When I was 18 – there were no dinosaurs

Over the past months it often occurs to me just how much has changed in my lifetime, so I’ve been thinking about this post for a while…must be a sign of increasing age. Doesn’t mean I won’t forget something, so please add your comments at the end, or join me and write your own post on the topic as your experiences may be very different.

I grew up in Brisbane in Queensland as a number of my blogging friends did as well. I wonder how much our experiences will overlap and where they’ll differ.

SOCIETY

Voting and drinking were illegal for us, being under 21, but our brothers or male friends could be sent to war.

SDA

Image – Creative Commons. http://www.sds-1960s.org/

Communism and Vietnam: Australia was still nervous about “Reds under the Beds” and suddenly wanted to go “All the Way with LBJ”. Universities were agitating over civil liberties, Australia’s presence in the Vietnam War and the enforced conscription of young men, who “won” the conscription lotto if their birthday was drawn out for a free excursion to the Vietnam War. Queensland was very conservative in all sorts of ways.

Multi-culturalism hadn’t been invented as a concept, though the reality had arrived with the post-War immigrants.  They retained national dress, dance and language for special events, and at home. Their influence was about to be felt in the realms of food as we were introduced to garlic, olives etc.

Church: Many, if not most, people went to church regularly. Vatican II had arrived and Catholic women shed their hats for mantillas (a lace veil over the head). People started to think independently about their actions. The barriers between religions were still standing and most people were horrified at the thought of entering a different type of church.

Brown or Asian faces were rarely seen in the city as Australia’s hideous White Australia Policy was still enforced. No one admitted to having indigenous or convict blood.

Neighbours: whether you liked them or not, you knew pretty much everyone because you passed them as you walked to the bus/tram. You always said hello to those you passed.

Hospitals: Queensland had a public hospital system funded by the Golden Casket. There was no Medicare for all.

The effects of World War II were still evident around town in the men’s physical injuries – empty sleeves or trouser legs pinned up and prostheses. Their mental injuries weren’t so evident except perhaps in the occasional drunk seen on the street.

TRAVEL

Image from Creative Commons.

Image from Microsoft Images Online.

Daily Transport: we didn’t own a car until I was 20 so getting around town involved shanks’s pony (walking), bus, tram or train. Standing up and offering your seat to an adult or pregnant woman was totally non-negotiable. My Dad rode to work, hail, rain or shine, on his no-gears push-bike.

Air Travel was expensive and not available to most. I didn’t fly in a plane until I was 19 (with a friend who was a pilot), and on a commercial flight at 21. I’ve been on and off planes like buses ever since.

Holiday Transport was by intra-state train. Those taking the semi-obligatory trip to the “Old Country” for a year or two’s work experience travelled by ship. As the ship pulled away from the wharf there were streamers held by passenger and friend which snapped as the distance grew. Very symbolic.

Overseas Travel was a fantasy for most people. Only our one family of “rich relations” had travelled overseas.

Suitcases were solid, heavy and were carried, not wheeled. (What a great invention that’s been!)

The Brisbane city skyline as I finished school.  From my photo collection.

The Brisbane city skyline as I finished school. From my photo collection.

Brisbane’s first Freeway was still a few years away.

Space travel was a recent competition between Soviet and America (US) astronauts and scientists. The Soviets were leading the way but the US was yet to put Apollo 11 and the first man on the moon.

AROUND TOWN

The Brisbane City Hall clock tower was still holding its own as one of the highest buildings and you could read the time from it around the streets. 

Illustrating Jill's point, dressed for town or church with gloves, hat and patent leather shoes.

Illustrating Jill’s point, dressed for town or church with gloves, hat and patent leather shoes.

Shopping malls didn’t exist. You went to the city or Fortitude Valley when shopping for clothes or household goods. My mother used to like to walk the length of Brisbane from Finney’s to McDonnell & East to check the items and prices. We were “allowed” to catch the tram or bus to the city from the Valley. Going to town always involved getting “dressed up”, no informality in those days. Parcels at the good shops were wrapped in brown paper and tied neatly with string, with a loop to make it easier to carry.

TECHNOLOGY, ENTERTAINMENT & COMMUNICATION

Technology: TV and radio were our main technology. There were no cable TVs, DVDs, VCRs, fax, internet, computers, iPads, MP3s, cassette players, tape recorders, answering machines, or mobile phones. Colour TV was still on the horizon. Records were 78s or 33s (LPs) and small 45s. If you were lucky you had a record player in the house, either a family one or a portable one, which was likely a gift. My grandmother owned a gramophone which I have inherited.Portable record player c1960s

Postage: If you wanted to share news with someone you had limited choices: letters for ordinary events, postcards for holiday news, and telegrams for urgent news or special celebrations. The postman (it was always a man) walked his route twice a day delivering the mail and blew his whistle if you had mail. On hot summer days it was a common courtesy to offer him a cold drink.

"My Fair Lady" Programme

My copy of the “My Fair Lady” Programme.

Telegrams were delivered to your door and if you knew it was a birthday or you were sharing exam results with people it wouldn’t strike fear into your heart as one would if “coming out of the blue”.

