The Chapman and Marshall families: Qld pioneers

Over the past days I’ve been working on my Congress 2015 about family and local history. I came across this wonderful photo which I wanted to share right now – regular readers may see it again in a few months <smile>. It is wonderful because of the four generations included in it rather than the photo itself which could have done with a lot less contrast, not helped by being published in the paper.

Chapman Marshall 4 gens_edited-1

FOUR GENERATIONS OF AN OLD DOWNS FAMILY. This group includes Mrs. William Marshall, Mrs. Robert Cooke, Mrs. Sydney Chapman, and Baby Harold Chapman. Mr. and. Mrs. Marshall, of Well station, near Warwick, arrived at Sydney from Scot land in the Mary Pleasant in December, 1858, and came on to Queens land, making their home in the Warwick district, where they are engaged in dairying and grazing. Mrs. Cooke, second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall, married Mir. Robert Cooke, railway engine driver of Toowoomba, and Mrs. Chapman is their eldest daughter, residing at Murphy’s Creek, where Mr. Chapman is engaged in general storekeeping. (Photo, by Schaefer and Deazeley).

My key interest is in the Chapman connection as the family were among the first European settlers at Murphy’s Creek. However, this is actually four generations of the Marshall family. After a quick hunt through the Qld BDMs and NSW shipping I’ve come up with their brief story (helped by all those clues!).

Generation 1, 2 & 3

William Marshall snr, 56, arrived with his daughter Catherine 22, son John 14 and daughter Janet 12 at Sydney in 1858 on the Mary Pleasants. Also on board were William snr’s son’s family: William 20, his wife Margaret 21 and infant son William 1. All the family were from Fifeshire in Scotland and all could read and write and all belonged to the Church of Scotland. William snr and William jnr were both carpenters. Their voyage had been under the remittance regulations, so I wonder who paid their way. Three generations of the Marshall family had arrived together.

William Marshall (snr) of the Well Station, South Tooburra, went on to become the third mayor of Warwick in 1864. He died on 14 February 1885.

Generations 2 & 3

Mrs William Marshall (nee Margaret Hogg) in the picture is the wife of William Marshall jnr who immigrated with William and his father in 1858. Margaret and William lived at Greymare, near Warwick, Queensland. Their daughter, Catherine Mary Marshall was born in Queensland in 1869 (Qld C3235). Margaret Marshall nee Hogg died on 6 July 1924, an early Warwick pioneer. William Marshall junior died in 1920.

Photograph from the Toowoomba cemetery grave search.

Photograph from the Toowoomba cemetery grave search.

Generations 3 & 4

Catherine Rennie Marshall (note name difference) married Robert Cooke in 1882 (Qld C6797). Their daughter, Margaret Elizabeth Cooke, was born in 1882 (Qld C6797). Catherine Rennie Cooke died on 30 July 1937 (Qld C3666) and is buried in the Toowoomba and Drayton cemetery.

Generations 4 & 5

Margaret Elizabeth Cooke married Sydney Chapman of Murphy’s Creek in 1903 (Qld C582) and their son Harold Chapman (pictured) was born in 1904 (Qld C3278).

Both the Chapman and Marshall families were indeed true Queensland pioneers.

 

 

Men of the Queensland Bush: Sepia Saturday 249

Sepia Saturday 249This week’s Sepia Saturday is about the horse, the cart and the drivers. While my Denis Gavin from Kildare and Dublin worked as a bullocky out west when he first arrived in Queensland I have no photos of him, or his bullock dray. Many of my ancestors also rode the iron rails but today’s photo is of none of these.

This photo is one I included in my Kunkel family history. It was given to me by Dad’s cousin and shows a bunch of dodgy looking blokes hanging around the 20th century cart and horse…a truck. I know my grandfather’s brothers worked as carriers but the cousin couldn’t identify which was her father, Matthew David John (John) Kunkel. If I was guessing I’d say it was the bloke on the front right, and strangely she wasn’t sure…or perhaps he was the photographer. Actually I’d have expected John’s brother Ken to have been with him as they were very close.qld mafiosi men incl john kunkel

But isn’t it a great photo?! All dressed in their Driza-bones and wearing hats with character. The front row are crouched in the typical bushie pose that Dad always took up when waiting for something. Time was I could do it too, but sadly I’m no longer that flexible or agile. The pipes remind me of my grandad who would sit on the back steps of their house tapping the tobacco out, refilling the pipe then having a quiet smoke, looking over the back yard.

