(Not Quite) Wordless Wednesday: my Grandad

Denis Joseph Kunkel (1880-1965). The original is held by Pauleen Cass.

Denis Joseph Kunkel (1880-1965). The original is held by Pauleen Cass.

I rediscovered this photo the other day, having forgotten it was given to me a while ago. It’s a large photo on hard board, bigger than A4 so it doesn’t quite fit on my scanner platen. There is no indication of the photographer.

It brought tears to my eyes because my grandfather looks so young and happy in it and I only knew him when he was in his 70s. I was very fond of him and found him to be a kind and gentle man.

My first thought was that it was perhaps taken as he left school and started work, but it is quite a formal photo. Then I had the delayed thought that perhaps it was his confirmation photo. I estimated his age as probably about 15, because of his feeble moustache, but perhaps he was a bit older. This would fit with either of the potential scenarios. Because the family moved around a lot he may have been confirmed a little later than is now usual.

Maybe I’m wrong about his age, and it was taken for his 21st birthday in September 1901, just months before both his parents died. His mother died on 20 November 1901 and his father on Christmas Day 1901. So three months and two days after Dinny’s 21st birthday, all their 10 surviving children were left orphaned.

 Help me out here….what’s your estimate on his age?

Rest in peace Grandad, I hope we meet up again one day.

Thank you one and all, the consensus seems to be it may have been his 21st.  Perhaps his eyes never had quite that look of youthful innocence after both his parents’ sudden deaths…he always looked a bit sad to me.

Two degrees of ancestral separation

Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun last weekend was Two Degrees of Separation. Obviously I’m not having much fun on Saturday nights that it takes me to Tuesday to respond to this challenge, which rather intrigued me.

So, how far back in time could I go with my ancestors by using an ancestor I knew as the pivot point.

As it happens not too far, certainly not as far as Randy managed. Despite many branches of longevity on our tree the furthest back my known personal linkages took me was the 1830s. There were two reasons for this: 1. the timing of my families’ migration to Australia and 2. (in some cases) the early demise of their ancestors.

I was surprised to discover just how recent and ephemeral was this grandparent-grandchild link that we seem to take for granted these days. But more on that another time.

I was lucky that I knew all four of my grandparents and these are the links which took me back.

My grandfather, Denis Joseph Kunkel b 1880, knew all four of his grandparents and would have seen quite a lot of them I imagine. Even though his family moved around with the railway, they spent most of their time near where the grandparents lived. I like the fact that he knew them well and perhaps was close to them. I only wish he’d told me about them …or was I not listening?  All these grandparents have birth dates in the early 1830s though only one is a confirmed date (the rest were Irish –say no more!). If Denis lived in today’s world, where international travel and Skype connect families separated by distance, then he would also have known two of his great-grandparents who were still alive in Ireland, and I could connect back to the c1804..

My paternal grandmother, Catherine b 1887, may have the record for the earliest connection, assuming (and it IS an assumption) that she met her grandfather, Duncan McCorkindale before his death in Greenock Poorhouse in 1889. She wouldn’t have remembered him though, as she was only two when he died. Still IF the family visited him from Glasgow then he would be the earliest contender for our “two degrees of separation”, having been born in 1808.

With my maternal grandmother, Laura, the story is the same. Her Northumbrian-born grandmother lived with them in Charters Towers and Laura would also have known as her Partridge grandparents but again, birth dates are in the 1830s. All earlier generations pre-deceased her birth.

My paternal grandfather, James, certainly knew his paternal grandparents (both born 1830s) as they also lived in Gorey, Co Wexford and the two families emigrated to Australia within a year of each other. Perhaps before they emigrated they travelled to Tullamore, Co Offaly to visit his great-grandfather Martin Furlong, in which case this link would connect back to the early 1800s.

Thanks Randy for a new way of looking at our ancestral families, and enlightening our current family experience.

Australia Day 2012: Wealth for toil on the railway?

Denis Joseph Kunkel (Centre) with his brother James Edward (left) and an unknown friend or relation (right) c1917.