Entertainment: There were no multiplex cinemas and you “went to the pictures” in town or at a local theatre. Stage shows were something special. Both movies and theatre offered published programs with pictures and stories about the actors and the movie/show. There was always an interval in the movie and young women walked through the theatre selling lollies and ice-creams.

Cameras and watches were something special: reserved for adults, and fortunate children, but often to recognise a special birthday or achievement.

HOUSEHOLD

Food: Meals were cooked from scratched. Roast chicken was expensive, unless you had your own chooks and was often a Christmas and Easter special meal. Baking in our house was a Saturday event. The only take-away, very occasionally, was fish and chips. When I was about 18, Mum & I occasionally ventured to the Valley to a Chinese restaurant where we had exotic meals like sweet and sour pork and stir-fried rice. I don’t recall Mum and Dad ever going out for a restaurant meal, partly because of his shift work.

Ingredients: Fruit and veg were basic and chokoes were deemed to be a reasonable option for preserving or vegetables. Avocadoes, mushrooms, zucchini, unusual herbs etc were in the future. Many of these I first “met” when I worked in a fruit and veg shop as a part-time job. Bread was always white and fluffy, and also fresh from the bakery. I remember even in my 20s it was a challenge to find coconut milk in Brisbane (they had it at Toowong Woolworths).

An old laundry copper recycled as a water feature in the NT. Photo P Cass.

An old laundry copper recycled as a water feature in the NT. Photo P Cass.

Glad Wrap/ Cling Wrap hadn’t arrived and sandwiches were wrapped in greaseproof paper.

Telephone: Most homes near us didn’t have one. Those who did would take urgent messages for friends who lived close by, otherwise you used the local public phone or wrote letters.

Laundry Day was always Monday and was a heavy-duty workload with coppers, wringers and hand-washing. Twin tub machines were a grand invention and automatic washing machines in our future.

Corner Stores: we had a corner store for the basics and a butcher’s shop a couple of streets away. I have no idea where the groceries came from or how they were delivered. A cart came around sometimes with bread and fish.

Appliances and housework: The Sunbeam mixer, the pressure cooker, and carpet sweeper were “it” as far as appliances went. Mum was always the dishwasher, and I was the dryer. Dad mowed the lawn, looked after the garden and mended the shoes.

EDUCATION, KIDS & TEENS

Boys and girls in private schools were not permitted to speak to each other on public transport, even siblings….a fine excuse!

Make up was reserved for the mid-teens and was a ritual of passage unless you were playing “dress-ups” as a child.

The Great Court at UQ c1998

The Great Court at UQ c1998. P Cass

Books were special purchases, usually only for birthdays or Christmas, or perhaps when you were sick because they were expensive.

Your friends lived in your own neighbourhood, unless/until you went to high school in the city. No one drove you to meet them, no matter where they lived, you caught public transport.

University was a dream for many people but the newly-introduced government scholarships made it possible for working class kids who studied hard.

I met my beloved Mr Cassmob and my life changed in ways I’d never have imagined.

DINOSAURS

Dinosaur

Image from Microsoft Images Online.

No, didn’t see any of those around there, even though this all sounds like light-years away. I’d love to hear your comments on whether your experience differed from mine, and in particular from younger readers.

Sepia Saturday 210: Award-winning relatives

This week’s Sepia Saturday focuses on old books and the treasures (photographic or otherwise) found in them.Sepia Saturday 210

I don’t think I’ve ever found photos tucked away in old books but we did find a group photo behind another picture from my Grandparents’ house and I talked about that in my Moustaches and Mystery post recently.

Instead I thought I’d share a few book inscriptions with you. Over the past year I’ve acquired some of the family’s old books, including my childhood books, thanks to Mum’s move to an independent retirement unit.

Book inscriptions can be interesting I think as they reveal otherwise hidden parts of an ancestor’s or relative’s life. Back in the days when books were expensive and only rarely bought by families who weren’t affluent, they were often gifts or even school prizes.

Two of the books I have included prizes awarded to family members. One was for Mr Cassmob’s grandmother, Katie McKenna, for writing in 1901.

Katie McKenna

Another was for my grandmother’s brother, Duncan McCorkindale, who was awarded the prize for passing second stage physiology and physical geography in his Glasgow school.

Duncan McCorkindale

In fact it was something about Duncan that was one of the few things I found tucked away in a bible: the notice of his rather gruesome death in Sydney. Which makes me realise that I’ve never written about that story, or his role in the building of the nation’s capital, Canberra. I need to put that on my blog post list.Irish book

I’m curious who this book belonged to as there’s no inscription, and no publication date. My best guess is that it belonged to my Irish grandfather or one of his children.

A while ago I wrote about a prize that my grandfather’s young brother had won, but I’ve no idea what his prize was. I wonder if it too was a book.

Have you found prize inscriptions in books you’ve inherited, either from your family or a used-book store?

To read the stories other Sepians have submitted this week you can click here.

Dad’s and Mum’s Neighbourhood Reminiscences on Trove Tuesday

I was mentioning last week how Dad had lived in the street in Kelvin Grove his whole life, and had memories stretching back decades. Some years ago I asked him a little about it. There was a time when he would “clam up” and not tell stories like this, but when I wrote my family history, he realised I did really want to know more about life in the suburb. I’ve used Trove extensively to see if I could track down more information on what he told me. After starting this story I also had an extensive conversation with Mum to clarify some of the comments, and she also added information.

