Trove does it again – Bridget Widdup and the Florentia

URANA. (1912, May 25). Wagga Wagga Express (NSW : 1879 - 1920), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article145395082

URANA. (1912, May 25). Wagga Wagga Express (NSW : 1879 – 1920), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article145395082

Our good friend Trove has done it again!

I mentioned in my East Clare post last week that I was waiting on a new release news story which looked tantalisingly optimistic. It’s now been released and has exceeded my hopes.

Regular readers will recall my excitement back in late December when I found a clue to my Mary O’Brien’s immigration in an advertisement for her sister, Bridget. Since the family’s oral history has them both arriving in Australia together I thought I’d hit the jackpot.

Hours of research online and in archives in Hobart, Sydney and Brisbane had left me none the wiser in terms of hard evidence, and if anything doubting whether even Bridget had come on this sailing ship. Nowhere was there a mention of her name and my hopes plummeted. I felt like the prince trying to make that glass slipper fit.

O'BRIEN Advert Florentiaarticle13011791-3-004

This new death notice and obituary once again opens up the research and reveals so much more. It tells of:

  • Bridget’s arrival in Queensland (also mentioned on her death notice)
  • Arrival on the Florentia (a confirmation of Mary’s advertisement for her)
  • Relocation to Sydney. Her death certificate mentions 1 year Qld, remainder in NSW, so she probably left Ipswich for Sydney some time in 1854.
  • Arrival in the Urana area with Mr James Broughton to work on Cocketgedong[i] Station, on Billabong/Billybong Creek, near Jerilderie, probably around 1857-58.
  • Arrival in the town of Urana before it was surveyed. “Urana village was laid out in 1859” according to Bayley[ii]. Urana was proclaimed a town on 6 May 1859 and gazetted on 10 May[iii]. This roughly fits with when Bridget was believed to have married John Widdup, who would become the town’s poundkeeper, a role Bridget took on after his death in 1876.
LOWER MURRUMBIDGEE. (1858, May 11). The Sydney Morning Herald, p. 3 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13009895

LOWER MURRUMBIDGEE. (1858, May 11). The Sydney Morning Herald, p. 3 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13009895

There is some oral history that suggests Bridget worked as a children’s nurse which would fit with the birth of Emily Church Broughton in Sydney in May 1858 and Mary B on 25 April 1860. This would tally with Bridget’s move to Cocketgedong especially if she had been working for the Broughtons in Sydney. She’d certainly have been well qualified in this role having been the eldest of the eight O’Brien children. The impact of women arriving in the district was among the subjects discussed in this interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 11 May 1858[iv].

Of course the question remains why Bridget left Ipswich and her sister, having journeyed so far together. To the best of my knowledge there were not yet any relatives in Sydney. Perhaps she just didn’t like the Queensland heat and dryness. Certainly it can’t have been the isolation as Urana was far more isolated.

Link with the Early Days. (1924, October 24). The Burrowa News (NSW : 1874 - 1951), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article103199365

Link with the Early Days. (1924, October 24). The Burrowa News (NSW : 1874 – 1951), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article103199365

So here I am, back pondering the mysteries of the Florentia migration and again I’m left with the following questions.

  1. Did Mary and Bridget emigrate together?

All the oral history suggests the two young women came together. Annie Kunkel’s usually reliable information fits with what’s now known of the Florentia’s voyage. Furthermore I’ve re-read the notes I took at the time and see that she refers to them on an “old sailing ship”. I’d blipped over the “old” previously but it particularly fits with what’s known of the Florentia which had made voyages to Australia as a convict ship in earlier decades.

  1. Why would Mary advertise for her sister on the Florentia if she didn’t arrive on it?

This question now seems to be answered. I have two different sources citing the Florentia which gives me confidence that Bridget at least arrived on that ship. It only had one voyage to Queensland, in 1853. Earlier ones to other states would have meant the women were too young to travel alone, so I’m now happy to place Bridget on this ship. But why is she not mentioned anywhere in the records?

  1. Were they unassisted passengers?

I can find no evidence or mention anywhere that there were paying passengers on board the ship. It was an old ship and less likely to provide suitable cabin accommodation for anyone other than the captain and surgeon. However, is it still possible that it offered cheap paying accommodation to two young women? The records, as always, are focused on the assisted passengers and there was enough kerfuffle about the voyage that the assisted may have gained no recognition. Or am I clutching at straws?

