Time for a new blog look

If you’ve previously logged into my page and are bewildered today, it’s because I’ve introduced a new look to my blog. For some time I’ve been feeling that my blog is a bit “squashed” and made it harder to read. Hopefully there’s not too much open space now.. Let me know what you think…is it easier to read?

The header takes up a bit more space than in my old-style blog but nearly all the images relate to my family history as I’ve used images of ancestral sites. I’d like to be able to link specific images with specific pages but that doesn’t appear to be possible. Happy for any tips if other WordPress people can offer some.

So what images will you be seeing:

The old red-roofed shed on my O’Brien family land in Ballykelly, Broadford, Parish Kilseily, Co Clare, Ireland.

Shore in Leith, Scotland, where my Melvin ancestors lived for many decades before emigrating: they could return now and be familiar with all these buildings.

Dorfprozelten, Bavaria from across the River Main, showing the village church, boats and vineyards: home of my Kunkel ancestor.

A beach scene from Achill in County Mayo because for me it typifies life on Ireland’s coast even though none of my rellies come from here.

A view over Dorfprozelten on the River Main, Bavaria. The river is a boundary and across the river is Baden.

Snow capped hills not far from near Drimuirk on south Loch Awe, Argyll, Scotland: McCorkindale country..

A view over Loch Awe from Kilchrenan parish: my McCorkindale ancestors moved from one side of the lake to the other but the north side (Kilchrenan) is where the McCorquodales came from in the long distant past.

A typical Irish scene in County Clare:patchwork fields.

Inveraray in Argyll, Scotland, home of Clan Campbell, and a focal point for families living in the area -they were inevitably influenced by this family. It is situated on Loch Fyne and my McCorkindales also lived at Ardkinglas at the top of Loch Fyne while my Morrisons lived across the loch from Inveraray.

Hmm, not sure all the images are scrolling randomly as intended, so please bear with me on that one..but at least you’ll get some.

I do hope you enjoy the new look.

Lest We Forget: William Rudolph (Robert) Kunkel (1930-1952)

Robert and Innes Kunkel on their wedding day

William Rudolph Kunkel, known to his family as Robert Kunkel, was the son of William Thomas (Bill) Kunkel and his wife, Rosetta (Hilda) Kunkel nee Brechbuhl, and great-grandson of George Mathias and Mary Kunkel, the founding couple of the Australian Kunkel family. Bill and Hilda’s other child was Marguerite Elizabeth (Jill) Kunkel. The family moved around as Bill’s job with the Queensland Government Railway (QGR) took him around the state, ultimately settling at Howard, near Maryborough. Anyone wishing to know more about this family should contact me via comment on this post.

William Rudolph Kunkel was born in Brisbane on 14 November 1930 and as a young lad of 16 went to work with Queensland Rail in early 1947 as a nipper in the Maryborough District. Although his railway appointment was confirmed in 1948 he left the railway soon after, and on 18 December 1950 signed up with the Australian Regular Army for a six year period. His service record tells us that he only had “reasonable primary” education. He was a labourer, 5 ft 9.5 ins (176.5cms) with brown hair and brown eyes. On 7 April 1951 he married his wife Innis. The couple had no children. Robert went to Korea with the 1st Battalion, departing on the Devonshire on 3 March 1952, with a few days in Kure, Japan en route (as well as visiting on a later leave).

There is a photo on a website called Memories of Korea by George Hutchinson, the caption for which says “the other lad is Pat Kunkel (Qld)”. I had previously thought this might be Robert, misnamed, but now believe it to be his cousin, Gregory Patrick Kunkel, now listed on the Korean nominal roll. I have tried to contact the author of the website in the past without success in the hope of getting any extra insights or further information about it and to confirm it was Gregory Patrick (usually known as Greg to his family).

The Australian War Memorial website lists William Rudolph Kunkel on the Australian Roll of Honour as wounded and missing in action, presumed dead, on 16 November 1952. The roll includes his official service photograph. Robert’s service record indicates that his status was missing in action until 12 February 1953 when his status was updated to “now reported missing in action, wounded and believed prisoner of war”. His wife became his next of kin after their marriage, and her younger sister remembered the day the message came to say he was missing. Cousin Greg Kunkel also tried to find out more about what happened to Robert while he too was serving in Korea. On Robert’s file is a statement from Greg that an RC Chaplain, Captain Shine,[i] had heard a Chinese radio announcement mentioning Robert’s name but investigation by the Army indicated this had been incorrect. Nonetheless his parents continued to be convinced that a propaganda broadcast had been heard on 18 November 1952 which mentioned their son’s name and his Rockhampton address. It appears that Bill and Hilda had managed to talk to some of Robert’s colleagues on their return from Korea. Their advice was that he had been badly wounded above both knees by a burst of machine gun fire and was last seen “surrounded by Mongolians and being well and truly tortured”. It seems hard to reconcile this with the findings of the Court of Inquiry which investigated the incident and strange that servicemen would relay this level of detail to their colleague’s parents. It’s apparent  that Hilda was desperately trying to get the Army to focus on her missing son and help her to find out more about his fate.