So here are his brief reminiscences, with my own comments, or follow up research relating to it. Mum’s conversations last week are included in green.

An image from SLQ looking towards Kelvin Grove (but which part?) http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/185011646

An image from SLQ looking towards Kelvin Grove (but which part?) http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/185011646

When I was young you could catch a feed of prawns down the creek (Enoggera Creek) and when it was mullet season, you could just about walk across the creek across them.

When Pauleen was young we sometimes caught catfish in the creek. Perhaps the floods washed the creek clean in the earlier days considering there was more industrial waste going into it. Mum used to sometimes call Dad “Elastic Jack” when he started telling tall tales, like walking across the creek on the mullet.

When Pauleen was a child, the mangroves were quite dense and the wretched lantana held sway over the creek banks.

Hayes had a dairy[i] and willed all the land to the council for the public. The dairy was located where the Mynor cordial factory was (at the bottom of Gould Rd). He used to run all the cows on Ballymore where the rugby union is now and a bit over the other side of the creek. The creek used to dogleg over the road and they cut it straight for flood mitigation. There was a weir over the creek across from Ballymore until they straightened the course of Breakfast Creek (technically Enoggera Creek) after the 1974 floods. The Commonwealth paid 60% and council and states paid the rest and the council was supposed to maintain it (presumably the land).

Flooding around Enoggera Creek Windsor 1893 (1)

It seems likely this was Henry Thomas Hayes as he’s mentioned in a Trove newspaper article as a dairy owner though the electoral rolls record him as a labourer of Gould Rd.

Enoggera/Breakfast Creek is tidal to the weir at Bancroft Park on Kelvin Grove Road and has a history of flooding and drainage problems that has led to flood mitigation measures including widening, straightening and dredging.[ii]

The bakery (Hassetts) in Butterfield St, was a family bakery –it was there when Dad was twelve (mid-1930s) because he went over on the pushbike.

In fact, in later years Dad and I would ride over to buy bread –the smell was heavenly and you would pull a bit out of the soft part in the middle…yum! Mum says this was often during the school holidays.

Mum remembers that someone used to come around selling clothes props.

There was a vegetable farm down where the NARM (sandshoes/sneakers factory) was, where the new Post Office depot is now. They used to call them Chinese market gardens. Mum says there was also one across the creek where it flooded as well as at Stafford.

This is interesting because a health inspection refers to the terrible conditions of Chinese abattoirs in this area.

This dairy, Ozanne's, was in nearby Ashgrove but shows what must have been a similar mix of rural and urban. c1920 http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/36908896

This dairy, Ozanne’s, was in nearby Ashgrove but shows what must have been a similar mix of rural and urban. c1920 http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/36908896

Another dairy (was owned by) Hicks, where the baseball and Italian Clubs are now (in Newmarket, near where Pauleen used to go to Girl Guides). I was surprised to learn how many dairies were in the area, but it makes some sense in that pre-pasteurisation era. I still remember getting fresh milk from the dairy at Samford where we camped with Guides.

On the flat opposite Bally St, another bit of a dairy, owned by a couple, McShea and Vowles. In Pauleen’s time this area flooded whenever the creek flooded heavily. Mum says there were also Chinese gardens there in her time. 

Mum also said that there used to be a horse track, with fencing, in the middle of Ballymore Park then in the 1950s every time you caught the bus there would be less fencing there, until it all disappeared.

Hayes used to pick up all the old produce in Roma St. One day Dad saw him with the old big draught horse pulling the dray and he (Hayes) is asleep and the horse was leading the way. At the railway the horse went straight up, round the policeman, up College St and into the railway stables, while the policeman watched with all the traffic stopped.

One of the Kelvin Grove tanneries circa 1890, SLQ http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/185011646

One of the Kelvin Grove tanneries circa 1890, SLQ http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/185011646

Johnston’s tannery was in Bishop St and there was one over in Finsbury St and another one where the retirement development is near Catholic church (in Newmarket?). This one was possibly Granlund’s.

I remember the smell of the tannery quite vividly, but not pleasantly. It was okay except when the wind came from the west.

There has been some debate about these tanneries on the various websites but Queensland Places has this to say[iii]: Away from these public uses Kelvin Grove developed a landscape of Queenslander houses, most of them within half a kilometre of the tramline. Those further away were closer to Ballymore Park. Kelvin Grove Road had shops and a picture theatre (1912) (which Pauleen remembers). There were a couple of tanneries down Bishop Street near the creek, and the area is still industrial.

Dad got in a row with the tannery and council because he couldn’t breathe – “they used to release all the muck from the tannery when tide went out. Sent a diver up the pipe to near Bancroft Park and it was that tannery that was putting the muck down the pipes so there was a big kerfuffle”.

There was a big tannery at Stafford near where the shopping centre is (this coincides with a conversation on the web). There used to be a beautiful swimming pool (natural) at Kedron Brook until the tannery came along. 

