C19th Emigrants from Dorfprozelten to “America” Part 1

Yesterday I was out on the back deck nearly all day chasing research rabbits down the hole. Today I’m driven inside by the pounding rain –the first of the season. Woo Hoo! (writing this and posting have taken me into yet another day and now it’s just HUMID!).

Translation: If you would like to read this post in a different language you can click here.

It’s been ages since I’ve put my nose to the research grindstone and yesterday involved some new learning as I ventured into the US records properly for the first time. I’ve been dabbling from time to time trying to find my 2x great grandfather’s brother, Philip Joseph Kunkel born 1840, but without conclusive success. Yesterday’s sleuthing started with Chris Paton’s blog alert on the release of New York Naturalisations.

A little background

George Mathias Kunkel’s mother was Eva Catharina (Catherine) Happ, whose family had lived in the village of Dorfprozeltenon the River Main, Bavaria and owned an inn, Das Goldene Fass, there for at least 100 years. Her first marriage was to a man called Georg Jakob Ulrich from nearby Stadtprozelten. They had surviving children Maria Ludovika (died aged 23), Josefa Gertrud (married Haun), Jacobina, Karl (died aged 22) and Jacob August. Three other children had died in infancy as was quite common in the village at the time. Georg Ulrich died quite young, aged only 34, leaving Catharina a widow, again not uncommon.

A postcard of Das Goldene Fass mid-20thC. Kindly provided to me by Georg Veh, local historian.

Das Goldene Fass before its demolition for a bank. Image kindly provided by Georg Veh.

Unusually Catharina did not remarry quickly (a few months later was typical), perhaps because she had more economic autonomy through being the owner of the inn.

Her second marriage was to Adam Kunkel from a village called Laufach in the Spessart Forest region. Their surviving children were Georg Mathias (my ancestor, b 1834) and his brother Philip Josef (b 1840). It’s perhaps worth noting that in this part of Bavaria (very Catholic), baptism typically occurred on the same day as births unless the birth was late in the day.

The Laufach church and a historical Bavarian display. P Cass 2003.

The family story in Australia has always been that one son came here and one (or two) went to “America”. As Philip Joseph Kunkel disappears from the Dorfprozelten church records I’ve assumed (yes, I know!) that he’s the one I’m searching for…far easier today, in theory, than it was in the pre-internet era.

Catharina’s eldest son, Jacob August Ulrich, inherited the family’s inn, Das Goldenes Fass, while my ancestor, Georg Mathias, emigrated to Australia. Jacob married Elisabeth Firmbach circa 1851 (perhaps the impetus for George to migrate?). Thanks to the local history and the generous local historian, Georg Veh, I know their children were Josephine, Georg Jacob (died in infancy), Maria Augusta, a child (of whom more later), Bertha, Ernestine Veronika, Georg Jacob and Karl (died in infancy).

Of these I knew that Bertha had emigrated c1881 to the US where she married a Dorfprozelten man, William Kuhn. Brother Georg Jacob followed her c1882 and married an “Englishwoman”.

Tragedy struck this family in a big way in 1868 when, within months, four of the family died from lung disease (Lungensucht), perhaps TB? Jacob died on 19 June, son Karl on 1 July, Jacob’s wife Elisabeth on 20 August, and his mother Catharina on 15 October. What a terrible time for the remaining family as they lost one loved one after another.

Yesterday’s research revealed a new discovery: Jacob and Elisabeth’s eldest daughter had also emigrated, circa 1873, only five years after her parents’ death. What became of the surviving four children, two still under ten, is unknown, presumably they were cared for by other family members, aunts or uncles since their Kunkel/Happ/Ulrich grandparents were also dead.

What happened to the Happ family’s inn? After Jacob August’s death it was taken over by August Ulrich, possibly Catharina and Georg Ulrich’s youngest son, though the birth dates don’t gel. In 1930 the family sold the inn and for the first time in two hundred years it moved out of the Happ descendancy.

I am greatly indebted to Georg Veh and the other local researchers in Dorfprozelten for the background to this story. If you have Dorfprozelten heritage please leave a comment so I can give you the details on ordering their excellent local histories.

This post looked like being two much to digest unless split into two parts so Part 2 is for the American discoveries.

Next post: Across the Pond: the American connection. 

L loves Loch Fyne and Loch Awe

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 I get to talk about some of my favourite L places.

L is for Loch Fyne

Loch Fyne near Inveraray © P Cass 2010

Do you think there’s a statute of limitations on how time-distant a place can be and still tug at your heart strings and speak to your DNA? Although I’ve visited lots of my genealogical heritage places and walked the land, there are only a few that truly make me feel like I’ve come home. Dorfprozelten in Bavaria comes close because the history is so close to the surface, but language and cultural difference stand between me and that feeling of home-coming.

