Missing Friends: Murphy’s Creek (Qld) people

Were your family part of the railway construction between Ipswich & Toowoomba?

Was your family part of the railway construction between Ipswich & Toowoomba?

The topic of one of my papers at Congress 2015 is The marriage of local history and family history: a bridge to the past. In part this will be a case study of the town of Murphy’s Creek, Queensland, at the bottom of the Toowoomba range.

For several years I’ve been collecting information on the town and its people from a range of sources. However it’s just (duh!) occurred to me that with the internet, and widespread interest in genealogy, I now have another opportunity to learn more about the people who lived and worked in Murphy’s Creek back in its formative years.

So, to paraphrase the Beatles, I’m looking for a little help from my friends. I’ve already picked up a few previously-unknown links through online genealogy sites, but I’m hoping this request will take my message wider.

If you have any family member who you know was born, baptised, married, died or was buried in Murphy’s Creek I’d really love to hear from you. It’s often only on certificates that some of these hidden clues come to light. You can leave a message in the comments, or contact me via email.

Please help me to bring those “missing friends” back into the Murphy’s Creek heritage story.

The Chapman and Marshall families: Qld pioneers

Over the past days I’ve been working on my Congress 2015 about family and local history. I came across this wonderful photo which I wanted to share right now – regular readers may see it again in a few months <smile>. It is wonderful because of the four generations included in it rather than the photo itself which could have done with a lot less contrast, not helped by being published in the paper.

Chapman Marshall 4 gens_edited-1

FOUR GENERATIONS OF AN OLD DOWNS FAMILY. This group includes Mrs. William Marshall, Mrs. Robert Cooke, Mrs. Sydney Chapman, and Baby Harold Chapman. Mr. and. Mrs. Marshall, of Well station, near Warwick, arrived at Sydney from Scot land in the Mary Pleasant in December, 1858, and came on to Queens land, making their home in the Warwick district, where they are engaged in dairying and grazing. Mrs. Cooke, second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall, married Mir. Robert Cooke, railway engine driver of Toowoomba, and Mrs. Chapman is their eldest daughter, residing at Murphy’s Creek, where Mr. Chapman is engaged in general storekeeping. (Photo, by Schaefer and Deazeley).

My key interest is in the Chapman connection as the family were among the first European settlers at Murphy’s Creek. However, this is actually four generations of the Marshall family. After a quick hunt through the Qld BDMs and NSW shipping I’ve come up with their brief story (helped by all those clues!).

Generation 1, 2 & 3

William Marshall snr, 56, arrived with his daughter Catherine 22, son John 14 and daughter Janet 12 at Sydney in 1858 on the Mary Pleasants. Also on board were William snr’s son’s family: William 20, his wife Margaret 21 and infant son William 1. All the family were from Fifeshire in Scotland and all could read and write and all belonged to the Church of Scotland. William snr and William jnr were both carpenters. Their voyage had been under the remittance regulations, so I wonder who paid their way. Three generations of the Marshall family had arrived together.

William Marshall (snr) of the Well Station, South Tooburra, went on to become the third mayor of Warwick in 1864. He died on 14 February 1885.

Generations 2 & 3

Mrs William Marshall (nee Margaret Hogg) in the picture is the wife of William Marshall jnr who immigrated with William and his father in 1858. Margaret and William lived at Greymare, near Warwick, Queensland. Their daughter, Catherine Mary Marshall was born in Queensland in 1869 (Qld C3235). Margaret Marshall nee Hogg died on 6 July 1924, an early Warwick pioneer. William Marshall junior died in 1920.

Photograph from the Toowoomba cemetery grave search.

Photograph from the Toowoomba cemetery grave search.

Generations 3 & 4

Catherine Rennie Marshall (note name difference) married Robert Cooke in 1882 (Qld C6797). Their daughter, Margaret Elizabeth Cooke, was born in 1882 (Qld C6797). Catherine Rennie Cooke died on 30 July 1937 (Qld C3666) and is buried in the Toowoomba and Drayton cemetery.

Generations 4 & 5

Margaret Elizabeth Cooke married Sydney Chapman of Murphy’s Creek in 1903 (Qld C582) and their son Harold Chapman (pictured) was born in 1904 (Qld C3278).

