Morning Tech Routine: Top End style

As always, Geniaus has set me thinking with her recent question “What’s your Morning Tech Routine”, originally kicked off by this post on ReadWriteWeb where a number of techies responded to the same question.

Once I convince myself I’m awake, I head downstairs. First chore of the day is to hit the kettle, second chore is to boot up the laptop. When both are ready I’m set for action.

I prefer to start the day  on the outdoor deck/verandah we have – it’s not large but it overlooks the garden and sets the day up nicely. Given our predictable weather this plan works much of the year, except during the Wet, so occasionally I’m driven inside. Plan B: the chair, coffee cup to hand, laptop on the lap.

First things first, and finally learning (a little bit!) from all those staff time management sessions by expert Hugh Kearns, I try to focus on any new writing projects while my brain is fresh and my sub-conscious has had time to cogitate overnight. How long I spend on this will depend on what the activity is and whether it needs photos or more research. This is where the Flip-PalTM  comes in handy for a quick scan of an image – finding them can take longer. If I’m editing a draft I may look at it first thing in the morning with fresh eyes. If it requires detailed research for a blog or family story I leave it to later. In between I top up the coffee, eat breakfast, dip in the pool, shower etc.

It’s only when I’m a bit tired or I’ve got other commitments that day, that I start the day with blogs or emails. Otherwise I can wind up doing everything except what I planned for the day, especially when writing is on my agenda. Some days are really low tech: lately I’ve been reviewing my masses of notebooks to see what I need to get into digital form.

Mid-morning I move on to emails with a focus on the personal ones – the email feeds are read later in the day. I’ll then keep an eye out on emails while I work, as they flick up on my screen en route to Outlook.

Lately I’ve been trying to stay focused on what I want to achieve for the day, rather than be reactive. There are so many family history tasks on my list that I really need to start working through them methodically. What are my priorities, what is really important to my family history? Am I doing a course that I need to do some homework for? Am I maintaining my daily log of what I’m working on as planned?

Fortunately my laptop is small and lightweight so I’ll work outside until the heat drives me in or the laptop battery expires. It’s then into the study and connect to the big screen, superscanner etc –and the air-con at this time of year. I save certain tasks for when I’m all linked up: Transcriptions etc are so much easier on the big screen, as are the fully researched write-ups of family history….the room is lined with books and folders. As an empty-nester, recently retired, my day is my own to a large degree.

Blog reading is usually reserved for my down-time: a chance to see what’s happening in the world of family history and comment on posts I’m reading. For this I often use the ipad for its portability and convenience (scammed the “loan” of it from my husband). I learn so much about different lives, different research strategies, what’s new, etc from the blogs.

Blogs are relaxing so I read them over lunch, for a break from whatever I’m working on, as bedtime reading.. Of course sometimes blogs will send you off on another research trail but usually in a good way…I can end up with lots of tabs open. I follow a lot of blogs on Google Reader and they build up incredibly quickly. Most are family history blogs with a smattering of others for leavening. I like to comment on my favourites, even if I don’t get to them as soon as they’re posted. Occasionally I’ll even tweet….but rarely.

Twitter seems to be a step too far for me much of the time…it’s not that I’m averse, but if I get into tweeting all the time I end up not doing other things. Facebook is a whole other ballpark and I simply rarely bother with it….I’ve never been a fan. Google+ I’m enjoying though still learning…I love the circles and ability to focus on specific circles and to learn from others.

When I’m out & about during the day I’m more likely to check Tweetdeck or emails on my smart phone if I’ve got spare minutes while waiting for someone, or blogs if I’ve taken the ipad.

Living in Darwin, with very limited opportunities to attend information sessions, this is how I spend much of my week. Periodically we’ll be fortunate to have a visiting speaker through GSNT, like Shauna Hicks or Suzie Zada, or a family history session at the Northern Territory Librarybut these are always weekend events. Other than that I try to keep weekends for family time. These days my “outside” family history research is reading the diverse and wonderful microfilms available through the local LDS family history centre where I also volunteer as a co-librarian…a win-win for me as it helps keep the place open. Are microfilms at all techie? Probably not, but I’d give up lots of other things before I’d give them up!

The cat exercising madly...he loves being in the garden too.

