52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: Week 42 – Greatest Genie Achievement

It’s ages since I participated in the 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy by Amy Coffin and hosted by Geneabloggers as I’ve been rather preoccupied with my own 52 weeks Beyond the Internet series.

This morning I read that the topic for Week 42 of Abundant Genealogy is Biggest Genealogy Accomplishment. What do you feel is your biggest genealogy accomplishment? What were the steps you took to get there, and what was the end result?

 My first thoughts turned to an earlier Abundant Genealogy post from Week 7 when I wrote about discovering my Bavarian ancestor’s roots. It was only later that I thought, no that’s not my biggest genealogy accomplishment, even though it was certainly a critical point in my family research.

 MY BIGGEST GENEALOGY ACHIEVEMENT?

The thing I’m most proud of, genealogically, is writing the history of my Kunkel family in Queensland: a pioneering family who, although not important as individuals, participated in important events in our country’s and our state’s achievements and progress. It was the family’s everyday ordinariness that gave me the name of the book: Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel Family.

Thanks to the discovery I mentioned above, and fantastic oral history connections that were uncovered, I was able to include the background story of my Happ-Kunkel families in Bavaria and my O’Brien ancestors from Ballykelly near Broadford in Co Clare, and a little about the other emigrants from Dorfprozelten in Bavaria.

I knew literally nothing about this family when I started out other than the fact Kunkel was plainly a name of German origin, and that my grandfather had several siblings only one or two of whom he had anything to do with. I also knew that he had originally been a Catholic and one of the points of contention had been his marrying a Scots Presbyterian.

 GOING ABOUT IT

My research started in the pre-internet era so I accumulated every snippet of information I could find from as many sources as possible. One day I realised that if I didn’t write up this family story, it would become a major regret.

So what did I do? One of the strange things I did was to decide not to look at other family histories because I didn’t want to pinch their ideas. In retrospect this was fairly silly as there are so many strategies that can be used – you don’t have to recreate the wheel. Instead I launched in, started writing and kept at it, day after day, until the story came together. I was still working full-time so I wrote in the early mornings and late into the evenings.

Sir Cassmob is knighted for services to genealogy.

As I found gaps in the story I chased down more clues, did more research, and phoned more people. I’m proud of all the research, determination and sheer persistence that went into writing up this story, including challenging my reluctance to contact formerly unknown relatives.

Like the Oscars I have to acknowledge that many people helped me along the way with their stories, photos etc, but my greatest debt is to Mr Cassmob, who got a Family Knighthood for Services to Genealogy! I’ve said many times, either the book wouldn’t have been written or I’d have been much thinner.

Sir Cassmob receives his award.

When I first held my “baby” in my hands I was just so thrilled and besotted. Now of course I can see its flaws, mistakes, and things I could have done differently, but even so it was, and remains, an achievement to be proud of.

THE END RESULT

The book was launched by one of my distant O’Brien cousins, who always tells me “oh you’re wonderful” but what she really means is that I’m quite mad to keep doing all this family history. We launched the book in Toowoomba not far from where the family had lived for many years and as far as is known it was the first Kunkel family reunion in close to 100 years.

A mob of Kunkels chatting hammer and tongs.

It was a great day and there was a non-step level of chatter even among people who’d never met before. Many were astonished to discover they had Kunkel ancestry and everyone appreciated learning more of the story. The genealogy chart stretched along the walls and everybody had fun finding their name. Another great thing, retrospectively, is that quite a number of the third generation of Kunkel descendants were able to attend even though in their eighties or nineties Many have now left us so it was a special privilege to have them there. The reunion and all the pleasure people got from it and from the book was definitely the icing on the cake.

My beautiful Alexander Henderson Award was hand-delivered to the GSNT.

The glitter on the cake was winning two awards for the book. I was so proud to be joint-winner of Queensland Family History Society’s annual award with Joyce Philips’s book The Wrights of Tivoli.  And then to my utter astonishment I also won the Alexander Henderson Award from the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies.  I was over the moon with excitement and pride as you might imagine.

It’s very counter-cultural to blow one’s own trumpet, certainly in Australia where there’s an absolute dislike of people who puff themselves up, so it feels very brazen to be telling this story.

There’s something special about knowing you’re leaving a family history for posterity and that you’ve opened up your family’s story to many family members. It’s certainly one of my proudest moments.  So if you’ve been thinking of writing your own family history, give it a go and don’t let the fear stop you. I guarantee you will be so pleased to have provided this inheritance for generations to come.

Beyond the Internet: Week 41 Emigration Records

Beyond the Internet

This is Week 41 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. The topic this week is Emigration records: those documents created as our ancestors left their homeland en route to a new life.

Emigration and immigration records are like the double-faced Janus, superficially much the same, but revealing different aspects of our ancestors’ migration experience.

In my experience the emigration data is easier to locate once you’ve identified your ancestor in the immigration records. This makes it possible to then focus on the ship and its voyage as it departs the home country, or country of departure. More than most other topics I fear this one will involve cross-over to the online world, in no small part because most of us are limited in our opportunities to search in overseas archives.

The Janus statue in the Vatican Museum, Wikipedia Commons.

BOARD OF TRADE: BT27 Departure Lists from UK 1890 to 1960

From my own research one of the most valuable search tools was these records indexed on Findmypast UK and now available through their other subscriptions. Yes they are online, and yes they are indexes, but when you find a pertinent record what you’ll see is an actual image of the original document.  The benefits of having a subscription rather than pay-to-view pages, is that you can flip through the lists for that ship to see if there any other passengers who may be connected to your family.

Of course hindsight’s a wonderful thing, but wouldn’t it be amazing to have these records available prior to 1890?

PUBLIC RECORDS OFFICE OF VICTORIA

Within the Australian records systems, I’m very partial to the Public Records Office of Victoria’s Index to Outward Passengers to Interstate, UK, NZ and Foreign Ports 1852-1915. I’ve found this amazingly helpful for both the immigration voyages (where Port Philip was the first Australian landing point) but also for those moving back to the UK, on to New Zealand, or simply taking a business trip overseas. I routinely compare information from these to what I find via other sources.

IMMIGRATION DEPOSIT JOURNALS

 

These were mentioned last week in terms of who was sponsoring chain migration of friends or family. However there’s another aspect to their usefulness. You can search the IDJs (manually), to see who else left the same village at the time, who was their referee and perhaps some additional or different information on their personal details, which might enlighten (or confuse!) you. This was certainly the case with my study of the East Clare emigrants.

 

GERMAN EMIGRATION

The SS Adolph brought German emigrants from Hamburg to South Australia. Copyright expired State Library of South Australia Image B 63263.

As you know German migration is an area of keen interest to me, notwithstanding the fact that my George Kunkel’s departure and arrival remains elusive after all these years. At the time of our mid-19th ancestor’s migrations Germany was comprised of independent states or kingdoms so you are often focused on the independent state or kingdom eg Bavaria.

An absolutely fantastic resource for Australians with German ancestry is the indexes prepared from the Hamburg shipping lists by Rosemary and Eric Kopittke for the Queensland Family History Society. These indexes cover the period 1850 to 1879 and their primary benefits are twofold:  (1) you may obtain slightly different information on your ancestors but especially (2) the fact that the emigration records include all passengers and not just those assisted by the government of the day. The latter is particularly important for Germans who came as single people as the government sponsorship was directed at families while the single people often came on private contracts set up via emigration agents in Germany.  The other advantage is that the Kopittkes are experienced readers of the German script and so are able to pick up information that you and I might struggle with.

