Some thoughts on “St Mary’s Ipswich: the Luckie Parish”

St Mary’s Ipswich: the Luckie Parish

This book by John R Kane was published in 2011 and was a winner of the Viva Cribb Bursary offered through the Ipswich City Council. I bought the book during a driving trip to Ipswich a few weeks ago and felt my money had been well spent, and as a bonus it gave me in-flight reading on the way home.

This book added a new timeline dimension to those I’ve read before about Catholic Queensland, or Ipswich, or both. This meant I got a clearer sense of what had happened in St Mary’s Ipswich before and during the years my Kunkel ancestors lived there. Other ancestors lived there but they were members of other congregations. My interest really focussed on the period from the church’s inception to the turn of the 20th century.

The physical and emotional demands placed on these early Queensland priests, essentially missionaries, echoed our own experience of missionaries in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s. It could be a very lonely life as well as physically challenging and financially draining.

I had known about Fr McGinty’s indefatigable efforts to fund-raise and build churches for the Catholics of his geographically-dispersed parish (or mission as it was technically known). I’d also known that he had ridden many, many miles in his commitment to his parishioners, baptising and marrying people who may not have seen a priest for some years. My great-grandmother Julia Gavin and her brother were among those he baptised on these rides to far-flung stations, settlements and towns. He’d also baptised some of the Dorfprozelten descendants as well as an unrelated Gavin family I research. The man really had enormous energy and dedication. Unfortunately his resistance to the Bishop’s directive to hand over the donated funds raised by McGinty, caused untold controversy, and no shortage of ill-will. He could also be a rigid-thinking man who got himself into bother with the community over religious holidays or refusing to bury those who did not practice their faith (even children). Still I continue to admire his commitment and energy.

It may not have been the author’s intention, but I left the book feeling no love for Bishop Quinn and his impact on the church in Ipswich. Certainly McGinty was obdurate but to over-ride the parishioners’ wishes for the money they’d so generously donated seems both unwise and insulting, albeit consistent for the times. My understanding is that the Sisters of Mercy struggled against Quinn’s control as well, though Kane suggests they conformed –not my understanding from years at All Hallows’ but perhaps my memory is not correct.

The book also highlights the Irishness of the Catholic Church in Australia, something that’s not news to anyone brought up in the faith in Queensland, and something the German Catholics had to come to terms with (though sometimes it drove them to the Lutherans). The book also talks of the debates and changes around parochial education and government funding –something that continues to rear its head from time to time.

From a personal point of view I remain disappointed that the church built by Fr McGinty in 1860 from donations by early parishioners was largely destroyed, to be replaced in 1884 by a grander church of cathedral dimensions. Surely it would have been possible to retain the old one and use it for another purpose. I wonder how many of the first donors contributed to the second church’s construction…those early pioneers must have suffered from church-building-burnout, especially if they moved around. Fr Martin (see book below, p134) indicates that stones from the previous building were used in the sacristy of the new church.

I’d have liked to see a little more cohesive editing of the book in some sections, and a subject index, but this did not detract from its value to understanding the history of St Mary’s Ipswich and would be a useful reference for anyone whose family worshipped there.

It is a good complement to the following books:

The Foundation of the Catholic Church in Queensland, Martin D W, Church Archivists’ Press, Brisbane 1998 (this book has some excellent images of St Mary’s Ipswich, old and new).

St Mary’s Story: a history of St Mary’s Catholic Parish, Ipswich 1849-1999, St Mary’s Parish Historical Society, Ipswich, 1999.

Beyond the Internet: Week 12 – Church histories

This is Week 12 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. This week’s topic is Church Histories.  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.

Does this sound like one big yawn to you? Lynn Palermo over at The Armchair Genealogist has written this week about the importance of background reading for our family history. Learning more about our ancestors’ parish churches is important to our understanding of their day-to-day lives at a time when the church used to be such an integral part of peoples’ lives.

Extract from Robert Dunne, Archbishop of Brisbane, op cit, p272 (footnotes). I believe Tazilia Dining is probably Cecilia Dümig/Dimig/Dimmock nee Füller.

You might be surprised at the treasures hiding within these books: sometimes information about specific people even though more often it will be general information. Obviously we’ll mostly each need our own reference reading list, given our ancestors’ different geographical areas.