Discovering the international world of blogs and daily newspapers, and Google+ with a smattering of twitter, my family history world has expanded and I no longer feel isolated

from what’s going on out there…though sometimes I’m mighty jealous of the sessions others go to, so I need to pay more attention to the available webinars.

What’s lacking: some switch-off time from family history and lots more exercise…like the cat, I’m far too sedentary.

So that’s my (morning) tech routine. Thank you to all those who help me to feel part of a community: even though you’re a “million miles” away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

[2] ibid page 26.

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


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

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

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

52 weeks of personal genealogy and history: Week 45: High School: I’m a proud All Hallows’ girl

The topic for Week 45 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: High School. Describe your middle and/or high school. Was it a large or small student body? Is the school still in existence today? How has it changed since you went there?

The old, new and not-so-new: buildings at All Hallows' including the heritage building on the right edge and the red-brick building which had state-of-the art facilities in my day, and the concert hall, new in my daughters' days there.

Earlier this year I wrote about my high school, All Hallows’ School, because in 2011 the school has been celebrating its 150th anniversary. At the time I spoke about its critical role in my life and the importance of the teachers who taught me there. Equally important to attending this school, was my mother’s determination in ensuring I was accepted to the school even though my primary school was run by a different order of nuns. At a time when many working class parents either did not believe in educating their daughters to university level, or could not afford it, my father and mother committed themselves to making this possible….without this opportunity I truly believe my life would have been very different.

All Hallows’ is a reasonably large school with a student population of around 1000, which may have changed somewhat in recent years with a significant building program to utilise what is a restricted inner-city location. Inventive building strategies have been required to maximise the opportunities.

The Brisbane city skyline as I finished school: you can see the start of the high-rise construction..

What’s changed since I went there? In my day the teaching staff were almost exclusively nuns and when we passed them we would have to curtsy and say, ever so politely “good morning sister”. These days the teaching staff are mainly lay teachers but I imagine that the students still have to be as courteous.

Our dress code was much more rigid than it is today. In some ways the school has had a more “modern” dress style than many other private schools of the day (aka public schools in the British system). However in my day, wearing stockings, gloves and hat was non-negotiable and failure to do so would generate a severe reprimand. It certainly kept the prefects busy ensuring everyone was dressed to code. And in case any wayward girl shed her gloves or hat on the way home, there’d be bound to be an “old girl” who would happily report the misdemeanour to the Principal! There are even occasions when I’ve felt like doing the same (before overcoming the urge) when their bags etc are scattered around the Brisbane mall on a Friday evening.  They even have scarves to wear these days…how trendy ;-). Eating in public was a major no-no as people would apparently think our parents hadn’t fed us….not so today.

Brisbane's river view from near the school c2001. The area beyond the right of the image is dense with tall office buildings and high rises. The old Customs House stands proud in the shadow of the new Brisbane thanks in large part to the support of The University of Queensland.

We were equally restricted in our social interaction on the way to or from school. It didn’t matter whether the boy on the bus was your brother or the gorgeous creature (usually from Churchie) that you’d had your eye on for ages….there was to be no communication…not even meaningful glances. By the time my daughters went to the same school they had a repertoire of male friends whom they met on public transport to/from school. When they were at All Hallows’ there was a visiting group of Italian students on exchange at the school…the “interpersonal interaction” on the Terrace was enough to make the deceased nuns spin in their graves!

The Story Bridge: part of the school's borrowed landscape as the saying goes. The bridge has always been something of a character in the school's events and dramas including this year's celebrations. Where there was wharves and working areas are now high rise apartments and a hotel.

Another significant difference, too, is that in my time we had both boarders and a primary school stream. There was always a division of sorts between the boarders and day students as we had an independence that their restricted lives precluded. I believe that the primary school has recently been reopened. The primary school strand was closed first and some time after I left it ceased to be a boarding school.

Another major difference is the view from the school up and down the river as you can see in the photos here. Taken from slightly different places near the school you can see how Brisbane has mushroomed.

The school retains its emphasis on academic, sporting and cultural achievement as well as its focus on Mercy ideals and faith-based activities such as retreats or charity and support for the less-advantaged. On Bow Tie Day this year, one class of students collected $15,800 for the Multiple Sclerosis Society from Brisbane’s CBD workers and visitors…that’s a pretty impressive contribution! I admit that when did something similar I was really pathetic at doing the collecting…left to my teenaged self they’d probably only have raised $15.80!