An 1873 newspaper article praised the Kedron Brook tannery owned by J & G Harris (I wonder if these were the same people who obtained the initial land grant on the Ballymore estate?)Or was the tannery that Dad mentions a different, newer one. Either way the Council took exception as this report indicates. A 1934 newspaper story takes a different view with one MLA wondering why the tanneries had ever been allowed to empty their waste into Kedron Brook.

A fellow had a mirror factory down Bishop St for which they use cyanide to do backing of mirror (Bishop St was hardly a salubrious place to live, and it was good thing we didn’t catch many fish!)

Finney (Isles) and Ure had a carriers where the garage is on Herston Rd (cnr of Kelvin Grove Road). There was a paddock at the endof Picot Street for the Clydesdales and they took them along the creek near the Chinaman’s gardens.

via Trove: sale of property in 1929, large house in Herston Rd, one street off Kelvin Grove tram line. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article21373382. This follows Hubert Finney’s death –papers refer to him as ex-Alderman. He and Ure were members of the Master Carriers’ Association.

Mum recalls that she was told euchre parties were held in the house across the road, to raise funds for the church and school.

Perhaps these are not profound recollections but they add some personal flavour to the local history, and offer stories that would otherwise disappear. I’m just sorry I didn’t “pump” him for more.

The Lawrence family had a tiny shop at the end of Bally St in Dunsmore St. They also ran the bus to Fortitude Valley until the Council took it over

I also asked Dad who lived in the street when he was growing up and have since compared the names with those on the electoral rolls with great success, though he add some additional snippets to add. This may be the content of a post another day. My childhood friend still lives in the street behind ours and my guess is that her family has the longest continuous for the two streets, perhaps shared with one other family. I wonder if her father passed on any anecdotes to her?
Trove Tuesday is a blogging theme created by Amy of Branches, Leaves and Pollen, revealing just how incredible a resource this is, even when making comparisons with oral history.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 7 – Grandparents and family history

4 x 7UP collage

Why we pursue our family history is a common question among geneabloggers and other genealogists. I’ve reflected on this over the years and have never had an entirely satisfactory response to that question. Why I continue with it is so much easier: the search continues and the questions remain. I can’t simply say “my family history is done”.

Denis and Kit Kunkel

My paternal grandparents and also my neighbours growing up. I was very close to them.

In my midnight mental rambles the other night, at least one of the reasons came to me. Behind both of my grandfathers lay an abyss of silence. I knew so little about each of them and their families. My grandparents were between 61 and 69 when I was born yet they seemed so old to me. When our first grandchild was born, we were not dissimilar ages, only 57 yet this seems quite a sobering comparison.

My paternal grandfather circa WWI.

My paternal grandfather circa WWI, an old moth or cockroach-eaten photo.

About my paternal grandfather I knew his unusual surname, definitely another of the reasons for starting on this quest: I wanted to know where it came from in Germany and who the first Kunkel was to come to Australia. The sole bits of “knowledge” I had acquired over the years were:

  • my grandfather was brought up Catholic
  • He had walked out of a church in Roma (western Queensland) after being told to stand up for the local squatter (true or fiction I don’t know)
  • there had been a falling-out with all but two of my grandfather’s siblings (he had 10)
  • my ancestor (who???) had “jumped ship”
  • one Kunkel came to Australia but two brothers went to “America”
  • All Kunkels in Australia were related.
  • He had gone to war (I think I knew this from his medals) and perhaps because of the paintings of Egypt on their dining room walls.
  • He had sent back souvenirs from France and Egypt but they had been “pinched” somewhere along the way.

Put like this, I seemed to know a bit but these bare facts camouflage just how much I didn’t know. What is even more surprising is that for 16 years I lived next to my grandfather and was very close to him: as the eldest grandchild of the original immigrants to Australia there would have been so much he could have told me and which I may have know except for the religious disputes in the background. The family stories I uncovered as I researched were a revelation to me, but not necessarily to my father, who had always known his great-grandparents lived at Murphys Creek but hadn’t told me until I discovered it for myself. Have I mentioned my family’s oyster-like tendencies?

My maternal grandfather was an incredibly hard worker.

My maternal grandfather was an incredibly hard worker.

Of my maternal grandfather’s family I knew even less:

  • He was born in Ireland, possibly Cork
  • I had met one of his sisters in Townsville once (he had 14 siblings, some deceased as children)
  • He was a devout Catholic with strong ties to the Hibernian society and a ready volunteer for St Vincent de Paul society and local Catholic church members.

Little did I know that my great-grandfather had only died seven weeks after my own birth.

My grandmothers were slightly more informative and I knew more of their families even though my maternal grandmother had died when I was only three years old.

My paternal grandmother and my neighbour.

My paternal grandmother and my neighbour.

My neighbouring Scottish-born grandmother had inculcated her love of Scotland, bagpipes and music in me. I have no memory of her trying to sway me from my Catholic religion despite her less-than-charitable comments to my mother. All that I experienced from her was the dedication to work hard, succeed in life, and her on-going love and devotion to me. It’s a surprise to me to discover that she was much the same age as I am in relation to my own grandchildren –like all kids she seemed incredibly old to me. I didn’t learn a great deal from her about family other than how close she was to her sisters but I did know:

  • Her brothers were champion pipers
  • She came from Edinburgh (actually she came from Glasgow though her mother came from Stirling. No doubt the capital did sound more refined)
  • Her mother’s maiden name (though I don’t believe I knew she emigrated with her mother and siblings)
  • She had three sisters with whom she was close and I knew of a couple of brothers
  • It was only later that among her newspaper clippings my mother found (and saved) her brother’s death notice in a vehicle accident in Sydney.
  • I knew nothing of her mother’s early illegitimate daughter or her emigration with them.
My grandmother as I knew her when I was a small girl.