Both the Chapman and Marshall families were indeed true Queensland pioneers.

 

 

Sepia Saturday and Trove Tuesday: Two for one on picnics

Sepia saturday 190There I was, thinking of the myriad picnic photos I could use for this week’s Sepia Saturday 190, when I had a sense of déjà vu. A quick search of this blog and I realised I’d posted at some length on this very topic during the February Photo Collage Festival. If you’d like to read what I had to say about family picnics back then, here is the link.

I thought I’d have an early mark for Trove Tuesday and see what was on offer for picnics near Murphys Creek, Queensland where my Kunkel ancestors lived.

oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:92588. Negative number: 54369 SLQ, Copyright expired.

oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:92588. Negative number: 54369 SLQ, Copyright expired.

This image of Charlie and Alice Patrick and their family is from the State Library of Queensland (copyright expired). Are they setting off on a picnic or some other more formal event? The image is taken near White Mountain, very close to the Kunkel property at the Fifteen Mile.

And then there are picnics with a purpose. I’d guess that most Aussie school kids have been on picnics and things were no different in earlier times.  One school picnic I remember in particular, took us to Stradbroke Island across Moreton Bay, however privacy prevents me from sharing the photos with you.

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), Monday 24 December 1928, page 21

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), Monday 24 December 1928, page 21

And then there were the church picnics:

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), Friday 7 May 1926, page 18. The Chapmans were neighbours of the Kunkel.

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), Friday 7 May 1926, page 18. The Chapmans were neighbours of the Kunkel.

When I went searching Trove I had in mind a particular image of boys swimming au naturel in Lockyer Creek near Gatton and Murphys Creek. Imagine getting away with taking a photo like this today!

Group of boys swimming in Lockyer Creek 1890-1900. oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:52304 Copyright expired.

Group of boys swimming in Lockyer Creek 1890-1900. oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:52304 Copyright expired.

The newspaper gave me a different perspective of what seemed like youthful fun. Mr Gill, another resident of Murphys Creek was upset that his cows were disturbed by the boys swimming in the creek –or was it that they were nude? I love the Council response: the boys could keep swimming so long as they were appropriately attired. Do you wonder if Mr Gill and his cows were satisfied by this outcome?

The boys, the cows, the creek and the fences.

The boys, the cows, the creek and the fences. Queensland Times (Ipswich) (Qld. : 1909 – 1954), Wednesday 7 February 1923, page 8

And then there’s this lovely 1896 report of a cricket competition between the Toowoomba men and the Murphys Creek team, and ancillary picnics. The fifteen mile route by horse is likely the one through the Fifteen Mile where the Kunkels lived, or perhaps it’s the more direct route down the range? And what on earth does he mean by “the blackboy in the waste paper basket”?

Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907), Saturday 18 January 1896, page 11, 12

Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 – 1907), Saturday 18 January 1896, page 11, 12

Do have a look at the Linky Lists on both themed topics to see what other bloggers wrote about this week.

Sepia Saturday 178: Faces with Drama

sepia saturday 178This week’s Sepia Saturday image is a dramatic image of a young woman against a dark background. My thoughts flew immediately to the cover of my Kunkel Family History book, designed by local graphic artist Vanessa Schulze from photographs of my Kunkel great-great grandparents.

For years I’d been researching this family and writing up their story was in my “gunna” pile. One day I decided it would be a major life regret if I didn’t buckle down and complete it. And since I was going to write it, it seemed only appropriate to have a hard back cover that would last for ages and become a family heirloom. I had some feeble ideas about the cover design but I couldn’t believe the huge difference my daughter’s contact made to the final product. The faces of George Mathias Kunkel and Mary O’Brien gaze almost confrontingly from the darkness of the background. You can see the strength of pioneers in their faces.

Kunkel book cover crop

One of the greatest thrills of my life was seeing my book in print and holding it in my hands. Not quite up there with my marriage or my children’s births, but pretty good all the same <smile>.

For all that Mary’s face seems as if it should be the less dominant, her steady gaze is what catches my eye first. And I can’t help wondering if I can see her eyes two-toned as mine are. You can read a little about her here

There are lots of references on my blog to the Kunkel family but this post reveals how I finally handled the roadblock (or mental block?) I’d had about describing George Kunkel’s departure from Dorfprozelten in Bavaria. It was clearly indicated as a hypothetical story but based on the facts of the village which I’d visited a few times and read about in the local history.

