Another few bricks tumble on Trove

George Kunkel

George Kunkel

It seems that this past few days have been a voyage of discovery. First I think I’ve cracked the mystery of my Mary O’Brien’s arrival even though there’s some archival searching to be done, then a repeat search of Trove for George Kunkel turned up another gem! And yes, this should have been a Trove Tuesday post, but then again it’s no longer Tuesday.

The first snippet I found was an advertisement in the North Australian newspaper of Saturday, 14 July 1866:

THIS DAY-AT 2 O’CLOCK. In the Court of Requests, District of Ipswich. WILSON v. KUNKEL. TAKE Notice that HUGHES & CAMERON have received instructions from the Bailiff of the Court of Requests to sell by Public Auction, at the Residence of the Defendant, East-street, THIS DAY (SATURDAY), the 14th Instant, at 2 o’clock sharp, The following GOODS and CHATTELS, the property of the Defendant in the above cause, seized under execution, unless the claim be previously satisfied : article123331889-3-001 Kunkel

1 handsome Carriage, 1 Cedar Table (Pine Top), 5 Chairs, 2 Forms, 1 Dressing Table and Cover, 2 Clocks, 2 Pictures, 1 Decanter, 1 Cruet Stand, 6 Tumblers, 1 Butter Basin and Glass, 3 Chimney Ornaments, 1 Double Cedar Bedstead, 1 Single Cedar Bedstead, 1 Box. 10 Stretchers, 1 Toilet Table, 3 Looking-glasses, 1 Jug and Basin, 2 Washstands, 2 Dressing Tables, 6 Mattresses, 4 Pillows, 2 Blankets, 1 Counterpane, 2 Plates, 4 Dishes, 1 Pine Table, 1 Pine Bedstead and Mattress, Crockery, Househlold and Kitchen Utensils, &c., &c.

Terms Cash on the fall of the hammer. No Reserve

It was around 1866 that the Kunkel family appeared to have headed west with the new railway line to Toowoomba. It’s believed George worked on it, but perhaps another possibility is that he was working as a butcher supplying the men, just as he did on the Tooloom goldfields.

Perhaps this explains why the family needed to move. If the proposed auction of their belongings proceeded on that Saturday, surely the family would have been left with little to support daily life. What I find interesting is that the sale focuses on his household belongings. Did he no longer have any business assets? While it was generally required that a man be permitted to keep the equipment needed to do his job, surely there would have been something else to sell than the beds from under their bodies.

There’s another “spin” to this, too, because when George and Mary’s daughter Elizabeth (always known as Louisa) was born in March 1866, George states his occupation as “boarding house keeper”. It seems he was following on the skills learned at his mother’s knee and generations of Happs who ran Das Goldenes Fass inn back home in Dorfprozelten.

Perhaps the reason there are so many assets listed here is because they were part of the boarding house rather than the family’s own. Nevertheless it’s clear they were reasonably well fitted out for a working class family with five children.

All those questions aside I wondered what had brought George to this point. I’d never found a bankruptcy case or a liquidation order against him.

Queensland Times, 7 July 1866 UNDEFENDED CASES There were forty-five undefended cases on the sheet, of which a great many were disposed of out of Court or dismissed from non-appearance of the parties. Verdicts were given for plaintiffs in the following cases, with costs as appended. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article123333099

Queensland Times, 7 July 1866 UNDEFENDED CASES There were forty-five undefended cases on the sheet, of which a great many were disposed of out of Court or dismissed from non-appearance of the parties. Verdicts were given for plaintiffs in the following cases, with costs as appended.
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article123333099

Further research of Trove revealed at least part of the cause. George was being pursued for dishonouring a £6 promissory note as well as the cost of goods purchased (but presumably not paid for!) of £8 2s 6d. In both cases Wilson was claiming 5 shillings costs, so another £1 to add to the original £14/2/6.

It seems apparent that George had got himself into financial difficulties perhaps by being over-extended in his business arrangements. Their son Thomas was born circa 1868, and his birth and baptism are the only ones I cannot find from the 10 children. My conclusion is that somewhere soon after this financial debacle in mid-1866, the Kunkel family started westwards for the Darling Downs. They later took up a selection at Murphys Creek in 1874. They would never live in Ipswich again, though their granddaughter expressed the view that it was a shame they’d left there, presumably not knowing the reasons why, or echoing something she’d been told as a child.

Trove Tuesday is a theme created by Amy from Branches, Leaves and Pollen blog.

Sepia Saturday: shops and genealogy mazes

sepia saturday 26 JanDaniel (38) and Winifred O’Brien arrived in Queensland on board the Florentia on 29 April 1853. Accompanying them on the voyage were their children Mary 18, Ellen 16, Denis 13, Sarah 12, Hanora 9 and Daniel 2. The family came from Tipperary and on the immigration lists Daniel stated his parents were Denis and Mary O’Brien (mother still alive) and his wife’s parents were Thomas and Ellen Carter (both dead). Daniel apparently went on to become a blacksmith near the current Amberley airforce runway. This photo of his shop, with staff, and possibly family standing outside, is reminiscent of this week’s Sepia Saturday theme. The photo has been digitised by Picture Ipswich.

