Fearless Females: Day 16 – Lunch with Catherina Kunkel in Das Goldene Fass in Dorfprozelten

My ancestor, 3x great grandmother Eva Catherina Kunkel nee Happ, was a descendant of a family dynasty which owned an inn in the Bavarian village of Dorfprozelten for at least 200 years. I would love to have lunch with her in her own inn, Das Goldene Fass. (I’m working on the whole time-travel-is-possible thing as the inn was demolished in the mid-20th century). She’s not really famous but in my family tree she is pivotal as she links the Australian branches and the Bavarian branches and could answer so many questions for me.A postcard of Das Goldene Fass mid-20thC. Kindly provided to me by Georg Veh, local historian.

It was Catherine’s son, Georg Mathias, who emigrated to Australia in the 1850s and started our Australian line. I would love to get her insights into so many things that affected her family. Why did her son leave home? Was it truly because of the risk of military service? How did she feel to see him leave the village, knowing it was likely she’d never see him again? Was he jealous perhaps that his step-brother inherited the inn? Did Georg’s brother Philip Joseph Kunkel really emigrate to the United States? Or was that after her sudden death? Did Georg write to her after he left home and did she know that he had married an Irish woman and had a big, healthy family. Did he tell her if he was happy in his new country? I really hope he didn’t regret giving up so much and making his life here.

In Bavaria, the family inn regularly hosted tourists to their village and I wonder if her son spoke some English before he left home. I wrote a hypothetical story of his last day in the village. I’d love to ask her if this was just a romantic view of what might have happened or if he did any of these things? She was there when the 60+ men, women and children left Dorfprozelten for Australia.  I wonder how the loss of these people affected the small village: she would be able to tell me this, and the gossip about all those who left.

I’d have so many questions she might regret that we were lunching together, but I hope not. Would she see any physical resemblance between me and her own family. My daughter says I have “big German hands”, so perhaps she would.

The local history of the village tells me something of the menu for the inn at other times, so I’d expect we’d drink the local white wine from its distinctive Bochsbeutel wine bottle. We’d likely have fresh pike cooked with cardamom and mustard, salmon prepared with lemon, special beer, home-made apple-wine, bacon, roast pork and varieties of home-made sausage.[1] I’d love to tell her that George had brought those traditions with him, and that some had become part of his Australian family’s Christmas celebrations.

After a meal like that, and our lengthy conversation, I hope Catherine would let me stay overnight. It would be wonderful to sleep in the deep beds with their fluffy eiderdowns and feather pillows! And in the morning it would be wonderful to awaken to the smell of the freshly-baked bread and pastries from the neighbouring bakery. Or perhaps I’d awaken to discover it was all just a wonderful dream.

This post is inspired by Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog and her Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month.

[1] Veh, G. Dorfprozelten Teil II. pp. 193-195.

Beyond the Internet Week 11: Church Archives can be goldmines

This is Week 11 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. This week’s topic is Church Archives.  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.

First up, let me say that I’ve never used church archives overseas so can’t speak about them there. Perhaps some overseas bloggers can comment on that? My comments will mainly refer to the benefits of using the Australian Church Archive relevant to your ancestor’s location. For me personally that means Queensland church archives, Catholic and Anglican.

Australian civil registration dates mostly from the early-mid 19th century, with the precise date being determined by each state. Cora Num’s website provides a useful guide to these dates. If this is the case why do we need to bother with church records?

I don’t know about you, but I have a number of early certificates with lots of blanks, usually in the fields that would be most useful eg place of birth. It was only by turning to parish registers held either in the parish or the local archives, that these blanks were (mostly) filled in. The information I obtained in this way, broke down what would otherwise have remained insoluble brick walls. For example, I could never have taken my George Kunkel back to his home village of Dorfprozelten without this parish information. On no other documentation, including several of his children’s birth certificates, does he give his specific village of origin. You can read more about this story here

Similarly the marriage of Hannah Kent and William Partridge obtained through the Anglican Archdiocesan Archives enabled me to clarify several points about their background.

Consecration of the family to the Sacred Heart: one of the children, Anne Kunkel was the granddaughter of George & Mary Kunkel and shared a lot of oral history with me.

In researching the Bavarians from Dorfprozelten I’ve used church archives to great advantage. It’s rare that the marriage entries in the church registers don’t add something to what I know about these immigrants. If you’re searching for multiple people it can also be cheaper to do it this way, even allowing for a daily fee or a donation. Compare the cost to buying another certificate: surely it’s worth knowing you’ve explored all the options. I always encourage people with apparent brick walls to try this strategy. Unfortunately until you’ve seen the benefits, not everyone is convinced that they could tumble those walls in this way.

As with any archive, the records held will vary depending on what has survived and what has been transferred: some records may be in a garage somewhere. Some of the things you might like to ask about, in addition to the standard baptisms and marriages, are communion records, confirmation records, and society records. The archive may also have old books or newsletters which will tell you more about your ancestors’ churches in their era: all grist for your family history.

I’ve recently been fortunate enough to be thought of when there was a clean-up of surplus holdings and in this way obtained a 93 year-old church-based certificate which had once been in my ancestor’s original property. My great-great grandmother’s youngest son had the house blessed when his family took ownership after she died in 1919. Without my link to the archive this would never have come to light.

Where to find the relevant church archives? Well I’d tend to look up the local phone book first (under the name of the religion) but really a better strategy in Australia would be to use this Australian Society of Archivists search page. Similar societies exist overseas.

Please don’t forget when visiting churches or archives, that they have other purposes than helping family historians and may be time-limited. While some have fixed daily fees for research, others don’t specifically ask for money. I recommend always offering a decent donation for the service they provide.