Or you might be interested in learning a little about how this pioneering family celebrated Christmas, and the Bavarian traditions that George brought with him, from this story.

M is mulling over Milne Bay Islands, Murphys Creek and Mull (via Lismore)

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 we travel to different locations on the far side of the world from each other. 

M is for MULL (with a detour to the Isle of Lismore) (Scotland)

BTW I’m trialling a slideshow below for Mull because there’s a number of photos I want to show you. My husband’s Argyll ancestry is drawn from the islands of Lismore and Mull so it was important for us to schedule the two islands on our latest Scottish excursion. The family story went that his Donald Black (2x great grandfather) used to row across the strait between the two islands to woo his future bride, Mary McIntyre. It is possible that the story is true given you can easily see Mull from Achinduin on Mull…they were probably well used to the sea, but you’d have wanted the tide and weather with you.  On the other hand, when the weather is fierce you really know what you’re up against. I’m sure we didn’t see the worst weather by any means when we walked down to the ruins of Achinduin Castle, but even so we were struggling to stay upright in the wind.

Lismore is just gorgeous though its population is small due to the massive emigration and evictions during the 19th century. The island now has a new Heritage Centre with displays and genealogical information, so if you have Lismore ancestry it’s definitely worth getting in touch. Caledonian McBrayne took us over the sea to Mull, with our goal of learning more about the McIntyres. If the weather was blowy on Lismore it was truly hideous on Mull that day, wet, blustery and cold. We were ever so pleased to place ourselves in the hands of our hospitable B&B owner, Helen, hours earlier than planned. With a nice hot coffee and a piece of homemade cake we could look out over Tobermory harbour from the warmth of our room. Delicious!

But of course these diversions do not make for good family history so on a much sunnier day we took ourselves back to the Cal-Mac port at Craignure and the information centre, where the ladies did their very best to assist us. With their help and an internet map from the Mull Genealogy site, we managed to locate the area of Ardchoirk (my aide memoir is to call it Artichoke). As always, still more research to be done, but at least we saw the area where they lived. The Mull Historical Society site offers some historical background for interested readers. While on Mull we made the drive to Iona, a small island off the coast easily reached by ferry. Iona is the site of St Columba’s ancient monastery and almost as soon as you arrive the peace of the place seeps into your spirit. We loved everything about it: the ancient carvings, the simplicity of the church, the ancient chapel, the amazing carved gravestones, the scenery…. We drove back to Tobermory via the west coast road which would have been more relaxing if we hadn’t been racing the fading daylight, but we did have an interesting encounter with a Highland cow and calf. And probably my favourite quote attributed to St Columba: Angel nor saint have I seen, but I have heard the roar of the western sea, and the isle of my heart lies in its midst. And on a pragmatic note, I’m trialling the slideshow facility because I had a number of photos I wanted to share with you.

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M is for MILNE BAY ISLANDS (Papua New Guinea)

I’ve talked a bit about Milne Bay under my A for Alotau post but I just wanted to add some comments on its islands. Milne Bay Province, or District as it was known then, is a now-peaceful coastal area of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The people lack the aggressive attitude sometimes found in other parts of PNG, perhaps a reflection of their surroundings. My husband’s family lived in this district for many years and it was to Milne Bay that he returned from boarding school a couple of times a year for the holidays. In those days the district headquarters was on the small island of Samarai, off the southern tip of PNG.

Apart from the government offices, the churches and two sort-of-general stores (BPs and Steamships) and some trade stores, there really wasn’t a lot there. By the time I visited you went there by government trawler on a 3-4 hour trip, breathing in diesel fumes from the engine and trying to rest. A visit to the Steamships Trading Co store caused much interest to those who’d worked with my husband during the school holidays, and knew his parents well. Mr Cassmob has many fond memories of Samarai: their house on the waterfront with the little crabs scurrying on the flats; the Catalinas taking off and landing; evenings at the Club. These two blogs provide stories about Samarai here and here.

Yam huts, Trobriand Islands, taken by Les Cass in the 1960s. © L Cass 1962.

