It’s All in the Numbers Geneameme

A while ago Alona from LoneTester HQ blog launched the It’s All in the Numbers Geneameme. For ages my mind was blank on what numbers would be relevant, but eventually the lightbulb went from dim to bright and here is my contribution, focused as so often, on my immigrant ancestors.

But first I want to remember my great-great grandmother Mary O’Brien Kunkel who was buried in the Murphys Creek (Qld) cemetery on this day 95 years ago. You’re not forgotten Mary.

My McSherry great-grandparents and some of their children, kindly provided to me by a cousin.

My McSherry great-grandparents and some of their children, kindly provided to me by a cousin. My grandfather on the left, and his sister beside him seem to be an addition to the photo.

My McSherry/Sherry/McSharry family gets the guernsey for the greatest number of winning entries and here they are:

3             most name changes – from Sherry on arrival to McSharry for the parents and most children (many adult) and McSherry for my own great-grandparents (2nd phase arrivals a year later).

15           most children in one family, to Peter and Mary McSherry; with Stephen and Emily Melvin in second place, with 14 children.

5             most direct immigrant ancestors: two great-great grandparents, two great-grandparents and my grandfather (James and Bridget, Peter and Mary, James Joseph)

2             the age of my youngest immigrant ancestor on arrival –my grandfather

The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 - 1929), Saturday 12 March 1887, page 17

The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 – 1929), Saturday 12 March 1887, page 17 The unidentified man was John McSharry, aged 22.

2             set of twins to my great-grandparents – one set died as still births, another daughter died in infancy, but one survived.

10           children in my McSharry 2xgreat grandparents’ family

3             “children” (ages 7, 9 and 22) who died within 7 years of arriving

15           largest number of immigrants from one family (two phases 11 + 4)

1             most elusive ancestor – James Sherry aka James McSharry  – but not to be confused with the man of the same name who co-owned O’Rourke & McSharry, a big railway construction company.

And some of my other family history numbers:

92           the oldest age at death (Martin Furlong –father of my McSharry 2xgreat grandmother)

11           children born to my Kunkel 2xgreat grandparents and great-grandparents. 10 to George and Mary survived infancy and 11 to George and Julia.

6             number of families who arrived in Australia (Kent, Melvin, Gavin, Sherry x 2, McCorkindale)

3             number of singles who arrived in Australia (Kunkel, O’Brien, Partridge)

8             Irish immigrants – direct ancestors (McSherry, O’Brien, Gavin)

4             English immigrants – direct ancestors (Kent, Partridge)

3             Scottish immigrants –direct ancestors (McCorkindale, Melvin)

1             solitary Bavarian (German) ancestor (Kunkel)

10           2nd largest immigration of family – McCorkindales -2 phases (2 + 8)

Thanks Alona for suggesting this topic. It took a while for me to get my head around it but once I settled on the theme I really enjoyed it.

And here is the grave of my Mary O’Brien, husband George Kunkel and two of their children including my great-grandfather George Michael Kunkel.981 George and Mary Kunkel grave

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

4 x 7UP collage

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

Denis and Kit Kunkel

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

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

My paternal grandfather circa WWI.

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

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

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

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

My maternal grandfather was an incredibly hard worker.

My maternal grandfather was an incredibly hard worker.

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

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

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

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

My paternal grandmother and my neighbour.

My paternal grandmother and my neighbour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fab Feb image

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

T travels to Townsville, Toowoomba and Tullamore

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which). Today is about two towns important to my family history in Australia.

The Townsville marina at dawn. © P Cass 2004

T is for Townsville (Queensland, Australia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

T is for Toowoomba (Queensland, Australia)

The Kunkel family reunion 2003 in Toowoomba. © P Cass

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

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

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

T is for Tullamore (County Offaly, Ireland)

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

Racing through R in Retford, Rotterdam and Rocky

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 am going to keep comments on each place succinct and refer you back to earlier posts.

R is for Retford (Nottinghamshire, England)

Grove St, Retford where Susannah Cass had her school for ladies. © P Cass 2006.

Mr Cassmob’s Cass ancestors lived in Retford where his 2xgreat grandmother Suzannah Cass and her sisters ran a school for young women with her sisters. The women lived in the adjacent area of Moorgate. Back in 2006 we had a great time on this particular leg of our family history adventures. You can read about it here.