Ipswich Library &​ Information Service, Ipswich City Council, 1860-1869oai:picture.ipswich.qld.gov.au:8704

Ipswich Library &​ Information Service, Ipswich City Council, 1860-1869   oai:picture.ipswich.qld.gov.au:8704

An Ancestry family tree indicates that Daniel was born c1801 at Bishopswood near Dundrum, Tipperary. This is a slightly longer distance from Limerick than my O’Brien’s home in Ballykelly near Broadford, Co Clare. From time to time, I’ve wondered if my Mary O’Brien Kunkel somehow emigrated with the Daniel O’Brien family, but this remains conjecture or fantasy rather than fact. Daniel and Winifred’s daughter, Ellen O’Brien, married a John Collins and son Daniel married Anne Brennan from Maitland. There is nothing whatsoever to suggest that this family is any way connected to my O’Brien family from County Clare…BUT…

So why do I say “BUT”? Well there are a number of connections between my O’Brien-Kunkel family and this family.

Daniel O'Brien /Picture Ipswich/People/Families/ARCHIVE/qips-2010-10-24-0003p.jpg

Daniel O’Brien /Picture Ipswich/People/Families/ARCHIVE/qips-2010-10-24-0003p.jpg

I believe it’s likely that the Sarah O’Brien who witnesses George Kunkel’s and Mary O’Brien’s marriage in Ipswich Queensland in 1857 is the daughter listed above, although I have no strong evidence that she’s the right one, rather perhaps than any other.

The link to one sister is stronger however. Sarah’s sister, Mary O’Brien, married a James McGrath and this couple witnessed the baptism of the Kunkel’s second child, Joseph.

So is there a relationship connection between my Mary O’Brien from Co Clare to the Daniel O’Brien family? Unfortunately I just can’t say.

Winifred O'Brien nee Carter. Picture Ipswich/People/Families/ARCHIVE/qips-2010-10-24-0002p.jpg

Winifred O’Brien nee Carter. Picture Ipswich/People/Families/ARCHIVE/qips-2010-10-24-0002p.jpg

There’s yet more confusion to add to this O’Brien maze because a Kate O’Brien witnesses the baptisms of the Kunkel daughters Mary Ellen and Elizabeth (later known as Louisa).  Is Kate a “ring-in” or is she really my Mary’s sister, who oral history says came with her older sisters Bridget and Mary? If she was a sister, and they arrived together, surely she would have witnessed Mary’s marriage as well? I’d previously discounted this because of no clear links, because Kate marries in Sydney in 1871. Would she have waited that long if she’d arrived in Moreton Bay circa 1855? She’d have been quite young, about 14, on arrival but that’s far from impossible too.

Just to add to the confusion, there’s yet another O’Brien strand to add to the mix. Bridget O’Brien, daughter of Patrick O’Brien and Mary Latchford of Limerick appears regularly in my Kunkel-O’Brien history. Bridget married a Robert Mullen and one of the witnesses to the wedding was my George Kunkel. Bridget’s husband Robert then witnesses Mary Ellen and Louisa Kunkel’s baptisms (together with Kate above). Bridget is later the sponsor at the baptism of Bridget Catherine Kunkel. My Mary O’Brien Kunkel is in turn the sponsor at the baptism of baby Mary Alice Mullen who dies in 1865. My working hypothesis is that Robert Mullen may also worked on the development of the railway line to Toowoomba. The families appear to have remained in contact over the decades as evidenced by the loan of a wedding gown by their daughter to Mary O’Brien Kunkel’s granddaughter. Robert Mullen died within a year of his old friend George Kunkel on 7 July 1915.

This interwoven story comprises several O’Brien strands:

Strand 1: My Mary O’Brien from Ballykelly near Broadford, County Clare

Strand 2: Sarah O’Brien who witnesses the Kunkel-O’Brien marriage –is she a relation of my Mary’s? Daughter of Daniel and Winifred? Or someone else altogether?

Strand 3: Kate O’Brien who witnesses baptisms (a relation or a friend?)

Strand 4: Bridget O’Brien married to Robert Mullen who we know is not obviously related to any of these families. However the Mullen family continues their links with the Kunkels over many years.

Strand 5: Mary O’Brien, daughter of Daniel and Winifred, who married James McGrath and who witnesses the Kunkels’ second child’s baptism.

This is something of a muddled link to the theme of shop and staff for this week’s Sepia Saturday, but it does show the importance and complexity of FANs (friends/family, Associates, Neighbours) in relation to our family history. Maybe something will come of this post to make the connections less ambiguous.