  1. Were they assisted passengers?

As I mentioned I’ve looked at all available passenger lists for this voyage. There are no single women named O’Brien other than the daughters of Daniel O’Brien who I mentioned in the earlier post. I’d checked them out years ago because of the family’s on-going connection to Mary O’Brien and the Kunkel family. However, once again I married each girl off, and checked their deaths until I was sure none of them were actually our Bridget or Mary. Case closed there.

  1. Were there substitutions or impersonations?

As implausible as this sounds it is not impossible. State Records of New South Wales (SRNSW) makes mention of it:One practice which frequently occurred during this period was the taking on of an alias in order to obtain passage. This happened in cases where passage had been denied under the correct name; in these instances, the assumed name was often the maiden name or the name of a person with whom travelling. In other instances, an immigrant assumed the name of a person to whom a passage certificate had been granted. An example of this is Joseph Golding who came in place of John Mahon. In these cases the lists usually record the person under his/her correct name with a reference to the alias (or assumed) name. (always assuming they actually came to light)

I’ve also found manipulated records, and impersonations, in the East Clare database I’ve built up, though they are only the ones which have come to light, as per the SRNSW examples above.

It seems logical that if the O’Brien girls had taken up other passengers’ tickets/permits that they’d (a) have to have been Irish and (b) most likely have been from Clare or nearby eg Limerick or west Tipperary.

I also eliminated from consideration single women whose married siblings or single brothers were on board, just because that would have required more extensive collaboration.

Similarly two young women in their mid-teens were unlikely to be able to pass themselves off  as women over thirty.

It really does defy logic, and Irish propriety, that the girls would have been languishing on the docks of Plymouth hoping to catch a ship to Australia until some other young girl(s) changed her mind about the voyage.

  1. Checking the single women

Over the past weeks I’ve been researching the single women on the Florentia.

Even eliminating the English and Welsh women from consideration there were still lots to investigate and I set to by looking at potential marriages via Queensland’s online BDM site. If I found one that seemed plausible I traced the death and compared the parents listed with those provided on the shipping lists.

Again and again I hit brick walls, often not even finding marriages at all. I also checked the NSW BDMs, just in case, because some of the immigrants had stated they had relatives interstate. Eventually I had to give this away due to the overall ambiguity, but if any reader had ancestors arrive on this ship I’d love to hear from them.

CONCLUSION

Glass_slippers_at_Dartington_CrystalTo be honest I’m still floundering, though I’m now much more confident that Bridget was on board the Florentia when it arrived in Queensland in 1853. However, was she an assisted or unassisted passenger? Did she/they come out under someone else’s name? There is a suggestion in the local history of Broadford that some young people were assisted to emigrate and perhaps that’s where the clues lie. Perhaps the girls came out as privately funded passengers but on a very old ship, with perhaps a cheap rate.

Frustrating as this is, without Trove I’d still have no clues about their migration as I’d exhausted other avenues many years ago. My gut feeling for some time has been that they came out as unassisted passengers so perhaps that was the case on Florentia.  I’m still walking around with that glass slipper in my hand looking for a perfect fit but will it ever happen? Digitisation has saved my research and perhaps will do so again.

Other posts on this topic:

Have I cracked it?

Bridget Widdup nee O’Brien

Was it all fun and games on the Florentia?

Mixing my metaphors: macadamias and glass slippers.

[One day I may manage a short post!]

[i] Also known as Cocketygong, Cockegong from Trove reports. Cockejedong Creek was a tributary of Billybong or Biallabong Creek: Billabidgee, History of Urana Shire. Bayley, WA. Urana Shire Council 1959, page 59. For overseas readers, the word “station” here does not refer to the railway but an extremely large rural property. In American terms it would be called a ranch.

[ii] ibid, page 75.

[iii] ibid, page 23.

[iv] I was alerted to this by a reference in Bayley, op cit, page 22. Although not referenced in the book, Trove picked it up immediately when I searched by the phrase used.

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

E explores Edinburgh and Ennis

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).

E is for Edinburgh, Scotland

Sunset lights up Calton Hill. © P Cass 2010

This is a city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas.  A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again.” Alexander McCall Smith, 2006

This quote was written on the side of an inner-city building when we visited Edinburgh again in 2010 and I imagine that Edinburgh is one of the places many people would have on their bucket list. I’m not entirely sure that I feel completely at home there…it is beautiful, or perhaps imposing, but the greyness of the buildings is always something of a shock coming from a sunny country full of blue skies.

