Have I cracked it? Shall we dance?

Mary O'Brien, my 2xgreat grandmother.

Mary O’Brien Kunkel, my 2xgreat grandmother.

The midnight fairy came to visit me last night with an amazing surprise –in fact such a big surprise that I can’t quite believe it, and have spent the day trying to confirm or deny my conclusions. Oh ye of little faith!!

As a prelude to sleep (!!) I decided to have a quick look on Trove for Bridget O’Brien Ipswich. Bridget was my Mary O’Brien’s (2x great grandmother) sister. You see the other day I’d found a new obituary for her on Trove which mentioned that her year in Queensland had been spent in Ipswich. Up came the following advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald on 9th and 12th February 1859:

SHIP-FLORENTIA – BRIDGET O’BRIEN  Your sister Mary is anxious to hear from you. Mrs KONGEL, Post Office, Ipswich.

It’s as well I was lying down I tell you!! I couldn’t believe my eyes and kept saying “keep calm, keep calm”.

Why was I so excited? Because I’d pretty much guarantee that this is my Mary Kunkel (nee O’Brien) and her sister Bridget. Kunkel is routinely mangled even today, or greeted with a “what??” so the mis-spelling doesn’t bother me much, especially since Mary was illiterate and had a Clare accent.

I’ve been hunting for Mary’s immigration for 27 years to no avail. I’ve looked at every possible immigration record I could find, including checking every Mary O’Brien entry, as well as Bridget and Kate/Catherine.

So am I leaping to conclusions? Please tell me what you think after reading this.

My memory didn’t instantly retrieve Florentia but it was ringing loud bells for me. A quick search of my records reminded me this was the ship that the Daniel O’Brien family from Tipperary arrived on. I wrote about the connections in this post early in 2013. This O’Brien family and my Mary O’Brien Kunkel were involved as witnesses in each other’s church events.

So let me put together the details and compare it with the oral history given to me by Mary’s granddaughter, Anne Kunkel who lived with her, and who was an extremely reliable witness (she’s been spot-on about 99% of what she told me):

1.      Mary left Ireland when she was 16

In 1852 when the Florentia sailed Mary was 16 years old. This tallies with the age stated on several children’s birth certificates as well as her death certificate. Bridget’s age at death, and the details on her certificate also indicate an arrival year of 1852-53.

2.      Mary was six months at sea coming to Australia

The Florentia was at sea for 22 weeks, slightly over five months. On top of that Mary had to get to Plymouth to catch the ship, either by boat from Limerick or Bianconi carriage to Dublin. Either way you can see how the total trip would have been close to six months. And wouldn’t the temptation be to round up, not down?

3.  Mary and Bridget came together…though Anne did suggest perhaps sister Kate also came, but then she would have been <10 at the time.

Assuming this is correct, then Mary would have been on the Florentia too. I had eliminated Kate as an arrival through Moreton Bay as she married in Sydney in 1871 but now I’m rethinking that. Kate witnessed a baptism in Broadford, Clare in 1860. A Kate O’Brien witnessed Mary’s child’s baptisms in 1864 and 1866 in Ipswich. Was this her sister or Daniel and Winifred’s daughter (born 1854), which does seem young to be a witness? Our Kate’s details suggest she arrives in the early 1860s, just when there are some Board Immigrant Lists missing.

4.“Mary had a job before ever she got here…and she worked for a sea captain in Brisbane

Was Mary arriving as an unassisted passenger? Or did she come under a false name as happened occasionally (and perhaps more than we realise?).  Certainly the passenger list of the Florentia tallies with the stated number of passengers, and does not include two unassisted passengers because when the ship docked in Hobart on 4th April 1853 to take on additional supplies, there is only one cabin passenger stated on the Tasmanian documents, the Surgeon Superintendent for the voyage, William Clegg. Might she have been under an alias? This is tricky and yet none of the ages quite fit, let alone for two young women, aged 16 and 18.