Brisbane, the River City c2001 from near the school.

The style of the activities may have changed but I imagine in many ways, it would be perfectly possible for any “old girl” to slot right in. What remains for many are the bonds formed between these teenage girls as they progress through high school and into the wider world, and the knowledge that women can be independent and successful…however each young woman chooses to define it.  I doubt, too, that there’d be many of us who have forgotten the spiritual presence of generations of women that you feel in the school chapel. No wonder it’s been such a success since they opened it as a wedding venue.

If you missed my earlier post , I’d love you to read it in conjunction with this story.

Down the rabbit hole with McCorkindales and the tragedy of the steamer Pearl.

Monday’s task was to try to find my grandmother’s niece, Ida McCorkindale and siblings, in the newly released Commonwealth Electoral Rolls on Ancestry. I’ve looked at ERs before for her and her siblings with limited results and I was optimistic that with the wider range nation-wide she’d turn up. This time was both a win and a lose: I found Ellen Sim McCorkindale (initially Nellie) through to 1980 and the probate indexes date her death as 1981. Ida disappears around the end of the 1930s and so far I have not found her in marriage or death indexes. I also tried other subscription sites without any greater success. Brother Duncan is more confusing as there are a few possible ones including a marriage, so yet more work to do on all of them.

Next step was to have another look at Trove to see if anything new had turned up there on the family. This is when the rabbit started sprinting for the hole with me in pursuit. I came across an entry for a Mr McCorkindale drowning in Brisbane on 13 February 1896, and looked at Qld BDM online to see who he was….no entry in 1896.

One thing quickly led to another and I was soon immersed down the rabbit hole with the story of a dramatic river accident in which up to 25 people were missing or drowned, one of them Mr McCorkindale.

The essence of what happened was that the steamer Pearl was setting off with about 80 passengers, much less than its full complement to travel between Queen’s Wharf and Musgrave Wharf at South Brisbane. The river was in flood and there were eddies which the captain, an experienced seaman, said threw the boat off course so they barely avoided the Normanby, and the Pearl crossed the chains of the government steamer, the Lucinda, at which the Pearl crashed, split in two and sank.[i] Its passengers and crew quickly found themselves in the river, some being rescued quickly by the crew of the Lucinda. Others were not so fortunate and were swept away. For some time later bodies were being recovered along the length of the river. Mr McCorkindale was reported as saying to Mr Ballinger, the traffic inspector, “Goodbye, I cannot swim. Remember me to my wife”. He was not seen again and remained on the missing list throughout. When you look at the list of women among the missing, it seems likely that the heavy clothing of the time would have stacked the odds against them. While initial reports placed the missing and drowned at 25 but it has been difficult to find final numbers.

A magisterial inquiry was held a week later on 20 February 1896. One report in particular caught my attention. There had been some South Sea Islander people on board including a woman and two children, one of whom remained missing. However a Tommy Matahbelle was refused the opportunity to give evidence because he was not baptised, hence not a Christian, and therefore could not give an oath and evidence. Application for him to be allowed to provide a statement was also refused[ii]. Legal and conventional but hardly moral justice: no multi-cultural acceptance in those days.

The findings of the subsequent Marine Board enquiry were that the master of the Pearl, James Chard, displayed want of skill in navigating the vessel, and that the steamer was lost through his default. His certificate as a home trade master, and his licenses to take charge of steamers within the limits of any port, were cancelled.[iii]

While this is a sad story, significant enough to generate a telegram from the Queen and the British Prime Minister, what intrigued me was the ambiguity over the registration of the deaths. I checked the list of the missing against the Qld BDM indexes and while the uncertainty over first names made it difficult, it seems apparent that at least some of the missing may not have made it to the death registers highlighting one of the ways in which our family can cause us “brick walls”. Mr McCorkindale turned out to be Archibald McCorkindale per the inquiry reports. His death was not registered until 1922 some 26 years later. I wondered how many others were never documented. Even some of those recovered do not appear in the indexes under the names stated in the papers (eg Margaret McGhie).