R is for Rotterdam (Netherlands)

My 2xgreat grandfather, Laurence Melvin, worked as a merchant sailor, travelling between Leith and the northern European ports. He was a young man, with a wife and three small children, when he took ill on one of his voyages. He died overnight and is buried in Rotterdam. I’m not sure I’ll ever know precisely where.

R is for Rockhampton (Queensland)

Rockhampton was the Queensland hub for my McSherry/McSharry ancestors after they arrived in 1884/1883 respectively. Last year I posted about discovering the sale of my great-grandfather, Peter McSherry’s estate on Trove. More recently I wrote about how his mother, Bridget McSharry, had a boarding house in Rockhampton and the hardships she experienced in her new Queensland life, and the on-going mystery and brick wall of her husband, James McSharry.  Peter, his wife Mary, and mother Bridget are all buried in the Rockhampton cemeteries. Although I’ve visited Rocky briefly in recent decades, for me the mental associationis stopping there on the Sunlander train, and Dad making a mad dash to get us beautiful fish and chips for our lunch.

St Mary's Rushden is just delightful. © P Cass 2010

R is for Rushden (Hertfordshire, England)

Although my Kent (name, not place) ancestors belonged to the Sandon parish in Hertfordshire, it’s likely they also visited the Rushden church from time to time as it was just as close to the Red Hill area of Sandon. I too have visited this church several times over the decades. It may only be “just another 14th century church” to quote a family member, but I love its simplicity and its peace, tucked away up a lane. When the daffodils flower in the churchyard among the graves it is simply lovely. The village has many gorgeous old homes with timber work and thatched roofs. I’m also enamoured with the name of the local pub The Moon and Stars. In one of those flights of fancy I usually never apply to my ancestry, wouldn’t it be nice to think my Kent publicans might have worked there once.

H hops into Hughenden, Herston, Hastings Point and H ships

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).

H is for Hughenden

Hughenden is a small town on the road between Mt Isa and Charters Towers and Townsville. We’ve visited in passing a few times but I can’t say I feel any empathy or true understanding of it…perhaps the most noticeable feature is this stretch of road is ancient dinosaur country and the locals are making the most of this tourism opportunity.

Hughenden's main drag. I love those old country pubs with their imposing presence.

My great-grandfather McSherry and his family lived in Hughenden for several years when he was an inspector with the railways. My grandfather McSherry was also working here with the railway when he met my grandmother who lived in Charters Towers. How they came to meet I don’t know, but I’ve always assumed (yes, I know!) it was through her family’s refreshment rooms in Charters Towers. I’ve heard the Melvins also had railway refreshment rooms but I’ve found no evidence whatsoever of that, so I’m assuming it was probably a furphy, albeit a credible one.

On our last visit the people at the Visitor Centre were very helpful and tried to put me in touch with the local historian who wasn’t available. This H post reminds me that I’ve still not followed this up….the “to do” list is growing with each letter.

H is for Herston

Clydesdale c1900 John Oxley Library image, copyright expired. This was the convent during my school years.

School days, school days, good old golden rule days! My school and parish church were both “over the border” into the Brisbane suburb of Herston. Neither the church nor the school remain, replaced by a post-Vatican II church of simple architecture, while the old building shared by church and school have disappeared into memory…another job on my “to do” list is find a photo. Time, it’s always time, that catches us out.  I talked quite a lot about the school here so I won’t repeat myself in this post.

One thing of relevance to family historians: if you find your relative has been buried from St Joan of Arc church Herston and are wondering why…it’s because the priests were the curates for the hospital, and some people either converted at the last minute or came back to the church. I recall singing as part of the school choir at any number of funerals, many with no connection to the parish.

The other interesting aspect to Herston parish was the influx of European immigrants in the 1950s and especially the Dutch migrants. Don’t ask me why so many came to Herston, because I really don’t know, but as a result of the numbers, we ended up with Dutch priests for a number of years. Recently I commented on the fact that Family Search has digitised parish registers from the Netherlands: an invaluable resource for Australians with Dutch ancestry.