Shelley from Twigs of Yore has again initiated an Australia Day blogging theme. In 2012 the focus is  “wealth for toil” drawing on the words of our national anthem, Advance Australia Fair. Our challenge is to choose an Aussie ancestor and relate how they toiled. There were several alternative approaches but I chose to tell the story of my grandfather’s occupation as a railway worker both in times of peace and at war. Is wealth for toil meant to signify the wealth generation workers create or does it mean they will gain “wealth”?

Many years ago, long before the advent of Ipswich’s wonderful Railway Workshops Museum, I visited a dusty, daggy old office where I was permitted to trawl through equally dusty drawers and boxes of old index cards. These were the records for some of Queensland’s railway workers. Although I’ve since searched similar records at Queensland State Archives, I don’t believe they hold the same cards.

This old image is thought to be Fountain’s (railway) Camp near Murphys Creek.

One of the cards I found all those years ago was my grandfather’s service history. Denis Joseph Kunkel came from a railway family, indeed he was born in a railway camp at the Forty Mile near Dalby. He might be said to have had iron tracks running through his bloodstream and the rattle of the trains in his ears: his grandfather worked on the Ipswich-Toowoomba line around its construction, his father worked on various lines on the Downs and near Jimboomba, while his mother also had jobs as a railway carriage cleaner and gatekeeper[i].

Denis joined the railway as a young lad and is first listed as a 19 year old lad porter at Central Station in Brisbane in 1900, earning a daily pay of 1 shilling and 8 pence (about 18 cents!). Wealth for toil…it appears not!

It’s likely Denis had been out working well before this but I’ve found no record of what he did or where. Denis was the eldest child of George and Julia Kunkel both of whom died in late 1901, and his move back to Grantham in 1902 was probably precipitated by the need to be involved in some way with his younger siblings. Even though he was still a lad porter, his pay increased to 5 shillings a day. Was this in any way related to his being the eldest and needing to provide some financial support to his younger siblings? My father always said that Dinny supported them financially though there are no anecdotes on this in other branches.

Roma Street railway yards c1897. John Oxley LIbrary Image number: APO-023-0001-0001 Copyright expired.

Denis worked his way through the standard railway progression from lad porter to porter then to shunter, the most dangerous job in the railways with a tremendously high injury rate. However shunting was a necessary stepping stone on the way to becoming a guard. As he worked these jobs he followed the opportunities from Maryborough to Roma Street then to Ipswich and Gympie before finally buying his block of land in Brisbane (see this post). The old timber storage box in which he carried his belongings as he moved from one posting to another is a fixture in my mother’s house.

In his early working days he was involved with the unions and thanks to Trove I now know he was secretary to the Railway Employees Association in 1909 and was the Traffic Employees’ scrutineer in the election of members for the Railway Appeals Board. He attended the Federated Railway Transport and Traffic Employees conference in Brisbane in 1909 after which he was one of a deputation of 5 men to present “certain requests” to the Traffic Manager. He attended the Federated Railway Transport and Traffic Employees conference in Brisbane in 1909 after which he was one of a deputation of 5 men to present “certain requests” to the Traffic Manager (ii). Wealth for toil….every step negotiated with “management” and dependent on the strength of your union.

Railway workers were in a reserved occupation during World War II and as yet I’m uncertain as to whether this was the case in World War I. Either way my grandfather didn’t rush to enlist even though two of his younger brothers and several cousins had already volunteered. Two cousins had already paid the ultimate price on the Western Front. It was only in 1917 when the Army called for men with railway expertise that he enlisted with the AIF in the 59th (and later 5th) Australian Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company (ABGROC). As the battles raged on the Western Front, experienced men were needed who could operate the railway infrastructure so vitally important to the movement of men, fuel and supplies.

A Railway Operating Division (ROD) train at Couchil-le-Temple 1918: precisely where my grandfather was stationed at the time. AWM Image AO2516 copyright expired.

As their train steamed south to meet the troop carriers, Denis passed through Murphys Creek where his grandfather had worked on the railway and where his grandmother still lived. His young cousin, Anne Kunkel, remembered seeing these khaki clad men going off to war. Did his grandmother also come down to the station from the Fifteen Mile to see him while the steam train took on water for the steep climb up the range? A newspaper report specifically mentions that he and his brother Jim passed through Toowoomba en route[iii]. Did he defer joining up until after his German-born grandfather died in March 1916? So many questions without answers.