Margaret Mead and Malinowski, both famous anthropologists, are known for their research in the Trobriand Islands. Less well known is that these islands are part of Milne Bay. As a young and fairly naïve woman I visited Losuia on a charter flight not long after I got to PNG. It was quite an introduction as the Trobriand Islanders are known for their minimal dress, explicit dancing, and amazing, and sometimes graphic, carvings.

These old photos were taken by my father-in-law in the early 1960s on the Trobriand Islands © L Cass 1962.

Selling carvings and artefacts on the Trobriand Islands © Les Cass 1964.

On another charter Losuia became our refuge. We’d visited Guasopa on the Woodlark Islands earlier that day, when I’d been in raptures to see surf and sand again, but on the return flight in the six seater, 4 passenger, aircraft the weather closed in.

Despite the fact that the area is generally flat as a tack, there was a minor sticking point: the 100 ft hill en route to the Trobs, which couldn’t be seen because of the cloud cover (these were the days of visual flying). Luckily the cloud lifted at the last minute and we landed with minimal fuel in the tank, so we had an enforced overnight stay at Losuia and were very grateful for it. We have always regarded that day as a lucky-flight day and I’ll bet the pilot did too! Papua New Guinea certainly made for interesting life experiences.

M is for MURPHYS CREEK (Queensland)

How on earth I omitted this initially I don’t know as it was on my writing list, probably talking too much about Mull and Milne Bay. Murphys Creek is a pivotal place on my family tree as this is the nearest village to where my Kunkel ancestors lived at the Fifteen Mile. It’s highly likely they also lived there during the construction of the railway line and I’ve wondered whether the newspaper quote which refers to them “even having their own pork butcher”, might relate to George Kunkel whose occupation that was.

After they’d returned to the area in 1874, and settled at the Fifteen Mile(see F is for..), George worked for the railway as a labourer to earn cash for the family’s support. Oral history suggests that his wife Mary also lived there “in a humpy” (a shack) where she looked after him during the week. Whether this is true or not I have no way of knowing. There was also a string of young children to care for back on the farm so perhaps this was after they’d grown up.

Murphys Creek is also where they worshipped at the little timber Catholic church, which they no doubt contributed to financially and possibly in labour. The Kunkel children would have attended the Murphys Creek school but unfortunately the admission records don’t survive back to that time. One of the Kunkel sons was also on the school board later on. In short, the Kunkel lives were woven into this community.

The newly restored gravestone for the Kunkel family in the Murphys Creek cemetery, Queensland. © P Cass 2012.

Murphys Creek is also where George and Mary Kunkel were buried, together with their son George Michael and daughter Mary Ellen, who had predeceased them. Their gravestone stands isolated at one side of the small cemetery and I suspect they are in the Catholic area. Over the recent decades their gravestone had taken on a nasty lean with the impact of drought and a few bits had snapped off.

In the terrible floods of January 2011 I feared it had been swept down-river to Moreton Bay, a small potential loss compared to what others suffered on that shocking day. Fortunately for our own family’s heritage this wasn’t so and our plans to restore their memorial took effect soon afterwards. We’d collected funds at our second reunion in 2007 to celebrate George and Mary’s 150th anniversary but these things take time. I visited recently and the newly-levelled and restored stone is standing proud with a bronze plaque which repeats the information carved into the stone but which is slowly deteriorating and far too expensive to restore.

Beyond the Internet Week 13: Lest we forget: War Memorials

This is Week 13 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. This week’s topic is War Memorial and Plaques.  I’d love it if you wanted to join in with your thoughts on this topic. If possible please provide a link to your post on this page.

Of the Beyond the Internet topics, this is probably one of the most obvious. It’s likely that if you had ancestors or relatives who served in a war, you will have tried to find some memorial to them. In Australia there would hardly be a town, no matter how small, that doesn’t have a memorial to the men (and some women) of the district who served and especially for those who gave their lives. Depending on the size of the town you may find the servicemen on one side of the memorial and those who died on another. There is often a commonality to the type of monument with the Digger, arms at rest, on the top. Still there are others which show a different stylistic approach.

Roma's Avenue of Heroes: a row of bottle trees.