Even biographies of senior churchmen can be helpful. One of the most informative church books for my own family was the biography of Robert Dunne, Archbishop of Brisbane. There are countless references to how Dunne interacted with his parishioners (which included my Kunkels), his visits to the railway camps and how he viewed them, his encouragement of land purchases etc. It also documents how he got into strife for not providing sufficient pastoral care for his German-speaking Catholics. The petition transcription includes the names of four of “my” Dorfprozelten families, not to mention quite a number of other German Catholics (I’d love to see the original but they have been unable to locate it).

Centenary histories of churches can be particularly useful though they may have a variable standard of documentation.

Catechism Class St Stephen's Cathedral Brisbane 1860, Foundations of the Catholic Church in Queensland, op cit, page 148.

These are some of the things I’ve found in the church histories or biographies:

  1. References to petitions and signatories.
  2. Details of subscription lists for the construction or improvement of churches.
  3. Donations of specific items for the church interior –stained glass windows, communion vessels.
  4. Extracts of old church newsletters.
  5. Reference to Rev Benjamin Glennie’s diary entries and remote pastoral travel on behalf of his Anglican flock. I have wondered if the teamsters who helped him cross the Condamine River in 1857 included my 2x great grandfather, Denis Gavin who was working as a teamster in that area.
  6. The catechism class at St Stephen’s Catholic Church, Brisbane in January 1860 (wouldn’t you love to find a family member in this list? I would!)
  7. Sunday School prizes.
  8. The names of churchwardens in 1907 for Anglican parishes in Childers, Cleveland, Dalby, Drayton, Esk, Gayndah (Warra history)
  9. Photos/sketches of old churches, now demolished or decommissioned.
  10. Early baptisms in the pioneer churches as priests rode hundreds of miles to marry people or baptise children.
  11. Early confirmation ceremonies reported in the newspapers.

Among my collection of church histories to which I’ve referred in this post are:

Robert Dunne, Archbishop of Brisbane. Byrne, N J. The University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, 1991.

St Michael’s Church, Gorey (Wexford) 1839-1989, Forde,W (ed) 1989

The Foundation of the Catholic Church in Queensland, Martin D W, Church Archivists’ Press, Brisbane 1998

St Mary’s Story: a history of St Mary’s Catholic Parish, Ipswich 1849-1999, St Mary’s Parish Historical Society, Ipswich, 1999.

A Century of Service, All Saints’ Warra 1907-2007, All Saints’ Restoration Committee.

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.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 35: Weddings

The topic for Week 35 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: Weddings. Tell us about your wedding. You may also talk about your future wedding, the wedding of a relative or shape this question to fit your own life experience.

Having talked a little about my own wedding under the Fame topic, my thoughts turned first to the prickly issue of religion which affected many weddings in earlier generations. Unless the couple had the same religious affiliations there were often fallings out over family members who would not attend a wedding in another denomination’s church, no matter how close the relationship; families that split asunder over “mixed marriages” and the like. Fortunately, in my view at least, those issues are much less likely to cause family disputes in the 21st century.

My thoughts then turned to the marriage of my ancestors George Kunkel and Mary O’Brien over 153 years ago. He was from Bavaria and she was from County Clare, Ireland but both were Catholic and presumably this was a critical factor for them.

If I could have a magic time machine, these are the questions (among many others) that I’d like to ask them about their wedding and marriage:

This 1910 wedding of one of George & Mary's grandchildren was held at their home at Murphy's Creek. George & Mary are the elderly couple on either side of the flowergirls. Photo kindly provided by a family member from this branch.