Although these new army recruits were experienced with Australian railway systems, they needed training in the specifics of European rolling stock before playing their part in the battles, and once in Belgium or France, to learn the routes. The Company’s war history reports on the shelling of the line in July 1918 between Ypres and Poperinghe, where Denis was stationed. It was generally thought that the Railway Operating Division’s men were “Right Out of Danger”[iv] but when the enemy knew how vital the railway was to the Allied war effort it’s hard to imagine it was entirely safe. Dad talked about the heavy weaponry being brought to bear on them with the Germans’ “Big Bertha” guns taking a line on them. The war diaries provide a surprisingly rich description of life for the members of the ABGROC. No doubt they were preserved to a degree from the craziness and unpredictability of the battlefront which impacts other war diaries. Perhaps this is the closest they came for wealth for their toil, despite the hazards of war.

Denis’s army file shows that only days after his 38th birthday he had two weeks leave in Paris. Somehow it’s hard to imagine him strolling down the Champs Elysees. Afterwards he had little to say about this adventure other than “one city is much the same as another”. After the Armistice he was granted a further two weeks leave in England and it’s also possible that during this leave he may have visited his future wife’s family in Scotland, but this is merely family story.

Railway staff card for Denis Joseph Kunkel showing wage variations based on economic conditions, changing Awards, and war time allowances.

On his return to Australia in 1919, Dinny resumed his working life in the railway. He was posted at Roma Street (1919-1925) then Mayne Junction (1926-1945) and by the time he retired he was a 1st class guard. Over the years his wages fluctuated with the Depression, the 40 hour week, and the WWII effort but he earned enough to have a secure livelihood for his family. Wealth for toil = steady wages + secure position – physical danger.

The workplace was a different environment then – no workplace mediation or counselling. If you got something wrong, you got fined, and every now & then if you did something innovative, you got a financial reward. In 1940 Dinny was fined £5 and loss of pay while on suspension for having “failed to keep a good look out and give due observance to the down home signal when approaching Roma Street station, thereby contributing to the engine and portion of your train passing the said down home signal in the stop position[v]. This annotation was on his staff card but from TroveI learned that this resulted in “his” train being in a collision with the up train. Denis appealed the charge at the Railway Appeals Board and won, gaining compensation of £2/2/- (two guineas). It’s not clear whether he was also recompensed the lost fortnight’s wages or the £5 fine. Wealth for toil: if you got it right and made no mistakes.

Illustrated front cover from The Queenslander October 2 1930 shows te head and hands of a railway guard. With one hand the guard holds a whistle to his lips and with the other he raises a green flag. John Oxley Library Image 702692-19301002-s001b. Copyright expired.

Denis took his job seriously and a family friend remembered that you didn’t dare run late for a train on which he was the guard, because he’d just blow his whistle at the allotted time and you would be left behind. Eventually, after 45 years and 9 months employment with the railway he took a well-earned retirement. He enjoyed sitting on the back steps smoking his pipe and watching the world go by. The wealth from his toil kept him secure in his retirement thanks to his pension and his savings.

However even in his retirement his occupation left its traces: his old railway whistle was one of my informal inheritances while his old guard’s cap lived at the very top of my grandparents’ wardrobe and was the home “bank” with spare cash, savings books, best jewellery etc stored in it. Obscured by the riser at the front top of the wardrobe it was “as safe as houses”. Wealth for toil indeed.

If you have relatives from the Darling Downs please have a look at this picture which includes Denis and some people with a Kunkel family resemblance. I’d love to find anyone who might recognise one of the other people in the photo.

——————-

[i] http://fhr.slq.qld.gov.au/qldrail/names_k.htm

[ii] http://trove.nla.gov.au/ . The Brisbane Courier, 23 February 1909 and The Brisbane Courier 28 June 1909. The Worker 3 July 1909. .

[iii] The Toowoomba Chronicle, 5 November 1917. Both Denis and Jim were said to be well known in the district.

[iv] No doubt a sentiment exacerbated by the large ROD acronym on the side of the engines.

