Fearless Female 31 March: A retrospective on Bridget McSharry nee Furlong

Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month. The final challenge for the month is to write a 500 word mini-profile of a female ancestor. I’ve chosen one of my lines that I don’t write about often, and a female ancestor who rarely appears in my blog spotlight.

Bridget Furlong was born to Martin Furlong and his wife, Margaret nee Sta(u)nton and baptised on 29 December 1840 at the Roman Catholic Church, Tullamore, Kings County (Offaly).  The Griffith Valuations place the family in the townland of Shr(u)agh, but their absence from the church records suggests they were not native to Tullamore. Nothing is known of Bridget’s early life other than that she lived through the devastating experience of Ireland’s Great Famine. Later generations of Furlong men would be skilled Gaelic footballers. Were Bridget’s brothers, John and Martin, similarly talented?

Bridget married James Sharry, a railway man, in Tullamore on 21 May 1859 (witnesses John Horan and Maria Slavin). Their sons, Peter (1861) and James (1865) were both baptised in Tullamore but their second son, Martin, was baptised in 1863 at Arklow, Wicklow. Their childrens’ baptisms track the family’s movement from Tullamore to Arklow to Gorey, Co Wexford where the family settled in the townland of Knockina, probably in a railway house.

Around the time of their 23rd anniversary the couple made the decision to emigrate. Queensland was building its extensive railway network and James would have readily gained employment as an experienced railwayman. James and Bridget and eight of their ten known children (James, John, Mary Agatha, Margaret, Bridget Agnes, Catherine, Esther Anne, and Patrick) arrived in Rockhampton on board the Melpomene on 20 January 1883. The family name changed to McSharry, possibly to piggyback on the renowned railway company, McSharry and O’Rourke. Son Martin may have died in Ireland[i]. Eldest son Peter, wife Mary, and his young family would arrive in Australia a year later, changing his name to McSherry.

The McSharrys settled first in Rockhampton where James worked as a railway platelayer[ii]. As with the Irish records, BDM events track their geographic movement. Daughter Margaret died in Rockhampton in 1884, aged 12, of shock from burns. John, aged 19, drowned in the flooded Claude River in March 1887 while working as a labourer on/near Mantuan Downs station. Their youngest son, Patrick, died in Gympie in 1889 of pericarditis, aged 8 years. Newspaper reports seem strangely silent on the deaths except John’s. James McSharry is not listed as the informant on the certificates.

Bridget reappears running boarding houses, first in Maryborough (1892-93) and then in Derby St, Rockhampton (1894-97). James disappears entirely from view and nothing has been found of his death. Did James desert her as I suspect, or has his death gone unreported somehow? Certainly life went badly wrong for her and the family not very long after their arrival. Down all these years I feel the terrible sorrow of her loneliness and the betrayal of her dreams, but no loss of faith.

Bridget McSharry née Furlong, a widow aged 59, died in Rockhampton on 13 July 1900 and is buried in the North Rockhampton cemetery.

SOURCES:

Tullamore Parish register – information received from Offaly Historical Society. Confirmed through LDS microfilm 926186.

Griffith Valuations on microfiche (Tullamore).

Gorey parish records viewed on site.

Queensland Immigration records.

Official Queensland death certificates.


[i] Bridget’s death certificate lists three sons and one daughter deceased: John, Patrick, probably Martin and Margaret.

[ii] Queensland Death Certificate for daughter Margaret McSharry.

Fearless Females #2: Thoughts from a photograph: Annie Sim McCorkindale

The photo which inspired this post is the same as that for the Carnival of Genealogy  post on Catherine McCorkindale for Women’s History Month 2012. It shows my great-grandmother, Annie Sim McCorkindale seated with her daughters Catherine, Jean and Edith around her. Her eldest daughter Isabel is not in this photograph. I’ve estimated the date of this photo at c1900 which makes me suspect it may have been taken to give to sons Duncan and Peter before they left for Australia.  She looks composed in this photograph and I’m guessing she’s holding her bible.