1922/F6428 Archibald James McCorkindale

Initial newspaper reports listed 25 missing and dead but progressively bodies of many of the drowned were recovered. The magisterial inquiry is invaluable in providing more detail in regard to those who drowned. Those missing, and a few of those later identified, are included here:

Mr Archibald McCorkindale, late President of the Coorparoo Shire Council.

Mrs Best

Mrs Gould (possibly Emma Eliza 1896/B28991)

Mrs (Janet?) Wilson, wife of James Wilson, Russell St, South Brisbane. Ironically he could not swim, yet apparently she could as she tried to hold onto him until he struck something hard in the water. “I will stick to you Jim, I know you cannot swim”.[iv]

Mrs Nellie Harper, residing with Mr & Mrs Wilson, with her four children, cnr Grey &Russell Sts, body later found[v]. Nellie Harper, born England about 30 years old 1896/B28527. I wonder what happened to her children)

Mrs A B Renton (possibly Mary Jane 1896/B28470), Cordelia St, South Brisbane.

Mrs Pogson, Russell St South Brisbane (not on some lists –could this be Mrs Wilson?)

Mrs Kitty Matahbelle does not appear on the lists though she is mentioned in the inquiry. No registration under this surname.

Miss Ida Newman of Coorparoo (her death, under this name, is not registered)

Henry Archibald Jarman, nephew of Louisa Ellen Jarman (1896/B28534) Aged about 21, he had a lifebuoy which he handed over to his aunt saying “Here you take this and save yourself, I’ll be all right”

Mr H E Williams, Pastoral Butchering Company (registration not found)

Mr A G Williams (possibly George Alfred Foster Williams 1896/B29325)

Miss Marshall, Merton Rd

Harry Guzamai (also listed as Gurosomai/Guzomai). 1896/B29529. The bodies of the mother and another child, about 10 years old, were recovered. The mother was said to be a good swimmer.

Timothy O’Sullivan (9 years) (1896/B2856)(body recovered)

Infant child Priest

Mrs Taylor (possibly missing), an old lady, licensee of the Clarence Hotel, South Brisbane.

Hugh Kerr Colquhoun Morren (body recovered, 1896/B28535. His children Martha and her brother had been returning with their father from their mother’s funeral that afternoon. Both children survived the accident. He left a large family of young children[vi]).

If any of these names are relevant to your family it would be worth checking out the stories on this tragedy to get the full picture. So many evocative stories reminiscent of 2011’s disasters.

Back to task: if anyone knows anything more about Ida McCorkindale, her sister Ellen Sim McCorkindale, or brother Duncan McCorkindale, I’d really like to hear from you. Their parents were Duncan and Ida McCorkindale.


[i] The Pearl was recovered from the bottom of the river on 5 March The Worker 14 March 1896. Image of it apparently in The Australasian. It was apparently set to be repaired.

[ii] The Brisbane Courier, 26 February 1896.

[iii] The Argus, 16 April 1896, page 5.

[iv] Magisterial enquiry evidence, The Brisbane Courier, 21 February 1896. Also initial news reports The Brisbane Courier 14 February 1896 including reference to the Harper children.

[v] The Brisbane Courier, 21 February 1896

[vi] Sydney Morning Herald 15 February 1896.

First sighting of my elusive Gavin family in Dublin, Ireland…alleluia!

For years I’ve been trying to locate something, anything about one of my families while they were still in Ireland. Despite evidence on their shipping records, their death certificates, obituaries etc, the Irish lives of Denis Gavin and his wife Ellen nee Murphy have remained elusive. The daughter who arrived with them on the Fortune in December 1855, was Mary, aged 2, born in Dublin. The parents were said to have married in Dublin, and Denis was supposedly born in Ballymore, Co Kildare and Ellen in Davidstown, Co Wicklow. Research into these has so far been unproductive despite visiting both places.

In October 2011 the Irish Department of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht released new Dublin church records on its wonderful site, Irish Genealogy. Ever optimistic I gave the new records a chance with my Gavin-Murphy search. It’s a little fiddly compared with many of the sites we typically use, but well worth persevering….and it’s FREE!