[v] Rule 71b, 223a, 251s, Book of Rule By Law 308.

Remembrance Day: honouring the Australian-born Diggers with German ancestry

James Thomas Paterson’s name on the memorial boards at the AWM.

A couple of my family’s fallen Diggers, James Augustus Gavin and William Rudolph (Robert) Kunkel, were remembered in earlier posts. Today I want to focus on the service of the Australian Diggers in World War I who were descendants of the mid-19thcentury Dorfprozelten immigrants, five of whom gave their lives and another 17 served in the Australian forces and two earned bravery medals.

In this photo of a young Ken Kunkel in uniform he is a ringer for my father, or I suppose vice versa. Does anyone know what the shoulder flashes signify?

Although their families had arrived 60 years earlier, the generally vituperative press must have made it difficult for them on a day-to-day basis. At the time streets and towns around the country were changing their German names to British ones. I’m proud that these men’s families retained their German names with minor spelling variations based on pronunciation. Their service deserves to be recognised and this summary honours some of these Dorfprozelten descendants.[i]

As far as I can tell none of their living parents and grandparents were interned but there was a requirement for them to report to the local police regularly. Interestingly George Kaufline (son of Dorfprozelten couple Vincent and Eva Kauflein) remained Mayor of Cooma during the war despite his German ancestry.

Returned soldiers in uniform surrounding the Digger War Memorial in Chinchilla ca. 1920 SLQ image 4579, copyright expired.

Children of John Zeller (b Brisbane 1858) and his wife Ann Nixon from Chinchilla and grandchildren of Dorfprozelten immigrants, Franz Ignaz and Catharine Zöller.  With four sons away overseas John Zeller actively contributed to the war effort by supplying walking canes which he crafted himself by hand from local timbers. He also established a sandbag committee at Chinchilla explaining “as I am too old to go and fight with our boys I feel that I must do something to help those that are fighting for us.”[1]

Corporal Zeller of Dalby, Sgt Major Leaver and Sargeant Concannon of Maryborough. photographed in France during WWI. SLQ Negative number: 109996 copyright expired. This is probably George Herbert Zeller, the only one to become a Corporal.

RIP: Thomas Zeller (29) enlisted 8 March 1916 in the 15th reinforcements of the 26th Battalion. He assured the enlisting officer that he was willing to sign a declaration that both his parents were born in Australia. Thomas was killed on 7 October 1917 in the prelude to the battle of Passchendaele, though his death was not confirmed until 15 April 1918. He was buried in the Tyne Cot cemetery, north-east of Ieper. There is a very evocative letter from John Zeller to the military asking for confirmation of his son’s body being found and buried because “his mother is heartbroken at the thought that no one saw him dead”.[2] The pathos of these letters from families desperate for any small piece of information on their loved ones is heart-tugging even at this distance in time.

RIP: George Herbert Zeller (22) enlisted on 28 June 1915 in the 3rd reinforcements of the 25th Battalion. George was killed on the Western Front on 9 April 1918. He was “very smart and a good soldier. Won his corporal stripes with his Lewis Gun in which he was highly proficient.”[3] George was buried in the Warloy-Baillon Communal Cemetery extension, north-east of Amiens.

A postcard sent to Ken Kunkel at the front by a young nephew.

Alfred Zeller (27) enlisted with the AIF on 14 November 1916 in Toowoomba. Originally with the 19th reinforcements of the 25th Battalion, he was later attached to the Engineers.

Richard Zeller (32) enlisted on 14 November 1916 in the 12th Machine Gun Company and was later transferred to the 47th and then the 42nd Battalions.

Children of Joseph and Caroline Worland, grandchildren of Vincenz and Eva Kauflein(aka Kaufline) from  Dorfprozelten.

http://www.awm.gov.au Image EO1649 (copyright expired) Menin Gate memorial memorial erected near Ash Crater to members of the 35th Battalion who fell in the battle of Messines on 7 June 1917. R C C Worland’s name is on this memorial.

RIP: Robert Charles Clyde Worland (20), from the Cooma/Monaro area, enlisted on 7 August 1916 and served with the 35th Battalion. He was killed in action on 10 June 1917. He is remembered on the Ieper/Ypres (Menin Gate) memorial.