I investigates Ireland, Inishail, and Ipswich (Qld)

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) and today’s post explores interludes in Ireland, Inishail, and Ipswich (Qld, Australia).

I is for Ireland

As soon as I arrived in Dublin in the late 1980s there was a sense of recognition, a realisation of how much like the Irish we Australians are in so many ways…the sense of irony, mickey-taking, disregard for authority. At the same time it seemed unfamiliar because I’d expected the inflexibility and conformity learned from my life in an Australian Catholic school and church with Irish nuns and priests, and a stern Irish-born grandfather. It was a delight to discover that Ireland was full of joie de vivre and craic (good fun) as well as the darker, more morose side with which I was familiar.

Allihies, West Cork on the Beara Peninsula

Without the urge to learn more of my family history I may never have visited Ireland, and so would have missed out on far more than adding leaves to my family tree. Ireland fulfils so many stereotypes that you’ve heard about: the green patchwork fields, the distant blue hills, old stone cottages, the soft rain, and the quirky sayings and greetings that seem quintessential yet somehow difficult to remember when you leave. Coming from Australia with its wide open spaces and vast distances, it’s easy for a tourist to think “ah I’ll get there in no time” but everywhere there are those signposts that can all point to the same place, via twisty Irish roads that only change how much time it takes you to get to your destination. Despite the number of times I’ve visited I still make the mistake of not allowing enough time!

Beautiful Achill Island, Co Mayo. © P Cass 2006.

Over the years we’ve visited 20 counties and each has its own beauty. Despite my Clare ancestry I have to say my favourites are the rugged, more isolated areas: Achill Island (Mayo), Beara Peninsula (Cork), the wide-open spaces in south-west Donegal, tragic site of many evictions, and the steep cliffs near Dun Choin by Dingle (Kerry).

Over the decades as the Celtic Tiger stirred, and then roared, the social atmosphere has changed. There was cash to splash and everyone was busy, busy. There was a brashness to life, in Dublin especially, that I didn’t really like…it had turned into a typical big city (or perhaps I’d got used to living in a smaller city). In the rural areas people remained both friendly and reserved, much as always. The standard of living had improved which made life more comfortable for people…the decades and centuries of disadvantage were slowly being turned around. It’s sad to think that the Irish people are now going through such difficult times.

Wherever you go, there is that essential kindness and welcome that the Irish share with the visitor. It’s a grand place to visit and if you have the opportunity it’s well worth going. Even if the trip doesn’t uncover specific family history, you’ll get a much better sense of the place and its people, and, intuitively, the loss your ancestors experienced when they left it all behind.

I is for Inishail (Scotland)

Inishail is part of the combined parish of Glenorchy and Inishail in Argyll, Scotland. Inishail lies over the hills from Inveraray and borders the starkly beautiful Loch Awe. The MacArthurs and Campbells are powerful in this area, and history abounds. I’m not planning to talk about that here but if you want to investigate further you might find this linka helpful starting point.

Highland cattle near Cladich, Argyll. © P Cass 2006

My interest in Inishail parish arises because my 2xgreat grandparents, Duncan McCorquodale (various spellings) and his wife, Ann Campbell lived there for about 50 years, apparently having moved across the Loch from Kilchrenan parish. They both appear in the 1841 census, and Duncan in the 1851 census, living in Drimuirk. It took some work locating this little hamlet as it’s rarely indexed on maps. My starting point has been the village of Cladich which in its day, was on the drove road for cattle to Inveraray and points south and west. The long haired Highland cattle are still a feature of the area, and of a local estate. In the colder months, when we tend to visit, the clouds hang low, and the mist filters through trees draped in moss and lichen…dimly among the trees appears a woolly Highland cow. It can be kind of spooky.

Drimuirk by Cladich, Parish of Inishail, Argyll. © P Cass 2010

On previous trips I’d estimated from maps where Drimuirk was located, and taken photos, but this time I was given a great privilege…the opportunity to “walk the land” where my ancestors lived. At ground level, and with local help, I could see that what had seemed random rocks were actually the remains of the rude cottages of the long-ago residents of Drimuirk. Of course I have no idea which of the small handful of house foundations was theirs, but I like to imagine it was the one with the view over the loch and where the travellers could be seen coming over the hills. Afterwards I read the Kirk Session records for the parish, and found a reference to the “small house” of Duncan McCorquodale. The reiteration of “small house” suggests that even by the standards of the day it must have been tiny, yet there’d have been half a dozen people living there at times. You can read my post about it here. I’m forever grateful to have been given this chance to see what remains of this little settlement.

Dorothy Wordsworth passed through the area in 1803, around the time my family came to the area to live. She describes the children of the Macfarlane family thus: The children, after having collected fuel for our fire, began to play on the green hill where we stood, as heedless as if we had been trees or stones, and amused us exceedingly with their activity: they wrestled, rolled down the hill, pushing one another over and over again, laughing, screaming, and chattering Erse (Gaelic)…[i]Reading this it’s so easy to imagine my own great-grandfather playing with his siblings in this way.