Some microfilms by can be ordered through Family Search and are listed here. Be aware, though, that they are written in German.

Whenever you are reading a particular microfilm, try not to focus only on your specific name of interest: have a look at the others on the ship’s manifest. For example, how did John and Frederika Eichorn feel as they left their sick child behind in Liverpool when they sailed on the Commodore Perry. Did the child come later? Did he/she live or die?

In theory the “German” emigrants were supposed to have a pass to leave the country/state and their departure advertised in the local newspapers.  How often this happened I don’t know, but with limited access to those newspapers from overseas it is a challenge to advance this line of research. If anyone knows of an online resource please do let me know.

Another superb resource for German migration information is the articles by Jenny Paterson published in the Burwood and District Family History Society magazine, Ances-Tree. If you have mid-19th century German ancestry in Australia, don’t omit to follow up these articles.

A helpful online link to migration from the various German states is here.

Oh, and if you find George Kunkel from Dorfprozelten, Bavaria, will you please let me know?

NEWSPAPERS

The Morning Post (London, England), Saturday, November 20, 1852; pg. 8; Issue 24622. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II.

If you know the name of the ship on which your family arrived I would definitely search the overseas newspapers eg The Times Digital Archive or other newspapers via your National Library of Australia card, or the British Newspaper Archive. Either of these will provide additional information on the voyage at its starting point: delays, weather, minor accidents etc.

Similarly the newspapers at the receiving end may also tell you about the departure. Of course you need to search in the timeframe when the ship was leaving and you’ll most likely find this information in the Shipping News section of the paper. Trove is always a goldmine.

I always find it intriguing to learn what cargo the ship brought to the new land as it provides interesting insights into the goods in demand.  I also love those newspaper advertisements where a business advertises their new stock that arrived on a particular ship. Passengers weren’t the only focus of a ship’s arrival.

In my immigration post I omitted to mention that newspapers sometimes advertised which passengers had arrived on a particular ship so that their family and friends could come and meet them. This seemed to be more prevalent once immigration reached the chain-migration, sponsorship stage.

BOOKS

You can see from the contents how useful this book by Robin Haines would be to your research.

At least some of the books I mentioned in my Immigration post will be helpful in terms of understanding the process behind your ancestor’s migration.  The Australian migration process was much more structured than that to north America, so that the often-bewildered emigrants were not as prone to the abuse or manipulation by crafty touts on the waterfront in England. Their luggage requirements were specified so they were not as vulnerable to weather changes, and every stage of an assisted passenger’s migration, including prior to commencement, was supervised.

FAMILY SEARCH

A learning tool on migration is the Family Search research wiki on migration and citizenship, well worth a look.

SUMMARY

There are many online links which you can find on this topic by doing a Google search, but hopefully this has provided some opportunities for off-line research.

You may not find as much about your ancestor’s emigration specifics as you do about them on arrival, especially if they came under a sponsorship scheme. However, learning more about the general aspects of their particular voyage, or the broader circumstances governing the voyages will add a broader historical context to your family story.

Family History Alphabet: W is for hoping

My theme for the Family History through the Alphabet is the Attributes we need as family historians: the skills, experience and talents we need to bring to our research. Only three more letters to go after this week’s W.

W is for WRITING:  This has to be one of our most important skills as we translate what we learn about our ancestors into a narrative form which reveals them as real human beings with multi-dimensional lives.  Blogging is a great way to become accustomed to writing these stories as we can do it in bite-sized chunks.  Those who don’t feel confident of their writing style (or grammar) can check out the training offerings at the local Writers’ Centre or an adult education class. We never stop learning and it’s partly about finding your own writing voice.

W is for WRITING SKILLS:  These are the skills we need to understand the cryptic writing of church clerks, immigration agents, clergymen and our own ancestors (assuming they knew how to write). Not to mention different writing styles like the old German scripts or secretary hand…definitely acquired skills… or skills to be acquired.

W is for WISDOM: It would be nice to think we can gain some wisdom and understanding about the complexities of life, so we don’t sit on judgement of our ancestors.

W is for WONDERING, always wondering: What happened to make them leave home, were they happy in their new country, did they miss their families, where did ancestor X come from, how on earth did they get to Australia (or US or Canada or..), were they glad to have made the decision to emigrate…question after question.

W is for WISHING (and HOPING): that we’ll find that missing ancestor or missing snippet of information. We never do seem to give up the wish that somewhere, some day that problem will be solved.

W is for WANDERING:  We wander through the collections in archives, haunt the library stacks and especially wander through every graveyard we can access looking yet again for that additional clue.

W is for WANTING our ancestors to have been as happy as possible in their lives. One of my hopes is that my 2xgreat grandfather didn’t regret his emigration when he died in the midst of the manic anti-German propaganda of World War I. I don’t know why it matters to me that he shouldn’t feel it was all a waste, but it does.

W is for WONDER: You know that sense of joy and astonishment when you learn something new about your ancestral family, their challenges and successes or actually seeing their handwriting for the first time. The sheer amazement that records exist centuries later.

W is for WEIRD: Have you ever noticed that your non-genie friends look at you like you’re ever so slightly weird about this obsession?

W is for WORTHWHILE: We firmly believe that this quest we’re on is worthwhile –how else to explain our determination to keep going. It means something in the longer term of lives to have contributed our own story and shed some light on those who’ve gone before.

What other W attributes, skills and knowledge do you think should be added?

Finding Irish Ancestors: Part 2 – The Old Country

May you have blessings in abundance with your Irish research.

In Part 1, we had a brief excursion through the possible records in the new land, to learn where you might learn more about your ancestors’ Irish origins. With a bit of luck you’ve gained some clues on their home place from these resources so now you can turn your sights on the old country’s records.

Hopefully you’ve got more than just the county name or you will have a close-to-insoluble problem.  Remember that just because “Name eg Gunning” is the only instance you can find in the records, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right one! It may mean not all the records survived, or that they haven’t been digitised or indexed.

So where to look in Ireland?

Let’s assume you’ve got the parish, village or townland because without them you’re in serious research trouble.

Parish Registers

Image reproduced with permission of Furman University Special Collections and Archives, email 28 Sept 12. 

If you have the parish name, the first place I’d look is at the Family Search Catalogue and search by place (try parish and/or town).  You won’t always find that the LDS church holds a microfilmed copy of the registers, but you may get lucky as I did. If so you can order the microfilm and have it delivered to a local family history centre or your local genealogical society (assuming they are authorised lenders). You can check available locations here.

Be aware that church registers for Catholic parishes rarely go back to the very early 19th century due to storage conditions and restrictions on the practice of the religion.  You may find the early years of the registers very difficult to read but it’s worth persevering.

Online indexes to registers provide an alternative search option:

Roots Ireland

Irish Genealogy

The former is a pay-to-view site and can be very helpful, if you’re lucky. It currently covers most of the counties except Clare, Carlow, Kerry, Dublin city and Cork (RC).

Irish Genealogy is a free-to-use site and covers the counties omitted from Roots Ireland, with the exception of Clare which as yet is covered by neither, frustrating given that Clare is one of the biggest exporters of migrants. However you can always refer to the Clare Roots Society to see what they recommend (check under the Activites tab).