The Darling Downs is the lime green area on the bottom right.

The Darling Downs is the lime green area on the bottom right.

While these men would have probably given anyone in need a hand, you can’t help feeling you wouldn’t want to meet them on a dark night. I’d place a good bet too that many, if not all of them, were returned service men from World War I. If you recognise anyone in this group, please do comment as I’d love to know about it.

It looks to me like a silo behind the men, which would fit with it likely being taken on the Darling Downs. To the right is a typical old Queenslander house, on stilts, with its two tanks and no doubt a slow combustion stove to cope with the chilly weather typical of winter on the Downs.

Gallop over to see how other Sepians transported themselves this week.

Sepia Saturday and Trove Tuesday: Two for one on picnics

Sepia saturday 190There I was, thinking of the myriad picnic photos I could use for this week’s Sepia Saturday 190, when I had a sense of déjà vu. A quick search of this blog and I realised I’d posted at some length on this very topic during the February Photo Collage Festival. If you’d like to read what I had to say about family picnics back then, here is the link.

I thought I’d have an early mark for Trove Tuesday and see what was on offer for picnics near Murphys Creek, Queensland where my Kunkel ancestors lived.

oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:92588. Negative number: 54369 SLQ, Copyright expired.

oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:92588. Negative number: 54369 SLQ, Copyright expired.

This image of Charlie and Alice Patrick and their family is from the State Library of Queensland (copyright expired). Are they setting off on a picnic or some other more formal event? The image is taken near White Mountain, very close to the Kunkel property at the Fifteen Mile.

And then there are picnics with a purpose. I’d guess that most Aussie school kids have been on picnics and things were no different in earlier times.  One school picnic I remember in particular, took us to Stradbroke Island across Moreton Bay, however privacy prevents me from sharing the photos with you.

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), Monday 24 December 1928, page 21

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), Monday 24 December 1928, page 21

And then there were the church picnics:

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), Friday 7 May 1926, page 18. The Chapmans were neighbours of the Kunkel.

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), Friday 7 May 1926, page 18. The Chapmans were neighbours of the Kunkel.

When I went searching Trove I had in mind a particular image of boys swimming au naturel in Lockyer Creek near Gatton and Murphys Creek. Imagine getting away with taking a photo like this today!

Group of boys swimming in Lockyer Creek 1890-1900. oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:52304 Copyright expired.

Group of boys swimming in Lockyer Creek 1890-1900. oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:52304 Copyright expired.

The newspaper gave me a different perspective of what seemed like youthful fun. Mr Gill, another resident of Murphys Creek was upset that his cows were disturbed by the boys swimming in the creek –or was it that they were nude? I love the Council response: the boys could keep swimming so long as they were appropriately attired. Do you wonder if Mr Gill and his cows were satisfied by this outcome?

The boys, the cows, the creek and the fences.

The boys, the cows, the creek and the fences. Queensland Times (Ipswich) (Qld. : 1909 – 1954), Wednesday 7 February 1923, page 8

And then there’s this lovely 1896 report of a cricket competition between the Toowoomba men and the Murphys Creek team, and ancillary picnics. The fifteen mile route by horse is likely the one through the Fifteen Mile where the Kunkels lived, or perhaps it’s the more direct route down the range? And what on earth does he mean by “the blackboy in the waste paper basket”?

Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907), Saturday 18 January 1896, page 11, 12

Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 – 1907), Saturday 18 January 1896, page 11, 12

Do have a look at the Linky Lists on both themed topics to see what other bloggers wrote about this week.

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.

Jogging into Jondaryan, Jimbour and Jimboomba

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). These “J” stories come with a genealogue warning.

J is for Jondaryan (Queensland, Australia)

Head west from Toowoomba en route to Dalby and you will come to Jondaryan, a pastoral station which in its heyday of the 1870s was a “colonial colossus of 62,750 hectares (about 155,000 acres)”[i] with a large population of sheep, all of which needed shearing in season, and caring for between times. As I read this excellent article about the station’s history, I looked at the bullock wagon-load of wool and wondered if my Denis Gavin had been among the men who moved the vast quantities of wool towards Brisbane.

Was Jondaryan Pastoral Station the place where my great-grandparents, George Michael Kunkel and Julia Celia Gavin met, perhaps through Julia’s father’s work as a carrier?