Genie tip: when searching for Inishail, also try spelling it as Innishail, especially in archive searching, which will add to your results.

I is for Ipswich (Queensland, Australia)

View over Ipswich, March 2012, with St Mary's Catholic church prominent. © P Cass 2012

Ipswich is the place where my Melvin, Partridge, Kent and Kunkel families first settled in Australia. New immigrants would sign work contracts and then travel by boat up the river system to Ipswich from where they  would be dispersed to the most distant reaches of the Moreton Bay settlement, as happened with my Gavin family and most of the Dorfprozelten immigrants who came to Moreton Bay. No doubt the employers were keen to keep them on the move before the immigrants had any idea of just what they were taking on, and how very isolated many of them would be.

Those who came to Ipswich to live and work arrived in a small but bustling town with minimal, but developing, infrastructure. They quickly became part of the social fabric of the community and could, if they wished, make their mark there. William Partridge worked as a carpenter, George Kunkel ran a boarding house in Union Street with his wife Mary and also a pork butcher’s establishment, before they moved west with the railway construction. Richard Kent was an older man when he arrived and remained a labourer as far as I can tell, though he’d run a public house in England. Stephen Melvin arrived later, in the 1870s, and before long was establishing himself with a well-regarded confectionery shop(s) and factory.

My families were on opposite sides of the religious divide with the Kunkels attending St Mary’s, the Catholic church, and the others associated with the Anglican or Methodist churches at different times. Despite this it would have been difficult for the Kents, Partridges and Kunkels not to be aware of each other in such a small community through the 1850s and 1860s.

A well preserved Ipswich home.

One of the interesting things about doing family history from those early days of Moreton Bay/Queensland, is how often you come across someone whose ancestry lies in the same places as yours…not all that difficult when the European population was so small. I wonder from time to time, whether these distant links are part of why we instantly “click” with some people and others, without doing a thing, get our backs up. It intrigues me that much the same thing can happen with people whose names I find bobbing up in the overseas parish registers of my families…kind of weird really.

Ipswich for a long time was a coal mining town and continued to be a place where new immigrants could afford to settle. Ipswich suffered in the 2011 floods, a history which has repeated itself over the centuries. These days it’s throwing off its former social disadvantage and promoting its history, of which there’s a wealth. If you ever want to see fantastic examples of vernacular Queensland architecture, Ipswich is the place to go. Perhaps precisely because it was economically depressed for quite a while, there are wonderful examples of old Queensland homes with deep verandahs, mostly set on stilts to keep them above the flood waters.

I’m looking forward to having more time in the future to re-explore Ipswich and its historical treasures: the churches, the railway workshops, the architecture and the cemetery.

I ships for East Clare immigrants

Irene (1852) [7] + 7 from Ennis; Ironside (1863) [9] and Ida (1864) [9]

A to Z 2012 Challenge

My nod for today is Catherine Noble’s blog about writing. I especially liked “D for Dedication”.


[i] http://www.ourscotland.co.uk/ebooks/recollectionsweek3.htm. Recollections of a tour made in Scotland AD 1803 by Dorothy Wordsworth. August 31st, 1803.

Beyond the Internet: Week 12 – Church histories

This is Week 12 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. This week’s topic is Church Histories.  I’d love it if you wanted to join in with your thoughts on this topic. If possible please provide a link to your post on this page.

Does this sound like one big yawn to you? Lynn Palermo over at The Armchair Genealogist has written this week about the importance of background reading for our family history. Learning more about our ancestors’ parish churches is important to our understanding of their day-to-day lives at a time when the church used to be such an integral part of peoples’ lives.

Extract from Robert Dunne, Archbishop of Brisbane, op cit, p272 (footnotes). I believe Tazilia Dining is probably Cecilia Dümig/Dimig/Dimmock nee Füller.

You might be surprised at the treasures hiding within these books: sometimes information about specific people even though more often it will be general information. Obviously we’ll mostly each need our own reference reading list, given our ancestors’ different geographical areas.

Even biographies of senior churchmen can be helpful. One of the most informative church books for my own family was the biography of Robert Dunne, Archbishop of Brisbane. There are countless references to how Dunne interacted with his parishioners (which included my Kunkels), his visits to the railway camps and how he viewed them, his encouragement of land purchases etc. It also documents how he got into strife for not providing sufficient pastoral care for his German-speaking Catholics. The petition transcription includes the names of four of “my” Dorfprozelten families, not to mention quite a number of other German Catholics (I’d love to see the original but they have been unable to locate it).

Centenary histories of churches can be particularly useful though they may have a variable standard of documentation.

Catechism Class St Stephen's Cathedral Brisbane 1860, Foundations of the Catholic Church in Queensland, op cit, page 148.