Still I love walking on the streets and hearing the skirl of the pipes, even if it is rather touristy. I’d be more than happy to have the opportunity to live in Edinburgh for a while….imagine being able to sit in the archives as often as you like, or to see those days where the skies are a beautiful blue!

Despite having visited a few times over 40 years, I’ve rarely played the tourist. My time has invariably been occupied in the various family-history-related repositories. Thanks to the wonderful online access provided by ScotlandsPeople (SP), my most recent visit “freed” me a little to have a look around. I think I should have shares in SP as it’s by far cheaper to obtain digital copies of original records so that a real visit can be so much richer (hmm perhaps richer is not what I mean!). On my last visit I spent happy hours in West Register House (now closed) where the staff were wonderfully helpful and I could trawl kirk session records to my heart’s content…I’m looking forward to them becoming available online.

I loved the words on this memorial to a recent mariner who lost his life at sea. The words are the essence of what we aim for as family historians. Click on the photo to read the words.

Apart from the joys of archives, I have another reason for visiting Edinburgh. My ancestor, Stephen Gillespie Melvin, and his ancestors before him, lived in Leith which is Edinburgh’s port. Once, not all that long ago, it was a bit rough, ready and run-down but these days gentrification has come calling. There are expensive apartments being built near the Water of Leith, two Michelin-starred restaurants, and historical monuments including one honouring Australia’s, and Leith’s, Governor John Hunter. What remains constant in my visits are the grey skies. Only once or twice have I seen glimpses of blue skies, even though there’s evidence on the internet that such days exist…I’m sure they can’t all be photo-shopped. I love having a link to this earthy port with its tough maritime industry to which my family contributed for a very long time. Many of my ancestral family members are buried in the South Leith churchyard but of course, not being wealthy, I’ve found no gravestones. How coincidental that having just logged into my family history program, I’ve discovered today is the 158th anniversary of the birthday of my Leith-born ancestor, Stephen Gillespie Melvin.

Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.

This was one of those rare sunny days between the grey so we went to the Botanic Gardens instead of Leith …what was I thinking to not put family history first!

One of the luxuries of our last visit was visiting the Impressionist Gardensexhibition which was wonderful. The Botanic Gardens had a related theme with certain areas of the Gardens highlighting aspects of some of the paintings. We really loved it and had a great time wandering for hours. Actually this was a beautiful “blue sky” day so perhaps we should have prioritised Leith instead of just having fun.One evening we took a trek to the outskirts of Edinburgh to hear a great traditional band, Fiddlers Bid, from the Shetlands. The music was fantastic, but some of the commentary was lost to us in the broad accents.

We also wandered around the old town looking for where another ancestor had lived and saw this sign. I’m not entirely sure I understand what it truly means, but I know I really like it…Alastair Grey himself does have an explanation of it here. Will Scotland vote for Independence I wonder?

My husband is a die-hard rugby union fan, as am I, and we love to watch Scotland play if for no other reason than to listen to Flower of Scotland and belt it out in our lounge room. Sadly the playing infrequently lives up to the music. I had a Scottish rugby union jersey for the 2003 World Cup which I wore in Ireland…I kept wondering why people were looking at me strangely. Mind you, I can get behind Ireland’s Call with a similar level of enthusiasm.

E is for Ennis, Co Clare, Ireland

Ennis has no direct links to my Irish ancestry but oral history suggests that at least my 2xgreat aunt was familiar with Ennis, but whether before or after her sisters’ departure for Australia is unknown. Broadford, their home town, was on the Bianconi route between Limerick and Ennis so perhaps they were able to travel to Ennis for the markets or similar.

For me, Ennis is the home of the Clare County Library and the adjacent Clare Local Studies Centre. I’ve sung their praises so often in my blog so there’s little need to repeat myself and yet I can’t resist. What a great job these people do, and how wonderfully innovative and creative they can be because of the forward-thinking of the powers-that-be above them. Thanks to them Clare family historians are infinitely better served than those with ancestry in other Irish counties. Thank you, I love using the site and I loved visiting in person even more!