The official War Diaries for 1 Battalion RAR are now digitised and available online and are invaluable in learning more about a battle or event. Having encountered enemy patrols on the night of 15 November 1952, two fighting patrols were sent out on the night of 16 November. The diary states that in addition there was a nightly standing patrol at the position code-named Calgary which “had a sharp clash with a strong enemy patrol” that night. Casualties from the action amounted to: Own tps (troops) 3 KIA, 1 MIA (wounded and believed PW) and 4 WIA. Enemy: 5 KIA counted. A fighting patrol from B Company was sent out at 0130 on 17 November to Calgary and was subjected to “intense enemy arty (artillery) and mor (mortar) fire” and it was assumed that “the enemy action was designed to prevent reinforcements moving to Calgary while the enemy was making a strong bid to take that post and capture a PW (my note-Pte Kunkel)”. At first light, and under heavy mist, the bodies of the three Australian men killed in the “sharp clash” were recovered but “no sign was found of Pte Kunkel, the missing member”.[ii] Another patrol was similarly unsuccessful. Amidst the serious military reports over the next few days, a glimpse of the person behind the reports is seen. Deep penetration bombing of a light machine gun placement missed its target but landed in a Chinese cooking fire from which the Australian troops took pleasure, thinking of the “fried rice added to the enemy’s morning menu”: a flash of Aussie humour.

MIA and POW must be among the hardest of war casualties for families to come to terms with – there would always be the glimmer of hope that the loved one might return, or more learned about his fate. Robert’s Army file includes many letters from his mother to the authorities and his parents plainly left no stone unturned trying to find out more about their son, including travelling to Melbourne to meet Army officials, and appealing to the Red Cross, United Nations Forces, and their parliamentary representatives. Similarly Robert’s wife wrote many letters trying to find out more of her husband’s fate. During Robert’s parents’ visit to Melbourne in September 1953 they were in a “very distressed state of mind believing their son to be alive and a prisoner of war”.[iii] They were possibly also partly frustrated that all official correspondence was sent to Robert’s wife as next of kin. The political situation at the time was difficult and letters to POWs were not being accepted by the North Korean authorities but despite reassurance from various officials the family continued to feel that their case was not being given due consideration.

My father remembered his cousin Robert going to Korea, said to be a gunner and radio operator, and that he never came back. Dad said his Uncle Bill never recovered from the loss of his son and from not knowing what happened to him. Dad also mentioned that over the years Army officers kept coming back to interview Bill & Hilda. Now my father was usually a cynic so perhaps he overstated the case, but if this is correct, you would have to ask why they harboured questions. Did they think he had defected voluntarily? Perhaps an inadvertent comment by Robert’s mother Hilda in a 1954 letter seeking help had triggered this question. She had said that “no personal belongings returned (WHY), his best friends were Chinese right from 16 months of age” and there is a question mark against this comment by the official reading it, perhaps because it seems such a non sequitur.

The Army lists his effects including a framed photograph, crucifix, wallet, smoker’s pipe, ring and a receipt for registered letter. Also among his effects was a tin containing film negatives and 87 photographs as well as 120 films and a Welmy camera –he was obviously something of a photographer and perhaps he’d bought the camera and the film while on a recent leave in Japan or in transit to Korea. In mid-1953 his belongings were still being held in Japan pending news of his fate and in 1954 had not been received by his wife. It’s unknown whether his family ever received his effects but his photographs would have been fascinating.

The Army file for William Rudolph (Robert) Kunkel is comprehensive, detailing the Court of Inquiry which commenced “in the field, Korea” on 12 January 1953 to “investigate the circumstances appertaining to the disappearance of 1/1641 Pte Kunkel W R on the night of 16 November 1952”. There were 10 points to investigate in relation to the event including why the wounded soldier was not brought back to the base, what efforts had been made to retrieve him subsequently, and whether there was any negligence involved. The results of this inquiry resulted in the revised description of his status as wounded, believed taken prisoner.

William Rudolph (aka Robert) Kunkel's name is listed on the Australian War Memorial's "in Memoriam" listing for Korea.