We visited Jondaryan in 1989, a few years after I started my family history. This was a working example of re-metalling the wagon wheels -putting new metal bands on the wheels and tightening them.

What is known from the station’s records[ii], is that young George (aged 16) was employed as a lamber for three months from 15 September to 3 December 1875, the year of a big drought. This was when the Kunkels were buying their farm at the Fifteen Mile, so perhaps as the eldest son George was helping to bring in much-needed cash, to supplement his father’s railway earnings. Other members of a Julia’s family and another unrelated Gavin family also worked there: hardly surprising given the scale of the operation and the number of people it employed.

These days Jondaryan’s past history is visible to anyone who wishes to visit: it’s now known as Jondaryan Woolshed and is a regular feature on school excursion itineraries. I wonder how many children have visited without knowing a distant relative worked there.

A key reference book on Jondaryan is Jondaryan Station: the relationship between pastoral capital and pastoral labour 1840-1890, click on the link to see my comments on the book. Picture Australia also has a number of images from the early days. The map below gives you some idea of the distirbution of the places mentioned starting from Jimbour in the north west through to Jimboomba in the south east. (it is about 126 kms from Toowoomba to Brisbane, to give you a sense of scale).

 

J is for Jimbour  (Queensland) 

In the late 1980s I was struggling to unravel the strands of Gavin families all living and working on the Downs in the vicinity of Dalby. I had connected with another researcher by snail mail and slowly but surely we made progress on figuring out these families. Carmel died over twenty years ago but I still think of her and how we collaborated on this challenge…how much easier it would have been via email and with digitised records, but perhaps less fun. We had gone to the same school in Brisbane, some 20+ years apart but somehow we were simpatico.

Among my earliest family history discoveries was the story of two boys who drowned on Jimbour station back in its early days[iii]. The  were cousins aged 12 and 6 and both named Michael Gavin.The inquest[iv] identifies the parents of Bridget and the younger Michael as Stephen and Anna (aka Honora Mulkerrin) Gavin. The twelve year old Michael was the son of Mark and Anna Gavin.

Mark Gavin/Gavan was a convict, one of those known as an exile, who was granted his ticket of leave on arrival in 1849 and sent to Mr Bell at Jimbour to work as a shepherd. Mark’s brothers Thomas and Stephen emigrated as remittance passengers with their families in 1859 and 1862 respectively. One of Mark and Anna’s children emigrated with Thomas and all lived and worked at Jimbour, at least initially. The drowned six year old had arrived as a baby of one. Stephen and his wife Honora are the only family I’ve encountered returning to Ireland, and I feel they must have had some financial support to do so. This only became apparent because the family re-emigrated to Queensland in 1874.

The newspaper story of the “melancholy and fatal accident” was comprehensive.[v] Three children, Michael Gavin 12, Bridget Gavin, 9 and Michael Gavin 6, were playing at bullocky near the water at the Maia Camp outstation on Jimbour on Monday 29 October 1866. They slipped, lost their footing and slid into the water. The little girl, Bridget, managed to escape by grabbing some rushes and could see no sign of her brother and her cousin. Just imagine a nine-year old’s panic as she ran to the hut to fetch her mother, and the distress of her mother as she ran another three miles to the washpool for assistance. The bodies were recovered later by George Perkins and an unnamed Aboriginal man.

The two young lads are remembered on a memorial plaque at Jimbour. These Gavin families had already experienced so many hardships to survive the Great Famine, and then sailing to Australia. Theirs was true pioneer courage. There were new members of Mark’s Gavin’s family born in Australia, baptised by Ipswich’s travelling priest, Fr McGinty who rode many miles across Moreton Bay to care for his own flock.

Jimbour remains a long-standing Queensland property which opens its doors to visitors these days. It’s many years since I looked at the area, but not the house or garden, and it too is on my future visit-list.

J is for Jimboomba (Queensland)

Jimboomba was one of several railway camps and towns where great-grandfather George Michael Kunkel and his family lived and worked. He is known to have started work with Queensland Railways in 1878, aged 20. His wife Julia was also sometimes employed as a carriage cleaner or gate operator. Little is known of their time in Jimboomba and they may have been stationed between Logan Village and Jimboomba. Indications are that two of their children were born in Jimboomba, William Thomas and Matthew David John. Another son, George Michael Kunkel, was reported to have died as a child and been buried there, but I have been unable to get any verification of that.  These days Jimboomba is a village not too far from where we used to live in Brisbane, but in those far-off days, life would have been very basic, as it usually was in the railway camps.