RIP: Lt Edward John Worland MC (31) enlisted on 24 November 1915 and served with the 35th Battalion . He was twice recommended for the Military Cross (July and August 1918) which was awarded 1919. He was killed in action on 30 August 1918 and is buried in Daours Communal Cemetery Extension, about 10km east of Amiens.

The youngest son and a grandson of Heinrich Volp[ii] and Anna Günzer (aka Ganzer). Anna was only a young woman of 14 when she emigrated from Dorfprozelten.

George Volp MM (son of the above, 22), enlisted in February 1917 and was with the 25th reinforcements of the 2nd Light Horse. George was recommended for the Military Medal in November 1917 and awarded it in January 1918.

Henry Ernest Volp (23) was the grandson of Heinrich and Anna and the son of their eldest son Johann Jacob. He also enlisted with the 25th reinforcements of the 2nd Light Horse in February 1917. It seems likely these two men, born in the same year, were more like brothers than uncle and nephew.

Son of Christopher Ganzer and his wife Ellen Gollogly and grandson of Dorfprozelten immigrants George Günzer (aka Ganzer) and his wife Hildegardis Hock. George Günzer was the father of Anna Günzer above, so even though he was deceased well before WWI he had at least 3 grandsons serving.

The Murphys Creek (Qld) World War I Memorial Board taken P Cass c1988.

Terence Joseph Ganzer (21 ) enlisted on 17 November 1916 and served with the 24th reinforcements of the 5th Light Horse.

Grandchildren of Bavarian-born George Mathias Kunkel and his Irish-born wife, Mary O’Brien, from Murphy’s Creek and sons of George Michael Kunkel and his wife Julia Gavin.

RIP: James Thomas Paterson (28) enlisted on 31 August 1915. He had previously served with the Roma Commonwealth Light Horse. Initially James was posted to the 9th reinforcements of the 25th Battalion but on arrival in Egypt he was absorbed into the 49th and later attached to the 50th. James served on the Western Front and on 5 April 1917 he was killed during an assault on a railway crossing near Noreuil. His body was never recovered and he is remembered on the Villers-Brettoneux memorial near Amiens. James left behind a wife and infant daughter.

The memorial plaque for James Thomas Paterson on Roma’s bottletree planting in honour of its World War I Diggers

Daniel Joseph Paterson[iii] (24) enlisted on 25 February 1917 and initially attached to the Machine Gun Company then subsequently the 31st and 41st Battalions. He served in France but was repatriated to England in mid-1918 with trench fever. He must have been quite sick as he did not return to France for over two months. According to family anecdote, Dan had a lifelong aversion to war.

Young brothers Matthew David John Kunkel (22) and Kenneth Norman Kunkel (20) had already enlisted in January and February 1917. Two of their Gavin cousins left on the same ship with them and one had already given his life at Fromelles. John’s file is annotated with the comment “I have examined papers in every respect”.

James Edward (Front left) and Denis Joseph Kunkel (centre) and unidentified friend or relation c1917.

John and Ken’s older brothers Denis Joseph Kunkel (37), my grandfather, and his brother James Edward Kunkel (26) enlisted on 22 October 1917 when the call went out for experienced railwaymen to work on the lines in western France. James Edward was subsequently rejected on the grounds of ill health, but Denis Joseph Kunkel joined the Australian Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company in north-west France and Belgium. His service file carries a muddle of papers including those of two of his brothers. Despite a view that being in the railway unit was an easy life, it’s unlikely it seemed so when the German heavy guns got a line on the trains delivering replacement armoury.


[1] Mathews, T. op cit, page 365.

[2] ibid page 26.

[3] On 2 July 1918, Boulogne, LHA Giles 25th Battalion.


[i] It’s possible there may be more descendants of these families who served as it’s some years since I followed them in detail. I would be very interested to hear from anyone who can add to this list.

[ii] The children of this family are on the Qld BDM indexes with the surname Folp, reflecting the German pronunciation. Anna was only a young girl when she arrived from Germany and she had many children.

[iii] It is possibly Daniel on The Queenslander’s fantastic passport photos, 14 July 1917 page 26 http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/2363222?zoomLevel=2