It’s likely that the terms of reference explain why some parties were interviewed and others weren’t. Certainly some were away from the area but I found it strange that some people weren’t interviewed by the court, although of course there was a war going on at the same time. The patrol leader, Corporal W Crotty was interviewed and one other member of the patrol, two others were away, one on a course (B R Mau[iv]) and one in hospital (S Brent), and three of the patrol were killed in this action (Reisener, Head, Castle). A Private M Pollard had been replaced on the patrol by Robert Kunkel because the latter wanted to stick with Crotty as they usually did patrols together and the changeover was approved by the Sgt Kavanagh – a fatal and fateful decision by Robert. Pte Kunkel was wounded in a grenade attack around 22:30 and was heard to call out “I’m hit, Mau, I’m hit….” and later moaning and “leave me alone you bastards, let me die”. Both Pte B R Mau and Cpl Crotty were close friends[v] of Kunkel’s and Crotty recognised his voice when he called out. A report by Sgt E J McNulty of 5 Platoon also heard a similar statement. Fearful this was a Chinese trick, they were not drawn out of cover, but a Pte Westcott, also in that patrol, recognised Kunkel’s voice as he knew him well. When searching Calgary they found the deceased members of the patrol but could not find Robert Kunkel although there were signs of track marks from bodies being dragged away. While the military-speak is considered and technical, there is certainly enough detail to distress any close family member or friend. We can only hope that Robert died quickly of his wounds before the enemy interrogation as assumed by the Court of Inquiry. After the cessation of the war, interviews with returned Australian POWs shed no light on the fate of Pte W R Kunkel.

In February 1955, over two years after he was wounded, the Army wrote to Robert’s wife to say officially he was missing, presumed deceased, on or after 16 November 1952. His name is inscribed on the Korean War Honour Board at the Australian War Memorial. In a quirk of fate, a William Marion Kunkel of the USA Army was also MIA, presumed dead in Korea. Meanwhile determined veterans and their relations are working tirelessly to try to identify any remains recovered from Korea and to raise the profile of MIA cases with the Australian government.

Robert’s memory, and that of 43 others Missing in Action in Korea, deserves to live on and it is for this reason that I’ve written this commorative post. Lest we forget.


[ii]  War Diary, 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, 16 and 17 November 1952 on http://www.awm.gov.au

[iii] Service Record Pte W R Kunkel.

[iv] Brian Ransfield Mau was from Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand.

[v] Per Corporal Crotty during the Court of Inquiry.

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International Women’s Day – Ellen Gavin, Julia Kunkel and Johanna Gavan

This is possibly George & Julia Kunkel on their wedding day  Today is the centenary of International Women’s Day and an appropriate day to honour our female ancestors. I have chosen to highlight the lives of my great-great-grandmother Ellen (Murphy) Gavin and great-grandmother Julia (Gavin) Kunkel as well as an unrelated friend.  Their lives were so much harder, and stoic, than ours and I thank them for their contribution to our family and our country.

Among the unmarked graves in the Old Roman Catholic section of the Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery is one where my women ancestors from the Gavin family are buried: Ellen Gavin and her daughter Julia Kunkel née Gavin. Also buried with them is an unrelated friend, Johanna Gavin (aka Gavan)[1]. Despite the sacrifices they made for their families and the roles they played in the development of their new country, their lives have passed unremarked by posterity.

 Ellen Gavin, with her husband Denis Gavin, and daughter Mary Gavin aged 2, arrived in Moreton Bay on the Fortune on 18 December 1855 having left Liverpool on 3 September 1855. Eleanor (aka Ellen) Gavin was 24, a Catholic whose native place was Wicklow. Her parents were James and Annie Murphy. Her father was dead but her mother was living in Wicklow. Her husband Denis was a farm labourer, aged 23 and a Catholic. His native place was Kildare, where his mother was still living. His parents were Denis and Mary Gavin.  Ellen could read but Denis was illiterate. Information on her death certificate indicates she was born in Davidstown, County Kildare.  Their daughter Mary Gavin, born in Dublin, was two years old. From her husband’s obituary and her first child’s birth, it is believed that Denis, and probably Ellen, were employed to work for Mr Gordon at Wallumbilla station out near Roma. In 1855 this area was near the edge of European settlement so the isolation must have been quite a shock to the new immigrants. Denis was employed as a carrier travelling between Wallumbilla and Ipswich so he would have been away for many weeks at a time. Unless Ellen was able to travel with him on his journeys, a rough and demanding life, it is likely that she was often left alone on the property to take care of the children, and possibly had responsibilities to the station owner. Their first Australian-born child, James, was born at Binbian Downs station on 3 June 1857 and baptised by Father McGinty in Dalby in 1858.