Imagine my astonishment and delight to find a baptism of a daughter, Mary, to this couple at St Catherine’s Church in Dublin on 5 December 1851. This is the first sighting of this family in Ireland so a cause for great celebration. It’s clear this child cannot be the one who arrived with them in 1855 despite having the same name as it would be difficult to claim a four year old as a two year old. So it’s likely this child was one of their children who died young.

Extract from the St Catherine's registers which show Mary Gavin's baptism from the IrishGenealogy site.

Research indicates that the church in which Mary was baptised is the Roman Catholic church of St Catherine of Alexandria in Meath St, Dublin. This blogtalks a little about its architecture and provides some images. This Irish Ancestors link also provides some information on the parish in general.

This may be a small step in my search to trace the Gavin-Murphy family back to their Irish roots but as we all know, each little chink in the armour leads us on. The progressive digitisation of records is invaluable in the search for missing ancestors in a city as large as Dublin.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 44: primary school, church, nuns and migrants

The topic for Week 44 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: Elementary (Primary) School. Describe your grammar/elementary/primary school (or schools). Were they big or small? Are any of these schools still in existence today? If so, how have they changed since you went there? This is going to end up as a long post, be warned.(I keep thinking of Cat Stevens and the Days of the Old School Yard, cue the music).

Clydesdale c1900 John Oxley Library Negative number: 146812, copyright expired. This was the convent during my school years.

No school bells ring today, there is no sound of children playing or chanting tables. Those who live in the modern townhouses built on a large block on Clyde Road probably have no idea that there ever were bells or children. After all, it is many decades since the old school and church were there: they only know of the 1960s church and presbytery adjacent to the townhouses, and even those are quiet these days.

Only those who attended the little parish school during the fifty odd years of its life can remember that it wasn’t always a sleepy hollow. In fact much that happened there reflected wider social conditions as well as a very particular experience of Catholicism in the pre-Vatican II era.

The official jubilee site tells how the Herston parish of St Joan of Arc was established mid-1920, while Trove reveals more details of its blessing in December 1920. The parish complex of 2 ¼ acres, included Clydesdale, an impressive house built c1890 which was to become a convent, a building for the priest, and a timber building which had been relocated from elsewhere and raised to a second storey building (apparently a former Salvation Army Hall, something I never knew), which was to be used for the church and a hall. The church was blessed by Brisbane’s “building Bishop”, Archbishop Duhig, who made much of the event by declaring all Brisbane’s Catholic churches to be fully occupied…ironic to read these days. Archbishop Duhig was renowned for buying premium plots of land around Brisbane and establishing many new parishes. He also contributed the organ to the new church.

I was surprised when first reading about the hall in the old timber building. To me, it was both church (upstairs) and school (mostly downstairs). While I don’t think of it forming a hall, on reflection the central area downstairs, immediately under the church’s footprint, could be opened up and with the stage (on the ground floor beneath the altar above), it would form a very satisfactory hall. I suppose this is where we held our concerts, though to be truthful I have no memory of the events themselves, only the preparation. The two central areas were surrounded by enclosed verandahs which mostly served as class rooms though downstairs there was a tuckshop and kitchen.

My first communion class from St Joan of Arc school. I don’t usually include photos of people without their permission but this one is so small and so old, and unidentified that I’m going with it.

The Presentation Sisters commenced the school in mid-1924 and for another 44 years it would have a pivotal role for the Catholics in the area. Of course a parish school is very much centred on the church and our lives were inextricably linked to the church’s liturgical seasons. We prepared for First Communion and I distinctly remember the bishop coming to examine us for our Confirmation – I was scared stiff I’d get the answers wrong.

Over the years this parish became responsible for the ministry to the Royal Brisbane Hospital so it was quite common for those who had been hospitalised there before their death, to be buried from our parish. It was the task of the pupils to sing at the funerals which became quite an intriguing responsibility: it became a “bread and butter” event for we school children. Of course the boys would also have the alternate responsibility of serving as altar boys at the funeral. I’m always bemused by people who have never been to a funeral until they’re adults….I lost count of how many I attended as a child and the richness and ceremony of the priest’s words, the incense and the procession of the coffin remain in my memory.