Loch Fyne in Argyll is that home-place where I can truly feel my roots deep into the land and scenery, and as I stood on its banks one day, that realisation came to me so clearly. I may identify more with the Irish people and love its scenery but it’s the sparseness of the Scottish highlands that call my name.

Strachur on Loch Fyne on a wintery March day. © P Cass 2006

Scattered along the shores of Loch Fyne are family places: Ardkinglas and nearby Strone where James McCorkindale and family lived; Cairndow where Isabella Morrison McCorkindale is buried; and Strachur where my Morrison ancestors lived back into the C18th. Inveraray, home of the ruling Campbells, is pivotal to anyone who lives in the vicinity, including my McCorkindales (earlier aka McCorquodales, various spellings). I love that when I feel the smoothness of a timber egg from the Ardkinglas Tree Shop I have a long-distant link to my ancestor who worked on this estate.

L is for Loch Awe

View over Loch Awe from Kilchrenan side © P Cass 2010

Loch Awe is another place which calls to my heart. Just over the hills from Inveraray my earlier McCorquodales lived along Loch Awe for what was probably centuries, later apparently moving from the parish of Kilchrenan on what is called the northside (though I think of it as west) to Inishail on the southside. There is something soothing about being on either side of the loch, despite what I know of its blood-thirsty history. In fact this northern end of Loch Awe was traditional country for Clan McCorquodales, centred on nearby Loch Tromlee, land-locked in Kilchrenan parish. I’m quite sure that my own McCorquodales are minor members of the clan, but equally I’m reasonably confident that they lived hereabouts for many years.

The history of Laufach is told on the carvings on this pole (don't know its correct name). © P Cass 2003

L is for Laufach

My love of ancestral places doesn’t quite extend to Laufach, pleased as I was to visit. Its railway role should have made me feel at home but it didn’t, making the town feel rather industrial. However I’m certainly indebted to the local historian from Laufach, also a descendant of the Kunkel family, who provided me with an ancestral pedigree stretching back many generations into 17th century. Our language barriers proved a challenge to real communication as he spoke little English and my German really wasn’t up to what was needed.

L is for Limerick

Although my O’Brien family were from Broadford in east County Clare, they belonged in the Limerick Union. Had the Famine driven them to a workhouse, which mercifully they weren’t, it would have been to Limerick Workhouse they’d have been admitted. As part of my east Clare research I spent some time looking at the early 1850s Board of Guardian minutes to learn more about emigrants to Australia who may have left the workhouse. Murphy’s Law being at work, these records are now online and you can read more here.

I think it’s almost certain that Mary O’Brien and her sister Bridget would have visited Limerick at some point and may even have transited through Limerick on their migration to Australia.  The Silver Voice blog has a wonderfully descriptive tour of Limerick here. My own photos of Limerick have vanished somewhere so no pics from me I’m afraid.

L is for London

We loved the interior of St Saviour's, Southwark where my husband's Cass ancestors married. It seemed quite simple despite the decoration. I know, makes no sense. © P Cass 2010

At different times I’ve had quick flits into London to read old census microfilms, or pull down the BDM registers in those pre-digital searching days, or a one-day visit to the National Archives. However the horrendous pound-dollar exchange rate ensured these were never going to be long stays.  Thankfully on our last visit the Aussie dollar was strong so a visit of a few days was possible. This time we played the tourist and were able to investigate some of my husband’s family history sites on the south bank of the Thames including St Saviour’s at Southwark. While I know I have some London ancestry, I’ve not found much about the specific locations so I gave myself permission to just go out and have fun!

L is my wish for a winning Lotto ticket…

It’s a bit of an Aussie pastime to plan what you’d do if you won the Lotto. Imagine the fun that could be had in all these heritage places, visiting the sites and spending days weeks in archives. Oh well, one can but dream!

Abundant Genealogy Week 10: A collage of genie journeys

Amy Coffin of the We Tree blog, in conjunction with Geneabloggers, has a new series of weekly blogging prompts for 2012 and the theme is 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy.  Week 10: Genealogy Roadtrips. No two genealogy road trips are the same but they’re always fun and meaningful. Describe a memorable trip in your past. Where did you go? What did you find (or not find)? Did you meet any new cousins? What did the trip mean to you and your family?

A Tagxedo word cloud of genie journeys.

When I saw this topic I ran a mental scan of the genealogy trips I’ve done over the past 26 years. There have been so many that in truth I simply don’t remember each in detail –just the highlights. Many have been genealogical flight trips to places far away, either within Australia or overseas, though usually with a road trip added in. I decided on a collage of memory highlights over the decades from our genealogical journeys at home and away. The memories here focus on my Kunkel/O’Brien ancestry but I could list just as many for other ancestral families of mine, or my husband’s.