It’s funny the things that stay in your mind about a place: the truck jammed under a bridge on the way into town; the welcome and helpfulness of the research staff at the Local Studies Centre; finding the death certificates for my Mary O’Brien’s parents even without known death dates; the river that runs beside the centre of town so that you can have lunch in a café and watch the swans go by; the old narrow streets with their medieval feel; the school kids hogging the footpath as they do the world over; an anniversary dinner in the Old Ground hotel; updating my suite of topographical Irish maps; ginger bath gel for the unheard-of travelling luxury of a hot bath; cash deliveries to the banks complete with machine-gun-toting security guards and multiple armoured vans (this chicken colonial chose to duck into the Vodaphone shop…I’m sure there was something I needed…or not).

I’d love to show you some of my own photos of Ennis, but for the life of me I can’t find them, so have a look at what they have to say at the official website. I think the next time I visit I might take this rather intriguing walking tour…we think Mr Cassmob’s Clune ancestors may have come from Ennis, perhaps we’ll learn more.

B is for Ballykelly, Broadford and Backrow, Bothkennar

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).

B is for Ballykelly in Broadford (Co Clare) in the parish of Kilseily

Ballykellytownland is the home of my great-great grandmother, Mary O’Brien from Co Clare. Unfortunately I have no evidence of how long the family had lived in Ballykelly as there are no traces of the family in early records (found so far). Despite Mary’s extremely common name I was able to find her place of origin thanks to oral history linking families in Ireland, the US and Australia, and by tracing her sister’s records in Australia….all of Mary’s said merely “Co Clare”. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Broadford a few times and to visit the actual farmland where the O’Briens lived and worked.

The view from the former O'Brien land at Ballykelly on a typically "soft' Irish day in March.

On the first visit, decades ago, Broadford was shrouded in fog, and the general response to my enquiries was “it’s up there” pointing into the hilly distance. While enquiries at the local shop, owned by O’Briens, directed me to visit elderly parents, that proved to be fool’s gold despite their kindness in trying to help me…they were not my family. It took another visit, and assistance from a missionary priest with whom we’d bonded, to be taken to meet the family who had inherited the farm. Paddy had inherited it after my 2xgreat uncle’s family had died. He and his wife were extremely generous and showed us the property –up a muddy dirt “goat track”, as we call them in Australia. It was a thrill beyond words to stand on their land and look out at the magnificent view Mary had known every day of her young life, until she emigrated with her sister Bridget.

B is for Backrow farmhouse in the parish of Bothkennar in Stirlingshire (Scotland)

Backrow farmhouse Bothkennar in 2010.

The story of my first visit to Bothkennar is the opposite to the Ballykelly one. My young daughter and I dutifully followed the maps to Bothkennar and stopped to enquire at the store/post office if they knew where Backrow was.  I could hardly believe my eyes and ears when they pointed and said “That’s it, over there”. We took the short road ahead and parked on the verge to look at the house where my great-grandmother Annie Sim, had lived as a young woman and where generations of her family had lived, stretching back many, many decades. At the time it was looking a little run-down in parts but had substantial enough outbuildings and large fields.

Staring proud across the road from Backrow were the kirk, school and kirkyard…only a few steps to the venue for all life’s major events…and no escaping the minister’s eye. I took a photo (the old fashioned kind) and would you believe that this was on a roll which did not come out….Murphy’s Law at work. On the next visit I made sure I did a sketch as well as take a photo! I’ve never yet worked up the courage to knock on the door and ask if I can see the property but I’ve promised myself that next time I’ll write in advance and beg admittance.

As always, click on the photos to see them as a larger view.

52 weeks of Abundant Genealogy: Week 7 – Historical documents

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 GenealogyWeek 7 – Historical Documents: Which historical document in your possession are you happy to have? How did you acquire this item? What does it reveal about your ancestors?

I have few actual historical documents though my family archive holds many copies of historic documents from archives or registry offices. My grandmother’s Scotch (sic) education book and my grandfather’s original, oversized and much stuck-together, birth certificate are valued originals but they are not the pivotal historic documents on which my family history turns.

There are two historic documents (of which I hold copies only), which broke through “brick walls” and enabled me to pinpoint my ancestors’ home place. Without them I’d never have been able to trace “Mary O’Brien from County Clare” or George Kunkel from Bavaria.

Their marriage occurred at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Ipswich, Queensland in 1857. The church’s marriage register is the only place where I’ve ever found George Kunkel’s place of birth documented: the details are not on the official civil registration. Without that church document I’d never have known where George was born and never been involved in researching his fellow emigrants from Dorfprozelten. I wrote about this document discovery in the 2011 Australia Day meme hosted by Shelley from Twigs of Yore.