H is for Hastings Point

View south from Hastings Point

Hastings Point is part personal history and part travelogue. An inconspicuous mark on a map but for our family it’s been a special part of our story, filled with memories and fun times, shared over the years with friends and children’s friends. We have always camped as close to the beach as possible which means that the strong wind bent every tent pole we had. After a day of down-time from the normal rush of urban life with busy jobs and children, we’d take to exploring the rock waterholes which might conceal all manner of marine life. The area off the point is a marine park so there was usually plenty to see on these mini-expeditions and there was always the fun (perhaps less so for the feet) of navigating from one rock to the other. Most of the time there was a small spa-sized pool near the rocks which made the perfect spot for lolling around, unless you were mad keen to get into the surf, which swimming across the creek first, or wading, carefully avoiding the oyster-shelled rocks. On the southern side of the Point the surf near the rocks could be quite fierce and not all that safe for swimming unless you were a strong swimmer or out on a board.

Google Earth aerial view of Hastings Point, New South Wales

Each visit the path of the creek would have changed with tidal and weather conditions so you never knew what you’d find. One visit the creek would have a lovely sandy bank which might luminesce at night time as you walked up to the toilet block. Another time there’d be little sand on the bank and you’d be dodging around the rocks. One visit we even found a low tide mini-aquarium of marine life in a tiny pool in the creek…great fun.

Hastings Point was where we went to see Halley’s Comet uncontaminated by urban lights. Our viewing was much better on an early visit than on the date they’d say it would be optimal.

This aerial view from Google Earth shows some of the beauty of the place. Time was when the northern approach to Hastings was equally beautiful, driving through native bush of banksias. Sadly much has been altered with the bush replaced by resorts.

If you’d like to know a little more about this wonderful place you may wish to read a couple of my posts from last year, here and here.

H is for H-named ships

A ship called Hotspur, but is it the one which brought the Irish immigrants? State Library of Queensland Negative number: 63060, copyright expired.

I have done some research into emigrants from east County Clare, Ireland to Australia. When I was looking at the names yesterday I realised a number of these immigrants arrived on ships whose names started with the letter H. So here’s to them…name of ship (year) [number of east Clare people on board]. You can see the increase in numbers in the 1860s with the American Civil War.

Humbolt (1852) [4]; Himalaya (1855) [3]; Hilton (1855) [2]; Herald of the Morning (1858) [9]; Hornet (1859) [3]; Hotspur (1863) [26]; Himalaya (1865) [6]; and Hornet (1865) [15]

The original source for this data came from the Board’s Immigrant Lists from State Records NSW. The east Clare data has been extracted from my own database.

Today’s A to Z 2012 recommendation:

Somebody has to say it…I love this woman’s bolshie attitude. Her position is set out clearly and logically on her topic of the day. She reminds me of a friend and former colleague of mine.

Two degrees of ancestral separation

Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun last weekend was Two Degrees of Separation. Obviously I’m not having much fun on Saturday nights that it takes me to Tuesday to respond to this challenge, which rather intrigued me.

So, how far back in time could I go with my ancestors by using an ancestor I knew as the pivot point.

As it happens not too far, certainly not as far as Randy managed. Despite many branches of longevity on our tree the furthest back my known personal linkages took me was the 1830s. There were two reasons for this: 1. the timing of my families’ migration to Australia and 2. (in some cases) the early demise of their ancestors.

I was surprised to discover just how recent and ephemeral was this grandparent-grandchild link that we seem to take for granted these days. But more on that another time.

I was lucky that I knew all four of my grandparents and these are the links which took me back.

My grandfather, Denis Joseph Kunkel b 1880, knew all four of his grandparents and would have seen quite a lot of them I imagine. Even though his family moved around with the railway, they spent most of their time near where the grandparents lived. I like the fact that he knew them well and perhaps was close to them. I only wish he’d told me about them …or was I not listening?  All these grandparents have birth dates in the early 1830s though only one is a confirmed date (the rest were Irish –say no more!). If Denis lived in today’s world, where international travel and Skype connect families separated by distance, then he would also have known two of his great-grandparents who were still alive in Ireland, and I could connect back to the c1804..

My paternal grandmother, Catherine b 1887, may have the record for the earliest connection, assuming (and it IS an assumption) that she met her grandfather, Duncan McCorkindale before his death in Greenock Poorhouse in 1889. She wouldn’t have remembered him though, as she was only two when he died. Still IF the family visited him from Glasgow then he would be the earliest contender for our “two degrees of separation”, having been born in 1808.

