I dutifully followed the maps to Bothkennar and stopped to enquire at the store/post office if they knew where Backrow was.  I could hardly believe my eyes and ears when they pointed and said “That’s it, over there”. We took the short road ahead and parked on the verge to look at the house where my great-grandmother Annie Sim, had lived as a young woman and where generations of her family had lived, stretching back many, many decades. At the time it was looking a little run-down in parts but had substantial enough outbuildings and large fields.

Staring proud across the road from Backrow were the kirk, school and kirkyard…only a few steps to the venue for all life’s major events…and no escaping the minister’s eye. I took a photo (the old fashioned kind) and would you believe that this was on a roll which did not come out….Murphy’s Law at work. On the next visit I made sure I did a sketch as well as take a photo! I’ve never yet worked up the courage to knock on the door and ask if I can see the property but I’ve promised myself that next time I’ll write in advance and beg admittance.

As always, click on the photos to see them as a larger view.

Abundant Genealogy Week 10: A collage of genie journeys

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 Genealogy.  Week 10: Genealogy Roadtrips. No two genealogy road trips are the same but they’re always fun and meaningful. Describe a memorable trip in your past. Where did you go? What did you find (or not find)? Did you meet any new cousins? What did the trip mean to you and your family?

A Tagxedo word cloud of genie journeys.

When I saw this topic I ran a mental scan of the genealogy trips I’ve done over the past 26 years. There have been so many that in truth I simply don’t remember each in detail –just the highlights. Many have been genealogical flight trips to places far away, either within Australia or overseas, though usually with a road trip added in. I decided on a collage of memory highlights over the decades from our genealogical journeys at home and away. The memories here focus on my Kunkel/O’Brien ancestry but I could list just as many for other ancestral families of mine, or my husband’s.

Murphys Creek and the Fifteen Mile, Queensland

Murphys Creek cemetery circa 1987/88. The Kunkel grave is on the right nearest the trees.

  • Learning my Kunkel ancestors had lived and died there we visited the cemetery. Set aside in one corner was the grave of my 2xgreat grandparents and their son, my great grandfather. It was a thrill to see it standing proud in what was probably once the Catholic part of the cemetery. It’s telling that theirs is the only gravestone in that area –presumably other Irish Catholics were too poor to manage a stone.  (Have I mentioned that my daughters have adverse memories of Queensland cemeteries with dry crackling grass and high temperatures?)
  • Driving along a gazetted roadway that felt like a private access path to other farms, so that I could see my Kunkel family farm (at a distance). Having heard that the then-resident was rather fond of his shotgun when it came to visitors I was mighty glad to have a long telephoto on my camera and wished that the cows would stop announcing my presence.

    The old property circa 1988.

  • Learning about the place through genie-visits with the Kunkels’ granddaughter in Toowoomba and finding out about their life on the farm and much family history.
  • Taking a steam train ride with a couple of my kids along the very line that my 2xgreat grandfather worked on (we all loved that trip).
  • Many decades later, being invited to see through the old farm property and walk the land.

    The steam train arrives at Murphys Creek station.

In Australia

  • Visiting St Mary’s Catholic Church in Ipswich to see the original registers (in those days) and finding my ancestors’ marriage entry. Being able to see the second register which had more detail and gave me the clue to George Kunkel’s place of birth.
  • Meeting my third cousins in Sydney who shared wonderful family knowledge and photos, enabling me to link the Irish O’Briens.
  • Visiting Drayton &  Toowoomba cemetery and seeing the unmarked grave of my 2x great grandmother and her daughter, my great grandmother. Putting a marker on their grave remains one of my Bucket List items.
  • Holding the first reunion of all the Kunkel relatives in Toowoomba –what an experience for all of us! What a noise we made with our conversations!
  • A second reunion a few years later introduced many family members to family places they hadn’t know about before.

Dorfprozelten, Bavaria

One of the old buildings in Dorfprozelten.