You might imagine that finding “Mary O’Brien from County Clare” would have been nigh on impossible without some substantive clue. She doesn’t appear in any shipping record I’ve searched (and believe me I’ve searched a lot, the old-fashioned way as well as the new). Oral history gave me her sister’s name and married surname. I then ordered Bridget Widdup’s death certificate which gave me her place of birth and confirmed Mary and Bridget as siblings. It was then possible to search the Kilseily parish registers, Broadford, Co Clare, in person and on microfilm. This confirmed the links by virtue of the rich oral history I’d been given. I wrote more about finding Mary O’Brien here.

So these two documents, one a church register entry and the other a civil death registration, have been documents critical to my overseas family history. It really doesn’t matter at all that what I hold are copies, not originals, as I’ve personally sighted both.

Guess who’s coming to dinner…my ancestors.

Julie over on Angler’s Rest totally inspired me to write this post in her story for NaBloPoMo on Relatives. Thanks Julie for the inspiration!

I’d love to welcome my earliest Australian ancestors to an early evening dinner party so I could get to meet them as real people. I think it would have to be a typical outdoor event, under the shade of a spreading Banyan tree or a Moreton Bay fig so everyone felt at home. We’d have long tables and folding chairs. I’d buy some brightly-coloured melamine plates and drinking glasses to match pretty place mats and napkins (of course).  Hurricane lamps with lightly scented candles would light the tables so the mood was familiar and cosy, and I’d hang some lamps from the trees.

To welcome everyone we’d have a good malt beer to honour my Kent family who were Hertfordshire publicans…before they became Methodists…and some spring water for those who were traditionally abstemious. Thinking on my maternal 2x great grandfather, William Partridge from Coleford, I think we’d need a good Gloucester cheese to go with the beer.

We would have to serve roast pork in honour of my Bavarian 2 x great grandfather, George Kunkel, who was a pork butcher. Instead of slaving over a hot oven in the kitchen we’d cook the pork in our Weber Q – would that seem familiar to them or somewhat wondrous? George also made his own wine and so we’d drink a white wine similar to that traditional in his birthplace…and again that spring water.

The pork would be accompanied by crispy roast tatties for my Irish ancestors, Mary O’Brien Kunkel and the Gavin and (Mc)Sherry families, and, come to that, my Highlanders, the McCorkindales. We might even introduce them to multi-cultural 21st century Australia with an Asian-inspired salad as an accompaniment.

While we ate we’d play some Scottish reels and Irish fiddle music to cross the cultural borders of my ancestry. How much nicer it would be to have a real fiddler play rather than a 21st century i-touch and if our feet wouldn’t stop tapping, we’d dance a quick reel in the twilight. There are so many questions I’d love to ask my ancestral visitors about their lives…another reason to keep that wine and beer flowing. I think they’ll be glad to escape by the end of the night!

McCorkindale brothers informal jam session. Gift of a family member c1988.

Dessert would certainly have to be spectacular to impress my pastry chef ancestor, Stephen Gillespie Melvin, with perhaps a real Aussie pavlova (great pic) decorated with King Island cream and superb fruits like passionfruit, mango, kiwi fruit and fresh summer berries. Maybe we could even buy some delicious Haig’s hand-made chocolates to see if they match SGM’s standards…I’m realistic here, I couldn’t make them myself.

As this wonderful inter-temporal gathering came to a close, I would ask one of my McCorkindale great-uncles to play Auld Lang Syne on the pipes, and with a wee dram, toast the courage of these ancestors who came to Australia. I’ve nary a doubt I’d share more than a few tears as I farewelled my guests who’d visited all too briefly.

I raise my glass to all my Aussie immigrants: George Kunkel and Mary O’Brien, Denis and Ellen Gavin, Annie Sim McCorkindale and her adult daughter Catherine, Peter and Mary McSherry/Sherry and their son James Joseph, Stephen Melvin and later his mother Margaret Gillespie Melvin/Ward/Wheaton, James and Bridget McSharry/Sherry, Richard and Mary Kent and their adult daughter Hannah and her future husband William Partridge.

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: Week 5 Life experiences: Finding Mary O’Brien

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 GenealogyWeek 5’s topic is Life Experiences: Sometimes the challenges in life provide the best learning experiences. Can you find an example of this in your own family tree? Which brick wall ancestor are you most thankful for, and how did that person shape your family history experience?

This gorgeously framed photo of Mary O'Brien was given to me by my Sydney cousins.