Translation: A station in this context is the equivalent of an American ranch.

Somewhere I have old photos of these three places, or their environments, but they are lost in the maze of my personal photos. The more I scan, the more confused the picture archives become…perhaps a project for May when the A to Z challenge is complete.


[ii] These books were found by John Eggleston in the late 1980s. There is an index of names available at the Genealogical Society of Queensland and also Queensland State Archives (in a book near the door).

[iii] These stories are easy enough to find now that Trove has digitised the newspapers but in the late 1980s, it would have been impossible to find this story without the indexing work of the Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society.

[iv] Page 3, column 6. The inquest into the death of Michael Gavin (12) and Michael Gavin (6) is in Queensland State Archives at JUS/N13 66/174.

[v] Darling Downs Gazette of 3 Nov 1866

D visits Ireland, Australia and Bavaria

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which).

D is for Dublin, Ireland

Dublin airport reindeer welcome.

The first time I visited Dublin it was the end of November in the late 80s and Prancer, Rudloph and mates had already taken up residence at the airport. The shop windows were alive with animated Christmas displays, with families stopping by to admire them.

As we walked around town (don’t ask me where now), the fug of peat smoke hung densely over the city and Gypsy women sat on the footpaths begging, their children at their laps or also begging. In the few short years to my next visit there was no evidence of the peat smoke and the Gypsies had largely been banished. Over the decades since, I’ve visited Dublin a few times and seen it change enormously. Not at its heart because take away the lighting and modern clothes and somehow it’s easy enough to imagine it centuries ago.

I’ve thought that my family history links to Dublin were transient, believing my Gavin family had only been there a short while before emigrating to Australia, even though Denis and Ellen had said they’d married there. It’s only recently that I’ve had my first genealogical sighting of them in Dublin. Tune in tomorrow for an exciting second sighting!  Next visit I’ll have a specific area to look at, even though St Catherine’s church in Meath St has recently been gutted by arson.

National Library of Ireland.

Dublin is manna for heaven for an Irish family historian. One of my first stops is inevitably the National Archives of Ireland in its unprepossessing building. The National Library is as magnificent in its architecture as the NAI is not. Its treasures are equally magnificent and when parish registers were not digitised, and mostly unavailable through the LDS church, it was a requisite port of call to try to pin down those ancestors. Visits to the BDM Registry brought forth certificates and helped my searches. The Land Registry and Register of Deeds was a goldmine in those pre-digitisation days. I remember visiting the first time as they pulled down old (green?) books off the shelves and wondering who on earth this person was who’d taken over the O’Brien family’s farm…I found out later when it all fell into place. In their newer building, years later, with steep research and copying fees, I was able to explore the GV revisions in more detail and see the original maps.

Today many of these records are online as Ireland tries to tempt us “home”. I’m thrilled by this increased openness, but somehow sad to know this rich experience is probably one newer researchers will miss. Still there’ll be far more time for sightseeing in Dublin’s fair city where the girls are so pretty…those hilariously, and vulgarly, named statues, the exquisite Book of Kells and the serried ranks of antiquarian books, Trinity College itself, the bookshops, the Liffey’s bridges…….

D is for Dalby, Australia

There were no roads cutting a swathe through the country, no X marks the spot in the sky. The early pioneers relied on learning their environment and following cuts in the trees along the way...their lives depended on their success.

Dalby was to become the home of Denis and Ellen Gavin, formerly of Dublin and originally from Ballymore Eustace, Kildare (Denis) and Davidstown, Wicklow (Ellen). In those early pioneering days, Dalby was a small town which Denis would first have known when he was (apparently) a carrier or bullock driver from Binbian Downs Station near the Condamine. We more or less followed his route last year while en route from Darwin to Brisbane, and I wondered how on earth a newcomer to this country could have successful navigated the unmarked bush to get to and from his destination. As a carrier he would have been responsible for working with a team of bullocks bringing the wool clip into Ipswich and returning with stores for the property, a seven week round journey.  They were tough survivors, our pioneer ancestors…not just the men but the women and children who waited for them.

After the term of his Denis’s contract, the family apparently moved to Dalby where they lived for some time. My great-grandmother, Julia Gavin later Kunkel, was baptised there by Father McGinty. The family’s eldest daughter, Mary, married there and, dying young, was buried in the Dalby cemetery as was their infant daughter Rosanna Ellen. It’s many years since I’ve had the opportunity to visit Dalby other than in transit but I look forward to exploring more of Dalby, and the Darling Downs over the coming years.