For some time this gravestone in the Tuamgraney churchyard seemed a good fit for my O’Briens, but this lot came from Caherhurley. Erected by Matthew O’Brien from Perth, WA.

I’ve had good fortune with both these sites, especially with the Dublin records. Conversely there are births covered in Co Wexford and Wicklow, for example, which aren’t turning up in Roots Ireland as they should. As always, be aware that a negative result doesn’t necessarily mean what you’re looking for isn’t in the registers. This may be due to an indexing error, the church registers which have been indexed, or commencement dates of the register.  You can always search each site to ascertain which parishes have been indexed.

Where possible it’s always best to check yourself by borrowing the microfilm.

Family Search

You can specify your search within the United Kingdom and Ireland then select one of the Irish options. This can be very helpful for research once you move into the period of civil registration.

If you find one that you’re confident belongs to your family, you can then order the certificate, or a copy, from the General Register Office.

Griffith’s Primary Valuation

My 2x great aunt lived in this house near Lough Doon after her marriage in the C19th.

There isn’t space to go into this in detail here (keep an eye out for it in a future Beyond the Internet topic in a few weeks).

Suffice to say that this land valuation for the purposes of taxation, is the major resource for Irish research and is a substitute for the censuses which were destroyed either officially or in the Troubles.

It’s important to also look at the accompanying maps as well. In some cases there are accompanying house books, field books and name books. Not all survive but you should check out what the status is for your family.

Do you think you understand the GV and what it was all about? There are so many nuances and this article is invaluable in broadening our understanding. The book is even better but if you can’t buy the book or borrow it on inter-library loan, then the article is an excellent synopsis.

I’m restricted in what images I can show you due to copyright and reproduction rights, but please, don’t just settle for searching the indexes. Seeing the original documents give you a much better feel for life “on the ground”, and lets you learn more about your ancestors’ neighbours..

The revision lists which document the changes in land ownership from the time of the original valuation to the present day are at least as important.

Tithe Applotments

These date to the 1820s-1840s and were payable towards the expenses of the Church of Ireland clergy, irrespective of the person’s religion. This is a more restrictive source than the Griffith Valuations but can be useful.

A more indirect way to locate the prevalence of your family is to search for the stats on the name across the counties.

Census records

In the majority of cases, the census records prior to 1901 have been destroyed officially or through the Troubles. However there are a few remnants for some lucky areas. There are also some extracts held for people who claimed the pension and had to use census extracts to prove their age. Why oh why are my relatives never on these lists?

Complex statistics are available for all the years however and these can be invaluable to get a sense of the place where your ancestors lived and the changes over the decades especially regarding the impact of the Famine.

The 1901 and 1911 census returns are the first surviving records for the Republic.  Fortunately many people seemed to have great longevity so you may be lucky and find links to the members of your family who remained in Ireland.

It’s important not to just look at your specific ancestor in their townland. Do have a look at their neighbours as well -this is the context within which your family lived, and these are the people who formed their daily networks. Indexes are all well and good, but they do tempt you to only focus on your own family when much more can be learned by widening the lens.

Talk to the locals

Would a passer-by realise this was the remaining wall of my ancestor’s house, without the help of the inheritor.

Yes this is most applicable when you are visiting Ireland and when you know the place your ancestor came from.  On my first trip to Broadford, Co Clare, on enquiring about O’Briens I was invited to visit an elderly couple who had no memory of my own family’s migration to Australia. Quite genuinely they told me no one from the village went to Australia but in retrospect and knowing how pivotal the parish priest of Broadford was in encouraging Australian migration, this is quite ironic.  They were delightful and happy to help but sadly couldn’t. In those early days too I fear I may not have been as strategic in my approach, and possibly too focused on what I wanted to know.

A second trip was a different story when the acting parish priest, a former missionary with whom we bonded after Mass, promptly drove us to the home of someone with a completely different name from O’Brien and announced the presence of their relations from Australia. It’s hard to know how was more astonished as we compared what we knew about Mary and Bridget O’Brien’s lives in Australia.  Paddy was enormously helpful to me and showed me the original land and where the house was. I am so indebted to him for this. (You can see the O’Brien land on the header images -it’s the view with the red-roofed shed).

A sign on the Famine graveyard at Tuamgraney, Co Clare.

It was only later that I learned about the Valuation revision books and now the name of the final owner made sense!

Workhouse Registers

If you know you families were extremely poor especially around the Famine times, it might be worth your while to check the workhouse registers, some of which are now available online. The gateway to these is through this site. The most important thing to remember is to check which Poor Law Union your parish belonged to eg Kilseily parish in County Clare is actually in the Limerick Poor Law Union.

Memorial Inscriptions

The gravestone of Thomas & Anne Gunning in Kilbane Cemetery, Co Clare. Erected by their son Fr JJ Gunning of Australia.

The more distant the person’s death, the less likely you’ll find a gravestone & MI, in my opinion. This isn’t always the case so it’s worth a look but don’t get your hopes up unless your family had money or a position of influence.

Estate Records

As many of our Irish ancestors were tenants on estates, one pivotal place to look is for the records of the estates. Where they exist they can tell you all sorts of information ranging from how they paid their rents, which adult children remained at home, how overdue their rentals were, and so on. Some remain in private hands, others are found in the National Library. There’s no one-size-fits-all.

Encumbered Estates Records

These have been indexed by Findmypast Ireland and you may have some joy in finding your tenant farmers mentioned among these records.

Summary

This is a quick synopsis of some of the key resources that might help you find your Irish ancestral families. You might get lucky and find hits in all of them or alternatively, none of them. You may have to explore other records, some of which can only be searched in Ireland.

The critical fact is knowing at least which parish your family belonged to. Without that you are stumbling in the dark, and even with it, you may hit obstacle after obstacle and be left scratching your head.

It’s clear that Irish research can be challenging but it’s by no means as impossible as is often perceived.  Like a lot of family history it’s a case of persistence and patience….try, try again!

And don’t be lulled into thinking I’ve solved all my own Irish family mysteries… I haven’t  or I’d know the origins of James Sherry (northern Ireland?); Martin Furlong (Wexford not Tullamore?); what happened to Denis Gavin’s mother in Kildare or his wife, Ellen Murphy’s mother in Wicklow. It’s always a work in progress with at least as many questions as answers.

I’d be more than happy if my readers pitched in with their experiences in Irish research: successes and “failures”. Over to you.

Finding Irish ancestors: Part 1 – In the new land

Oh for a leprechaun to tell you where your Irish ancestors originated.

Now anyone who’s researched Irish ancestors will know just how unpredictable this process can be. So much depends on serendipity in the form of timelines –when your family was born or died, where they lived, how much money they had (or more likely didn’t have), when they emigrated, etc. You then need to mix serendipity with a large dollop of lateral thinking to see how many side paths you can travel to tease out the information.

So this is my (incomplete) guide to starting on your Irish family. I’m more than happy for other Irish researchers to add their “two bob’s worth” as each path provides different challenges opportunities.

Locating their place

Most importantly, you can’t just go find your Irish rellies without having a clue where they lived in Ireland, and unfortunately the name of the county is unlikely to serve either, unless you’ve got an exceptionally rare name. What you ideally need is the parish, village or townland. You also need to be able to translate what you see on paper to an Irish accent, as so many of our ancestors from the mid-19th century were illiterate and relied on an independent person to spell what they were telling them. For much the same reason you can’t assume that the spelling will always be consistent. It does tend to get a bit “chicken-and-egg” but you need that place.