These are some of the things I’ve found in the church histories or biographies:

  1. References to petitions and signatories.
  2. Details of subscription lists for the construction or improvement of churches.
  3. Donations of specific items for the church interior –stained glass windows, communion vessels.
  4. Extracts of old church newsletters.
  5. Reference to Rev Benjamin Glennie’s diary entries and remote pastoral travel on behalf of his Anglican flock. I have wondered if the teamsters who helped him cross the Condamine River in 1857 included my 2x great grandfather, Denis Gavin who was working as a teamster in that area.
  6. The catechism class at St Stephen’s Catholic Church, Brisbane in January 1860 (wouldn’t you love to find a family member in this list? I would!)
  7. Sunday School prizes.
  8. The names of churchwardens in 1907 for Anglican parishes in Childers, Cleveland, Dalby, Drayton, Esk, Gayndah (Warra history)
  9. Photos/sketches of old churches, now demolished or decommissioned.
  10. Early baptisms in the pioneer churches as priests rode hundreds of miles to marry people or baptise children.
  11. Early confirmation ceremonies reported in the newspapers.

Among my collection of church histories to which I’ve referred in this post are:

Robert Dunne, Archbishop of Brisbane. Byrne, N J. The University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, 1991.

St Michael’s Church, Gorey (Wexford) 1839-1989, Forde,W (ed) 1989

The Foundation of the Catholic Church in Queensland, Martin D W, Church Archivists’ Press, Brisbane 1998

St Mary’s Story: a history of St Mary’s Catholic Parish, Ipswich 1849-1999, St Mary’s Parish Historical Society, Ipswich, 1999.

A Century of Service, All Saints’ Warra 1907-2007, All Saints’ Restoration Committee.

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.

Beyond the Internet: Week 3: Houses wrapped in red tape.

Don’t you find life is full of red tape? Someone always wants paperwork from you in relation to some part of your life. How do people survive who are uneducated I wonder.

The very same red tape that we often find so exasperating in day-to-day life, is heaven-sent when we’re doing family history. Much of it is found wrapped in brown paper tied with a pink ribbon, in an archive near you. Relatively speaking little of it is available on the internet. The Beyond the Internet series is intended to highlight some of the sources you may not have thought about and which will flesh out your family stories.

I’ve put a graphic on this page to represent our exploration Beyond the Internet. The unedited version was a free clipart from Microsoft Office so I think there are no copyright issues. Feel free to put it on your blog page if you want to join in and post to any of these topics…the more the merrier. It would be great too if there was representation from different regions and countries.

In Week 2 I talked a little about the sources available off-line about the history of your ancestral homes: personal records (papers, diaries, letters); cultural heritage studies; English land enclosure maps; LDS microfilms of parish records other than registers; photos and local and oral histories; as well as land selection records for early settlers. This week my focus is slightly different though the two topics interlink. I’ll focus on four sources and illustrate how they’ve helped my family history:

1. Land titles and title certificates

2. Council rates

3. Sewerage records

4. Survey maps

Land Titles

Land titles documents are available from the State lands department (its name will vary depending on place and government but in Queensland is currently the Department of Environment and Resource Management). Yes, they are not free but they can also be very useful and the money well spent.

My grandparents' house c1930

On a recent trip interstate I purchased two certificates of title for my grandparents’ property.[i] No one really knew when Grandad bought the land and built the house but these documents solved part of that mystery. The first certificate, dated 5 September 1917, showed my grandfather’s purchase of plot 31 from a David McMullen who’d bought it only a few months earlier from a James Taylor Searle. These transfers were around the time the subdivision took place. This purchase date was only a month before Grandad enlisted to serve in WWI, which tells me he was setting something aside either for his betrothed (if they were actually engaged) or his younger siblings in case he was killed. My grandfather was a steady, considered man so I have little doubt this was a planned strategy…it would be so interesting to see his military will. He’d been the eldest child when both his parents died so no doubt that impacted on his life attitudes. A few months later the title on the adjoining plots 30 and 31 were transferred to Susan Ann Easey on 23 January 1918.

But it doesn’t end there. On his return from the war my grandfather purchased plots 30 and 31 from Susan Ann Easey, stated to be the wife of Arthur Edwin Easey on 21 January 1921. Oral history also tells us that Mrs Easey is the woman with whom Grandad boarded his youngest brother after their parents’ died. Mrs Easey appears on the electoral rolls but interestingly not at this address.

My grandparents married in 1922 so my best guess at present is that the house was built between 1921 and his marriage. The house currently sits close-ish to the boundary between plots 30 and 31 but my mother told me recently that my grandparents’ house was moved a couple of metres when my parents’ house was built after their marriage. Hence my hypothesis is that Grandad built the house after he had purchased all three blocks and between January 1921 and April 1922.

Another snippet on the Certificate of Title has given me a further clue to explore when next at the Archives. His will, through the Public Curator of Queensland, was dated 15 January 1948 and as they acted as “devisee in trust”, I’m assuming the house had been left to my father but for my grandmother to have residence until her death.