5.      She met her husband on the voyage

This tale is common to both Mary and Bridget. Bridget’s future husband was a mariner, John Widdup, so that may be plausible. I’ve never found George Kunkel’s immigration either, and have conjectured he too may have worked his passage given his upbringing on the River Main. The Tasmanian records indicate there were 26 crew on the Florentia…I wonder if either George or John was one of them. Unfortunately the Mariners and Ships in Australian Waters website does not include the Florentia.

So far at least I’ve also been unable to trace them through the CLIP website.

Green, Allan C (1900). [Unidentified barque (sailing ship) in full sail]. Copyright expired.

Green, Allan C (1900). [Unidentified barque (sailing ship) in full sail]. Copyright expired.

The voyage

The ship’s captain was Capt TH Banks and Surgeon Superintendent William Clegg and the ship arrived in Moreton Bay on 25th April 1853. The Florentia was a barque of 453 tons, and on arrival was carrying 249 immigrants so a fairly small ship. Apart from being unusually long, due to “contrary winds and calms”, the voyage had a fairly high fatality rate, with two differing death rates: 17 deaths (Moreton Bay) and 9 deaths (Hobart). Although “offset” by either 8 or 12 births, this was not a good tally. And yet surprisingly very little is documented in the Trove newspapers about the voyage, other than an elusive hint that there were issues with the ship’s officers: The local Immigration Board is now engaged in the investigation of certain charges against the ship’s officers, but what their nature or justice may be, remains a mystery.- Moreton Bay Courier, May 7 quoted in the Maitland Mercury of 18 May 1853.

The Moreton Bay colonists were far more concerned that the ship brought far more women and children, than the men they wanted to boost their workforce.

Further Queries 

Was there another Florentia voyage? Yes, but back in 1841 when Bridget was only a girl of about eight. It seems logical that the 1853 voyage is the correct one. Our Bridget witnessed her brother’s and sister’s  baptism at home in Broadford in 1846 and 1850 adding to that likelihood.

It’s also not surprising that Mary might have been advertising for her sister, as Bridget left Ipswich after a year, so about mid-1854. By the 1860s she was married and living with her little family in Urana in southern New South Wales. Meanwhile Mary too had married in 1857, to George Kunkel, which Bridget may not have known.

So why was Mary “anxious” to get in touch with Bridget in early 1859? Their parents didn’t die until much later. Mary’s marriage and children seemed to be having no problems. Perhaps she just hadn’t heard from Bridget for a while or perhaps Mary knew that Kate was thinking of emigrating and wanted to get in touch.

jumping-people-silhouettes-colorful-illustration_275-6273

Image from Freepik.com

Plainly there’s room for further research at various archives and online.

So what do you think? Does my hypothesis hold up? Can I do a happy dance or is it all wishful thinking? Pearls of wisdom and advice would be much appreciated.

Sources:

http://www.trove.nla.gov.au

Tasmanian Archives, Immigration document MB2-39-1-16 Image 183

Family oral history: Anne Kunkel

Beyond the Internet Week 1: Church interiors

Stained glass memorial windows for the Garvey and Hogan families

On his Graceland album, Paul Simon sings of “angels in the architecture”, a phrase that has always resonated with me. But have you considered that perhaps church architecture and interiors are also a source of references to your ancestral angels.

Where possible most of us try to locate and photograph the churches of significance to our family’s history: where our ancestors worshipped, were married or buried and where children were baptised.

Nothing on this window gives a clue that John and Honora Garvey lived and died in Ireland.

But how closely do we look at the church’s architecture and features for family inspiration…probably not often enough.