  1. Could you both understand each other[i]?  Was George’s English good enough to communicate effectively? How and where did he learn English?
  2. Why weren’t Mary’s parents’ names and her place of birth put on the marriage record at St Mary’s Ipswich, Queensland? Did George even know this information at the time?
  3. Why didn’t the priest, who was Irish, have more interest in documenting Mary’s records?
  4. How did you meet? Was it at work? (He was a servant and she was a housemaid)
  5. Were you sad that no family members could be at their wedding?
  6. Did you write to your families afterwards to let them know? Who wrote to Mary’s family as she could not write?
  7. What was Mary’s relationship to her bridesmaid/witness, Sarah O’Brien?  My research suggests that Sarah was probably the daughter of Daniel and Winifred O’Brien who arrived from Tipperary in 1853 on the Florentia.  George and Mary had continuing links with this family over the years. Might they have been related however distantly or did they come on the same ship? (To this day I can’t find Mary’s immigration, or indeed George’s).
  8. Mary’s sister Bridget had been in Queensland for a year after arrival but married her English non-Catholic husband in or near Albury circa 1860. This couple are separated in death, in different denominational parts of the Urana cemetery. How did Mary feel about this mixed-religion marriage and did she feel sad when her sister moved interstate?
  9. George’s witness, Carl Wörner[ii], was another of the Dorfprozelten emigrants. Carl had been employed to work for John Ferret who owned properties on the Downs as well as Ipswich. Was Carl simply in town in time for the wedding or was he actually working there, if so he was lucky not to suffer the isolation of shepherding on  a distant property? Although living not far away from them in later years he never witnesses another family event. Why?
  10. Did Mary & George enjoy setting up home in Ipswich in those early years and being part of the town’s growth?
  11. Did Mary miss George when he travelled afield for work eg on the Taloom goldfields and possibly the railways?
  12. Were they proud to see all their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren before their deaths? The evocative photo above represents only a small fraction of their descendants in 1910. George and Mary were in their late 70s at the time.
  13. Their marriage lasted 58 years until George’s death in 1916 amidst WWI anti-German hysteria. Were they happy years? Had their culturally-mixed marriage been a success?

Questions reflecting a 21st century perspective admittedly, but nonetheless I’d love to know the answers.


[i] A friend we knew in PNG used to say “He knew no Dutch, I knew no Italian, so we made babies”.

[ii] His name is indexed as Mosrins or Blomai in some records. The Dorfprozelten local historian promptly identified it as this immigrant.

Australia Day 2011 meme: the importance of church records and archives to my early documents.

Shelley from http://twigsofyore.blogspot.com/ has invited us to submit an Australia Day post on our blogs. She suggests that we “Find the earliest piece of documentation you have about an ancestor in Australia. If you don’t have an Australian ancestor, then choose the earliest piece of documentation you have for a relative in Australia”

On Wednesday 26 January 2011 post your answers to these questions:

  1. What is the document?
  2. Do you remember the research process that lead you to it? How and where did you find it?
  3. Tell us the story(ies) of the document. You may like to consider the nature of the document, the people mentioned, the place and the time. Be as long or short, broad or narrow in your story telling as you like!

The earliest Australian documents I have for many of my ancestors is their shipping documents: the extended Kent family on the General Hewitt into Moreton Bay in 1854 or two lines of my families arriving on the Fortune into Moreton Bay in 1855: the Gavin family along with another ancestor, William Partridge on the same ship, even though they had differing views of the success of the voyage.

But these documents posed no real challenge so I opted for ones that were a little later but were absolutely pivotal to my family history research. [It didn’t help that these ancestors don’t appear anywhere in the shipping records and have defied all my attempts over 20+ years.]

Like pretty much everyone else I started out buying the marriage certificates of my first Australian couples. In particular the one I was most curious about was George Kunkel’s marriage to Mary O’Brien. The certificate duly arrived, probably helpfully collected from the Registry by my daughters on their way home from school. You might well imagine I had visions of every section of our wonderful certificates comprehensively completed and sending me back to my ancestors’  “Old Country” to locate further branches of their families.

My early-research illusions were quickly shattered when the certificate revealed the following:

THE OFFICIAL MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE

When & where married: 26 September 1857 at Ipswich
Name & Surname: George Hatheas Kunkel Mary O’Brien
Condition: Bachelor Spinster
Birthplace: - -
Profession: Servant Housemaid
Age: - -
Usual place of residence Ipswich Ipswich
Parents-Father’s name and surname, mother’s name and maiden surname
Father’s rank or profession

George had signed and Mary made her mark. The witnesses were stated to be Carl Blomai and Sarah O’Brien. Officiating Minister was Wm McGinly. (Qld Birth certificate 140/81 of 1857 registered in the Colony of NSW)

I could have wept….so many blanks just where I needed them and an additional puzzle because I knew nothing about Sarah O’Brien. Somehow I concluded George & Mary were married in the Catholic Church Ipswich (because I knew they were Catholic, and I suppose I’d read that Wm McGinly was actually Father William McGinty, parish priest of Ipswich. In those days in the late 1980s I was allowed to look at the parish registers (no longer possible) but still there were blanks.