I do find land records quite confusing and for New South Wales records some years ago I used a record agent to dig out the many land files for one of my ancestors. I figured it was probably worth my while and would be more efficient than me trying to get to the bottom of it all during brief interstate trips.

Council rates

Even though Council rates are local government records many historic records are held at the Queensland State Archives (other states may be different and I can’t speak for that). There may also be copies held in the relevant town.   After the establishment of Ipswich as a municipality, many of my ancestors appear in the records for that town’s rate payments. So what does this tell us? The value of the property relative to those nearby will give you an idea of the standard of their house. There may be maps which correlate to the land allotments allowing you to be absolutely certain where their house or business was located. This will enable you to compare that with current maps or to pinpoint the location during a site visit.

As rates are paid on all properties owned you may discover that your ancestors owned more than one property – something which doesn’t become clear from Post Office directories or electoral rolls, which are most likely to focus only on their residential property. I also made an interesting discovery that one of my ancestors changed his first name when he moved towns, probably because of a problem with the law. It makes you wonder how he came to revert to his original name and what people’s responses to that were in a small town…or was it only on the rate books that his name was different. Rate books will also give you an insight into the area –the type of housing, the area’s expansion etc.

It’s important to investigate where these sources are located. I’ve found them in the Queensland State Archives (my main haunt), local history libraries and Sydney City Archives (thanks to a tip-off from a genie-colleague). You may even find clues to assist your search you on the local real estate pages (yes, online I know!).

Sewerage Records

I’d never heard of these records until alerted to them by Susie Zada at a talk in 2011. She’s also published a helpful little booklet through Unlock the Past, called Sewerage Records: an untapped magnificent resource. I can recommend it highly.

I followed Susie’s tip and obtained the sewerage maps for my grandparents’ and parents’ street. The map shows all the buildings at the time, their location on the block and you will see where there were outhouses (dunnies/toilets) before the sewerage was installed.

Survey maps

One of the early houses in the area 1878. State Library of Queensland Negative 153648. Image out of copyright.

Early survey maps are so useful for learning more about the area where your ancestors lived. I look at them at the archives and the most important ones I purchase. Another source might be your Lands Department, especially if they have an historical library or such. Recently I obtained early maps of my grandparents’ and parents’ suburb (not urgent before because I was familiar with it from growing up there – or so I thought).

The maps show where the early landed “estates” were: properties with grander houses some featured on Picture Queensland. It shows a water reserve in a dip in the hilly street which my father called Frog’s Hollow (apt I think) and where there’s currently a house on the market for about $800,000.  Reserves are set aside for schools and public recreation. Comparing these maps with stories published in the local newspaper (available online at Trove), brings the area to life. Each map reveals slightly different features including one showing the hilliness of the area. The names of some previously unknown homes will let me link them to the owners I researched through the electoral rolls.

These Beyond the Internet resources are, as so often, just the tip of the iceberg. I’d love to hear of other sources people have used to learn more about their ancestral homes.


[i] Certificates of title number 2228334 volume S 1319 folio 74 and 243499 Volume S 1387 and folio 239.

Australia Day 2011 meme: the importance of church records and archives to my early documents.

Shelley from http://twigsofyore.blogspot.com/ has invited us to submit an Australia Day post on our blogs. She suggests that we “Find the earliest piece of documentation you have about an ancestor in Australia. If you don’t have an Australian ancestor, then choose the earliest piece of documentation you have for a relative in Australia”

On Wednesday 26 January 2011 post your answers to these questions:

  1. What is the document?
  2. Do you remember the research process that lead you to it? How and where did you find it?
  3. Tell us the story(ies) of the document. You may like to consider the nature of the document, the people mentioned, the place and the time. Be as long or short, broad or narrow in your story telling as you like!

The earliest Australian documents I have for many of my ancestors is their shipping documents: the extended Kent family on the General Hewitt into Moreton Bay in 1854 or two lines of my families arriving on the Fortune into Moreton Bay in 1855: the Gavin family along with another ancestor, William Partridge on the same ship, even though they had differing views of the success of the voyage.

But these documents posed no real challenge so I opted for ones that were a little later but were absolutely pivotal to my family history research. [It didn’t help that these ancestors don’t appear anywhere in the shipping records and have defied all my attempts over 20+ years.]

Like pretty much everyone else I started out buying the marriage certificates of my first Australian couples. In particular the one I was most curious about was George Kunkel’s marriage to Mary O’Brien. The certificate duly arrived, probably helpfully collected from the Registry by my daughters on their way home from school. You might well imagine I had visions of every section of our wonderful certificates comprehensively completed and sending me back to my ancestors’  “Old Country” to locate further branches of their families.