With my maternal grandmother, Laura, the story is the same. Her Northumbrian-born grandmother lived with them in Charters Towers and Laura would also have known as her Partridge grandparents but again, birth dates are in the 1830s. All earlier generations pre-deceased her birth.

My paternal grandfather, James, certainly knew his paternal grandparents (both born 1830s) as they also lived in Gorey, Co Wexford and the two families emigrated to Australia within a year of each other. Perhaps before they emigrated they travelled to Tullamore, Co Offaly to visit his great-grandfather Martin Furlong, in which case this link would connect back to the early 1800s.

Thanks Randy for a new way of looking at our ancestral families, and enlightening our current family experience.

2011: the Genie year in review: SLOBR

I’m not a great one for lists and New Year’s resolutions so I didn’t formalise what I wanted to do at the start of 2011. This may have been a mistake because there have been times when I felt I’ve swirled along without a clear direction whereas I’m usually fairly good at being task-oriented when I want to complete something. So what DID I achieve in family history during 2011? This is an aide-memoir for me as much as anything so feel free to skip as much as you like.

SHARING

Blogging has been my big sharing contribution in 2011. After a tentative first year, I dedicated a lot of time and energy to it this year. Some of what I’ve learned from blogging, I’ve talked about recently here.

I like to think that by helping out the people who’ve contacted me through the blog, especially those with Dorfprozelten ancestors, that I’ve contributed a little to the genie community. There has also been extensive email correspondence around a number of families I research (though not my own).

I’ve started in on my Blurb blog-to-book already and finding that I should have inserted my images at higher resolution…live and learn. I plan to get one book in hard copy then others in e-books for my family. The sharing of my personal history in the 52 weeks series was motivated by being able to pass that on to my family. My failure was not getting my husband to write more of his off-line.

LEARNING

A morning of talks by Suzie Zada in the middle of the year was a highlight for me. We were going on holidays that weekend and I kept saying I’ll leave after this presentation – and stayed to the end, even though the topics were not specifically relevant to my own research.

I learn every day through the blogs I read and the strategies and discoveries other make. Books, books and more books also add to my learning.

I enrolled in four Pharos courses, two great ones on Scottish family history by Chris Paton, one on enclosures which was excellent and one on old handwriting which was also valuable but because I had other commitments didn’t dedicate time to properly engaging.

RootsTech was a fascinating insight into a partially-online conference and I was able to learn a lot from the presentations I watched, including using cloud document storage. Looks like a few mid-night wake-ups in February 2012 for me!

Shamrock in the Bush was and is a great learning opportunity as well being companionable. Not Just Ned was not only a great reminder of aspects of my personal history but an insight into Irish lives in Australia (especially that voyage chest).

ORGANISING

This one teeters on being a fail. My weakness is gathering the information re disparate families and then not entering them immediately into my informal narrative. I don’t file until I’ve written them up – you can see the pitfall.

On the plus side I’ve started reviewing a potential book on my Melvin family – I wrote about 150 pages a couple of years ago and while I’d done some more research, the narrative needs editing, adding to, and reviewing for further research.

Also on the plus side I’ve been scanning lots of photos –some for the 52 weeks series, and hundreds of our old slides. This achievement gives me a big tick in terms of cyclone preparation as well.

Thanks to some house renovations and ensuing chaos, my library of books and family history references got catalogued. I used Collectorz but also dabble in LibraryThing. Still can’t decide which I prefer but I think Collectorz is quicker to find the book reference I need whereas LibraryThing is online and gives you tips on books similar or relevant to those in your library.

A couple of months ago I started documenting what I worked on each day. This has been a mixed success as I followed it faithfully for some weeks then dropped the ball. However I did find it useful in keeping me on-track with what I want to, and also not being distracted by emails etc as they arrive. When I do focus I am like a terrier in getting through something, so I need to find a balance there.

BREAKTHROUGHS

For the first time I found a trace of my Gavin family in Ireland.

Having chased up my grandmother’s brother’s family for years, I’m now almost certain that he has no surviving descendants. Ancestry releases of war records have also filled out his history.

Through a combination of my research last year in Hertfordshire, online resources and the enclosure course with Pharos, I learned about the pubs my Kent family owned in Hertfordshire.