My grandmother as I knew her when I was a small girl.

On my maternal grandmother’s side I “knew” only that:

  • Her father had owned a “chocolate factory”
  • That the family had lived in Charters Towers
  • She had not been a Catholic when she married
  • She had two sisters (one of whom you’ll meet in a few days, and another who was deceased) but of her eight brothers I knew nothing

Like my mother I did not know for many years that she had been divorced in 1913, nor did I know of her first child, Jack Tredrea.

I suppose a reasonable question would be “what have you learned from your family history?” The response is wide-spread and subtle. I now know so much about how my immigrant families came to Australia, where they originated, their joys and crosses, the ups and downs of life for people who were the grassroots of our founding society in Australia. I’ve learnt that I’m a Queenslander not just by birth but by virtue of being born in the place before it even became a separate state. I’ve learned that my genetic and cultural heritage comes from many countries and religions, though my surname is embedded in the former German kingdom of Bavaria, or Bayern.

My life is so much richer for these discoveries though occasionally I have to admit my brain is muddled from having to absorb all these facts. Would I do it again? Absolutely, without any hesitation!! After 27 years are there any discoveries still to be made and mysteries resolved? Absolutely!!! Is there any advice for other researchers? Yes, expand your search beyond your direct ancestors to their kith and kin who may well answer your questions, or open new avenues of research.

Were you close to your grandparents and did you learn about your family history from them? Did they play a role in your family history quest?

What genealogical bequest will you leave for your family? Or will they have to start anew on this quest?

Fab Feb image

Family Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: Week 42 – Greatest Genie Achievement

It’s ages since I participated in the 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy by Amy Coffin and hosted by Geneabloggers as I’ve been rather preoccupied with my own 52 weeks Beyond the Internet series.

This morning I read that the topic for Week 42 of Abundant Genealogy is Biggest Genealogy Accomplishment. What do you feel is your biggest genealogy accomplishment? What were the steps you took to get there, and what was the end result?

 My first thoughts turned to an earlier Abundant Genealogy post from Week 7 when I wrote about discovering my Bavarian ancestor’s roots. It was only later that I thought, no that’s not my biggest genealogy accomplishment, even though it was certainly a critical point in my family research.

 MY BIGGEST GENEALOGY ACHIEVEMENT?

The thing I’m most proud of, genealogically, is writing the history of my Kunkel family in Queensland: a pioneering family who, although not important as individuals, participated in important events in our country’s and our state’s achievements and progress. It was the family’s everyday ordinariness that gave me the name of the book: Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel Family.

Thanks to the discovery I mentioned above, and fantastic oral history connections that were uncovered, I was able to include the background story of my Happ-Kunkel families in Bavaria and my O’Brien ancestors from Ballykelly near Broadford in Co Clare, and a little about the other emigrants from Dorfprozelten in Bavaria.

I knew literally nothing about this family when I started out other than the fact Kunkel was plainly a name of German origin, and that my grandfather had several siblings only one or two of whom he had anything to do with. I also knew that he had originally been a Catholic and one of the points of contention had been his marrying a Scots Presbyterian.

 GOING ABOUT IT

My research started in the pre-internet era so I accumulated every snippet of information I could find from as many sources as possible. One day I realised that if I didn’t write up this family story, it would become a major regret.

So what did I do? One of the strange things I did was to decide not to look at other family histories because I didn’t want to pinch their ideas. In retrospect this was fairly silly as there are so many strategies that can be used – you don’t have to recreate the wheel. Instead I launched in, started writing and kept at it, day after day, until the story came together. I was still working full-time so I wrote in the early mornings and late into the evenings.

Sir Cassmob is knighted for services to genealogy.

As I found gaps in the story I chased down more clues, did more research, and phoned more people. I’m proud of all the research, determination and sheer persistence that went into writing up this story, including challenging my reluctance to contact formerly unknown relatives.

Like the Oscars I have to acknowledge that many people helped me along the way with their stories, photos etc, but my greatest debt is to Mr Cassmob, who got a Family Knighthood for Services to Genealogy! I’ve said many times, either the book wouldn’t have been written or I’d have been much thinner.

Sir Cassmob receives his award.

When I first held my “baby” in my hands I was just so thrilled and besotted. Now of course I can see its flaws, mistakes, and things I could have done differently, but even so it was, and remains, an achievement to be proud of.

THE END RESULT

The book was launched by one of my distant O’Brien cousins, who always tells me “oh you’re wonderful” but what she really means is that I’m quite mad to keep doing all this family history. We launched the book in Toowoomba not far from where the family had lived for many years and as far as is known it was the first Kunkel family reunion in close to 100 years.

A mob of Kunkels chatting hammer and tongs.

