Ancestor Approved Award

Ancestor Approved Award

I am delighted and honoured to receive the Ancestor Approved Award from Kim at Footsteps of the Past at http://footstepspast.blogspot.com/. It was a real treat to receive this in an emotional week as I watched from afar as my home town, and others with links to my family’s heritage, were flooded, lives lost, homes demolished and heritage destroyed.

The Award was created by Leslie Ann Ballou At Ancestors Live Here and asks two things of those who receive it:

  1. They should write 10 surprising, humbling, or enlightening aspects of their research
  2. Pass the Award on to 10 other researchers whose family history blogs are doing their ancestors proud.

So here are my 10 surprising, humbling or enlightening findings, in no particular order or indeed order of importance:

  1. Enlightened, surprised and humbled that I was able to find the birthplace of Mary O’Brien from County Clare through meeting up with an elderly lady from Toowoomba who gave me one contact name. This distant relative provided clues and links that let me build a history of this whole clan of the O’Briens from Ballykelly, in Ireland, Australia and the United States.
  2. Surprised to find my great-grandfather Melvin was saved from drowning by Thomas Livermore, a blacksmith’s labourer during the Ipswich floods of January 1887. Humbled because if he hadn’t been saved, my line of the family would not exist.
  3.  Enlightened by finding the church marriage register for my Kunkel-O’Brien gt-gt-grandparents (this will be a blog for Australia Day –a topic suggested by Shelley at Twigs of Yore http://twigsofyore.blogspot.com/-so I won’t elaborate further here).
  4. Humbled by the day-to-day courage and commitment of my many Queensland pioneer families as well as “my” Dorfprozelten pioneers.
  5. Humbled by the many young men of my families who went to fight for the Empire in France and the Middle East during World War I, World War II, and Korea especially those who lie in foreign graves or whose bodies were never found. Also humbled by the determination with which the families left behind pursued every option to find out more about the men who were killed and sought to get keepsakes for their father-less children. Enlightened to read War Diaries which explained the circumstances surrounding their deaths.
  6. Surprised to discover that my great-grandfather married a woman who was a bigamist twice over (at least that’s what the evidence to date indicates and certainly once).
  7. Humbled and surprised, but not in a good way, to learn that my great-grandmother Julia Kunkel was operated on without anaesthetic in 1901 because her heart was too weak! Unsurprisingly she died of the childbirth-related illness, and the shock of the surgery. Six weeks later my great-grandfather also died. All their 11 children, aged 21 down to 2, were left orphans (the recently-delivered child appears to have died although not shown in indexes). Enlightened to read a novel which dealt with the horror of puerperal fever.
  8. Surprised to discover that the woman who is buried in the Toowoomba cemetery with my great-great grandmother, Ellen Gavin, and her daughter, Julia Kunkel (see above), is not a relation despite sharing the same surname. Why it was so, remains a mystery, except that she had also lived in Dalby in the early days and was estranged from her husband.
  9. Enlightened, humbled and delighted to stand on the lands where my ancestors walked in Ireland, Scotland, England and Germany so that I could “feel” their lives and connect to them. Humbled by internet “strangers” going out of their way to show me over their land where my ancestors lived in Argyll in the early 19th century and explain the remains of the small buildings where they had lived.
  10. Surprised (more like astonished) to connect with the inheritor of my O’Brien family’s land in Ballykelly and to be shown over the land by Paddy. Enlightened to know oral history meant he knew that they had Mass said in their homes in Australia’s pioneer days. Enlightened to be able to track the transfers of the land through the Griffith Valuation revision books. Humbled to be welcomed by distant family in Ireland.

Now for my honour list of 10 other bloggers doing family history proud. I’ve chosen to focus on Australian blogs, some of whose authors have been contributing to family history for many years. I’ve also chosen to bend the rules somewhat and add two web-pages that I think deserve to be here for their extensive contribution to family history research for all researchers…a research Honour Badge.