New digitisation of newspapers with Trove gave me a full list of my great-grandfather’s property which was sold after his death, right down to the picks and shovels. I’ve confirmed his will is not held by the Queensland State Archives so this newspaper advertisement was a find.

RESEARCHING

Sadly, I didn’t get enough opportunities to get to the Archives interstate in 2011. While I’ve been in Brisbane a few times this year, research hasn’t been the primary purpose so archives visits have been all too brief and far too whirlwind. It’s been a few years since I’ve had good solid archives time. However with more information coming online there’s more background research that I can do from Darwin.

One of my favourite strategies is to use LDS films to read old parish registers, parish chest materials, land records or whatever else is available on microfilm for “my” parishes. I’d be lost without these.

Thanks to Scotlands People I’ve added more information to my own families, and kick-started a friend’s family history for her. Love SP and all for the cost of a coffee.

SUMMARY

All in all not an unsuccessful year but I do want to have a more clear-sighted focus in 2012. More research and more documentation are on the agenda. Where to for 2012? Time to plan.

 

Trawling Trove – Peter McSherry –house sale and property auction

I guess there are not many Australian family historians who haven’t discovered the joys of Trove, which get better with each expansion of the program (currently at 5 million pages!).

Even so I was ecstatic at what I discovered through Trove yesterday. My McSherry families were historically concentrated in Queensland especially Townsville and Rockhampton so the online availability of the Townsville Daily Bulletin and the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin has been great for my research (microfilms not available here). I’ve picked up a whole range of snippets about my family, of which more in another post later.

The auction notice for Peter McSherry's estate in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin 10 February 1951 page 9.

Trawling through Trove yesterday I picked up an advertisement in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin which was probably better than finding my great-grandfather’s will. There in an auction notice was a full description of his home and belongings….a bit like hanging your world out for inspection by others. His daughter, Mary Ellen Quinn, was obviously executor of her father’s estate and she had put everything up for auction. Without having yet sighted the will it seems evident that Peter McSherry had left the property to his wife for her use until her death (1950) and then to be sold and the income to be shared between their nine surviving children.

What the advertisement tells me is that they had a good quality home in a traditional Queensland vernacular style made of timber, highset and with verandahs on three sides, battens around the base of the house and a dedicated space downstairs for a laundry. What was a bit unusual was the scale of the house as with four bedrooms this made it above average, especially as they only moved into it with their adult children in their later years. Not surprisingly it was stated to be very close to the railway workshops and railway station in Rockhampton. Ironically it’s only now occurred to me that we went so close to their old property on the Sunlander train heading north several times. Dad would jump off at Rockhampton station just before the train stopped (another railwayman!) and cross the road to buy the world’s best fish and chips. Whether my mother knew where her grandparents had lived I don’t know –I don’t believe she ever mentioned it and she had only very rarely seen her grandparents as they lived in different places.

Peter McSherry had joined Queensland Rail immediately on his arrival from Gorey, Wexford, Ireland with his wife (Mary nee Callaghan) and two small children, one of them my grandfather, James. Peter had probably worked for the railway in Ireland as his father also did. Over the years the family moved around Queensland from Longreach to Townsville, Hughenden and Rockhampton. He worked with the railway for nearly 60 years, right up to the absolute maximum age limit before retiring. (His son James similarly worked until old age). By the end of his career Peter was a Chief Inspector of Railways being responsible for the upkeep and general maintenance of a particular area of the railway lines.

Railways run in the blood lines of many Australians and Queenslanders, perhaps in particular because of the extensiveness of the lines, and the correlation of railway construction with the commencement of the colony of Queensland. My generation is the first of five generations (on both sides of my family) in which no family member works in the railway, though other branches of the family have done so into the fifth generation.

But all this is a diversion. As well as a full description of the house in this advertisement, an earlier one had detailed the property’s allotment number as re-subdivision 2, subdivisions 1 to 3, allotment 5, section 77, City of Rockhampton. Plainly this will need further investigation when next I visit Queensland. However I do know it was on the corner of Alma and South Streets with an address of 32 South Street. Thanks to a Google Earth search and street view, I now know that the house was obviously demolished at some stage and is now occupied by a battery business.  The location is in close proximity to the heritage Railway Roundhouse with its distinctive shape as seen on Google Earth.