Annie Sim, second wife of Duncan McCorkindale, gives every evidence of being a strong woman capable of dealing with life’s challenges. She grew up on Backrow farm at Bothkennar, Stirling, daughter of James Sim and his wife Ann Wood. The farm had been in the family’s management for generations, though it’s likely they only leased it, but it does mean that she came from a family with rather more money than many of my ancestors. Backrow farm faces the Bothkennar church and school and Annie’s parents are buried in the kirkyard.

As a young woman, Annie defended her father when some hooligans entered the farm property and took her father into the corn fields to rough him up, apparently all because the family dog barked at them.[i] I loved discovering my female ancestor was a feisty woman!

Annie had an illegitimate daughter, Annie Lindsay Sim. I’m waiting on the release of the online Kirk Sessions to see what they tell me about the circumstances surrounding her daughter’s illegitimacy. Annie Lindsay Sim was essentially brought up by her grandparents after Annie’s marriage to Duncan.  I wonder how Annie felt having to care for the two children of her husband’s first wife while forgoing her own first-born child. She did not inherit under her father’s will because he had brought up his granddaughter. However history proves that the family links remained close as we’ll see later.

Family legend tells that shortly before Annie’s husband Duncan died in 1906, her wedding ring came off and rolled across the floor. She went to give him a cup of tea, only to find him dead. Of course these may be only family stories, impossible to verify. Four years after Duncan’s death, Annie and most of her children emigrated to Australia. Her sons, Duncan and Peter, had come to Australia about 10 years earlier, supposedly to separate them from the 2nd cousins they wanted to marry. Annie’s first-born child, Annie Lindsay Sim, who by then had been widowed and remarried, arrived in Australia with her husband Daniel McVey and his family, around the same time. It’s interesting that the whole family, minus one son (Thomas Sim McCorkindale), had decided to make the big move.  Annie Lindsay Sim’s son from her first marriage, Robert Anderson, also made emigrated.

I admire Annie Sim McCorkindale’s fortitude at making this international migration when she was 59 years old. She arrived in Queensland as a sponsored migrant, nominated by Alex McCulloch of Paddington, and documented as “married” rather than widowed[ii].  I’m still trying to work out what the connection was between Alex McCulloch and the McCorkindales.

Annie Sim McCorkindale in her old age, near their house in Brisbane. Do you think this might be the same dress revamped? The chain looks the same to me.

In her old age Annie lived with her daughter and son-in-law in Guildford St, Kelvin Grove. A granddaughter remembered that Annie had blue and white jugs in the kitchen, loved “wee brown eggs” and the family grew a coffee plant and ground coffee (people after my own heart!). It’s safe to assume that Annie would have met my father as an infant and toddler, since she lived quite close to my grandparents’ home. Annie Sim McCorkindale died in 1926, aged 75, and is buried at Toowong Cemetery with an infant grandson.

Annie’s relocation was worthwhile for her adopted country as well as the family. Her descendants made their impact on Australian society in various ways, small and large. Her son Duncan was a foreman at the Kingston joinery works and so instrumental in the construction of Canberra. He also contributed to the development of a Caledonian tradition in Canberra, acting as a judge of the pipers and dancing at the first Highland Games held by the Burns Club in 1925. His early death in 1928 was a loss to the Caledonian community as well as his family. Duncan’s daughter Ida was also worked in Canberra but subsequently vanishes. Annie’s other sons Peter and Malcolm were great pipers and Highland dancers, and although my father said Malcolm was the better piper, his nerves affected his performances. Newspaper reports reveal Peter winning one competition after the other at various Highland or Caledonian games as well as being Pipe Major with Brisbane’s Caledonian Band. (I wonder if there’s anyone still alive who was taught or mentored by one of the McCorkindale pipers). Annie’s step-grandson, Sir Daniel McVey, had a pivotal role in post-war aviation and was also Director of Posts and Telegraphs.