So where to start?

IN THE NEW LAND

Certificates

Extract of death certificate for Ellen Gavin, my 2xgreat grandmother. Colony of Qld certificate 90520 purchased 14 November 1986.

One of the pluses, if your ancestors made the long voyage to Australia, is that you’ll likely be blessed with far more information than if they’d married or died anywhere else. How much is recorded depends on the knowledge of their immediate family but you may find: their place of birth, parents’ names, how long they’ve been in the colony/state, where they died, where they were buried, and a full list of children (useful to check out naming patterns).

So you’re looking for marriage certificates (for parent’s names and the person’s place of birth) and death certificates (ditto). If all they provide is “County XXXX” then you may have to search more widely:  try their children’s birth certificates as they too should tell you the parents’ place of marriage and age at marriage, and place of birth.

Of course all these strategies may not pay off if your ancestor constantly states only the county, but you’ll have a much better sense of whether they’re a reliable “witness” as you’ll be able to test for consistency of their other data. Many of mine were extremely consistent, but another of my Irish ancestors was all over the place when it came to ages but more informative about places.

Still stymied? If you know they had siblings who also emigrated, you may want to purchase the sibling’s certificate(s) as these may give you more information. This was the case with my Mary O’Brien Kunkel –it was her sister’s death certificate from New South Wales (over 1200kms away) that gave me their place of origin as Broadford, Co Clare.

Church registers

In my experience church records such as baptisms or marriages may give you an entirely different set of information from the official records (or at least more detail). This may be the very clue you’re looking for. Certainly in the case of my George Kunkel, it was the only place he mentioned his home town rather than just “Bavaria”. Why the Irish priest didn’t complete anything at all for George’s wife, Mary O’Brien, is anybody’s guess.

Johannah Wall from Rortlaw, Co Waterford, buried Roma, Qld

Don’t forget that if you are writing to the relevant church or archive, to send a donation along with your request.

Gravestones

If all else fails, or do it anyway, it is worth your while to look at your ancestor’s gravestones. I’ve seen occasions where the memorial inscriptions are the only place that a specific place of birth is mentioned. You can see some examples here.

Immigration records

Depending on where you live and when your ancestors migrated, you may find that your ancestor specifically mentioned their home parish, townland or village when interviewed on arrival. Alternatively they may say whether their parents are alive and where they are living. Any of these clues will help in your quest.  Once again you need to remember that the spelling may be the recorder’s interpretation of what was said. You might need to practice your Irish accents <grin>.

Oral History

Don’t discount the enormous potential value of oral history. With luck you may learn your ancestor’s home place but you may also learn the names of siblings in the new land and the old. My ancestors’ granddaughter was invaluable in terms of providing details of siblings’ married names (invaluable when you’re looking for O’Briens!). She also remembered that the place Mary O’Brien came from was Longford or something like that. Mary’s sister’s death certificate gave me their actual place –Broadford: hence the significance of checking out sibling’s certificates and oral history.

This wide variety of information will help you triangulate your ancestral details in the old country. Even having a batch of siblings’ names, will be of help to you in confirming the ancestral family once you’re back in Ireland.

Hospital and Benevolent Asylum registers

Sadly none of my ancestors’ cards name their place of birth so I thought I’d share this family one.

This may seem like a strange source, but if you think your ancestor had been in hospital or was in care at the end of their lives, this provides yet another possibility for learning their place of origin.

Memoriam Cards

Firstly thanks to Chris whose comment on the Clare facebook page reminded me of these.  Do you remember seeing those little black-edged cards with a holy picture and prayer on them? If so check them carefully as you never know what clues they offer including that those named may be relatives.

Other researchers should weigh in with their thoughts of what I’ve missed and/or what’s been successful for them. All comments are much appreciated.

Part 2 coming soon: Finding your Irish family in Ireland

Boys of the Old Brigade Feb 1918: help requested

We all know the joys and benefits of blogging but just how effective it can be is brought home from time to time. Among my comments recently was this one from Claire, representing the Blacktown (Sydney) Computer Pals, a group of people who are learning IT skills by doing a project which their tutor Mick has said has taken on a life of its own.  I’ll let Claire explain it herself:

We are a group of seniors in a Computer Pals Club. We have a small notebook from WW1 with 24 signatures of returned servicemen who called themselves “Boys of the Old Brigade” 2 of whom are:- Kenneth Norman Kunkel and Mathew David John Kunkel. We have researched some of their military records from the National Archives of Australia & The War Museum & have found that Mathew came from Springbluff & Kenneth came from Toowoomba. We are trying to make up a booklet reuniting these men. Ideally we would like photos & details of the battles they were involved in. Your help in this project would be very much appreciated.

Australian Mounted Division Train resupplying water. Less than a month after this notebook entry Ken Kunkel injured his back in a fall from just such a water cart. AWM Image B02703 out of copyright.

It further transpires that the notebook came to Mick, the tutor, whose great uncle, Alan Wilson, owned the book. Luckily Mick was able to save it from being dumped after Alan died. It also contains pressed flowers.

I offered the Computer Pals group the chance to spread the word about their project via my blog so I’m going to list the names in this WWI notebook (which included pressed flowers) here and hopefully it may flush out some interested family members. If any of these names are your relatives, or you know who they are, could you please leave a comment, and with your permission I’ll pass on your details.

Here are the names of the men who signed the notebook with links to the ADFA AIF site:

Boys of the Old Brigade 22/2/18

K Lancaster, Kyabram Vic (initial doesn’t look like JW?) (Possibly John Watsford Lancaster, Kyabram, Vic per Embarkation roll)

H S Cooper, Newbridge, NSW W Line (Hiram Sydney Cooper) (born Jericho, went to Jericho?)

R Hamilton, Southbrook, Qld. (Robert Hamilton)

R J Eden, Heatherton , Vic  (Robert James Eden)

W A S Lucas, Coolamon, NSW (Stanley Lucas aka William Albert Stanley Lucas per service record)

G A Ellis, North Qld. (George Arthur Ellis, Charters Towers, Qld)

Frank Murray, Manildra, NSW

C W Saunders, 28 Wells St, Newtown, NSW (Claude William Saunders, aka Frederick Richard Saunders OR Claude William Saunders –both NOK Wells St, Newtown)

J W Muller, Kent St, Maryborough, Qld (maybe John William Muller,  mother in Nanago)

M H Comerford, Wondai, Qld (Martin Henry Comerford)

F N Smith, Forest Hill, Qld (Frank Norman Smith)

N T Wright, Goondiwindi, Qld (Neville Thomas Wright)

E A Balderson, Maryvale via Warwick, Qld. (Ernest Alfred Balderson)

W J Matchett,  Moree, NSW (William James Matchett, Boomi, near Moree, NSW)

F A Tuddenham, Oaklands, NSW (Frederick Ashton Tuddenham)

F C Rudd, Campsie, NSW (Frank Campbell Rudd, Campsie, NSW)

Sgt Bob Phillips, Moyston, Vic (Sgt then CSM Robert Phillips, Moyston, Vic)

A Osborne, Cpl, 36 Murchison St, Carlton (Arlington Osborne, born UK)

M D J Kunkel, Gowrie St, Toowoomba, Qld (Matthew David John Kunkel)

T L Clarke, Bulli, NSW (Thomas Leslie Clarke)

Ken N Kunkel, Mort St, Toowoomba, Qld (Kenneth Norman Kunkel)

M L Dyer, Crown St, Wollongong. (Martin Luther Dyer)

E J White, 603 High St, Armadale, Vic (Edward James White)

Additions:

James Alexander Wilson, Calcairn, NSW (?)