It was a great day and there was a non-step level of chatter even among people who’d never met before. Many were astonished to discover they had Kunkel ancestry and everyone appreciated learning more of the story. The genealogy chart stretched along the walls and everybody had fun finding their name. Another great thing, retrospectively, is that quite a number of the third generation of Kunkel descendants were able to attend even though in their eighties or nineties Many have now left us so it was a special privilege to have them there. The reunion and all the pleasure people got from it and from the book was definitely the icing on the cake.

My beautiful Alexander Henderson Award was hand-delivered to the GSNT.

The glitter on the cake was winning two awards for the book. I was so proud to be joint-winner of Queensland Family History Society’s annual award with Joyce Philips’s book The Wrights of Tivoli.  And then to my utter astonishment I also won the Alexander Henderson Award from the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies.  I was over the moon with excitement and pride as you might imagine.

It’s very counter-cultural to blow one’s own trumpet, certainly in Australia where there’s an absolute dislike of people who puff themselves up, so it feels very brazen to be telling this story.

There’s something special about knowing you’re leaving a family history for posterity and that you’ve opened up your family’s story to many family members. It’s certainly one of my proudest moments.  So if you’ve been thinking of writing your own family history, give it a go and don’t let the fear stop you. I guarantee you will be so pleased to have provided this inheritance for generations to come.

T travels to Townsville, Toowoomba and Tullamore

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 is about two towns important to my family history in Australia.

The Townsville marina at dawn. © P Cass 2004

T is for Townsville (Queensland, Australia)

Townsville is the hub for Far North Queensland (FNQ) as well as one of my family’s hubs. It was a critical supply point of men and armaments during World War II and many Australian and American military personnel of the era would have been familiar with the town. Townsville also reminds me of Darwin because it is another place where you men in military uniforms form part of everyday life around town because, like Darwin, it is potentially Australia’s front line of defence. Like Darwin it too was bombed during World War II.

In peacetime it used to be one of Queensland’s quiet country towns, with the esplanade bordering the sea and looking across to Magnetic Island. I’d be surprised if anyone born or bred in Townsville never visited Maggie, as it’s known, for it was the local day-trip and holiday spot. These days Townsville is a bustling modern city, with a major university and medical school, and the esplanade has been revamped for outdoor living and dining out in the restaurants. I was very surprised to see the changes when I visited about 6 years ago. Dominating the city, then and now, is Castle Hill, guardian of the city.

Picnic Bay jetty, Magnetic Island. I spent a number of holidays at Picnic Bay and fished off the jetty, and in a dinghy, with my dad. © P Cass 2004

My grandfather was living in Townsville in 1913, before he was married, working as a railway carpenter. My family would continue to live in Townsville for nearly 30 years. My grandfather built the house they lived in at Baxter St, West End and he was, as always, heavily involved with St Mary’s Catholic Church West End and the Hibernian society, with which he held many roles.

In 1941, he decided to move to Brisbane so that his daughters would have more opportunities to get jobs. I’m sure that was the rationale he gave them, but I’ve always felt the real reasons may have been different. The war in the Pacific was gearing up and he may not have wanted his family to be more at risk in the north, and he also may not have wanted them as exposed to an overflow of military people (he was very strict). It’s not impossible that the railway may have wanted him in the south as well, for by then he was a supervisor and a very experienced carpenter, part of a team churning out railway carriages which were important to war effort. His war years were spent as a supervisor in the Railway workshops at Ipswich. We’ll never know the real reason for the relocation now, as his railway service record reveals nothing but his change of workplace.

This move was one of those family history turning points, and quite a recent one. Without the relocation my parents would not have met and I would not have been here. A bit “Sliding Doors”.

T is for Toowoomba (Queensland, Australia)

The Kunkel family reunion 2003 in Toowoomba. © P Cass

Toowoomba is a locus for the Kunkel family after the dispersal from the Fifteen Mile and Murphys Creek. Today it’s possibly one of two places in Australia where the surname, when stated, may not bring a “huh?” from the listener. For a long time, it was from Toowoomba that the Kunkel family’s religious support came, and their children and some grandchildren were baptised or married through/in the Toowoomba Catholic churches. It was in Toowoomba that in 2003 we held the first known reunion of the Kunkel family for close to 100 years and I launched the family history Grassroots Queenslanders, the Kunkel family. For many of the 120 people who attended, Kunkel had ceased to be their surname long ago, so it was a surprise to learn more about the family and make so many family connections. The din in the room was deafening so it seemed everyone had a good time.

I enjoyed the Q150 steam train to Toowoomba with a friend in 2009. We steamed through Murphys Creek where my ancestors had been when the railway was built. © P Cass 2009.

Toowoomba is also close to our hearts because a very good family friend lived there for many years and we visited often, especially while one daughter lived with her for a while during university. And of course there’s all my family history haunts, including the cemetery where I’ve spent many happy hours exploring family graves. A number of my Dorfprozelten emigrants are also laid to rest here, as quite a few relocated to Toowoomba after their first years in Queensland (then called Moreton Bay).

T is for Tullamore (County Offaly, Ireland)

My Furlong ancestors lived in Tullamore from about 1840 though it’s not known when they arrived there, or from whence they came. My 2x great-grandparents, Bridget Furlong and James Sherry (late McSharry) married there and my great-grandfather Peter Sherry (later McSherry) was baptised there. I’ve talked about this family line a few times on my blog, so if you’re interested, just put “Tullamore” in the search box, top right, and the relevant posts will pop up.