The town of Roma in western Queensland chose to honour its fallen men by an avenue of bottle trees, called the Heroes Avenue. One of my grandfather’s cousins, James Paterson, is honoured in the Avenue. The historic Gallipoli Memorial near the Roma St Transit centre in Brisbane has certainly not registered with me. More recent memorials take a less stylised structure than the World War I structures. The ultimate memorial is of course the Australian War Memorial’s bronze Rolls of Honour near the Hall of Memory.

How did these memorials become such an important architectural feature of our townscapes? The impact of the war affected every town, and directly or indirectly, almost every family. The Australian War Memorialsays that from a population of less than five million, 416,809 men enlisted and 60,000 were killed while 156,000 were wounded gassed or taken prisoner. In practical terms this means that about 15 men in every hundred men served, and of these half were killed, injured etc.

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

At the recent talk by Dr Tom Lewis, he suggested that these monuments were a way for families to honour their men-folk whose graves they were unlikely to ever see. This seems quite a logical conclusion to me, but perhaps they also served another purpose: to give the families some practical way to ensure their dead would not be forgotten.

If you’re unable to visit your Australian ancestral town in person right now, the internet does provide an alternative way of seeing these memorials. Picture Australiaand Google both provide a way of seeing these iconic features. The notes on the photographs may also tell you more. For example I’ve learnt that the War Memorial in Chinchilla includes the original base while the Digger has been moved to the RSL Club…shame I didn’t know that when I visited.

The updated Chinchilla War Memorial photographed in 2011.

Without a doubt using the internet to help us locate these memorials can be invaluable and we’d be foolish to forgo that complementary process.  For example I’ve just found there is a huge memorial to all Toowoomba Railway employees who served in World War I: something to add to my “to do” list for the next visit. Queensland has a War Memorials Register as I’ve just discovered and it would be an invaluable tool. Other states seem to have similar resources.

A word of caution: there are plaques I’m aware of that are that I’m not finding on the register. There is/was an honour board at Central Railway Station for WWI railway employees which I’ve not found in situor on the register (another “to do” activity). Wallumbilla’s honour board does not appear nor does the small one for Murphys Creek.

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

Some of these only come to light by reading local or occupation histories, and may include your relative’s name.

As we move into April and Australia’s remembrance of Anzac Day, you might like to research your family’s presence on a memorial, either in person, or if that’s impossible, then online.

Wallumbilla Roll of Honour. Murphys Creek is really a small hamlet while Wallumbilla is a small rural town. Despite this their wartime contributions were significant.

Murphys Creek WWII War memorial

Fearless Females #10 Religion: Catholic branches in my ancestry.

Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month #10: What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?

Religion played a pivotal role in my family and that of many of my ancestors. Unfortunately sometimes it was a divisive influence in situations where there were mixed marriages (Catholic+Other), or where adult “children” left the church causing separation from siblings or parents. As my family history research has taught me more about my families’ long term religious affiliations, I’ve often found it ironic that my “Catholic branch” actually has a mixed Methodist/Baptist and Catholic ancestry while my nominally “non-Catholic branch” was Catholic through-and-through for generations. Life’s little paradoxes.

The old decommissioned church from Murphys Creek now on a rural block at Upper Laidley. Photo copyright P Cass 2011.

I’ll talk a little about the Catholic branches of my family as I’ve found out more about them, and have a better understanding myself. In the early days of Queensland there were no churches and much depended on gaining the support of the community, Catholic and non-Catholic, to build new churches for the community. My family members were among those who subscribedto these collections to ensure that they could practice their faith in a place of worship. Before churches were built however, they were also said to be among those who had the Mass celebrated in their own home. This oral history was known in Ireland, even 150 years later, which is quite astonishing.

I wonder if they tired of funding one church after the other, as they moved to progressively more rural areas. Thanks to the local historian I learned that the little Catholic church which was built at Murphys Creek (no doubt with the aid of money from the Kunkels), is now a home library on a private block of land not too far away. While there’s quite a lot in the papers about its consecration at the time, I’ve not found a subscription list.

.

Consecration of the family to the Sacred Heart: this would have hung in the farmhouse owned by the original Australian Kunkel family.