Sometime later I was talking to an experienced researcher at the Genealogical Society of Queensland who told me there were actually two registers at St Mary’s Ipswich, as they’d discovered when GSQ was indexing the records. I needed to go back there and ask for the second one. This wasn’t quite as straight-forward as it sounds, because I needed to get time off work, drive to Ipswich, and then get the staff to find the correct book.

However, when the register was finally delivered to my table, all the trouble was worth it. There, in faded writing, was so much I hadn’t known and which had been omitted from the certificate!

THE PARISH REGISTER from St Mary’s Catholic Church, Ipswich (not quite in this format but easier to see how the gaps are filled)

When & where married: 26 September 1857 at the Catholic Church Ipswich
Name & Surname: George Mathias (not Hatheas) Kunkel Mary O’Brien
Condition: Bachelor Spinster
Birthplace: Dorfprozelten, Germany -
Profession: Servant Housemaid
Age: 23 -
Usual place of residence Ipswich Ipswich
Parents-Father’s name and surname, mother’s name and maiden surname Adam KunkelCatherine Happ
Father’s rank or profession Innkeeper

You can imagine my excitement! I figured that if an Irish priest had bothered to write down a difficult name like Dorfprozelten it had to be correct. I’d earlier tried buying almost every one of George & Mary’s children’s birth certificates and he’d persistently said he came from “Bavaria” and nothing else, except for one time when he put Aschaffenburg, again, who knows why. Research into that had turned up blank prior to finding this marriage register.

Armed with the correct information I was eventually able to confirm (after multiple visits and letters) that George had been baptised Georg Mathias Kunkel in Dorfprozelten Bavaria, to parents Adam Kunkel and Catherine Happ. Technically it was Catherine who was the innkeeper as the inn had been in her family for generations. Adam came from another part of Bavaria, but that’s a story for another day.

There’s another interesting fact about this marriage: that of a German immigrant to an Irish woman. I’d been confidently told by the German expert at GSQ that there were no Bavarians and no German Catholics in Queensland. Wrong on both counts as my research, and other’s, has clearly demonstrated. So a tip for those with German ancestry: if you find a marriage in the Catholic church, there’s a good (but not inevitable) chance that they were actually Catholic, not Lutheran, which is why they sometimes married Irish men or women who shared their faith.

Still there were all those blank spaces against poor Mary’s name: did George not know this detail? was the register filled out when she wasn’t there? Actually to give him credit George did well, my best estimate is that he’d arrived in Australia c1855 and could plainly speak enough English to get by. Mary’s death certificate gave me the name of her parents but not her birth place, other than County Clare. Mary O’Brien from County Clare is like finding a needle in the proverbial haystack.

It was oral history that solved the final puzzle of this couple’s ancestry. One of their youngest surviving grandchildren, Anne Kunkel, told me in the late 1980s that Mary had arrived with her sisters Bridget & Kate (actually Kate came later). She knew that Bridget had married a man named Widdup and lived in NSW. Luckily it was such an unusual name as I was also able to get her death certificate. This confirmed that her place of birth was Broadford, Co Clare, although that document had mistakenly put down her parents as Michael & Bridget not Michael & Catherine. Although the parish registers for Kilseily (Broadford) post-date the birth of Mary and Bridget, the fantastic oral history known by Anne Kunkel and other O’Brien descendants in Sydney gave such a good triangulation of data that Mary’s background could be confirmed.

But wait, we still have the mystery of the witnesses for whom I searched for many years. Carl Blomai looked more like Carl Mosrins per his signature on the church document but eventually turned out to be Carl Wörner as deciphered by the Dorprozelten local historian (thanks Georg!). Sarah O’Brien was the daughter of Daniel and Winifred O’Brien who came from Tipperary to Ipswich, Queensland. I still can’t find any family connection between these O’Briens and mine but as Broadford is in East Clare it’s quite possible, and the families do continue to witness each other’s church events for a long time.  I still haven’t managed to get to the bottom of the puzzle of these inter-connecting families.

Which just goes to show, quite often one document is just not enough to tie up the ends, but persistence, oral history, and multiple records can solve the problem if you’re lucky.