Any thoughts, please comment. Here are a few from me.

The Lancaster entry doesn’t seem quite right to me, and he is also different from the others because he’s a sapper. I’ve tried comparing some of the signatures in the book as compared to their attestation papers at NAA and there are some differences…not surprising I suppose.

An Australian Light Horse team raises the dust on a road in the Jordan Valley near Jericho. AWM Image B00230, copyright expired.

I’m trying not to do the BCP research for them, as that’s part of their learning strategy. However my observations are that the vast majority of these men seem to have been appointed as Drivers with the ANZAC Mounted Division Train in late 1917. This makes it likely that they were involved with the offensives at Gaza and also Jericho. The Unit’s War Diary for February 1918 is here, and the story of the advance on Jericho is here and an ADFA summary is here. The unit’s engagement at Jericho apparently ended on 21 February 1918, and the date for the signatures is 22 February 1918, which makes me think it was some form of team bonding/memorabilia after the battle.

There are diaries by Sapper Edward Bradshaw and Trooper Jeffery Thomas Holmes from the Australian Mounted Division which cover this period and reveal details of their daily lives and work. Both diaries are held by the Australian War Memorial…next time in Canberra.

Australian Mounted Divisional train, using horse and waggon transport on the Jerusalem Road in Palestine. AWM Image J00948, copyright expired.

Apart from the fact that this is a great project, it’s also exciting for me at a personal level. Matthew David John (John) Kunkel and his younger brother Kenneth Norman (Ken) Kunkel, were my grandfather’s younger brothers. Both went to war together, along with a couple of Gavin cousins, and both returned safely together. I knew they’d been in the Middle East, and yet somehow it seems amazing that they had been to the old biblical scenes. Were they impressed and intrigued I wonder (their parents and grandparents were all devout Catholics) or were they simply caught up in the war itself.

So, over to all of you. Let’s see how blogging can help this group make connections with the men’s families as they have with the Kunkel men.

Beyond the Internet: Week 40 is a long voyage of immigration

Beyond the Internet

This is Week 40 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. The topic this week is Immigration records.

This post has become almost as long as the sailing voyage to Australia, but it’s such an important part of our research that I hope you’ll persevere to the end.

Imagine you’ve bought your suit of clothes, your sea trunk is packed, you’ve waved goodbye amid the tears. All that remains is the long weeks on board that sailing ship. Courage, determination and perseverance are required.

The United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and South America all fit the bill for being migrant-attracting places: somewhere which offers, or is perceived to offer, better or different life opportunities.  Ireland shouldn’t be ignored either, as people came and went “across the pond” to north America in particular.

It’s easy to see that at some point you’re likely to come across an ancestor who is not native to the place where they lived for many years. Many of us Down Under could be called ethnic Heinz 57s as a mix of all sorts of nationalities have formed our gene pool and family tree. I’m quite proud of being a genuine Aussie mongrel with Irish, Scottish, English, German, and maybe some Welsh, ancestry.

IMMIGRATION

The Renfrewshire, State Library of Queensland, copyright expired. oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:49708

Once our path leads us back to our “original” ancestor in this country (whichever one that is), it’s safe to assume that most of us will try to pin down how they arrived here, whether they were sponsored by government or friends. The increasing digitisation and indexing of records is certainly making it easier to search for our ancestors’ immigration records.  But the risk is that it stops with the name of the ship. So what next?

What you’ll find will very much depend on the country of immigration and the time-frame of the migration. There’s not a lot you can do about this, you have to work within the parameters you’ve got.  I’m going to focus on Australia simply because that’s what I know most about, and in particular the eastern states.

Most of the records you’ll be looking at will be those for assisted passengers, those who arrived thanks to government sponsored schemes to boost our population.  Some schemes required the immigrant to work under contract for a fixed period. Unassisted passengers are much less likely to appear though there are some records. At some periods immigrants were entitled to a land grant in exchange for completing various conditions, so you should also follow that up.

In summary, once you’ve discovered your ancestor’s immigration, you need to do the background reading to learn more about the conditions of their migration.

The letter of thanks from the passengers of the Fortune to Captain Sanford. Interestingly the Gavins are not on this list, though my other ancestor, William Partridge is.

SHIPPING REGISTERS

For early Australia immigrants many of us will start with the State Records of NSW (SRNSW) immigration indexes as in the early days of Victoria and Queensland they were part of New South Wales. SRNSW has a good summary here. They have also digitised the indexes to the Assisted Immigrants Passenger Lists  together with images of the registers. This is a great innovation and definitely to be appreciated BUT if you stop there you are missing out on the chance to learn more about your ancestors.

Board’s Immigrant Lists

Not all of these wonderful documents survive but the clue will appear in old hard-copy references where two microfilm numbers are listed. This page gives you some indication but be aware that not every ship is listed: you will need to refer to the microfilm for that timeframe.  If your ancestor’s ship appears in the list, this should be a priority for your research. Why? Let me show you an example for one of my ancestral voyages, the Fortune arriving Moreton Bay in December 1855:

Assisted Immigant Lists (Reel 2137, [4/4792])

GAVIN, Denis 23, ag lab, born Kildare, RC, neither reads nor writes.

GAVIN Eleanor, 24, wife, born Wicklow, RC, can read

GAVIN Mary, 2, daughter, born Dublin, RC, neither. (It would be easy to miss Mary as she is over the page from her parents)

 Board Immigrant’s Lists (reel 2469 ARK)

GAVIN, Denis, 23, farm labourer, Kildare, Parents Denis and Mary, mother living in Kildare (ie father dead), RC, neither reads nor writes. Complains that the captain accused him being the doctor’s spy, substantiated..

GAVIN, Eleanor, 24, Wicklow, James and Annie Murphy, mother living in Wicklow, RC, reads

GAVIN, Mary, 2, born Dublin, neither.

Now I ask you which of these would you like to have for your family research? If you haven’t already done so, head out to look at the old-fashioned microfilm in a reference library or archive near you.

Languishing in the doldrums and making little headway.

The Germans on Bounty Ships

The sailing ship Peru on which some of the Dorfprozelten emigrants arrived. Image from the National Maritime Museum, no known copyright issues.

References to the Germans on the Bounty Lists are, if anything, more helpful as they were poorly treated in terms of food and cleanliness in comparison with the British ships which had learned from the years of convict transportation, so there are often complaints about the voyage, as well as a higher mortality rate.

Another trap lies with the German immigrants’ references to parents’s names where the parents are reported in the German manner where the father’s name is often not stated because the woman is referred to by her maiden name. This leads to potential confusion in the migration records. For example Juliana Diflo’s parents are reported as “John and Cath Kirchgessner, both dead”. In fact her maiden name was Löhr and her parents were Johann Löhr and Catherine Kirchgessner. A researcher trying to find her baptism would be looking for Kirchgessner when they should be searching for Löhr, which was only discovered by a careful analysis of the Dorfprozelten local history. Similarly, the wife of John Hock was called Rosina on arrival but later Clara. The immigration lists record her parents as ” Nicholas and Margaretha Kuhn”. In fact her parents were Nicholas Günzer and Maria Anna Kuhn.