Father Dunne (later Bishop), who is known to have said Mass in bush homes around Toowoomba where my Kunkel ancestors lived, believed firmly that “in every country, and in every age, the farming districts were the chief abode of Faith, the choicest dwelling place of virtue”. He knew those agricultural areas around Toowoomba “to be studded over with pure and beautiful homes, as is heaven studded over with its silvery stars. In those homes the parents teach their children goodness, and the children repay by their innocence the parent’s care a hundredfold”.[1] I like this quote and the imagery it provides of parents bringing up their children in faith despite their distance from regular worship. Nonetheless I suspect Dunne was also prone to romanticising the rural lifestyle, glossing over the level of sheer hard work involved.

Catholic homes and families would be blessed and dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Very recently I’ve been given one of these Consecration “posters” which hung in my Kunkel ancestors’ first home, possibly when it was rededicated after my 2xgreat grandmother’s death.

Although I have no firm evidence for my view, I believe that it was probably my women ancestors who ensured the faith was carried forward, by teaching the children their prayers and taking them along to Mass when it was held. In those early pioneering days Mass was far from a weekly event but when the priest arrived on horseback, the faithful would gather together to celebrate: shepherds, stockmen, railway workers, wives and children.

My Catholic ancestry includes the following names: Kunkel, O’Brien, Gavin, McSherry/Sherry/McSharry.

My Methodist and Presybterian families remain under-researched, waiting for me to have discretionary time to follow them up in Queensland. One day!

My non-Catholic families are Melvin, Partridge, McCorkindale, Kent.

——

[1] Published in the Catholic newspaper of the time, The Australian, 1 March 1884.

Abundant Genealogy Week 10: A collage of genie journeys

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

A Tagxedo word cloud of genie journeys.

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

Murphys Creek and the Fifteen Mile, Queensland

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

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

    The old property circa 1988.

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

    The steam train arrives at Murphys Creek station.

In Australia

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

Dorfprozelten, Bavaria

One of the old buildings in Dorfprozelten.

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

Broadford, Clare

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

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

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

From Dorfprozelten to Australia – new blog

When I started this blog two years ago, one of the pages tabbed under the image was “Dorfprozelten, Bavaria”. This has easily been the single biggest “hitter” on my blog, no doubt aided by the unusual name bringing it up in Google searches. It’s attracted quite a number of people with ancestry from this little village in Bavaria and it’s been a means of connecting up those researching the same families.

In the greater scheme of Australia’s migration, they are a small group – some 62 individuals in 23 family groups or alone. However the loss of these individuals, mainly over a couple of short years, must have been severely felt in their home town. They are also a little different from the general Australian perception of German immigrants, as they were Catholics not Lutherans. The majority of them were family units who arrived under New South Wales’s vinedresser assisted migration scheme. A smaller number arrived as individuals mainly contracted to work as shepherds before they arrived here.

I’ve been researching these emigrants from Dorfprozelten to Australia for about 10 years, initially in the hope they’d lead me to my George Kunkel’s arrival information. I’d also I noticed that land owners around his property in the Fifteen Mile near Murphys Creek, Queensland shared some of the same names as the Dorfprozelten immigrants. Over the years I’ve managed to confirm the connection between these families, which was largely lost to the descendants of these families. Even my reliable oral history from George’s grand-daughter suggested the families were just neighbours.

Also over the years I’ve slowly accumulated quite a bit of information on these families. I have more on those who came to Queensland (then called Moreton Bay and part of New South Wales) and less on the New South Wales immigrants. This is mainly an access issue – I’m more often in Brisbane near the Queensland archives than I am in Sydney.

For all these reasons I’ve launched another new blog called From Dorfprozelten to Australia where I’ll draw these stories together. Although the focus is on Australia I would certainly be keen to hear from anyone whose ancestors emigrated from Dorfprozelten – I know that over the years many emigrants left the village for “America”, be that USA or Canada.

One of these immigrants may be my ancestor’s brother Philip Joseph Kunkel, or perhaps Joseph Philip Kunkel, born 1840. Family stories throughout all the branches say a brother went to America and I think it likeliest he was the emigrant as he disappears from the church records. I’d really love to hear from anyone who might be descended from him.

I suspect the new blog will mainly be of interest to those with Dorfprozelten ancestry but may also interest researchers with a Bavarian background though I am unable to help with that in any specific way.

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.