  1. Shelley, Twigs of Yore at  http://twigsofyore.blogspot.com/
  2. Geniaus http://geniaus.blogspot.com/
  3. Judy Webster, Queensland Genealogy at http://qld-genealogy.blogspot.com/
  4. My Family History Research at http://baker1865.wordpress.com/
  5. Carole’s Canvas: http://caroleriley.id.au/
  6. The Family Curator at http://www.thefamilycurator.com/about/
  7. Irish Family History at http://irishfamilyhistory.ie/blog/
  8. Family History Research at http://famresearch.wordpress.com/

The next two are my “Honour Board” –they aren’t blogs specific to families but they are websites which provide a truly invaluable resource to family historians:

  1. South east Queensland cemeteries headstone photos: http://www.chapelhill.homeip.net/FamilyHistory/Photos/
  2. Clare County Library at http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/genealogy/genealog.htm

Sadds Ridge Rd, Charters Towers (Qld) and WWII in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea.

This post is really about my husband’s family and some World War II history from Papua New Guinea (then Papua). This story shows how family history intersects with local history and each can complement the other.

Let him tell the story of how this all started:

From the late-1960s my family lived at Alotau, the District Headquarters for the Milne Bay Province, for a number of years and prior to that in Samarai also in the Milne Bay District.  Alotau as a town only came into existence in the mid-1960s but service men and women who were in Milne Bay during World War II may have known the location as Sanderson’s Bay, on the northern side of Milne Bay and to the east of Koiabule (KB) Mission. Sanderson’s Bay is near near where Corporal John Alexander French won his VC  on 4 September 1942.
During a university break in 1968 I was working as a supervisor on Gili Gili Plantation, a copra plantation near Gurney Airstrip. The plantation was essentially a very large clearing in the jungle which cover the ranges of hills surrounding the Bay and extend down across the coastal plains almost to the sea. In 1968, the stands of coconut palms on the plantation were still littered with bomb craters, wrecked military vehicles and other discards of war, including quite a lot of rusted-up weapons and unexploded ordnance; they probably still are!  I was overseeing a “labour line” or work gang using grass knives or “sarifs”, a sort of primitive hand-held scythe, to clean out overgrown parts of the plantation. I was nineteen at the time, the same age as many of the soldiers who had fought over the same country twenty-six years previously.
One of the workers took a chip out of the blade of his sarif on something metal which, when he uncovered it, proved to be a street sign, but not like any street sign I’d ever seen in Papua New Guinea or, indeed, in Brisbane or Melbourne. It was a blue rectangle with a white border carrying the name Sadds Ridge Road. I took the sign home and it has graced the many houses my family of origin and later my wife and I have lived in. While we often wondered where the sign came from, the occasional search of Australian street directories did not help, and we did not solve the mystery until March 2008, although my wife had previously seen an elusive reference to it among the Queensland pension indexes.

We now live in Darwin, and were driving to Cairns on holidays, calling in at cemeteries and Family History Societies along the way, as you do if you are relly-hunting. We stopped in Charters Towers because Pauleen’s great-grandfather Stephen Gillespie Melvin had well-known refreshment rooms and a chocolate factory in Gill Street. We saw a reference to Chinese market gardens at Sadds Ridge – and there you are! I gather the name of the Road was changed to York Street years ago, and this explains why we hadn’t found it previously.
The sign was obviously souvenired and taken to Milne Bay in 1942. While it must have meant quite a bit to someone to go to that much trouble, we have no clue as to their identity – someone who lived on the Road and wanted a reminder of home, or a soldier from somewhere else who wanted a memento of their time in Charters Towers?

So the mystery is: does anyone out there know of a soldier from Charters Towers (there were many) who served in Milne Bay during World War I? It would be intriguing to fill in the final part of the puzzle.

World War I discovery in Milne Bay, Papua

Sadds Ridge Rd sign

Introducing my family

Hello blog-world

This is my first posting on what I hope will be my family history blog, with occasional snippets about travel (another interest) and life in the Top End of Australia. While the research interests will be my own family and those from Dorfprozelten and Broadford which I’m researching, I hope to talk about the ways I go about finding new information and new discoveries that emerge, with luck and perseverance, like all family history.