My early-research illusions were quickly shattered when the certificate revealed the following:

THE OFFICIAL MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE

When & where married: 26 September 1857 at Ipswich
Name & Surname: George Hatheas Kunkel Mary O’Brien
Condition: Bachelor Spinster
Birthplace: - -
Profession: Servant Housemaid
Age: - -
Usual place of residence Ipswich Ipswich
Parents-Father’s name and surname, mother’s name and maiden surname
Father’s rank or profession

George had signed and Mary made her mark. The witnesses were stated to be Carl Blomai and Sarah O’Brien. Officiating Minister was Wm McGinly. (Qld Birth certificate 140/81 of 1857 registered in the Colony of NSW)

I could have wept….so many blanks just where I needed them and an additional puzzle because I knew nothing about Sarah O’Brien. Somehow I concluded George & Mary were married in the Catholic Church Ipswich (because I knew they were Catholic, and I suppose I’d read that Wm McGinly was actually Father William McGinty, parish priest of Ipswich. In those days in the late 1980s I was allowed to look at the parish registers (no longer possible) but still there were blanks.

Sometime later I was talking to an experienced researcher at the Genealogical Society of Queensland who told me there were actually two registers at St Mary’s Ipswich, as they’d discovered when GSQ was indexing the records. I needed to go back there and ask for the second one. This wasn’t quite as straight-forward as it sounds, because I needed to get time off work, drive to Ipswich, and then get the staff to find the correct book.

However, when the register was finally delivered to my table, all the trouble was worth it. There, in faded writing, was so much I hadn’t known and which had been omitted from the certificate!

THE PARISH REGISTER from St Mary’s Catholic Church, Ipswich (not quite in this format but easier to see how the gaps are filled)

When & where married: 26 September 1857 at the Catholic Church Ipswich
Name & Surname: George Mathias (not Hatheas) Kunkel Mary O’Brien
Condition: Bachelor Spinster
Birthplace: Dorfprozelten, Germany -
Profession: Servant Housemaid
Age: 23 -
Usual place of residence Ipswich Ipswich
Parents-Father’s name and surname, mother’s name and maiden surname Adam KunkelCatherine Happ
Father’s rank or profession Innkeeper

You can imagine my excitement! I figured that if an Irish priest had bothered to write down a difficult name like Dorfprozelten it had to be correct. I’d earlier tried buying almost every one of George & Mary’s children’s birth certificates and he’d persistently said he came from “Bavaria” and nothing else, except for one time when he put Aschaffenburg, again, who knows why. Research into that had turned up blank prior to finding this marriage register.

Armed with the correct information I was eventually able to confirm (after multiple visits and letters) that George had been baptised Georg Mathias Kunkel in Dorfprozelten Bavaria, to parents Adam Kunkel and Catherine Happ. Technically it was Catherine who was the innkeeper as the inn had been in her family for generations. Adam came from another part of Bavaria, but that’s a story for another day.

There’s another interesting fact about this marriage: that of a German immigrant to an Irish woman. I’d been confidently told by the German expert at GSQ that there were no Bavarians and no German Catholics in Queensland. Wrong on both counts as my research, and other’s, has clearly demonstrated. So a tip for those with German ancestry: if you find a marriage in the Catholic church, there’s a good (but not inevitable) chance that they were actually Catholic, not Lutheran, which is why they sometimes married Irish men or women who shared their faith.

Still there were all those blank spaces against poor Mary’s name: did George not know this detail? was the register filled out when she wasn’t there? Actually to give him credit George did well, my best estimate is that he’d arrived in Australia c1855 and could plainly speak enough English to get by. Mary’s death certificate gave me the name of her parents but not her birth place, other than County Clare. Mary O’Brien from County Clare is like finding a needle in the proverbial haystack.

It was oral history that solved the final puzzle of this couple’s ancestry. One of their youngest surviving grandchildren, Anne Kunkel, told me in the late 1980s that Mary had arrived with her sisters Bridget & Kate (actually Kate came later). She knew that Bridget had married a man named Widdup and lived in NSW. Luckily it was such an unusual name as I was also able to get her death certificate. This confirmed that her place of birth was Broadford, Co Clare, although that document had mistakenly put down her parents as Michael & Bridget not Michael & Catherine. Although the parish registers for Kilseily (Broadford) post-date the birth of Mary and Bridget, the fantastic oral history known by Anne Kunkel and other O’Brien descendants in Sydney gave such a good triangulation of data that Mary’s background could be confirmed.

But wait, we still have the mystery of the witnesses for whom I searched for many years. Carl Blomai looked more like Carl Mosrins per his signature on the church document but eventually turned out to be Carl Wörner as deciphered by the Dorprozelten local historian (thanks Georg!). Sarah O’Brien was the daughter of Daniel and Winifred O’Brien who came from Tipperary to Ipswich, Queensland. I still can’t find any family connection between these O’Briens and mine but as Broadford is in East Clare it’s quite possible, and the families do continue to witness each other’s church events for a long time.  I still haven’t managed to get to the bottom of the puzzle of these inter-connecting families.