 The family must have moved into Dalby soon after this, probably when his employment contract finished, as Denis’s name appears there on various records. Denis continued to work as a carrier while they were in Dalby and their second daughter Julia Gavin was born there on 15 November 1859. Another daughter Rosanna Ellen Gavin was born 20 December 1864 and died 27 March 1865. Like many of our women ancestors, Ellen’s life is not visible in official records. Throughout she would have supported her husband and children, helping to establish a family life for them in their new home while reconciling herself to her infant’s death. As her children were devout Catholics it must be assumed that their mother played an important part in their religious training.

The family were living in Toowoomba by 1876 and Denis worked for a while as a gardener. On 28 March 1896, Ellen Gavin died at her residence in Seaton Street, Toowoomba. The death notice refers to her as the “beloved wife of Denis Gavin” and “mother of Mr James Gavin of Pechey and Mrs Kunkel of Jimboomba”. She was 74 years old and “formerly an old and respected resident of Dalby”.[2] Her death certificate indicates that she had given birth to 2 males and 5 female children, although we know only of the son and 3 daughters. Ellen was buried in the Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery on 29 March 1896.

Julia Gavin, Ellen and Denis’s daughter, was baptised in Dalby by Father McGinty on 25 June 1860 in front of witnesses John Healey and Barbara Ross. She married George Michael Kunkel at St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Dalby on 17 August 1879. George had commenced employment with Queensland Railways as a ganger in August 1878. Throughout their married life they moved around southern Queensland, working on the railway line near Dalby, Beaudesert (1896), Jimboomba, Highfields (1899), Grantham and Geham (1901). Julia and George had eleven children whose birth places reflect the family’s railway postings. My grandfather, Denis Joseph Kunkel, the couple’s eldest child, was born at the Forty Mile Camp near Dalby in 1883. His birth in a railway camp highlights the huge challenges and risks that our women ancestors faced in delivering their children and caring for their families. As time progressed Julia also worked as a gate-keeper for the railway at Gowrie (1886) and at the 27 Mile on the Beaudesert line (1890).[3] 

Julia Kunkel  nee Gavin died from post-natal complications of puerperal fever and a septic embolism. Her obituary reports that she had been operated on without anaesthetic because she had a weak heart, a terrifying and horrendous situation. The doctors deemed her operation a success but her family would disagree.[4] She died aged only 42 years, on 20 November 1901, leaving behind her husband, George Michael Kunkel, and ten children ranging in age from 21 down to 2.  (Julia’s obituary is included at the end of this story). Only a month later the children were orphaned when their father also died suddenly, on Christmas Day 1901. Julia Kunkel was buried from her father’s residence in Seaton Street, Toowoomba and laid to rest with her mother in the Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery on 21 November 1901. The full story of Julia and George Michael Kunkel is told in Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel family.

Ellen and Julia are among the many unacknowledged women pioneers of Queensland whose lives have largely passed unnoticed. However their social contribution has not been insignificant with many descendants living in Queensland or around Australia, including some high profile achievers. There is no known photograph of Ellen. The photograph included may be Julia and her husband George, a conclusion based on various factors.

Buried with Ellen and Julia is another unrelated Gavin (or Gavan) woman, Johanna Gavin. Years of research have established no genetic relationship between the women so it must be assumed that there was a link of friendship as they had lived in the same area for many years. Perhaps sharing a surname was a further link. Johanna Gavin nee Mackin or Macken was the estranged wife of Stephen Gavin, son of Mark Gavan, a convict from Galway. Johanna Mackin sailed on the Southesk which departed London on 17 March 1877 and arrived at Moreton Bay on 4 June 1877. She was a single woman of 22, who had paid her own fare and so was classified as “free” not “assisted”. It is unlikely Stephen had paid her fare as Johanna came from Tipperary while Stephen was from Galway. Stephen and Johanna’s marriage does not appear in the indexes but as their children’s births record both parents’ names it is assumed they were married. Their children were Peter Michael Gavin (b 1880), Johanna Gavin (b 1881), Bridget Gavin (b 1884 d 1885) and John Gavin (b 1890). The family were living at Fairy Land, Maida Hill in 1890 but by 1895 when Stephen applied to be admitted to Dunwich Benevolent Asylum, the couple were living apart. Johanna Gavin worked as a cook at the Commercial Hotel in Allora and later in Ruthven Street, Toowoomba, possibly at the Shamrock Hotel. Johanna Gavin died on 17 May 1913, aged 54 years. Her husband Stephen was still alive at the time. Perhaps it was an act of charity that Denis Gavin permitted her to be buried with his wife, Ellen Gavin and daughter Julia Kunkel.

OBITUARY: Darling Downs Gazette 21 November 1901

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


[1] Roman Catholic section 1, block 16, allotments 18 and 19.