Thanks to oral history I found these wonderful memorial stained glass windows in the Catholic parish church of St Peter’s in Surry Hills, Sydney. This church didn’t feature in any of my direct ancestral history but preserved there are the links between the Irish and Australian branches of my great-great-grandmother’s family. The Hogan family is that of Patrick and Catherine Hogan who lived in Sydney after immigrating there. The Garvey family is that of John and Honora Garvey of Bodyke, County Clare. Some of their children migrated to Australia while others went to the United States. Honora and Catherine were sisters to my 2xgreat-grandmother Mary O’Brien Kunkel and her other sister Bridget O’Brien Widdup. Without my 3rd cousin’s personal knowledge and her generosity in sharing, I’d never have known these existed.

Patrick and Catherine Hogan were Clare emigrants living in Sydney.

Have you looked at your family’s churches to see if there are clues about your angels in the architecture? Stained glass windows, bells, donated items, plaques or kneelers might provide valuable clues.

Have you got other tips about what might be found?

This is the first in a series of posts drawing on my Beyond the Internet geneameme from 2011.

I’m delighted that others have joined in and posted on this theme. See Julie’s post at Anglers Rest and Aillin’s at Australian Genealogy Journeys.

I’m more than happy for anyone to join in on the Beyond the Internet themes.

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (on Monday): Thanksgiving for family history blessings

Randy Seaver at Genea-musings set this week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun exercise: a special Thanksgiving Edition. In Australia we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but that’s no reason why we shouldn’t give thanks for the wonderful people and information we encounter in our family history searching.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to:

1)  Think about the answers to these questions and

2)  Tell us about it in a blog post of your own; in a comment to this blog post; in a Facebook status line or a Google Plus stream post.

a.  Which ancestor are you most thankful for, and why?

Mary O'Brien from County Clare, later Mary Kunkel from Murphys Creek, Qld. I think her character and strength show through in this photo.

Just one? Okay, I’ve decided on my Mary O’Brien from County Clare. Why? Well she was obviously robust and healthy having survived the Great Irish Famine (An Gorta Mór) and then safely delivering 10 children in those pioneering days. She had the courage to marry a man from another nationality (German) though they shared a common Catholic faith. While her husband was away working she kept the family going,  raised their family and helped to establish the family farm to ensure they could acquire and keep their land. I love the fact that on an early electoral roll she is identified as a farmer[i]. Thanks to the fact that she shared her family story with her grand-daughter, I found clues that identified her home in Ireland and connected her siblings and extended family around the world.

b.  Which author (book, periodical, website, etc.) are you most thankful for, and why?
No, sorry can’t do a tie-breaker on this question. If I really had to, I’d pick Georg Veh.

BOOK: I am most grateful to Georg Veh, the local historian from Dorfprozelten in Bavaria for his excellent local history books about the village: he and his team of co-workers have provided me with superb background to the village in general, and to my Happ ancestors’ lives as inn-keepers….not to mention challenging hours refreshing my German skills.

WEBSITE: Clare Library has been an innovator in the sphere of family and local history within the Irish context for many years. Thanks to their vision and the hard work of volunteers many records have been indexed and made available free of charge. Knowing that the indexing work is cross-checked gives confidence when searching.

c.  Which historical record set (paper or website) are you most thankful for, and why?

After much consideration I have opted for the Board’s Immigration Lists (shipping records) from the State Records Authority of New South Wales. Where available, these provide more detail on the immigrants’ family and place of origin than the Agent’s Immigrant Lists (latter now online) – sometimes critical clues on their life, pre-Australia. It’s definitely worth-while looking at the Board Lists on microfilm if it’s available. Although I still can’t find some of my ancestors arriving in Australia, this record set has been invaluable for others and for my East Clare research.


[i] Queensland State Electoral Roll 1915, district of Drayton, division of Helidon, registered 22 June 1905. Queensland women first gained suffrage on 24 January 1905, although at the federal level they had been entitled to vote since 1902. Mary obviously took her entitlement seriously and her first opportunities to cast her vote would have been in 1903 (Federal) and 1907 (Queensland). It has to be said that South Australia was well ahead of the other states/colonies, giving their women the right to vote as early as 1895.