Jogging into Jondaryan, Jimbour and Jimboomba

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which). These “J” stories come with a genealogue warning.

J is for Jondaryan (Queensland, Australia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

J is for Jimbour  (Queensland) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

J is for Jimboomba (Queensland)

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

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

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


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

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

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

[v] Darling Downs Gazette of 3 Nov 1866

Beyond the Internet Week 5: Off to school

This is Week 5 in my Beyond the Internet series of topics in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. I’d love it if you wanted to join in with your own posts on this week’s topic which is school admission records. I’d particularly like to hear how people in other states and countries use these records so we can all learn from each other.

It’s return-to-school time in Australia so February seemed like a good time to talk about school records of various sorts. Let’s start with school admission records, or how your ancestor entered the school system. I do most of my research in Queensland, Australia so inevitably that’s where I’ll usually speak about. However I’ve also seen school admission records listed in Scottish and Irish archives.

Why use these records? What will they tell you? We are all familiar with the documents signed with an X signifying that one of our ancestors couldn’t write, and perhaps read. When did that change? Did they ensure their children could read? In my experience with my early Queensland pioneers, education was something that they valued but was subject to the availability of schools and the other demands of the family such as farming seasons.

I’ve used the school admission records to learn a little more about my ancestor’s lives and round them out as people. My great-grandfather George Kunkel is first found in the Queensland school records as a boy of 11 going into the second level of reading with his younger brother Joseph, aged 10. Both were in the basic level of maths. They were pupils 33 and 34 at the newly opened Highfields State School.[1] The enrolment also documents their religion (RC) and their father’s occupation (farmer) as well as where they lived, Broadies Quarry (no one knows precisely where this was). All this is grist to the mill of their lives and stories. Although I assume they had attended school in Ipswich for a while, I have been unable to find them there. It’s likely their education had suffered by the fact their father was working in the construction of the Ipswich-Toowoomba railway line in their early school years. Their mother signed with a X on her marriage but she, too, may have had some education at the little hedge school in her townland in County Clare, Ballykelly. Their father had received a good education in Germany but his ability to help them would have been affected by the language differences.

Similarly George’s son Denis, also suffered from moving around with the railway. Children regularly travelled a few miles to school by horse or shank’s pony (walking) in all weathers. In my family it was common to see an older child enrolled at the same time, and in the same class, as a much younger sibling. I do wonder how their self-esteem suffered as a consequence. Denis was 9 and his sister Julia nearly 7 when they were enrolled in Grade 2 reading and basic maths at Logan Village School[2] in 1890 while their younger brother George went into Grade 1. On letters, Denis’s handwriting was very well formed and neat though his grammar left a little to be desired. Perhaps the eldest children suffered by being needed to help with the family chores while the younger ones had a chance to go to school earlier. What’s interesting about this entry is that it shows they were in the Logan area about six years before their father’s railway employment records document his move there. In other cases you may find a change of occupation or a slightly different variation in the father’s job.

Just recently I learned from school admission records at the Queensland State Archives that prior to going onto high school my father had attended a school I’d never even heard about. Of course it’s now too late to ask him about that and why it was so.

Apart from learning more about my ancestor’s education levels and length of schooling, the admission records provided some insights into what may have happened to my grandfather’s younger siblings after the death of both their parents in 1901. Thanks to the indexes prepared by the Queensland Family History Society, I was able to pinpoint some of the schools they attended and sometimes make guesses about which family member had taken them in for a while. What I found interesting was that when I went to the original documents it usually still stated their father’s name even though he was deceased. While not all schools have been indexed, this is certainly a useful starting point.

Another benefit of the school admission books is that they can be used to reconstruct the community where your family lived. They could be used to complement post office directories or electoral rolls, or (overseas) census records. Of course, Murphy’s Law says that the school I’m most interested in, Murphys Creek State School, has no extant admission registers for its earliest years. Such is life!

As with any archival records we are limited by the survival of records. I use the Queensland State Archives catalogue to assess what’s available for the town or area the family lived in. There are other education records which are helpful in regard to schooling such as the school’s correspondence registers or school histories of which more in coming weeks.


[1] Queensland State Archives Series ID1985 Item ID 630585 Highfields State School admissions

[2] Queensland State Archives ID 1330 Admission Item 611423 Registers Logan Village State School

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: 24th December – Christmas Eve

How did you, your family or your ancestors spend Christmas Eve?

Christmas Eve is an interesting day because depending on which day it falls can affect what happens for much of the day. Unless Christmas was on a Sunday, Christmas Eve has usually been spent at work and as this was a peak admin workload period in universities it meant working flat out for a good deal of the day with little opportunity for an “early mark”. Our work Christmas party started on the stroke of midday except for the elves who set up before hand and of course the end-of-party clear up. Then a quick dash home and get into the serious business of family Christmas preparation. It was only in years when Christmas was on a Sunday, as in 2011, when the Christmas Eve preparations could be more leisurely.