My focus is more on the history of the families, their places of origin and their life history, rather than just their genealogy.

At different times I’ll be referring to my ancestral family – branches and individuals -but not to current-day people. So I thought I’d start by introducing the earliest members of my family who arrived in Australia, most of them in the mid-nineteenth century.

George KUNKEL who came from the village of Dorfprozelten am Main (on the River Main) in Bavaria. George married Mary O’BRIEN from Broadford in East County Clare, Ireland. They lived for about six years in Ipswich, Queensland before moving west with the construction of the railway line to Toowoomba. After a few years living on the Toowoomba range at Highfields, they moved down the range to the Fifteen Mile, an out-settlement of Murphy’s Creek, where they bought, and built, their own farm. Murphy’s Creek had been a major staging post during the railway’s construction. George and Mary were both working as servants when they married but in later years George was pork butcher, boarding house keeper, railway worker, and farmer. Both Mary and George were what we often refer to as “swimmers” as no record has yet been found of them in the records, despite 23 years of searching. It is believed that Mary O’Brien travelled with her sister, Bridget O’Brien, who later became Bridget WIDDUP and lived at Urana, New South Wales

William PARTRIDGE was born in London, but lived most of his early life in Coleford, Gloucestershire with his parents John & Eliza (nee Thompson).  He stated his occupation as “groom” when he arrived in Moreton Bay on board the Fortune in December 1855. He married Hannah KENT who arrived in Moreton Bay with her parents and siblings on the General Hewitt in December 1854. William Partridge was the brother of Lucy ROSEBLADE who emigrated with her husband John and family,arriving in Queensland on the Duke of Westminster in July 1866, first settling in Ipswich but later being pioneers at Yungaburra.

Also on board the Fortune in 1855 were Denis & Ellen GAVIN from Ireland (Wicklow, Kildare and Dublin) and their small daughter Mary. The family immediately went west out near Roma where Denis worked as a bullock driver.

Stephen Gillespie MELVIN and his young wife (Janet nee Peterkin) and child, Lawrence, arrived in Moreton Bay on the Woodlark in January 1877. Janet died while in quarantine soon after arrival. Stephen remarried in August 1878. His second wife was Emily Partridge, daughter of William and Hannah Partridge, and a first-generation Queenslander. Stephen and Emily lived in Ipswich and Charters Towers and after Emily’s death in 1912, he moved to Sydney. Stephen came from many generations of merchant seamen from Leith, the port for Edinburg, and had worked in that occupation himself after completing his pastry cook’s apprenticeship in Edinburgh. He was a skilled pastry cook gaining recognition in his new home for his sweets and cakes. Stephen’s mother, Margaret Gillespie (later Melvin, Ward and Wheaton) also emigrated and died in Charters Towers where she and her daughter-in-law are recognised with a large memorial stone. Margaret also came from a sea-faring family and indeed worked as a stewardess herself. She was born in North Shields, Northumberland.

Later arrivals included the McCORKINDALE family (in different immigration waves) who came to Australia from Glasgow but whose roots lie in Loch Awe and Kilmorich (Ardkinglas) in Argyll, Scotland. 

The SHERRY family emigrated from Gorey, Wexford and became two branches: the McSHERRY branch and the McSHARRY branch. The earliest identified origin for this family is Tullamore, Offaly (then King’s County) where James Sherry married Bridget FURLONG in the 1860s. James was a railway worker in Ireland and probably in Queensland but his home place is unknown. The surname is typically concentrated in the north of Ireland.  The McSherry/McSharry family worked on the railways of Queensland, building new lines and always being closely involved with the Catholic Church wherever they went.

My husband’s family, the CASS family, arrived in Victoria in the mid-19th century from Bath, England but the family originally lived in West Drayton and Retford in Nottinghamshire.

My wider interests are in emigrants from Dorfprozelten in Bavaria and Broadford in eastern County Clare. Although I’m primarily interested in those emigrants who came to Australia, I’m still keen to hear from anyone with connections back to those places.

As I dig further back into the records other names will come to light.

Happy hunting

Cassmob NT