[2] The Chronicle, Death notices, 4 April 1896.

[3] Queensland Government Railways: index to staff employed in various departments and stations 1889-1912, Caloundra Family History Research Inc., Caloundra, 2007.

[4] Darling Downs Gazette, 21 November 1901.

[5] Cass, P. Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel family, Darwin, 2003.

Wordless Wednesday (not quite) -Brickwall photo

This photo definitely includes my grandfather, Denis Kunkel (second left, second back row) and was found as a backing board behind another picture. I have a theory it is be an extended family photo because of some of the poses and family resemblances-some look very like my father. Or it could be some local society -but less likely as it includes women. It was probably taken in the Toowoomba area circa 1917. If anyone thinks they recognise someone in this picture I would LOVE to hear from you. The most likely family names are Kunkel and Gavin (from Pechey). (Click on the photo to enlarge it).

Mystery photo includes Denis Kunkel: are the other people Gavin family members?

Writing family history -roadblock in Dorfprozelten

The biggest roadblock in writing my Kunkel-O’Brien family history in 2003 was trying to give my readers a flavour of the ancestral home village in Bavaria. I struggled with this stumbling block for weeks, but during a day’s creative writing class at the NT Writers’ Centre a lateral approach came to me. Instead of being absolutely factual, I invented a story about George Kunkel’s final day at home in Dorfprozelten before emigrating, within an imaginary emotional context. I didn’t pretend the story of that day was anything but total creative licence, but it provided me with the vehicle to give my family an evocative impression of the village, and its social structure based on the information I had about the village. The accompanying photographs illustrated the specific places mentioned.  I was delighted when the village’s local historian complimented me on this part of my history.

I thought I might include this story here as quite a number of people are interested in Dorfprozelten. Some of the landmarks and features had been mentioned previously in the family history I was writing. As background you also need to know that George Kunkel became a pork butcher in Australia, his brother was a master butcher, and the family had owned one of the inns in the village for centuries:

©Pauleen Cass 2003 “Walk with him on his last day at home in Dorfprozelten.

The early light of dawn is filtering through the shutters to the rhythm of the church bells, which mark the hours and are part of the fabric of the village. The crisp white sheets and the comfort of the eiderdown make it tempting to stay in bed a little longer. So much lies ahead today, it’s best to get up and about, and not think too long. Other family members are slowly stirring, dress quickly –lederhosen, heavy boots, and the walking stick for the hills. Quietly shutting the heavy inn door, and walking down the worn stone steps – how many ancestors and visitors have come the same way. The smell of the bakery is permeating the morning air. “I’ll miss waking up to that when I’m at sea.”

His walk this morning will be a pilgrimage to all the places he wants to keep in his heart for the long decades ahead. The Nepomuk is gazing quietly over the village from his place on the bridge. ‘How many times have I stood here with Karl and looked out at the floods or thrown stones into the water. Remember when the tree wound up in the window there.’

Eva Kaüflein waves to me as I’m walking up the Hauptstrasse. She’s already airing the linen, getting all their belongings in order. She and her husband Vincent will leave soon for Australia and perhaps we’ll all meet up when they get there. Frau Krebs is feeding the chickens in the yard of the Krone, getting ahead of the day’s work, before her guests are up and about. “Funny how some people always visit their inn and others stick to ours, still we all do good business.”

A quick visit to the old Marian chapel to pay my respects and pray for safety on the voyage and that of my mother and family left at home. It’s hard on the old people, Frau Nebauer still frets for her son and daughter-in law. She’s only had a few letters and worries that they might be finding it too difficult in that strange country. So much sadness when the young ones opt for adventure or the chance for a better life.

Around the corner, the smithy is stoking up the fire for the day’s work. “That smithy’s been there for centuries, I suppose it will still be here when I’m long gone too, just like our inn. Thank goodness it’s still too quiet for the old men to gather and chat, I don’t want to have them watching me, judging me.”

The river comes into view again and it’s time to take the path to the forest. A quick prayer at the shrine and it’s up the steep hills to the cover of the trees. The boars are snuffling in the distance but they won’t bother me today. Finally I reach my favourite spot where I can see the whole village spread out before me. The river is clear and smooth now but later the barges will track invisible paths through it, and one of them will carry me on the long journey far away. Flags flap in the breeze outside the bargemen’s houses telling all their friends they’re home and good for a chat, a smoke and a stein.

The vineyard looms over the village like a priest lecturing his flock from the pulpit, and the labourers move up and down the vines, pruning. There’s a rhythmic calm to their movement. It’s strange how it’s this experience that’s given the men a chance to try a new life in Australia, after all the news that they want to start a wine industry there. Dry wine for a dry country.