I started primary school aged 5, in prep class, and progressed round the classrooms for the next 9 years until finishing in Grade 8. My first classroom was on one of the verandahs adjacent to the church and I must say I don’t remember my first teacher with any great affection. While occasional nuns were pleasant (and young!) many were what I’ve heard referred to as “industrial strength” nuns. The convent, Clydesdale, was adjacent to the school so the nuns were definitely part of our lives. This convent was, I think, a sort of retirement home by this stage and many of the older nuns came there to live…at least that’s my memory of things. Apart from those who taught at the school, there were others (more than one?) who taught music. My friend, who was a non-Catholic, also went to the convent for her piano lessons.

Oh so demure Confirmation photo.

The school was always a small one, at least in my time. Most classes would have had fewer than twenty pupils and were usually taught as composite classes: eg Grade 7 taught with Grade 8. We used slates in the early days (that hideous scratchy noise) and ultimately pens dipped in the ink wells on our desks. The cane was never too far away for unruly students, especially the boys. Many of the boys left around Grade 6 and went to one of the larger boys’ schools. Only a handful of boys remained in my small Grade 8 class of about 13 students. If the nuns were sometimes cranky who could blame them, wearing those heavy serge habits in the heat of Queensland’s weather.

There was a nearby State School and the bus would go past our school on the way to and from it. Pupils of both schools happily shouted rhyming invective that would not be tolerated these days. At the recent Shamrock in the Bush I was much amused to recognise some of these old ditties while the younger attendees look on bemused, or was that appalled? Fortunately it was uncommon for the rivalry to go beyond the odd slanging match….uncommon but not unknown.

One of my endearing memories of primary school was the huge school and church fetes that were held in the grounds. Really they rivalled the Ekka for excitement. I think nearly everything was hand-made and the fete was just an absolute delight: sponge cakes, toffees, coconut ice, fudge, toffee apples, dolls clothes, dresses. What fun! They seemed so grand and important to me that I’m surprised there’s nary a mention of one on Trove.

St Patrick’s Day concerts were a very big focus: I remember that on the day we would wear little green ribbons with a shamrock badge in the middle..our Irish heritage was proudly flaunted in those days. We’d have to stand on the platforms on the stage while we practiced our songs and hymns, presenting all the old favourites both religious and Irish. For a long time it seemed that if you were Catholic you were Irish but that was soon to change. In fact one of my rare experiences of winning a raffle occurred in primary school when I won a lovely tin filled with home-made confectionery. It was a rare enough event that I still have the tin. 🙂

My primary school years overlapped with a significant change in Australia’s cultural life with the massive influx of post-war immigrants. I’ve talked before of how important this influence was in my life. Previously we had mainly Irish nuns, and an Irish priest, and many of us had the Celtic colouring of red hair and freckles or the “black Irish”. But our new school mates looked different and were learning English as their second language, negotiating with their parents or grandparents in another language and trying to navigate all the new experiences, no doubt including vegemite sandwiches, sardine and potato crisp sandwiches on Fridays, not to mention warm milk from the tuckshop daily. However one thing that would have provided continuity for them would have been religion, or at least I assume so. Many, if not most, of the rituals would have been familiar to them, although the Catholic Church in Australia at the time was very Irish-influenced. The Mass was still said in Latin in those days so some part of their religious life was a reprieve from the language barrier challenging them in the outside world. We had absolutely no understanding or knowledge of the horrors many of them must have experienced in the war years or immediately afterwards.

Trove again illustrates day-to-day life: to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953, 400 “New Australian” children each planted a tree in nearby Ballymore Park (later to become the Rugby Union headquarters)[i]. This again shows how much a part of the local fabric these new immigrants were becoming. Many of the parents, especially the women, worked in nearby factories like the Mynor cordial factory or the cardboard factory, or much further away at the Golden Circle cannery.

Around the middle of my time at school, and to minister to the significant immigrant population, we acquired new priests from Holland (the Netherlands). One in particular was amazing to us because not only was he staggeringly smart and well read, but he spoke about 8 languages: unprecedented in monolingual working-class Australia.

Students from St Joan of Arc convent give a eurythmic display 1924 ( a bit before my time!). From Trove and The Brisbane Courier 15 December 1924.

And so the school and I moved closer to the Vatican II era and much was changing. The nuns remained for a while but I lost my link with them when I went to high school as it was run by a different order of nuns. I laugh when I think of the day my Grade 9 teacher challenged something I’d done by saying “you went to a Presentation convent didn’t you?” Apparently that could explain all vagaries in my behaviour! No doubt the Presentation nuns thought much the same of Mercy-trained children.