This is a tricky one and after some reflection I decided on my ancestor Mary O’Brien from County Clare.  Why? Well for two reasons really. Firstly, with a name like that from Clare, you’d have had more chance of finding the proverbial needle in the haystack and secondly, her own life experiences gave her the fortitude to make her new life in Australia.

So how do you solve a problem like Mary O’Brien from Co Clare? I’d have to say that to a large degree I got lucky. I’d been doing my family history less than 12 months when I sent out a barrage of letters to people with the Kunkel surname in and around Toowoomba. What’s Kunkel got to do with it? You see Mary O’Brien, an Irish lady, married George Kunkel, a proud Bavarian and also a strong Catholic. Luckily for me, the Kunkel surname is an unusual one and my father always said anyone with that name in Australia was related…not 100% correct as it happened but about 97%.

Anyway, by pure chance one of my letters went to an unknown cousin who had close links to the surviving grandchild of Mary & George Kunkel and after they’d spoken to her, got in touch with me. Before long we’d organised a meeting in Toowoomba…it was the strangest feeling to find myself amidst a group of equally tall strangers who were really 2nd or 3rd cousins. Anne Kunkel, the granddaughter, was by then in her mid-80s and steadily going blind but her memory was as sharp as a tack. She quickly told me the family tree, who was whom, where they lived, and where they fitted in. She confidently knocked on the head that George and Mary had a daughter Elizabeth, but did have one called Louisa….one and the same person as it turned out.

During a few visits over the coming year or two, we met up again and Anne filled in gaps for me about her grandmother Mary O’Brien, telling me she came out to work for a sea captain, that she had a job lined up “before ever she got here”, that she was 16 when she left Ireland and was six months at sea. Despite the fact that Anne thought two of her sisters, Bridget and Kate, came to Australia with her, I have proved that Kate came later but have never found Mary and Bridget’s immigration records. Anne also knew the names of Mary’s siblings who stayed behind in Ireland.

Anne couldn’t remember Mary’s place of birth but thought it was something like Longford. She did however remember the name of Mary’s sisters in Australia including Bridget’s married name of Widdup. Mary’s death certificate hadn’t obliged me with anything more than the usual “Co Clare”. Luckily her sister’s death certificate was more helpful and named Broadford as her place of birth though mixing up the parents’ names. It also enlightened me that Bridget had spent a year in Queensland and the rest of her Australian life had been lived in New South Wales. This tends to support the story that Bridget and Mary arrived together. The benefits of tracing siblings!

Another of Anne’s historical gifts was the name of family members in Sydney. Through these cousins I was able to combine their personal knowledge with archival and other research to confirm the links in Australia and Ireland.  Through them, too, I was able to link up with some of Mary’s sister’s descendants who live in the USA.  The triangulation of the family names in the record sources meant I could pin down the family in the townland of Ballykelly in the Parish of Kilseily, Broadford, Clare.

I’ve never regarded oral history as one of my strong suits so I’m eternally grateful that Anne Kunkel was the perfect interviewee, clear and accurate in her responses in ways that could often readily be verified in the official records. Her closeness to her grandmother as a small child meant that she had kept these stories close to her heart through all those years, to pass on just before her own death. But her gifts didn’t stop there. She also provided me with stories of their farm and the day to day life (she, her brother and her parents had come to live with the Kunkel grandparents in their old age). The stories of George Kunkel preparing his sausages and the ways of the farm are treasured parts of our family history. Without Anne Kunkel’s gifts, her grandmother would have remained just another Mary O’Brien from Co Clare, never to be distinguished from her many compatriots of that name.

Mary’s own life experience and stamina

Mary O’Brien was born around 1834 in rural Clare. She would have been about 12 when the Irish Famine decimated its people. Because the parish registers only start in 1844, there is no record of Mary’s birth, nor that of any siblings born before that time.  Catholic registers don’t usually record deaths and the Church of Ireland records, which did sometimes include all burials, no longer exist, so there is no way of knowing how many of her family may have died, though if they were typical perhaps as many as half would have fallen victim through this terrible time. What is clear from the registers is how the marriage and baptism rates plummet during the Famine.