Down the quick path to the church, a well trodden path to get to Mass quickly when you’ve left it a little late from a morning walk. The children are running and jostling on their way to school. “It’s not all that long since Herr Kraus lectured us in our numbers, his cane swishing to our chanting”. “That’s one smell I don’t miss, the smell of the horses and cattle mixing with the fire in the classroom. The old barn is pretty with its Fachwerk but it certainly smells!”

Walk by the cemetery, to place a few wildflowers from the hill on Father’s grave. Mother was here last night and the lamp is still burning and her flowers are fresh. I need to say goodbye to my departed family too.  I’ll miss being able to come and say a quiet hello. So many generations, and my little sisters, all lying here, faithfully tended by those still living.

Just enough time for a quiet walk along the river. I’ll see the length of this great river in the days ahead, but there’ll be no time for reflection then. It’s so peaceful along here in the shade of the trees. There’s some hustle and bustle on the barges now so I’d best hurry. Herr Brand is in the yard of the Goldener Stern, watching the action, and missing the lure of the sea.

Only time for a passing prayer at the crucifix shrine, hurrying to get home as the Angelus rings out. My brother Jacob is busy with the lunch guests and we only have time for a quick goodbye. He’s taught me everything he knows about meat and cooking, so I’ll have useful skills in my new life. Mother hands me a parcel of lebkuchen, rye bread, cheese and sausage for the voyage, hugs me quickly, and turns away with tears in her eyes.

I have to leave quickly or it will be too hard. Dashing down the path I cast a glance back. Mother is watching silently from the upstairs windows framed by flowerboxes.

Gute Fahrt aus Dorfprozelten, Georg.

Safe travelling from Dorfprozelten.

Good voyage, George.

 

Note: Photos of Dorfprozelten can be found on my Flickr page under the category “Dorfprozelten am Main” http://www.flickr.com/photos/cassmob/sets/72157600185994835/

 

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

Surname Sunday-my “families of interest”

It’s time to list my “families of interest” again: not just those on my own family tree, but those I’ve come to research:

 

George Kunkel from Dorprozelten, Bavaria. Photo from a relative's very old photo album.

KUNKEL:  George, son of Adam & Katharina from Dorfprozelten, Bavaria (Bayern), Germany to Australia -mid-C19th.  Brickwall is his brother Joseph Philip or Philip Joseph Kunkel who reportedly went to “America”.

O’BRIEN: Mary from Ballykelly, near Broadford, Parish of Kilseily, County Clare, Ireland. Thanks to oral history and good fortune this tree’s branches are flourishing. However I’m also interested in her sibling’s families in Australian and the USA: WIDDUP (Australia), HOGAN (Sister Kate married Patrick Hogan -also believed to be from Broadford area- in Sydney);  McNAMARA (stayed in Ireland), KINNANE (believed to have gone to USA),  and GARVEY (Australia and US).

McSHERRY aka SHERRY: Peter and wife Mary CALLAGHAN. This family has links to Gorey, Wexford, Ireland as well as Tullamore, Kings County or County Offaly.

McSHARRY aka SHERRY: James and wife Bridget FURLONG: (see my post about the Furlongs). Bridget came from Tullamore but where did James come from? Name distributions suggest he came from a Northern Ireland County —but where and when was he born….the BRICKWALL. Also no information on where he died: might he have left Australia for NZ or elsewhere? He was a railway man. MYSTERY: why did one branch of this family call themselves McSherry and the rest use McSharry?

McCORKINDALE aka McCORQUODALE (many spelling variations): From Argyll: Loch Fyne but traditionally Loch Awe via Glasgow (like so many Highlanders). MYSTERY/BRICKWALL: See my post: what became of Thomas Sim McCorkindale and his family who lived in the Greater London area.

McCORQUODALE: Also the children of brother Hugh who emigrated to Australia, unknown as far as I’m aware to many of his great-nieces and nephews.

MELVIN: This close-knit family came from Leith, near Edinburgh to Australia. Generations of the family were sailors/seamen and true international travellers well ahead of their time.

GILLESPIE/GILHESPY and REED: From North Shields, Tynemouth, Northumberland- again a family with sea connections although the REEDs were miners. MYSTERY: Where did Stephen Gilhesy, weaver, come from or was he a native of the area?

PARTRIDGE: Originally from Coleford in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, with detours through London and Yorkshire. Possibly originally a Welsh family -they certainly lived on either side of the border. The ROSEBLADE family from North Queensland are related to the PARTRIDGES.

KENT: The whole family left Sandon in Hertforshire, England  for Australia in mid-C19th. MYSTERY: Why? They weren’t poor labourers like so many. Religion  may have played a part but were there economic reasons as well?