  • A laborious train/walking day trip to visit the Kunkel home village of Dorfprozelten –and being told by the priest to come back another day. Protestations in German that we’d come from Australia fell on deaf ears, as had letters sent before and after the visit.
  • Convoluted conversations in churches and cemeteries in my poor German as I tried to learn more about my family. A similar experience with a later priest who was Polish-born: a multi-lingual challenge for both of us.
  • Some years later being shown the church registers by the then parish priest as he pulled them out of a metal compactus in the sacristy and nodded sagely at the various illegitimate births. We readily found my George Kunkel’s baptism entry.
  • Meeting local historians in Laufach and Dorfprozelten who shared their family and local knowledge with me. The Laufach historian was something like a 5th or 6th cousin!
  • Walking the streets of the village and getting a feel for the historical continuity of many of the buildings.

Broadford, Clare

A work colleague and friend had bought me these green socks to celebrate the ancestral trip to Ireland.

  • I visited Broadford first with my mother and daughter in the late 1980s. We drove in constant fog from our B&B wondering whether this was all we’d see after travelling half way round the world. A visit in the church and a prayer to my 2x great grandmother to plead our case – as we walked out the church door, the fog lifted like a blind rising. It remains one of my strangest family history experiences. My daughter celebrated her birthday that day, receiving her presents near the Broadford Catholic cemetery and then touring another one at Tuamgraney in the half dark with the owls hooting. A birthday she hasn’t forgotten! On this trip the attempt to pin down the right O’Brien family was unsuccessful.
  • On a subsequent visit we were taken by the visiting missionary priest to meet my relatives. Strictly speaking they weren’t blood relations but they had inherited the various properties and were so incredibly generous and hospitable to us with Paddy taking us to see the original farm at Ballykelly. Returning all muddy and damp Nancy, his wife, helped us clean up and then fed us. The memories of this trip and subsequent meetings with them are treasured ones.
  • Meeting third cousins in Broadford, over a pint and a whisky in the local pub. Great craic.

These memories are the tip of the iceberg of our genealogical road/air trips. We’ve had such great times, seen wonderful places and met hospitable people off the beaten track. Some places immediately give a sense of homecoming, others are special but don’t tug at my heart strings. It’s been worth every dollar and every moment that we’ve spent on these adventures. I’m rearing for more adventures as time and money permit.

52 weeks of Abundant Genealogy: Week 7 – Historical documents

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 7 – Historical Documents: Which historical document in your possession are you happy to have? How did you acquire this item? What does it reveal about your ancestors?

I have few actual historical documents though my family archive holds many copies of historic documents from archives or registry offices. My grandmother’s Scotch (sic) education book and my grandfather’s original, oversized and much stuck-together, birth certificate are valued originals but they are not the pivotal historic documents on which my family history turns.

There are two historic documents (of which I hold copies only), which broke through “brick walls” and enabled me to pinpoint my ancestors’ home place. Without them I’d never have been able to trace “Mary O’Brien from County Clare” or George Kunkel from Bavaria.

Their marriage occurred at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Ipswich, Queensland in 1857. The church’s marriage register is the only place where I’ve ever found George Kunkel’s place of birth documented: the details are not on the official civil registration. Without that church document I’d never have known where George was born and never been involved in researching his fellow emigrants from Dorfprozelten. I wrote about this document discovery in the 2011 Australia Day meme hosted by Shelley from Twigs of Yore.

You might imagine that finding “Mary O’Brien from County Clare” would have been nigh on impossible without some substantive clue. She doesn’t appear in any shipping record I’ve searched (and believe me I’ve searched a lot, the old-fashioned way as well as the new). Oral history gave me her sister’s name and married surname. I then ordered Bridget Widdup’s death certificate which gave me her place of birth and confirmed Mary and Bridget as siblings. It was then possible to search the Kilseily parish registers, Broadford, Co Clare, in person and on microfilm. This confirmed the links by virtue of the rich oral history I’d been given. I wrote more about finding Mary O’Brien here.

So these two documents, one a church register entry and the other a civil death registration, have been documents critical to my overseas family history. It really doesn’t matter at all that what I hold are copies, not originals, as I’ve personally sighted both.