Location of the McSherry family home on Google Earth.

In the mostly Queensland wills I’ve found, I’ve very rarely located a very detailed inventory of belongings, though even the “overview” inventory can still be helpful. However where detailed inventories exist they provide such a great insight into the style and standard of living. I have not yet found Peter McSherry’s will –another on my “to do” research list for Queensland visits – but this advertisement is likely to exceed what I’ll find in the will packet, if available.

The comprehensive list of furniture and household belongings being auctioned tells of a solid, working class living standard probably above that of the average worker. The house was kitted out with silky oak furniture, very typical of the times. Although not luxurious the extent of the furnishings tell their own story of a family who had done reasonably well since they’d arrived in Australia 65 years earlier. The items range from the comfortable to the mundane: Bookcase, squatters’ chair, seagrass tables and lounges, ice chest, copper boiler, commode and garden tools. The item on the list which saddened me was the sewing machine because it was regarded as a way of earning an income and therefore generally reserved from being recovered in cases of bankruptcy yet here it was being sold after the death of its owner, Mary McSherry nee Callaghan, about a year after her husband’s death. And what of the zinc lined piano case –had there once been a piano as well?

So this Trove discovery has opened up new research paths and provided me with insights into the family’s living standards. All very exciting!

UPDATE: At a recent (June 2011) visit to the Queensland State Archives, I found his name does not appear in the indices of wills or intestacies for the relevant period. So this Trove find really was a treasure.

A family word cloud

Inspired by a post by Aillin at Australian Genealogy Journeys I had to give this a go, using Wordle to produce a cloud of my families’ names and places. Haven’t figured out how to deal with double-word places eg Charters Towers but it was fun.

Wordle: A FH cloud2

And another of just my family names:

Wordle: A fh cloud3

And some places from my husband’s families’ places of interest:
Wordle: FH for u

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 13: Sweets Lollies and Desserts

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History:

Week 13′s topic is Sweets. What was your favorite childhood candy or dessert? Have your tastes changed since then?

This week’s topic intersects both my genealogy and my own personal history. As I grew up I was told that my maternal great-grandfather owned a chocolate factory. You can imagine how much my mouth watered at that! Although the sceptical side of me assumed this was an extension of the truth, I’ve subsequently managed to prove it was correct….he was a skilled confectioner and pastry cook. So I suppose it almost goes without saying that I have a “sweet tooth”. One of the benchmarks of a true dessert aficionado is the need to check what’s on the end of a restaurant menu before deciding on the main course, and whether there’s room for an entrée. Having said that, the power of the desserts is slowly losing its hold on me….perhaps because there are so few that truly live up to expectation?

Do you associate sweets/biscuits etc with your relatives? I remember my maternal grandmother (who died when I was young) by the round, jam-spliced shortbread biscuits she would bring when she came for a visit –it was her father who was the pastry chef/confectioner so I guess she had a sweet tooth too. My paternal grandmother is Orange Cream biscuits and my paternal grandfather the Ginger snaps he’d dunk in his tea. My maternal grandfather is associated with the rich, complex Hungarian cakes that neighbours would give him in exchange for home handyman work he’d do for them in those post-War migration years. My mother goes with sponge cakes and my father sums it up with “custard, cream or ice cream” to which he’d reply “yes please”. He never did bother with the “or” in that query! My grandson associates his aunt with chocolate crackles that they make together and me with making smoothies together or the tiny ice cream that they have after their afternoon nap…I wonder what their memories will be of this as they grow older.

A delicious slice of custard tart.

When I was a child my birthday request would often include home-made custard tart –delicious but temperamental to cook, especially to ensure the pastry remained firm but melt-in-the-mouth. Mum would make lamingtons with her home-made sponge cake, and these were another favourite as my mother’s sponge cakes were “to die for”.  For special events she’d sometimes even make the lamingtons with pink icing rather than chocolate…girly heaven.

But I don’t want to focus on desserts but rather on the confectionery side of this topic – lollies, sweets, candy or whatever confectionery is called where you come from.

My Easter raffle prize tin - without the lollies.