Christmas Eve dinner chez Cassmob

I don’t know why but procrastination most often affected present wrapping so that would often happen on the family room floor while we listened to the Carols from the Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne on TV. If there was one cooking chore that was a list-minute one it would be making shortbread, and true to tradition, it’s on my list for today.

A postcard for Das Goldenes Fass, owned for 200 years by the Happ then Kunkel families, but not by the time this photo was taken, it was in other hands. However I doubt much changed over the years..

During their teenage years in high school and uni, our children worked part-time in hospitality and often seemed to have a roster on Christmas Day. Over the years we adopted the tradition of having Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve – a bit more suitable than midday on a hot summer’s day, and I think we all enjoyed the festivities leading into Christmas Day too.  It occurred to me writing this story that there’s a link between our children working Christmas Day in hospitality and the life of my ancestor George Kunkel in Bavaria as a child and young man. His family owned one of the village inns which had visitors from far and wide, so it’s quite possible that he and his family spent Christmas Day providing a wonderful meal for visitors. Some of their culinary treats included fresh pike cooked with cardamom and mustard, salmon prepared with lemon, special beer, home-made apple wine, bacon, roast pork and local wine.[i] I’m assuming that in a small village like Dorfprozelten, most of the local residents would have spent Christmas with their families and friends. Perhaps the Kunkel and Happ families had also celebrated their family Christmas on Christmas Eve? Looks like another research activity to learn more about what might have happened.

Traditionally our family’s Christmas Eve finale was attendance at midnight Mass. It always had such an atmosphere with candles sparkling through the darkness, little kids (and big ones!) yawning, and then the music throughout culminating in the rocking carols belted out by the band at the end of Mass.


[i] Veh, G. Dorfprozelten am Main Teil II, pages 193-195.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 35: Weddings

The topic for Week 35 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: Weddings. Tell us about your wedding. You may also talk about your future wedding, the wedding of a relative or shape this question to fit your own life experience.

Having talked a little about my own wedding under the Fame topic, my thoughts turned first to the prickly issue of religion which affected many weddings in earlier generations. Unless the couple had the same religious affiliations there were often fallings out over family members who would not attend a wedding in another denomination’s church, no matter how close the relationship; families that split asunder over “mixed marriages” and the like. Fortunately, in my view at least, those issues are much less likely to cause family disputes in the 21st century.

My thoughts then turned to the marriage of my ancestors George Kunkel and Mary O’Brien over 153 years ago. He was from Bavaria and she was from County Clare, Ireland but both were Catholic and presumably this was a critical factor for them.

If I could have a magic time machine, these are the questions (among many others) that I’d like to ask them about their wedding and marriage:

This 1910 wedding of one of George & Mary's grandchildren was held at their home at Murphy's Creek. George & Mary are the elderly couple on either side of the flowergirls. Photo kindly provided by a family member from this branch.

  1. Could you both understand each other[i]?  Was George’s English good enough to communicate effectively? How and where did he learn English?
  2. Why weren’t Mary’s parents’ names and her place of birth put on the marriage record at St Mary’s Ipswich, Queensland? Did George even know this information at the time?
  3. Why didn’t the priest, who was Irish, have more interest in documenting Mary’s records?
  4. How did you meet? Was it at work? (He was a servant and she was a housemaid)
  5. Were you sad that no family members could be at their wedding?
  6. Did you write to your families afterwards to let them know? Who wrote to Mary’s family as she could not write?
  7. What was Mary’s relationship to her bridesmaid/witness, Sarah O’Brien?  My research suggests that Sarah was probably the daughter of Daniel and Winifred O’Brien who arrived from Tipperary in 1853 on the Florentia.  George and Mary had continuing links with this family over the years. Might they have been related however distantly or did they come on the same ship? (To this day I can’t find Mary’s immigration, or indeed George’s).
  8. Mary’s sister Bridget had been in Queensland for a year after arrival but married her English non-Catholic husband in or near Albury circa 1860. This couple are separated in death, in different denominational parts of the Urana cemetery. How did Mary feel about this mixed-religion marriage and did she feel sad when her sister moved interstate?
  9. George’s witness, Carl Wörner[ii], was another of the Dorfprozelten emigrants. Carl had been employed to work for John Ferret who owned properties on the Downs as well as Ipswich. Was Carl simply in town in time for the wedding or was he actually working there, if so he was lucky not to suffer the isolation of shepherding on  a distant property? Although living not far away from them in later years he never witnesses another family event. Why?
  10. Did Mary & George enjoy setting up home in Ipswich in those early years and being part of the town’s growth?
  11. Did Mary miss George when he travelled afield for work eg on the Taloom goldfields and possibly the railways?
  12. Were they proud to see all their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren before their deaths? The evocative photo above represents only a small fraction of their descendants in 1910. George and Mary were in their late 70s at the time.
  13. Their marriage lasted 58 years until George’s death in 1916 amidst WWI anti-German hysteria. Were they happy years? Had their culturally-mixed marriage been a success?

Questions reflecting a 21st century perspective admittedly, but nonetheless I’d love to know the answers.


[i] A friend we knew in PNG used to say “He knew no Dutch, I knew no Italian, so we made babies”.

[ii] His name is indexed as Mosrins or Blomai in some records. The Dorfprozelten local historian promptly identified it as this immigrant.