D is for Davidstown, Co Wicklow, Ireland

Taken nearly 20 years ago, this is the parish church of Davidstown, Parish of Donaghmore (I hope my notes are correct on this point). I've learned today that this church had not been built when my Ellen Murphy lived there.

My 2xgreat-grandmother Ellen Gavin, who I’ve mentioned above, was born in Davidstown, County Wicklow. Her husband’s ability to calculate age seemed to fluctuate wildly, and probably deliberately, but I find it difficult to believe he’d just fabricate this as the townland of her birth. Just the same I’ve been unable to find her in the Irish records or registers (she had the unusual surname of Murphy!). Since I’ve no intention of paying over E300 to Wicklow Family History Centre, and as her baptism doesn’t appear in RootsIreland, I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact I’m unlikely ever to know more about her ancestry. (Or perhaps not, more comments to follow).

And just to cause confusion, there’s another townland of Davidstown across the border in Kildare (her husband’s home county).

D is for Dorfprozelten, Bavaria, Germany

Dorfprozelten is a 1000 year old village in Bavaria on one of Germany’s great rivers, the River Main. It’s the birthplace of my George Kunkel (my 2xgreat grandfather) and also another set of emigrants from the village to Australia. You can see more about my research here and here or by clicking on the categories for my blog posts.

The baptismal font in the Catholic parish church of Dorfprozelten.

I’ve been fortunate to visit Dorfprozelten a number of times and it is truly a privilege to do so. Although there have been changes, including the demolition of the inn owned by my 3x great grandmother’s Happ family for centuries, much remains the same. It’s possible to walk down the streets and have a very good sense of what it looked like when George Kunkel lived there. The church is not the same one, as it was replaced in the C19th, but the baptismal font is the one in which he would have been christened. Old photos and local histories reveal the continuity of the village’s community life and I’ve truly felt that I was able to get an insight into his life there, as much as possible 150+ years later.

All photographs from this post were taken by me and are subject to copyright. No copying or reproduction without permission please.

From Dorfprozelten to Australia – new blog

When I started this blog two years ago, one of the pages tabbed under the image was “Dorfprozelten, Bavaria”. This has easily been the single biggest “hitter” on my blog, no doubt aided by the unusual name bringing it up in Google searches. It’s attracted quite a number of people with ancestry from this little village in Bavaria and it’s been a means of connecting up those researching the same families.

In the greater scheme of Australia’s migration, they are a small group – some 62 individuals in 23 family groups or alone. However the loss of these individuals, mainly over a couple of short years, must have been severely felt in their home town. They are also a little different from the general Australian perception of German immigrants, as they were Catholics not Lutherans. The majority of them were family units who arrived under New South Wales’s vinedresser assisted migration scheme. A smaller number arrived as individuals mainly contracted to work as shepherds before they arrived here.

I’ve been researching these emigrants from Dorfprozelten to Australia for about 10 years, initially in the hope they’d lead me to my George Kunkel’s arrival information. I’d also I noticed that land owners around his property in the Fifteen Mile near Murphys Creek, Queensland shared some of the same names as the Dorfprozelten immigrants. Over the years I’ve managed to confirm the connection between these families, which was largely lost to the descendants of these families. Even my reliable oral history from George’s grand-daughter suggested the families were just neighbours.

Also over the years I’ve slowly accumulated quite a bit of information on these families. I have more on those who came to Queensland (then called Moreton Bay and part of New South Wales) and less on the New South Wales immigrants. This is mainly an access issue – I’m more often in Brisbane near the Queensland archives than I am in Sydney.

For all these reasons I’ve launched another new blog called From Dorfprozelten to Australia where I’ll draw these stories together. Although the focus is on Australia I would certainly be keen to hear from anyone whose ancestors emigrated from Dorfprozelten – I know that over the years many emigrants left the village for “America”, be that USA or Canada.

One of these immigrants may be my ancestor’s brother Philip Joseph Kunkel, or perhaps Joseph Philip Kunkel, born 1840. Family stories throughout all the branches say a brother went to America and I think it likeliest he was the emigrant as he disappears from the church records. I’d really love to hear from anyone who might be descended from him.

I suspect the new blog will mainly be of interest to those with Dorfprozelten ancestry but may also interest researchers with a Bavarian background though I am unable to help with that in any specific way.