The old timber building is long gone replaced by a modern 1960s church with its simple style and open outlook, a promise of a new Vatican II era. The only remnant of its history is the statue of St Joan of Arc which links the old and new churches. The nuns also left and their rather more grand building was also demolished.

School, convent, and church: memories only for those who lived in those days.

( I can find no photographs online or in my own archives of the original church -something to add to my to-do list).

[i] The Courier Mail 20 May 1953 and The Courier Mail 29 May 1953.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 43: Worst subjects

The topic for Week 43 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: Worst School Subject. What was your worst or least favourite subject in school and why?

The first thought that came into my mind with this topic, was “Chemistry”. Imagine my surprise when I went back to look at old report cards that I’d actually got better marks for it through high school than I sometimes did in subjects I liked much better. However in those days it was the results you got in the state-wide end-of-year exams that really counted. These were held at the end of Year 10, called the Junior exam, and Year 12 or matriculation was Senior, and your results determined what you could do in the subsequent years as well as whether you gained a Commonwealth scholarship – critical support for on-going education in working class families. In those days, too, Chemistry was a prerequisite for 1st year science at university where it was my undoing: I guess that’s why it’s stuck in my mind as a least favourite subject.

On my primary school report cards it was drawing and physical education/sport that consistently scored the worst marks. I would have loved to be able to draw but plainly it just isn’t one of my talents. As to sport, well, that’s never reached my high-enthusiasm levels either at school or beyond. Dancing, however, was a different story.

Why were these the worst subjects? I think we love most what we’re good at. These subjects simply didn’t meet that objective. Committed study may get you better marks but you’re never really going to fall in love with that subject.

I was ironically amused by this report card I got in the 7th grade. I’d come 1st in my very small class in a very small school but the comment simply said “good progress”. Those nuns didn’t give much away…you wouldn’t want the kids to get too big-headed.

BTW love my Flip-Pal for these quick scans 🙂

A research resolution: keeping track of the day’s research

A new more efficient me!

Motivated by Joan from Roots’n’Leaves, who’s been doing Sunday Synopsis posts, I’ve resolved to keep a daily research log of just what trails and research crumbs I’m following. It’s all too easy to get caught up chasing a research rabbit down a hole. My hope is that this will keep me focused and less prone to being pulled by the tides of what I come across: when I have a project to do I’m much more “on target”. Hence I’ve commenced a running file which opens with Word and to which I can add dot points throughout the day.

The hoped-for benefits:

  • Staying focused on what I want to achieve
  • a readily-searchable document when I want to revisit research paths I’ve taken.
  • Highlight how productive or otherwise the day has been
  • Identify proposed tasks for the days ahead

Rather than see Sunday Synopsis posts you’re more likely to see the outcome as research posts.

Let’s see how long the resolution lasts…and how well it works.

Beyond the internet – the responses

Last week I posted a geneameme called “Beyond the Internet”. I thought it would be interesting to see whether off-line resources are still being used by family historians and whether we still see value in them.

I was delighted to see people engaging with this geneameme…it was so interesting seeing people’s discoveries in the records. Some people plainly loved highlighting the records they’ve used in their research often to great effect. Others commented on it as an aide memoir for current or future research.

The jury is still out on whether old-fashioned documents still have a place in research: the sample here isn’t really large enough to know. But those who’ve used the records are in no doubt of their usefulness. An inbuilt bias to the questions perhaps? What records would you add?

Thanks very much to all those who participated. If I’ve omitted anyone please do let me know: I’ve had a google alert on this but I must be doing something wrong as they’re not all coming through.

Australian Genealogy Journeys (first off the post Aillin!)

From Helen V Smith’s keyboard – Helen

Genealogy Leftovers – Judy

Geniaus – Jill

My Family Puzzles -Alison

My Genealogy Adventure -Tanya

Shauna Hicks History Enterprises -Shauna

The Tree of Me – Sharon

Tracking down the family – Jennifer

Wandering Roots -Julia

A response from:

Family History Fun -Susan

And comments from

A Hundred Years Ago –Sheryl

Roots’n’Leaves -Joan