GAVIN: Denis from Ballymore, County Kildare, Ireland. Married and had first child in Dublin.

GAVAN/GAVIN: This unrelated family came to Queensland from Clifden, Galway, Ireland largely because one of their family was an “Exile” or one of the last convicts sent to NSW and thence to Moreton Bay. I used to research this family with my friend and fellow researcher, Carmel, since deceased. I continue partly from curiousity but also in her honour.

MURPHY: Ellen from Davidstown, Co Wicklow, Ireland (a nice easy name, Murphy!). Married and had first child in Dublin.

MORRISON: This family lived at Inverglen, Strachur, Argyllshire, Scotland for a very long time. I’ve not had much luck connecting with anyone from this family.

SIM: The Sim family lived at Bothkennar, Stirlingshire, Scotland for centuries with minor detours to St Ninian’s and Clackmannanshire. Nonetheless they held the lease on the Bothkennar property for a very long time. They appear to have been prosperous farmers.

DORFPROZELTEN families I research (albeit unrelated to me but part of my migration research) include: Zöller/Zeller/Sellars and Schulmeier, Brannigan, McQuillan, O’Brien; Günzer/Ganzer and Hock,Bodman; Diflo and Mühling, Ott, Erbacher; Diflo and Nevision; Bilz/Bils and Coe and Morse; Hennig/Henny; Krebs and Wisthof/Wüsthof, rose, Ambrosoli, Miller; Kaüflein/Kaufline and Afflick, Agnew, Worland and many others (Snowy-country, Hunter Valley and Northern Rivers) etc; Kuhn and Brigden, Rose, Miller; Dümig/Demmig and Füller and Sues/Seus.

East Clare: any families who came to Australia (in particular) from the eastern half of County Clare ie east of Ennis.

Book reading: Jondaryan Station: the relationship between pastoral capital and pastoral labour 1840-1890

During the holidays I was reading this book by Jan Walker, published by UQ Press back in 1988. It’s been on my “to do” list for some time & I finally got down to reading it. The book was easy to read but also very informative and insightful, adding new information to previous readings I’d done. There were two levels of relevance: one in terms of the historical context generally and secondly, the specifics applicable to the families I research. Some of the key elements for me were:

1. the ways the squatters used to ensure dependency on the workers on their stations -high prices for stores being one example

2. the co-dependency between workers and employers with the latter providing many of the services required for day-to-day living

3. the authority of the squatters in relation to the Masters and Servants Act due to their role, or that of their peers, as magistrates. I wondered about this one because I have definitely seen newspaper articles where the employer was the “loser” in the exchange though perhaps it’s the relative infrequency of this that is the main issue.

4. the difference in power, and approach, between the Darling Downs squatters/land owners compared to those holding land in other parts of the colony of Moreton Bay/Queensland

5. the “rigging”/manipulation of land sales and selections available to the workers/selectors leaving the latter with poor land, poor access to transport and worst of all in our climate, poor access to water.

Why were these issues relevant to me?

1. my great-great grandfather George Kunkel very nearly lost the selection he had selected because a local VIP had also selected it, but in a different registry some days later. My ancestor’s success was even more significant when seen in the context of the historical trend. Why was this land so important -it lay along a creek which provided fresh water to sustain crops and livelihood. George went on to grow excellent citrus fruit, and his oranges were among a trial shipment sent udner refrigeration to the “home market” in 1904. (The Queenslander 16 July 1904)

Newspaper Article.

2. George’s son, and his wife-to-be, both worked on Jondaryan station for a brief period during the late 1870s as did members of another branch of “my” research family, the Gavins. Jondaryan’s excellent station records document their employment and period of employment. They were not resident employees and so had rather more independence from the station and would have been working to bring in cash for their families.

3. Another unrelated Gavin family which I’ve also researched worked for nearby Jimbour station so this book provides direct and indirect insights into their lives as shepherds and washers on that property.

4. Some of the Dorfprozelten immigrants also worked on Downs properties so this provides further information to flesh out their story, especially those who were working in horribly isolated conditions as shepherds or hutkeepers.

5. a reference to the kin-relationship between William Kent from Jondaryan and the Kents in Maryborough -this requires further research as I have Kents in my family and don’t know as yet if this Maryborough Kent is the one the family thought belongs to our branch.

An interesting and thought-provoking book which will merit another reading in the near future with references (fully cited) included in my family stories.

Widdups from Urana & Bracewell-Hodgson connection

I originally posted this question on another site. My interest in the Widdups from Urana arises from the fact that Bridget Widdup nee O’Brien was the sister of my original Australian ancestor, Mary O’Brien later Kunkel. They came from the townland of Ballykelly in the Parish of Kilseily in East County Clare, Ireland. This is centred on the small town of Broadford which is not that far from Limerick.