Which just goes to show, quite often one document is just not enough to tie up the ends, but persistence, oral history, and multiple records can solve the problem if you’re lucky.

Ancestor Approved Award

Ancestor Approved Award

I am delighted and honoured to receive the Ancestor Approved Award from Kim at Footsteps of the Past at http://footstepspast.blogspot.com/. It was a real treat to receive this in an emotional week as I watched from afar as my home town, and others with links to my family’s heritage, were flooded, lives lost, homes demolished and heritage destroyed.

The Award was created by Leslie Ann Ballou At Ancestors Live Here and asks two things of those who receive it:

  1. They should write 10 surprising, humbling, or enlightening aspects of their research
  2. Pass the Award on to 10 other researchers whose family history blogs are doing their ancestors proud.

So here are my 10 surprising, humbling or enlightening findings, in no particular order or indeed order of importance:

  1. Enlightened, surprised and humbled that I was able to find the birthplace of Mary O’Brien from County Clare through meeting up with an elderly lady from Toowoomba who gave me one contact name. This distant relative provided clues and links that let me build a history of this whole clan of the O’Briens from Ballykelly, in Ireland, Australia and the United States.
  2. Surprised to find my great-grandfather Melvin was saved from drowning by Thomas Livermore, a blacksmith’s labourer during the Ipswich floods of January 1887. Humbled because if he hadn’t been saved, my line of the family would not exist.
  3.  Enlightened by finding the church marriage register for my Kunkel-O’Brien gt-gt-grandparents (this will be a blog for Australia Day –a topic suggested by Shelley at Twigs of Yore http://twigsofyore.blogspot.com/-so I won’t elaborate further here).
  4. Humbled by the day-to-day courage and commitment of my many Queensland pioneer families as well as “my” Dorfprozelten pioneers.
  5. Humbled by the many young men of my families who went to fight for the Empire in France and the Middle East during World War I, World War II, and Korea especially those who lie in foreign graves or whose bodies were never found. Also humbled by the determination with which the families left behind pursued every option to find out more about the men who were killed and sought to get keepsakes for their father-less children. Enlightened to read War Diaries which explained the circumstances surrounding their deaths.
  6. Surprised to discover that my great-grandfather married a woman who was a bigamist twice over (at least that’s what the evidence to date indicates and certainly once).
  7. Humbled and surprised, but not in a good way, to learn that my great-grandmother Julia Kunkel was operated on without anaesthetic in 1901 because her heart was too weak! Unsurprisingly she died of the childbirth-related illness, and the shock of the surgery. Six weeks later my great-grandfather also died. All their 11 children, aged 21 down to 2, were left orphans (the recently-delivered child appears to have died although not shown in indexes). Enlightened to read a novel which dealt with the horror of puerperal fever.
  8. Surprised to discover that the woman who is buried in the Toowoomba cemetery with my great-great grandmother, Ellen Gavin, and her daughter, Julia Kunkel (see above), is not a relation despite sharing the same surname. Why it was so, remains a mystery, except that she had also lived in Dalby in the early days and was estranged from her husband.
  9. Enlightened, humbled and delighted to stand on the lands where my ancestors walked in Ireland, Scotland, England and Germany so that I could “feel” their lives and connect to them. Humbled by internet “strangers” going out of their way to show me over their land where my ancestors lived in Argyll in the early 19th century and explain the remains of the small buildings where they had lived.
  10. Surprised (more like astonished) to connect with the inheritor of my O’Brien family’s land in Ballykelly and to be shown over the land by Paddy. Enlightened to know oral history meant he knew that they had Mass said in their homes in Australia’s pioneer days. Enlightened to be able to track the transfers of the land through the Griffith Valuation revision books. Humbled to be welcomed by distant family in Ireland.

Now for my honour list of 10 other bloggers doing family history proud. I’ve chosen to focus on Australian blogs, some of whose authors have been contributing to family history for many years. I’ve also chosen to bend the rules somewhat and add two web-pages that I think deserve to be here for their extensive contribution to family history research for all researchers…a research Honour Badge.

  1. Shelley, Twigs of Yore at  http://twigsofyore.blogspot.com/
  2. Geniaus http://geniaus.blogspot.com/
  3. Judy Webster, Queensland Genealogy at http://qld-genealogy.blogspot.com/
  4. My Family History Research at http://baker1865.wordpress.com/
  5. Carole’s Canvas: http://caroleriley.id.au/
  6. The Family Curator at http://www.thefamilycurator.com/about/
  7. Irish Family History at http://irishfamilyhistory.ie/blog/
  8. Family History Research at http://famresearch.wordpress.com/

The next two are my “Honour Board” –they aren’t blogs specific to families but they are websites which provide a truly invaluable resource to family historians:

  1. South east Queensland cemeteries headstone photos: http://www.chapelhill.homeip.net/FamilyHistory/Photos/
  2. Clare County Library at http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/genealogy/genealog.htm