Beyond the Internet Week 6: School administration records

This is Week 6 in my Beyond the Internet series of topics in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. I’d love it if you wanted to join in with your own posts on this week’s topic which is school committee papers and administrative records. I’d particularly like to hear how people in other states and countries use these records so we can all learn from each other.

I can just about hear you yawning at the topic of school administrative papers….but would you yawn if your ancestors featured in these records? I think not.

Each state and country is bound to have somewhat different records in relation to their school administration and Susan over on Family History Fun made mention of some Scottish Borders sources in last week’s post. Thanks Susan for showing us all the wonderful records you have at Hawick.

What I’ve particularly liked about the records I’ve found are the applications for new schools, the correspondence relating to the opening of the schools, and the general standard of the children’s work when visited by the school inspector. I don’t know about you but I certainly remember how the nuns put the fear of God in us to make sure we were on our mettle when the inspector was due to come round. When I think of that these days I also have a wry smile because my father-in-law was a district inspector in Papua New Guinea and as amiable as he was in private life, his professional assessment would certainly have been rigorous.

New Schools

This is the scenery around Pickenjennie in 2011. No sign of activity remains that I have seen.

My favourite example of these school administration documents are letters from my 2x great-uncle Joseph Francis Kunkel, who you might remember from last week’s post, was one of the earliest students at Highfields School. But now a parent himself he was concerned for his own children’s education. Joseph was one of six parents who submitted an application on 25 February 1895 for a new school to be constructed at Lower Pickenjennie (near Wallumbilla, Queensland). It would benefit 12 children who included Joseph’s and wife Martha’s school-aged children, Bernard (9), Thomas (7) and Mary (5½). The form indicates none of the Kunkel children were at school at that time, emphasising the point I’ve made previously about the impact that living and working on the railway line had on children’s education. The family lived 2.5 miles (about 5kms) from the proposed site. The next person on the application list was Archibald Paterson with three children listed, at least one of whom was attending Gowrie Junction school 2 miles away. The Patersons and Kunkels were neighbours and fellow railway workers but the men were also brothers-in-law whose farms were adjacent to each other.[1]

By 1896 the provisional school had been approved and Joseph was the Acting Secretary and Chairman of the Poybah Provisional School committee and was writing to the “Minister for Public Instruction” to harass him about the prompt opening of the school. Joseph was forthright in his requests that “the building be ceiled as soon as ever practable (sic)”, “appoint a teacher as soon as ever possible” and to “remit the subsidy so as to enable us to clear up our liabilities connected with the building as our pro note is maturing on the 11th proxomo (sic)”. There is a little sense that he is deferring to higher authority but rather insisting that the hard working men and women of Pickenjennie get the school for their children that they’d been putting so much work into. Joseph didn’t get to see much of the benefit from his own hard work as he died a year later in August 1897.

In those early days new school didn’t just happen, the parents had to be proactive and work towards convincing the Department that it was required and they would support it, hence the application forms listing the children who’d attend. The involvement in school committees is one family heritage that has continued in my branch of the family down to the current generation.

There are other snippets to be gleaned from what can be the mundane communication between the school’s representatives (teacher or committee) and the Department. I was much amused by a reference found by Roslyn Stemmler, the local historian, in which the Education Department took exception to the use of the school for a Christmas race ball and the installation of a publican’s booth in the playshed –one assumes during the ball or another event![2]

Although these examples relate to new schools it seems likely that even very long established schools would have significant paperwork revealing more of their daily and yearly operation.

Inspectors’ reports can provide amusing insights into the life of the school, the vagaries of the teaching standards and the attendance at school. For example, the inspector of the Murphys Creek School commented in 1875 that “beside a want of exactness and style there was notably deficient the final ‘g’ of the present participle.”[3] He was also unimpressed with the teacher’s use of the cane and also unsympathetic to the teacher’s complaint about the inadequacy of the school in extremes of weather. The papers also tell us that there were 102 registered pupils and many of these would have travelled significant distances by pony or on foot to get to school. As the Murphys Creek school admission records are missing for this period, these snippets help to give a flavour to the school life of the younger Kunkel children. In August 1872, the teacher reported that no vacation is given during cotton picking season and proposing a holiday from 19 August to allow for the planting of spring crops.[4]

The day before my great-grandfather and siblings enrolled at Highfields School, the teacher reported that the supply of books was insufficient but that the school would be “a great boon here for the children are in a sad state of ignorance”.[5] I doubt that the enrolment of the Kunkel children would have changed his mind.