Mary’s survival will no doubt have given her a high level of immunity to illness, as well as the strength as an adult to persevere when life’s challenges may have seemed insurmountable. She was a country girl, used to hard work and few frills, and life as a pioneer demanded all the skills, courage and stamina she could bring to bear. In her old age she was able to travel by train to Sydney to see her daughter and her sister’s children. I wonder did she ever meet up with her sister Bridget again after they parted in Moreton Bay in the 1850s? No one seems to know. Although she herself couldn’t write, the families plainly knew where each was, and must have kept in touch somehow. Perhaps her husband, who could write, had been able to keep them connected. Sadly no letters survive from their life in Murphys Creek, either in Australia or Ireland…at least as far as I can determine. How strange then, to meet with the inheritor of the O’Brien land in Ballykelly and both be astonished at our mutual knowledge of the family.

The power of oral history and personal knowledge! Oh, yes, and someone, somewhere has photographs.

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.

Remembrance Day: honouring the Australian-born Diggers with German ancestry

James Thomas Paterson’s name on the memorial boards at the AWM.

A couple of my family’s fallen Diggers, James Augustus Gavin and William Rudolph (Robert) Kunkel, were remembered in earlier posts. Today I want to focus on the service of the Australian Diggers in World War I who were descendants of the mid-19thcentury Dorfprozelten immigrants, five of whom gave their lives and another 17 served in the Australian forces and two earned bravery medals.

In this photo of a young Ken Kunkel in uniform he is a ringer for my father, or I suppose vice versa. Does anyone know what the shoulder flashes signify?

Although their families had arrived 60 years earlier, the generally vituperative press must have made it difficult for them on a day-to-day basis. At the time streets and towns around the country were changing their German names to British ones. I’m proud that these men’s families retained their German names with minor spelling variations based on pronunciation. Their service deserves to be recognised and this summary honours some of these Dorfprozelten descendants.[i]

As far as I can tell none of their living parents and grandparents were interned but there was a requirement for them to report to the local police regularly. Interestingly George Kaufline (son of Dorfprozelten couple Vincent and Eva Kauflein) remained Mayor of Cooma during the war despite his German ancestry.

Returned soldiers in uniform surrounding the Digger War Memorial in Chinchilla ca. 1920 SLQ image 4579, copyright expired.

Children of John Zeller (b Brisbane 1858) and his wife Ann Nixon from Chinchilla and grandchildren of Dorfprozelten immigrants, Franz Ignaz and Catharine Zöller.  With four sons away overseas John Zeller actively contributed to the war effort by supplying walking canes which he crafted himself by hand from local timbers. He also established a sandbag committee at Chinchilla explaining “as I am too old to go and fight with our boys I feel that I must do something to help those that are fighting for us.”[1]

Corporal Zeller of Dalby, Sgt Major Leaver and Sargeant Concannon of Maryborough. photographed in France during WWI. SLQ Negative number: 109996 copyright expired. This is probably George Herbert Zeller, the only one to become a Corporal.

RIP: Thomas Zeller (29) enlisted 8 March 1916 in the 15th reinforcements of the 26th Battalion. He assured the enlisting officer that he was willing to sign a declaration that both his parents were born in Australia. Thomas was killed on 7 October 1917 in the prelude to the battle of Passchendaele, though his death was not confirmed until 15 April 1918. He was buried in the Tyne Cot cemetery, north-east of Ieper. There is a very evocative letter from John Zeller to the military asking for confirmation of his son’s body being found and buried because “his mother is heartbroken at the thought that no one saw him dead”.[2] The pathos of these letters from families desperate for any small piece of information on their loved ones is heart-tugging even at this distance in time.

RIP: George Herbert Zeller (22) enlisted on 28 June 1915 in the 3rd reinforcements of the 25th Battalion. George was killed on the Western Front on 9 April 1918. He was “very smart and a good soldier. Won his corporal stripes with his Lewis Gun in which he was highly proficient.”[3] George was buried in the Warloy-Baillon Communal Cemetery extension, north-east of Amiens.

A postcard sent to Ken Kunkel at the front by a young nephew.

Alfred Zeller (27) enlisted with the AIF on 14 November 1916 in Toowoomba. Originally with the 19th reinforcements of the 25th Battalion, he was later attached to the Engineers.

Richard Zeller (32) enlisted on 14 November 1916 in the 12th Machine Gun Company and was later transferred to the 47th and then the 42nd Battalions.

Children of Joseph and Caroline Worland, grandchildren of Vincenz and Eva Kauflein(aka Kaufline) from  Dorfprozelten.

http://www.awm.gov.au Image EO1649 (copyright expired) Menin Gate memorial memorial erected near Ash Crater to members of the 35th Battalion who fell in the battle of Messines on 7 June 1917. R C C Worland’s name is on this memorial.