This problem is by no means universal in the Australian records but it is worth bearing in mind,

After weeks at sea, you’re wondering if this migration lark really was a good idea.

Related names

When looking for your ancestor don’t just give up when you’ve found them in that shipping list. Do check for others with the same name and see whether the parents’ names reveal a relationship. As young men and women were listed separately from their families, because they were assisted passengers in their own right, you may find the family in quite different parts of the shipping list. For example, my Kent family are split into four on the one manifest: parents Richard and Mary, and their son Richard, his wife and infant daughters, are among the family groupings, while daughter Hannah and sons Thomas and John appear under the “Single Females/Single Males” categories.

With Irish migration it’s quite common to find single women seemingly travelling alone, but look closely and you’ll find others from the same village or townland or perhaps even cousins.

Employment and dispersal on arrival

Emigrants landing at Queens Wharf Melbourne. Image IAN25/08/63/1, State Library of Victoria, copyright expired.

Are you aware that these records might exist for your ancestor’s ship? I certainly wasn’t for a long time until I was clued up by one of Richard Reid’s articles[i]  (see the Visible Immigrants series on the reading list below). If they exist, you really want to pursue the Surgeon’s Disposal Lists which document where passengers went on leaving the ship, either to an employer or relative; the Memorandum of Agreement they may have signed with their employer; or Matron’s Diaries, which can be invaluable for learning more about the voyage and your ancestor’s experience on board ship.  For example, did they take the opportunity to attend school classes. Or were they occupied in some form of needlework: just think of those women on the Rajah stitching up the quilt.  I found all of these particularly helpful in my broader East Clare Irish research, especially for the 1860s.

Emigrant prior to and after departure. State Library of Victoria Image H40398, out of copyright.

You may wish to look at this SRNSW link to see if any of these documents exist as they are by no means universally available. The documents are only available at Kingswood and if you have difficulty I suggest you talk to an archivist while you’re there.

Interstate Comparisons

As many ships came via Port Philip in the early days I’ll often cross-refer to the Victorian PROV indexes for shipping. If you do this you need to remember that a person who is an assisted immigrant to NSW will be unassisted to Victoria, as the colony of Victoria is not paying for their voyage costs.  I’ve found the comparison on information to be invaluable on many occasions as it turns up additional (sometimes contradictory) information.

You’ve just about reached the trade winds so your voyage is speeding up.

 SPONSORED MIGRATION

 As is more common these days, the population reached a point where it became possible to devolve responsibility to family and friends to encourage chain migration.  This opens up further points for exploration.

My McCorkindale great-grandmother and her son appear in the Queensland indexes but to this day, her adult daughters do not.  I came across their record cards entirely felicitously one day back when the archives were at Boggo Rd: the card drawer was just sitting on the bench and I decided to have a snoop, and there they were! Perhaps the cards had been used by Judy Webster or Shauna Hicks, both long-time Queensland researchers.

New from Australia, George Baxter. Image from State Library of Victoria Image H97.42/2, out of copyright.

 Immigration Deposit Journals

One of the goldmine resources for NSW is the Immigration Deposit Journals which list deposits paid for family members or friends to emigrate.  These have been indexed by Pastkeys (check out their other indexes) and are now available via Ancestry.

Sure this makes for easy searching, so why bother to look at the original microfilms?  In my own case, without winding my way through the film I would never have noticed just how many deposits mentioned the parish priest of Broadford, Co Clare or how many times the one depositor is mentioned, which led me down another research path. This revealed what was likely a scam to ensure as many willing emigrants could emigrate as wished to and was particularly prevalent during the years of the American Civil War.  If I had simply been able to find my Mary O’Brien without trawling all the O’Briens it’s likely I’d never have found this out. Mind you, as I later learned from his thesis, Richard Reid had trodden this path before me, but even so it was a fascinating discovery.

You can see land for the first time in weeks, you have butterflies in your tummy as you get ready for the voyage to end.

OTHER

Here are some quick final suggestions.

For the wide variety of immigration research possibilities, you might find this page of links on Cora Web’s site to be invaluable.

Migration Museums such as those in Melbourne or Adelaide can provide wonderful insights to the migration experience (for example on a recent trip we saw a photograph of the immigration depot where my husband’s ancestor died.

Newspapers: for stories on the voyage, which ships they “spoke”[ii] and the weather conditions. Have a look at what cargo they carried, and see whether the captain or surgeon was sent a letter of commendation by the passengers.

Diaries: check whether there any diaries from the voyage in your local reference library.

Commemoration Walls such as the Welcome Wall on Sydney Harbour.

Books: see my “best of” list at the very end of this post (cheeky to add my own articles I know).

SUMMARY

 You really do have to squeeze every bit of juice you can out of all these records to build up a rounded story of your ancestor’s migration.  In-depth migration research can be hard work but it will richly repay you with stories for your family history.

In case you’re feeling frustrated in your migration search, you’re not alone. Don’t forget that it’s not impossible that they came in lieu of someone else and travelled under a different name.

After 26 years I still haven’t been able to find the migration records, of any sort, for my George Kunkel and his future wife Mary O’Brien or her sister Bridget and husband John Widdup. But I believe that it’s been the pursuit of their story that’s taken me well beyond my own ancestral migration stories, so ultimately it’s been a great learning opportunity.

The voyage is over, now your new life begins.

Reading List

Farewell my children: Irish Assisted Emigration to Australia 1848-1870. Reid, R.  Anchor Books, NSW 2011. (My all-time favourite and yet I omitted it…thanks Kerryn for the reminder)

Ances-Tree: the journal of the Burwood and District Family History society. Articles by Jenny Paterson on the German emigrant ships: excellently researched, informative, fantastic! You must read these if you have mid-19th century German immigrants to Australia.

Emigration and the Labouring Poor: Australian Recruitment in Britain and Ireland 1831-1860. Haines, R, St Martins Press, Basingstoke, 1997.

From East Clare to Eastern Australia: the Parish Priest, the Middle Men and the Emigrants. Cass, P. Published in the Proceedings of the 11th Australasian Congress on Genealogy & Heraldry, Darwin, 2006.

Farewell My Children: Irish Assisted Emigration to Australia 1848-1870, Reid, R. Anchor Books, Sydney 2011.

 Life and Death in the Age of Sail: the passage to Australia. Haines, R, UNSW Press, Sydney, 2003.

Oceans of Consolation. Fitzpatrick, D. Melbourne University Press, Melbourne 1995.

They weren’t all Lutherans – A case study of a small group of German Catholics who emigrated to Australia from Dorfprozelten, Bavaria. Cass, P. Published in the Proceedings of the 11th Australasian Congress on Genealogy & Heraldry, Darwin, 2006

Visible Immigrants: Neglected Sources for the History of Australian Immigration. Richards  E, Reid R, Fitzpatrick D. ANU, Canberra 1989.

Visible Immigrants 2: Poor Australian Immigrants in the 19th Century.  Richards, E (ed). ANU, Canberra, 1991.

Visible Immigrants 4: Visible Women, Female Immigrants in Colonial Australia. Richards E (ed), ANU, Canberra,  1995.


[i] Visible Immigrants: Neglected Sources for the History of Australian Immigration. Richards  E, Reid R, Fitzpatrick D. ANU, Canberra 1989, pages 36-38.