Murphys Creek and the Fifteen Mile, Queensland

Murphys Creek cemetery circa 1987/88. The Kunkel grave is on the right nearest the trees.

  • Learning my Kunkel ancestors had lived and died there we visited the cemetery. Set aside in one corner was the grave of my 2xgreat grandparents and their son, my great grandfather. It was a thrill to see it standing proud in what was probably once the Catholic part of the cemetery. It’s telling that theirs is the only gravestone in that area –presumably other Irish Catholics were too poor to manage a stone.  (Have I mentioned that my daughters have adverse memories of Queensland cemeteries with dry crackling grass and high temperatures?)
  • Driving along a gazetted roadway that felt like a private access path to other farms, so that I could see my Kunkel family farm (at a distance). Having heard that the then-resident was rather fond of his shotgun when it came to visitors I was mighty glad to have a long telephoto on my camera and wished that the cows would stop announcing my presence.

    The old property circa 1988.

  • Learning about the place through genie-visits with the Kunkels’ granddaughter in Toowoomba and finding out about their life on the farm and much family history.
  • Taking a steam train ride with a couple of my kids along the very line that my 2xgreat grandfather worked on (we all loved that trip).
  • Many decades later, being invited to see through the old farm property and walk the land.

    The steam train arrives at Murphys Creek station.

In Australia

  • Visiting St Mary’s Catholic Church in Ipswich to see the original registers (in those days) and finding my ancestors’ marriage entry. Being able to see the second register which had more detail and gave me the clue to George Kunkel’s place of birth.
  • Meeting my third cousins in Sydney who shared wonderful family knowledge and photos, enabling me to link the Irish O’Briens.
  • Visiting Drayton &  Toowoomba cemetery and seeing the unmarked grave of my 2x great grandmother and her daughter, my great grandmother. Putting a marker on their grave remains one of my Bucket List items.
  • Holding the first reunion of all the Kunkel relatives in Toowoomba –what an experience for all of us! What a noise we made with our conversations!
  • A second reunion a few years later introduced many family members to family places they hadn’t know about before.

Dorfprozelten, Bavaria

One of the old buildings in Dorfprozelten.

  • A laborious train/walking day trip to visit the Kunkel home village of Dorfprozelten –and being told by the priest to come back another day. Protestations in German that we’d come from Australia fell on deaf ears, as had letters sent before and after the visit.
  • Convoluted conversations in churches and cemeteries in my poor German as I tried to learn more about my family. A similar experience with a later priest who was Polish-born: a multi-lingual challenge for both of us.
  • Some years later being shown the church registers by the then parish priest as he pulled them out of a metal compactus in the sacristy and nodded sagely at the various illegitimate births. We readily found my George Kunkel’s baptism entry.
  • Meeting local historians in Laufach and Dorfprozelten who shared their family and local knowledge with me. The Laufach historian was something like a 5th or 6th cousin!
  • Walking the streets of the village and getting a feel for the historical continuity of many of the buildings.

Broadford, Clare

A work colleague and friend had bought me these green socks to celebrate the ancestral trip to Ireland.

  • I visited Broadford first with my mother and daughter in the late 1980s. We drove in constant fog from our B&B wondering whether this was all we’d see after travelling half way round the world. A visit in the church and a prayer to my 2x great grandmother to plead our case – as we walked out the church door, the fog lifted like a blind rising. It remains one of my strangest family history experiences. My daughter celebrated her birthday that day, receiving her presents near the Broadford Catholic cemetery and then touring another one at Tuamgraney in the half dark with the owls hooting. A birthday she hasn’t forgotten! On this trip the attempt to pin down the right O’Brien family was unsuccessful.
  • On a subsequent visit we were taken by the visiting missionary priest to meet my relatives. Strictly speaking they weren’t blood relations but they had inherited the various properties and were so incredibly generous and hospitable to us with Paddy taking us to see the original farm at Ballykelly. Returning all muddy and damp Nancy, his wife, helped us clean up and then fed us. The memories of this trip and subsequent meetings with them are treasured ones.
  • Meeting third cousins in Broadford, over a pint and a whisky in the local pub. Great craic.

These memories are the tip of the iceberg of our genealogical road/air trips. We’ve had such great times, seen wonderful places and met hospitable people off the beaten track. Some places immediately give a sense of homecoming, others are special but don’t tug at my heart strings. It’s been worth every dollar and every moment that we’ve spent on these adventures. I’m rearing for more adventures as time and money permit.