RIP: Robert Charles Clyde Worland (20), from the Cooma/Monaro area, enlisted on 7 August 1916 and served with the 35th Battalion. He was killed in action on 10 June 1917. He is remembered on the Ieper/Ypres (Menin Gate) memorial.

RIP: Lt Edward John Worland MC (31) enlisted on 24 November 1915 and served with the 35th Battalion . He was twice recommended for the Military Cross (July and August 1918) which was awarded 1919. He was killed in action on 30 August 1918 and is buried in Daours Communal Cemetery Extension, about 10km east of Amiens.

The youngest son and a grandson of Heinrich Volp[ii] and Anna Günzer (aka Ganzer). Anna was only a young woman of 14 when she emigrated from Dorfprozelten.

George Volp MM (son of the above, 22), enlisted in February 1917 and was with the 25th reinforcements of the 2nd Light Horse. George was recommended for the Military Medal in November 1917 and awarded it in January 1918.

Henry Ernest Volp (23) was the grandson of Heinrich and Anna and the son of their eldest son Johann Jacob. He also enlisted with the 25th reinforcements of the 2nd Light Horse in February 1917. It seems likely these two men, born in the same year, were more like brothers than uncle and nephew.

Son of Christopher Ganzer and his wife Ellen Gollogly and grandson of Dorfprozelten immigrants George Günzer (aka Ganzer) and his wife Hildegardis Hock. George Günzer was the father of Anna Günzer above, so even though he was deceased well before WWI he had at least 3 grandsons serving.

The Murphys Creek (Qld) World War I Memorial Board taken P Cass c1988.

Terence Joseph Ganzer (21 ) enlisted on 17 November 1916 and served with the 24th reinforcements of the 5th Light Horse.

Grandchildren of Bavarian-born George Mathias Kunkel and his Irish-born wife, Mary O’Brien, from Murphy’s Creek and sons of George Michael Kunkel and his wife Julia Gavin.

RIP: James Thomas Paterson (28) enlisted on 31 August 1915. He had previously served with the Roma Commonwealth Light Horse. Initially James was posted to the 9th reinforcements of the 25th Battalion but on arrival in Egypt he was absorbed into the 49th and later attached to the 50th. James served on the Western Front and on 5 April 1917 he was killed during an assault on a railway crossing near Noreuil. His body was never recovered and he is remembered on the Villers-Brettoneux memorial near Amiens. James left behind a wife and infant daughter.

The memorial plaque for James Thomas Paterson on Roma’s bottletree planting in honour of its World War I Diggers

Daniel Joseph Paterson[iii] (24) enlisted on 25 February 1917 and initially attached to the Machine Gun Company then subsequently the 31st and 41st Battalions. He served in France but was repatriated to England in mid-1918 with trench fever. He must have been quite sick as he did not return to France for over two months. According to family anecdote, Dan had a lifelong aversion to war.

Young brothers Matthew David John Kunkel (22) and Kenneth Norman Kunkel (20) had already enlisted in January and February 1917. Two of their Gavin cousins left on the same ship with them and one had already given his life at Fromelles. John’s file is annotated with the comment “I have examined papers in every respect”.

James Edward (Front left) and Denis Joseph Kunkel (centre) and unidentified friend or relation c1917.

John and Ken’s older brothers Denis Joseph Kunkel (37), my grandfather, and his brother James Edward Kunkel (26) enlisted on 22 October 1917 when the call went out for experienced railwaymen to work on the lines in western France. James Edward was subsequently rejected on the grounds of ill health, but Denis Joseph Kunkel joined the Australian Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company in north-west France and Belgium. His service file carries a muddle of papers including those of two of his brothers. Despite a view that being in the railway unit was an easy life, it’s unlikely it seemed so when the German heavy guns got a line on the trains delivering replacement armoury.


[1] Mathews, T. op cit, page 365.

[2] ibid page 26.

[3] On 2 July 1918, Boulogne, LHA Giles 25th Battalion.


[i] It’s possible there may be more descendants of these families who served as it’s some years since I followed them in detail. I would be very interested to hear from anyone who can add to this list.

[ii] The children of this family are on the Qld BDM indexes with the surname Folp, reflecting the German pronunciation. Anna was only a young girl when she arrived from Germany and she had many children.

[iii] It is possibly Daniel on The Queenslander’s fantastic passport photos, 14 July 1917 page 26 http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/2363222?zoomLevel=2