[ii]  Speak: to communicate with a vessel in sight. http://www.usmm.org/terms.html#anchor255472; to communicate with (a passingvessel) at sea, as by voice or signal: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/spoke

Family History Alphabet: V is for Various

My theme for the Family History through the Alphabet is the Attributes we need as family historians: the skills, experience and talents we need to bring to our research. This week is the letter “V”.

V is for VALIANT: perhaps this is a stretch but we certainly need some level of courage to keep plugging away at our research despite “brick walls”, obstacles, confusion and all the new skills we need to learn. We also need to be courageous enough to approach unknown relatives to learn more stories or appeal for photographs.

Do you feel a bit vexed by your family history occasionally?

V is for VEXED: This is how we feel when one approach after another fails to resolve our research mystery, or when an ancestor gave a glib answer like “County Clare” or “Bavaria” or when technology conspires to challenge us, or……

V is for VACILLATE: Do you do this too when you’re not sure which family to research or which story to take up next? It’s all too easy to be overwhelmed by the opportunities available to us for researching. Not to mention the potential distractions of social media (oh yes, and chores) rather than tackle the research problem on our check-list.

V is for VAGRANT: Let’s hope that this obsession hobby of ours doesn’t send us broke and we don’t end up in the poorhouse like some of our distant ancestors.

V is for VACANT: You know, the look when you can’t work out what they were doing or how to make sense of what you’ve just discovered.

V is for VAGUE: That’s when one of our real-life family thinks we should engage with daily life while our minds are fully absorbed centuries ago with long-departed family.

V is for VOLUNTEERING: There are many ways to volunteer your knowledge and time to help with family history. You might provide advice to a genimate about a particular topic. You might transcribe records from microfilm, for Family Search etc etc. You could edit some articles in Trove. Or you might be involved with your local family history society, or give talks or, or, or…..

You’ll be victorious if you persist valiantly despite the vagaries of research.

V is for VICTORIOUS: This is what we’ll be if we bravely persist with our family history research despite all the stumbling blocks. I don’t promise you won’t gain two questions for every answer you find, but isn’t that part of why we love it all?

And as for the Family History Through The Alphabet followers and bloggers, we’ll soon be victorious when we reach the letter Z…only a few weeks to go now.

C19th Dorfprozelten emigrants in “America” Part 2

Now that I’ve set the scene for this Bavarian family’s lives, and deaths, we can turn to their American experiences.  No doubt there’ll be more to come but I wanted to publish yesterday’s discoveries while it’s fresh in my mind.

Translation: If you would like to read this post in a different language you can click here.

C19th Dorfprozelten Emigrants in “America”

Instead of single-mindedly pursuing Philip/Joseph/Philip Joseph Kunkel, this time I turned my searches to George Mathias Kunkel’s half-brother’s children, the Ulrichs. I’d known that two of them emigrated to the States thanks to the local history of Dorfprozelten[i]. My theory was that perhaps if I found them I’d also find a link to Philip Kunkel (good luck with that!).

Bertha Ulrich and husband William Kuhn

There is still a Kuhn Metzgerei (Butcher’s) opposite the site of the Happ’s inn, Das Goldene Fass, but now a bank.

I started out tracing Bertha Ulrich and her husband William Kuhn and found them easily enough in the US census records living in Syracuse, New York.

Now I’d heard of Syracuse but honestly didn’t know where it was precisely so of course there was a quick trip to Google maps (next stop Google Earth). I hadn’t realised how close it was to the Great Lakes and Canada. The local history told me they’d had six sons which was confirmed by progressive censuses, but so far I’ve found no mention of their daughter who died aged six, presumably in an inter-censal period. The photo of Wilhelm/William Kuhn in the US gives every appearance of a successful man. This is borne out by the census details.

William’s father was a butcher (Metzger) in Dorfprozelten and their house was almost directly across from the Happ’s inn[ii]. These days there’s still a sign for a Kuhn butcher’s shop but the inn no longer exists, replaced by a bank in the 1960s or 1970s. William Kuhn followed his father’s occupation working as a butcher in the market.

Doing a Google search I came across links to newspaper articles on the Newspaper Archive site. This was the second time in a couple of days that I’d wound up here so decided I’d best follow up the nudge, and signed up. It has proven to be very helpful for some notices and there are no doubt more tucked away when I persist with trickier searches. The site’s terms and conditions preclude you doing almost anything with the information apart from reading the articles in a dark room on your lonesome, so I can’t (on my current reading) add as much as I’d like here, though I’ve emailed for clarification.

When you come across sites like this you realise just how great, and unique, Australia’s Trove site is. Not only is it free, accurate, highlights the precise wording and is easy to use, you aren’t as limited by terms and conditions. However it is curmudgeonly to complain when you have no opportunity to read newspapers from far away.

Without going into the prohibited detail the obituary for William Kuhn confirmed that he had been a successful butcher for over 50 years, gelling with the census. It refers to his brothers Ludwig and John Kuhn, both in the States, and his sister Marie Seus in Germany.[iii] Ludwig’s migration is not listed in the Dorfprozelten history so is new information both in terms of this story as well as the local history in Bavaria. William and Bertha Ulrich had 5 children in 1900, all surviving[iv]. They were Joseph P Kuhn, William Kuhn, Jacob G Kuhn, John P Kuhn and George Kuhn. At the time of the census William’s brother John (Jacob) was living with them and also working as a butcher. They were living at 208 Jackson St, Syracuse, not far from Bertha’s sister Josephine of whom more anon.

The William Kuhn and Beuttner families lived in the same street which appears to have been affected by the freeway. Image from Google Earth.

John Jacob Kuhn and Ida Rippberger

The Dorfprozelten history reveals that John was uncertain about his migration and returned to Germany before emigrating once again to the States. He married a Stadtprozelten woman, Ida Rippberger, and had two daughters. So far I haven’t pursued this family in the records as they are part of my general Dorfprozelten interest rather than my specific family research.

Josephine Ulrich and Peter Buettner

Further searching for Bertha Kuhn’s obituary has been unsuccessful so far, but turned up another Dorfprozelten link: the death of Josephine Ulrich, eldest of the children of Georg Jacob Ulrich and Elisabeth Fermbach. Josephine Buettner nee Ulrich died in March 1916, a few weeks before her uncle George Mathias Kunkel in Australia[v]. The obituary confirmed that brother Jacob and sister Bertha had also emigrated but revealed the migration of another brother, Lothar, living in Niagara Falls. Lothar had appeared in the Dorfprozelten history only as “Kind” (Child) b March 1858.[vi]

The various US census reports Josephine living with her husband Peter Buettner (aka Buttner), and children Bertha, Lizzie, Peter, August, George and A(u)gusta. They lived at 307 Jackson Street, Syracuse.[vii] At the time of the 1900 census Peter Buettner was working in real estate. They had been married 27 years and all eight of their children were still alive. On the census documents Josephine records that she arrived in America in 1873. Peter was also German and had arrived in 1869. He had been naturalised but I’ve yet to pursue that thoroughly.

George Jacob Ulrich

George Jacob emigrated circa 1883, following his sister Bertha, and as we now know, his sister Josephine and brother Lothar.

George (aka Jacob), born 13 May 1865, was known to have married an “Englishwoman” and while we don’t know her surname, the census reveals that her first names were Mary E.  She had been born in England and her father was English but her mother was Irish. George and Mary also lived in Syracuse at 310 Jackson Street in 1910 and at 519 Tallman St in 1930.  George was (another) butcher working in the markets. He was also naturalised. George and Mary had no children from their marriage.