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[i] A discovery from the recently released British Newspaper Archives. Falkirk Herald Saturday 14 September 1872.

[ii] Queensland State Archives microfilm Z3985 IMM 132 p57.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fearless Females 17: Social Butterflies? More Martha than Mary

Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month. #17 – Social Butterly? What social organisations or groups did your mother or grandmother belong to?

My first thought was “social butterly?” “My family?” Even Trove is unable to turn up stories of my mother’s or grandmothers’ involvement in such social events. One of my grandmothers died in her sixties, which of course I think is quite young as she was a similar age to me now. My other grandmother lived into her 80s but I have virtually no recollection of her even leaving the house. Surely she must have? I’m certain though that she was not involved in any social events or service organisations.

Perhaps not “social butterfly” in the generally accepted meaning of the phrase but nonetheless my mother has a history of service which evokes more Martha than Mary for those with a biblical background. The Catholic church has always been my mother’s linch-pin and she has been part of various committees within it as well as doing the church flowers and the like. She and Dad also did Meals on Wheels for some time too after his retirement. Throughout my school years she was also involved in supporting my schools in various practical ways.

Around the time I married and left home to live in Papua New Guinea my mother also took on a role as Commissioner with the local Girl Guides, of which I’d been a member for some years. She seemed to enjoy this activity but because I wasn’t around I didn’t really learn too much about what she did with them.  Before her own marriage she’d been part of the Women’s Air Training Corps learning aircraft identification etc during World War II and assisting with the library.

It’s interesting to see that this service heritage has passed down to me and my children as well, with engagement in various school or church activities over the years. Interesting, too, to know that this kind of parochial service stretches back to the 18th century in my mother’s family lines.

Fearless Females: Day 16 – Lunch with Catherina Kunkel in Das Goldene Fass in Dorfprozelten

My ancestor, 3x great grandmother Eva Catherina Kunkel nee Happ, was a descendant of a family dynasty which owned an inn in the Bavarian village of Dorfprozelten for at least 200 years. I would love to have lunch with her in her own inn, Das Goldene Fass. (I’m working on the whole time-travel-is-possible thing as the inn was demolished in the mid-20th century). She’s not really famous but in my family tree she is pivotal as she links the Australian branches and the Bavarian branches and could answer so many questions for me.A postcard of Das Goldene Fass mid-20thC. Kindly provided to me by Georg Veh, local historian.

It was Catherine’s son, Georg Mathias, who emigrated to Australia in the 1850s and started our Australian line. I would love to get her insights into so many things that affected her family. Why did her son leave home? Was it truly because of the risk of military service? How did she feel to see him leave the village, knowing it was likely she’d never see him again? Was he jealous perhaps that his step-brother inherited the inn? Did Georg’s brother Philip Joseph Kunkel really emigrate to the United States? Or was that after her sudden death? Did Georg write to her after he left home and did she know that he had married an Irish woman and had a big, healthy family. Did he tell her if he was happy in his new country? I really hope he didn’t regret giving up so much and making his life here.

In Bavaria, the family inn regularly hosted tourists to their village and I wonder if her son spoke some English before he left home. I wrote a hypothetical story of his last day in the village. I’d love to ask her if this was just a romantic view of what might have happened or if he did any of these things? She was there when the 60+ men, women and children left Dorfprozelten for Australia.  I wonder how the loss of these people affected the small village: she would be able to tell me this, and the gossip about all those who left.

I’d have so many questions she might regret that we were lunching together, but I hope not. Would she see any physical resemblance between me and her own family. My daughter says I have “big German hands”, so perhaps she would.