If you haven’t ever used these documents in an archive near you (or near your ancestral places), then do give them a try. If you’re unlucky the files may be filled with boring administrative bumf but the potential is there for some illuminating facts and background about your ancestors or their relatives.


[1] Queensland State Archives Series ID 12607 Item ID 15830 (old ref PRV8007/1/2209).

[2] Stemmler R. Onward with Honour: Wallumbilla Primary School Centenary 1893-1993. Wallumbilla 1993, page 26.

[3] Queensland State Archives Series ID 10782 Item ID 2547 (old ref PRV5868/1/5).

[4] Queensland State Archives Series ID 12607 Item ID 15618.

[5] Queensland State Archives Series ID 12607 Item ID 14873.

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.

Advent calendar of Christmas Memories: 11 December 2011: Christmas traditions from Bavaria in Queensland

The old kitchen on the Kunkel farm c2001. Photo © Pauleen Cass

Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers is encouraging us to celebrate the 2011 Christmas season with a series of posts called the Advent Calendar of Memories. This is today’s entry.

Did your immigrant ancestors have holiday traditions from their native country which they retained or perhaps abandoned?

I’ve already spoken about my Melvin and McCorkindale ancestors and the trail of shortbread crumbs that followed them from Scotland to Australia.

A dazzle of decorations in the Christmas markets Nuremberg, Bavaria 1992.

The ancestor I feel for the most, in terms of traditions lost, is George Kunkel from Dorfprozelten. Bavaria has a centuries-old tradition of the most wonderful Christmas markets and it’s most likely he’d have visited one in the neighbouring towns. The lights, smell of chestnuts and sausages, and all the special crafts would surely have been such an enormous contrast to his life in the bush at Murphys Creek. I wonder if he was nostalgic at Christmas time for the old Bavarian traditions? The tragedy that would befall this family one Christmas Day would only have added to his sadness.

However, thanks to the memories relayed to me by one of George and Mary Kunkel’s grandchildren, Anne Kunkel, in 1988, our family knows a little more about how Christmas was celebrated by them out in the rural area of the Fifteen Mile in Queensland. This is an extract from my book Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel Family. Anne talked first about how her grandfather would prepare the pig for slaughter and make sausages and black and white pudding after cleaning the skins in the nearby creek. He had a big wooden packing case about the size of the table top, square, and salted the pig down in that. Every morning he turned the sides over, resalted it then we’d eat it for Christmas. There was the brawn to make and the lard to render. The brawn was lovely. Anne said Gran (Mary O’Brien) was a good cook and she thought George could cook too….she didn’t know he had worked as a pork butcher, a tradition which ran in his family along with running an inn in his home village. I talked on 2ndDecember about our own family tradition of eating roast pork, well before we knew of this ancestral connection.

Mr Cassmob following my ancestor's tradition of drinking gluhwein at Christmas in the town of Miltenberg near Dorfprozelten, Bavaria.

In Anne’s early years the family would return to Murphy’s Creek for Christmas, six families at least, and it was a happy time. “Of course the tradition with the hot meals and everything still existed, plum pudding and all that. We had our poultry and our own ham and we’d get whatever meat we wanted and whatever vegetables we wanted, we grew. There was always fruit that had to be stewed and that sort of thing. And you could have milk puddings and always had plum pudding and white sauce.

The Kunkels grew peaches and apricots in their orchard down near the creek. The grandfather also grew Isabella grapes from which he also made his own wine. They were champagne coloured grapes, a sort of big pink grape, and a lot of it would have come from the old country, the fruit trees and everything. There were grapes growing all around the orchard – big trellises of them. It was nothing for us to give away a kerosene tin of grapes[i]. Christmas (summer) is grape, melon and stone fruit season in Australia –some compensation for not having gluhwein, chestnuts, fires and sparking lights.

The Kunkels also used to have a sugar melon, they were sweeter than a watermelon. You’d wet a sugar bag and put it over the melon and put it in a cool place where it would get the breeze on it. With freshly churned butter, and no doubt fresh bread from the open fire in the kitchen, and if true to Mary’s heritage, lots of potatoes, it would have made quite a Christmas feast.


[i] Anne’s description doesn’t quite fit with the online information, however I’ve heard of a few of the Bavarian immigrants growing this grape.