The two girls emigrated from Ireland around the mid-1850s but no shipping records have been found (despite looking at every O’Brien entry in the records). Bridget O’Brien Widdup’s death record shows that she spent a year in Queensland before moving to New South Wales where she married John Widdup. Although rumour has it that he was a Danish seaman I have found no proof of this and I believe he was probably born in the north of England.  I have put what information I had on this family at the time into my family history of the Kunkel family, which also included the O’Briens from Ballykelly. The book is called Grass Roots Queenslanders: the Kunkel family and was published in 2003.

Information from another family historian suggests that there is a connection between this Widdup family and the Hodgsons in Victoria. There does not appear to be a connection to the Widdops in Victoria though spelling can vary as we all know.

This is a somewhat convoluted saga but hopefully someone, somewhere may know more….every tiny tip helps. 

I am seeking help in finding the origins of John Widdup born circa 1828 or 1829. He came to Australia in the 1850s and settled at a small place called Urana in southern NSW, near the Victorian border. He married a woman called Bridget O’Brien from Co Clare circa 1860. In theory his Australian marriage or death certificates should give his parents’ names and place of birth. However, neither of these appear to have been registered so no joy there! He is, in summary, elusive. Oral history suggests he was a mariner with the British Navy and born in Denmark. My own view is that his roots are almost certainly in Yorks-Lancs. I did find a mariner named John Widdup born 1829 living in Hartlepool and lodging with a couple on the 1851 census. He states his place of birth of Salterforth.  It is possible this could be him I suppose. 

His Salterforth origins may tie in with a posting on the OneguyfromBarlick site & also with a letter between a John BRACEWELL and John WIDDUP (late 19th century), searching for Jesse, Johnathan and Joseph HODGSON who had settled in Eaglehawk near Bendigo in Victoria. John Widdup is said to be John Bracewell’s cousin.  

By searching the IGI and also census records I think I have found the correct family of Hodgsons in 1841. In Hayfield & Glossop district, Derbyshire, Daniel Hodgson is head of household with his wife, Amelia (later Amy) and children including Jesse, Johnathan and Joseph who emigrated, as well as other children including Wright Hodgson and also John Bracewell (relationships not being stated as we know for 1841). Amy Wright’s birthplace is stated in later census records as Keighley, Yorks. 

Daniel married Amy Bracewell nee WRIGHT at Manchester cathedral in 1825. Amy had previously been married to Henry Bracewell in 1816 at St Bartholomew’s Colne (per an LDS member submission-not an extracted entry). Hence John Bracewell, baptised St Bart’s Colne in 1818, is probably half-brother to the Hodgson children incl Johnathan, Jesse and Joseph.  

Wright Hodgson remained in England and married a Martha WIDDUP on 29 April 1860 at Manchester Cathedral, Lancs. They had a daughter, Amy Hodgson, who was born c1861 in Derbyshire. It seems that she would be the one staying with James Widdup and wife Mary Wright at Sand Hole Foulridge on the 1871 census. This would mean that it was their daughter Martha (b 1834) who married Wright Hodgson.  

At this point I wondered if Amy Wright-Bracewell-Hodgson and Mary Wright-Widdup might be sisters as both are listed as born Keighley per the census. The IGI suggests this is the case as Amy DOB (1794) and Mary’s (1801) fit closely with census info.  

If so then this provides a possible link which would fit with John Widdup being cousin to John Bracewell and the Hodgson boys. HOWEVER, the John Widdup who is son to James and Mary Widdup apparently has died in England in 1882.

Perhaps people with more familiarity with the area might see something I’m missing or there might be a rellie out there who knows more. 

The following are the names of John & Bridget’s children with a note of which don’t “fit” with O’Brien naming patterns. 

Children of John & Bridget (O’Brien) Widdup (NSW):
Amelia                          c1859  (no known family link for name re O’B)

 Louisa                          c1860  (no known family link for name) married Edward (Harry) Luckie.

John                             c1863  (probably after father, John Widdup)

Michael James              1864    (after her father Michael O’Brien; James-may be his father ??)

Walter Ireland              1867    (no known family link for name re O’B)
Alfred England                c1869  (no known family link for name re O’B)

Martha                         1870    (no known family link for name re O’B)

Bridget Ellen                 1872    (her  sister Ellen O’Brien)
Catherine Agnes           1874    (her mother Catherine O’Brien; Agnes??)  

For interest: in Australia John Widdup became a pound-keeper in charge of impounding wandering stock. Some of his sons became shearers and drovers.

I’d be grateful for anyone’s insights/comments.