Lothar Ulrich

402 Cedar Ave, Niagara Falls. Google Earth satellite view.

Lothar Ulrich was a totally unexpected ring-in as his existence wasn’t even known. It appears that he was the child born in May 1858 as this reconciles with the census details. Lothar had ventured a little farther than his siblings and was living at Niagara Falls. The Falls have been a low priority on my bucket list, but that may change with these discoveries!

Lothar also had a large US-born family and had obviously established himself successfully in his new country after arriving circa 1881. The census tells us he worked as a master brewer, which is an interesting diversion from other family traditions which focus on butchering or hospitality. Perhaps it too was a skill he learned before leaving Bavaria.

Lothar’s wife, Anna E, was the same age as him and also came from Germany. They had seven children of whom six survived (assuming my reading of the form is correct): Adolph J, Richard, Jacob L, William and Augusta. They also had their grandson Frederic Clock/Klock living/staying with them at different times. Lothar appears to have died between 1920 and 1925. This family lived for many years at 402 Cedar Avenue, Niagara Falls.

The city directories tend to reaffirm the information found on census records including whom the wives are, and where they all lived.

The white house appears to be 402 Cedar Avenue and looks likely to have been the one Lothar Ulrich’s family lived in.

Where to from here?

Well that’s lots of loopholes to close and questions to answer but at last I’ve made a start, and successfully tracked down some of these 19th century emigrants from Dorfprozelten, Bavaria to the United States. Many of them are related to my family through my 3xgreat grandmother Eva Catharina Happ later Ulrich then Kunkel. I’m hoping that by posting about these families I may flush out some distant cousins who can share information. So if you’re related to any of these families I’d love to hear from you.

There are two of George Kunkels’ nieces who remain unaccounted for: Maria Augusta (b 21 February 1856 and Ernestina Veronika (b 24 February 1863). Did they die young although not shown as such in the local history? Did they marry and move within Germany? Did they too emigrate, and if so where?

Was my ancestor George Mathias Kunkel the only member of his family to make the great migration voyage to Australia? How did he get here, given that 26 years of research have failed to turn up an answer?

Meanwhile I’m none the wiser about the elusive Philip Joseph Kunkel born 1840 in Dorfprozelten. If your US or Canadian ancestor fits the bill, please do get in touch. I’d love to see if the family tale is true.

I have found a number of trees on Ancestry which relate to these families, and have contacted the owners. It will be interesting to see what the next few days bring.

I am greatly indebted to Georg Veh and the other local researchers in Dorfprozelten for the background to this story. If you have Dorfprozelten heritage please leave a comment so I can give you the details on ordering their excellent local histories.


[i] Dorfprozelten am Main, Teil II. Veh, G. 2002.

[ii] House #52 in the Dorfprozelten book, ibid.

[iii] Syracuse Herald 28 December 1939, page 6 column 2 per the Newspaper Archive.

[iv] His obituary lists his sons, adding one who does not appear on the census (Albert E) and omitting another (George) as well as his daughter Augusta.

[v] Syracuse Herald 6 March 1916, page 8 per the Newspaper Archive.

[vi] Dorfprozelten op cit, page 143.

[vii] 1900 US federal census.

C19th Emigrants from Dorfprozelten to “America” Part 1

Yesterday I was out on the back deck nearly all day chasing research rabbits down the hole. Today I’m driven inside by the pounding rain –the first of the season. Woo Hoo! (writing this and posting have taken me into yet another day and now it’s just HUMID!).

Translation: If you would like to read this post in a different language you can click here.

It’s been ages since I’ve put my nose to the research grindstone and yesterday involved some new learning as I ventured into the US records properly for the first time. I’ve been dabbling from time to time trying to find my 2x great grandfather’s brother, Philip Joseph Kunkel born 1840, but without conclusive success. Yesterday’s sleuthing started with Chris Paton’s blog alert on the release of New York Naturalisations.

A little background

George Mathias Kunkel’s mother was Eva Catharina (Catherine) Happ, whose family had lived in the village of Dorfprozeltenon the River Main, Bavaria and owned an inn, Das Goldene Fass, there for at least 100 years. Her first marriage was to a man called Georg Jakob Ulrich from nearby Stadtprozelten. They had surviving children Maria Ludovika (died aged 23), Josefa Gertrud (married Haun), Jacobina, Karl (died aged 22) and Jacob August. Three other children had died in infancy as was quite common in the village at the time. Georg Ulrich died quite young, aged only 34, leaving Catharina a widow, again not uncommon.

A postcard of Das Goldene Fass mid-20thC. Kindly provided to me by Georg Veh, local historian.

Das Goldene Fass before its demolition for a bank. Image kindly provided by Georg Veh.

Unusually Catharina did not remarry quickly (a few months later was typical), perhaps because she had more economic autonomy through being the owner of the inn.

Her second marriage was to Adam Kunkel from a village called Laufach in the Spessart Forest region. Their surviving children were Georg Mathias (my ancestor, b 1834) and his brother Philip Josef (b 1840). It’s perhaps worth noting that in this part of Bavaria (very Catholic), baptism typically occurred on the same day as births unless the birth was late in the day.

The Laufach church and a historical Bavarian display. P Cass 2003.

The family story in Australia has always been that one son came here and one (or two) went to “America”. As Philip Joseph Kunkel disappears from the Dorfprozelten church records I’ve assumed (yes, I know!) that he’s the one I’m searching for…far easier today, in theory, than it was in the pre-internet era.

Catharina’s eldest son, Jacob August Ulrich, inherited the family’s inn, Das Goldenes Fass, while my ancestor, Georg Mathias, emigrated to Australia. Jacob married Elisabeth Firmbach circa 1851 (perhaps the impetus for George to migrate?). Thanks to the local history and the generous local historian, Georg Veh, I know their children were Josephine, Georg Jacob (died in infancy), Maria Augusta, a child (of whom more later), Bertha, Ernestine Veronika, Georg Jacob and Karl (died in infancy).

Of these I knew that Bertha had emigrated c1881 to the US where she married a Dorfprozelten man, William Kuhn. Brother Georg Jacob followed her c1882 and married an “Englishwoman”.

Tragedy struck this family in a big way in 1868 when, within months, four of the family died from lung disease (Lungensucht), perhaps TB? Jacob died on 19 June, son Karl on 1 July, Jacob’s wife Elisabeth on 20 August, and his mother Catharina on 15 October. What a terrible time for the remaining family as they lost one loved one after another.

Yesterday’s research revealed a new discovery: Jacob and Elisabeth’s eldest daughter had also emigrated, circa 1873, only five years after her parents’ death. What became of the surviving four children, two still under ten, is unknown, presumably they were cared for by other family members, aunts or uncles since their Kunkel/Happ/Ulrich grandparents were also dead.

What happened to the Happ family’s inn? After Jacob August’s death it was taken over by August Ulrich, possibly Catharina and Georg Ulrich’s youngest son, though the birth dates don’t gel. In 1930 the family sold the inn and for the first time in two hundred years it moved out of the Happ descendancy.

I am greatly indebted to Georg Veh and the other local researchers in Dorfprozelten for the background to this story. If you have Dorfprozelten heritage please leave a comment so I can give you the details on ordering their excellent local histories.

This post looked like being two much to digest unless split into two parts so Part 2 is for the American discoveries.

Next post: Across the Pond: the American connection.