My stand-out memory of lollies is the year I won the Easter raffle at my primary school. I need to tell you that despite my strong Irish ancestry, the luck of the Irish for me involves black shrivelled shamrocks, not buckets of money at the end of the rainbow. This explains why a win of a metal tin of home-made lollies has stayed so strongly in my memory over such a long period. I’m a sucker for pretty “containers” and an even bigger one for delicious lollies so it was a double whammy. The tin still lives with me and holds some of my childhood memorabilia. The lollies inside the tin were all hand-made and included marshmellows, coconut ice, toffees, and chocolate fudge. Delicious!

In those days it was not uncommon for women to make their own lollies –or perhaps it was and I was just lucky to know so many who were skilled at cooking confectionery. My mother would sometimes make marshmellows, usually in winter I think, as it’s an item which can be very temperamental to make in a sub-tropical and humid environment and needed the “right” sort of day before it could be made.

Coconut ice is another confectionery item that I used to love but these days it’s remarkably difficult to find one with the right texture and taste, even among the home-made varieties. A few years back I found a commercial one at a deli in New Farm in Brisbane, and I would stock up when I went down there for a visit….not that it would last long. J  Mum’s coconut ice was pretty good too but some could be too creamy, others too sugary, some just too sweet and ikky.Wholesome Cook’s picture of coconut ice looks perfect. And just in case you were wondering about whether I really liked coconut, we’d also have home-made pink coconut ice blocks during the summer ;-)

Mum would regularly made toffees for school fetes or the birthday morning teas that were a part of our school-day celebrations. These toffees would be made in patty cake papers and usually the top was sprinkled with hundreds and thousands.

The best chocolate fudge that I remember was made by the man who lived across the road and whose daughters were childhood friends of mine. He was ahead of his time and very comfortable in the kitchen –a change of pace, and possibly stress-release, from his real job as a train driver. Jim’s fudge was smooth as silk, rich and dark and melt-in-the-mouth. Nothing since has quite matched his standards.

In the 1950s school and church fetes were huge and most of the things on sale were hand-made. Confectionery was among the many appealing things available to buy and you got to know which ones you liked best. Toffee apples were a feature and so appealing with their bright red toffee coating and crisp healthy inside: do you think the healthiness of the apple offsets the sugar factor?

Even the lollies on sale at the corner store had some ceremony rather than being packaged up as they are today: they were stored in large glass bottles with silver lids, and our shop probably had about 10 jars. For most kids a treat involved being allowed to buy a small paper bay of lollies from the corner store and the ones I remember best are the hard heart-shaped ones which had messages written on them or the bright pink musk lolly twists. There was also a stick-jaw type mint stick with chocolate coating. What were they called?? These are the ones that have stuck in my mind along with the round gold-foil-wrapped Coconut Rough chocolates- now I can only taste the copha fat in them.

In another post I’ve talked about the Ekka and its role in the life of Brisbane children. It is inextricably linked with the show bags which were so fantastic in the 50s with all sorts of miniature and real-sized lollies and treats.  Not to mention those strawberry and ice cream cones. It’s difficult to convey the sheer excitement and anticipation of this wonderful event and the treats associated with it.

It’s not surprising that hand-crafted items, be they clothing, houseware, or food are regarded as luxury items now. Once they were “normal” but we’ve become so accustomed to the mass-produced goods that the old-style things are now luxurious because they’re less common.

Having said that, one of the quite surprising things about Darwin is that we have a fabulous pastry chef here at Kurt’s Cakes who works behind a glass wall of the Bar Espresso at the interestingly-named Ducks Nuts. Kurt makes wonderful, amazingly decorated cakes that add impact to a special event. We bought my daughter’s wedding cake from him and “special” birthdays also merit his special cakes. It’s also one of the comparatively few places in Darwin where a coffee shop offers a range of delicious sweet treats to go with coffee….thanks Kurt! Its location next to the city cinema is very clever!

We recently had a week in Provence and found the most heavenly cake-shop in Aix en Provence, L’instant thé Riederer …talk about lush. Heaven and decadence rolled into one. We sampled some but if we’d been there longer we’d have made it our mission to sample more.

Delicious sweet-treats in Aix en Provence

Whatever my age or where I live, a delicious cake or a tasty sweet-treat will always make my day!

BTW I’m now on the rampage for some good coconut ice and today’s wonderful Portugese custard tarts, or the ones from Chinatown in Sydney…but they’re all so far away ;-(