The local history of the village tells me something of the menu for the inn at other times, so I’d expect we’d drink the local white wine from its distinctive Bochsbeutel wine bottle. We’d likely have fresh pike cooked with cardamom and mustard, salmon prepared with lemon, special beer, home-made apple-wine, bacon, roast pork and varieties of home-made sausage.[1] I’d love to tell her that George had brought those traditions with him, and that some had become part of his Australian family’s Christmas celebrations.

After a meal like that, and our lengthy conversation, I hope Catherine would let me stay overnight. It would be wonderful to sleep in the deep beds with their fluffy eiderdowns and feather pillows! And in the morning it would be wonderful to awaken to the smell of the freshly-baked bread and pastries from the neighbouring bakery. Or perhaps I’d awaken to discover it was all just a wonderful dream.

This post is inspired by Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog and her Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month.


[1] Veh, G. Dorfprozelten Teil II. pp. 193-195.

Fearless Females 15: A “six-word” tribute to Emily Melvin

Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month. March 15: Write a six-word tribute to one of your female ancestors.

Emily was a courageous, dedicated, loyal, hard-working Queensland-born pioneer.

Fearless Females 13: Moments of Strength – Emily Melvin

Emily Melvin (nee Partridge) with her husband Stephen Gillespie Melvin, probably c1906-1910.

In honour of Women’s History  Month, Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month. This post is my response to Day 13, Moments of Strength.

Emily Partridge was the second wife of Stephen Gillespie Melvin. His fist wife, Janet Melvin, had died fifteen months earlier on Peel Island shortly after arriving on Australian soil.

The year 1887 was to be an annus horribilis for Emily and her family, a year of many moments demanding courage, determination and loyalty. Emily was still only a young woman of 28 but she needed all the strength she could muster.

1887 started with a major flood in Ipswich, Queensland in which her husband Stephen Gillespie Melvin, nearly drowned. Some newspaper reports suggest he was trying to move goods from his bakery and confectionery store, but given the year’s subsequent events I do wonder if it was an accident. A young man, Thomas Shadrach Livermore, was awarded a bronze Humane Society medal for saving Stephen from the flooded Bremer River.

No sooner had the family recovered from that fright, than Stephen was involved in a legal case over a land dispute to develop a coal mine, in which he was one of the defendants. Around the same time his business went into liquidation, no doubt partly due to the court case and perhaps also due to stock losses from the flood and his over-ambitious expansion plans. Stephen lost the court case and the judge charged him and four others with perjury believing they had given false evidence at the land case trial. At the subsequent trial Stephen was found guilty and sentenced to 5½ years gaol. Two of the others were also found guilty while the remaining two were declared not guilty.

Throughout these terrible times, Emily would have had to keep her young family of five children together and her spirits up. The evidence suggests that she was supported in this by her parents, William and Hannah Partridge. Her family had been in Ipswich since the early days and it’s likely she found the whole experience bewildering and shameful. Her family were staunch Methodists and the Melvin business had had a good reputation, so it surely must have been humiliating to be in the public gaze in this way.

We can barely imagine how Emily felt when her husband was sent to gaol for those long years. I’ve read the trial papers in detail and I certainly felt that the evidence was ambiguous: very much a case of “he said, she said”.  Fortunately for the family, Stephen was granted a remission of his sentence after appeal to the Queensland government executive. Thanks to this, 1887 Emily’s annus horribilis ended on a positive note and the family could start to regroup. Emily’s courage and determination had been rewarded. Emily and Stephen’s reunion must have been celebratory as my great-grandmother Laura was born in due time after Stephen’s release from gaol.

Emily continued to work with Stephen to rebuild their business and some years later she bravely relocated with him to Charters Towers to start afresh. Emily went on to have another 8 children with Stephen 6 of whom survived to adulthood. She must have been both emotionally and physically strong.

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

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

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

Janet Melvin nee Peterkin

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

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

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

Julia Kunkel nee Gavin

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

OBITUARY: Darling Downs Gazette 21 November 1901

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

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

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

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

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