K is captivated by Kathmandu, Kildare and Kavieng

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which). Today’s “K” post mixes long-ago family history with recent family history and travelogue.

K is for Kathmandu (Nepal)

Kathmandu © P Cass 1977

Kathmandu was on my husband’s bucket list long before the expression had been invented. When friends and colleagues from Port Moresby got a posting to Kathmandu to work at the airport, he was quick to take advantage of their offer of a visit….something we’d have been unlikely to do otherwise with a six year old and a four year old in tow. We tacked the detour onto the kids’ first trip to Europe and as the plane came into land amidst lightning and murky wet season weather, we were very pleased to know our friend was in charge of the airport’s electrical systems.

What a fascinating place Kathmandu was, not on the 1970s hippie trail, but as parents with small children. Our friends made it so much easier being able to have good accommodation, safe food and triply-distilled water. All of us were overwhelmed by our couple of days in New Delhi with its crowds, begging and understandable confrontational style. Our main regret is that jet lag and culture shock meant we didn’t have the energy to do a day trip to Agra and the Taj Mahal as we’d hoped.

Kathmandu craftsmen -tinsmiths or silversmiths (I can't recall) © P Cass 1977.

Life tough for the Nepali people but they seemed somehow more happy and less aggressive, and mostly we enjoyed Kathmandu. Leprosy and deformities were rife: confronting sights even for those accustomed to life in Papua New Guinea and not a first world country.

Pashupatinath Kathmandu © P Cass 1977

The sights and memories are many: the little cubbyholes in which people worked at tin or silver smithing, or sari-making; Durba Square; the toothache shrine, the nearby smell unbelievable; a man reading the newspaper to a crowd of men sitting on the steps; the sacred cows everywhere on the road; the  monks and faithful spinning the prayer wheels at Boudhanath or Swayambunath; monkeys in Pashupatinatheven seeing a cremation by the river there. Our friends encouraged us to let the children watch and they seemed quite mesmerised and not at all traumatised by it.

The Himalaya from the air: meringue mountains. © P Cass 1977

Our friend’s work took him to various outstations and we were able to travel with him in the truck to sightsee. I clearly remember driving through a village where the grain was laid out in the street to be threshed by the passing vehicles running over it. Far too often for my liking the vehicle was far too close to the precipitous edge of a road due the narrowness, not the driving.

We even managed a tourist flight to Mt Everest despite bad weather cancelling our first planned flight. Special memories of a truly unusual place and one we were privileged to visit.

K is for County Kildare (Ireland)

Ballymore Eustace Catholic Church, Co Kildare © P Cass 1992

My Denis Gavin, who you’ve heard about lately, says he was from Ballymore Eustace, County Kildare. Mind you he’s also stated on his second marriage certificate that he was born in Dublin. On his immigration record[i] he said that his parents were Denis and Mary Gavin, that his father was dead but his mother was in Kildare. You can see there’s some ambiguity here for family history research.

Nearly 20 years ago I tried to resolve this problem by visiting the parish church at Ballymore Eustace looking for his baptism circa 1834 (his age maths tends to be a bit arbitrary), but got no results. I thought I’d struck it lucky when I found a Denis Gavin listed on the Griffith Valuations and with a probate entry, but apparently not. That particular Denis Gavin was a single man with no family other than a sister to whom he left his estate. I keep checking the indexes (IrishGenealogy.ie or RootsIreland.ie) but to no avail.

Where does this leave me? All these years later I’m still uncertain as to whether Denis came from Co Kildare or Co Dublin or where his family had lived. I’m not quite willing to call it a brick wall but it is something of a commando-standard challenge. Perhaps I’m too close to it and can no longer see the genealogical woods for the family history forest.

K is for Kavieng (Papua New Guinea)

Legur Beach, Kavieng © P Cass 1973

Kavieng, New Ireland Province, is where my husband’s parents lived in the early 1970s.  I’ve talked about how we swapped our fresh veg for their fresh crayfish, a winning exchange in my book. We visited them for a long weekend (possibly Easter) and enjoyed being able to swim in the sea after a few years in the Highlands, though it was a long walk out over the crushed coral to get far enough into the water to swim. Neither of us has many memories of the place, other than that it was quite flat, with a lot of coconut plantations and we saw war-time wreckage and bomb craters as we flew in. Mr Cassmob’s comment when asked for inspiration: Em tasol – sori long lusim tingting (Pidgin for that’s all, sorry I can’t remember).

K is for Korea

McDonald's Corner at the start of the Kokoda Track © P Cass 1976.

My father’s cousin went missing in action in Korea, aged 22. His family were devastated and over the years continued to try to learn more about what happened to him. I told his storylast year in an Anzac Day blog post. If anyone reading this post is related to his friends on his final patrol I’d love to hear from you.

K is for Kokoda Track or Trail (Papua New Guinea)

The Kokoda Track/Trail[ii]was a pivotal battleground of World War II in PNG and is now something of a pilgrimage site for Australians. When we went to Papua New Guinea soon after being married, my husband took me for a drive out of Port Moresby to Sogeri, where he’d lived for a while, and McDonald’s Corner, the southern gateway to the Track. I found it quite sobering to stand at a place which had become famous in Australian folklore.

A to Z Challenge suggestions:

You might fancy a dip into Italy with Lady Reader’s Bookstuff or Someone has to say it on intellectual property rights for books or a heartfelt post by A Common Sea.


[i] NSW Board Immigrant’s Lists for Fortune 1855, microfilm 2469.

[ii] The terminology has been hotly debated. The Australian War Memorial explains it here.

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.