Australia Day and My Immigrant Ancestors

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On Australia Day 2017 we reflect on our pride in our country and also, for many of us, our status as descendants of immigrants. Some will have First Australians, others will have early convicts. Some will be part of the early settlers in the colony of New South Wales or Van Dieman’s Land. For me, being Australian is not about flying a flag or wearing one draped round my shoulders, it’s about the country, its open land and horizons, the skies with the Southern Cross among the stars.

Last year I was acknowledged by Queensland Family History Society as having Pre-Separation ancestors. In this context it meant submitting my genealogical data (certificates of all sorts), to the society to prove my various ancestors were living in the colony before Queensland separated from New South Wales in 1859. The proclamation of Separation was read by Governor Bowen on 10 December 1859. I was very surprised to discover I had eleven pre-Separation ancestors, eight of whom were immigrants, and three were first-generation Australian-born. The rest of my immigrant ancestors were “Johnny come lately” types.

immigrant-ancestors-countryI thought it would be interesting to see how my immigrant ancestors broke down in terms of generations and also country of origin. While I think of myself as mostly Irish-Scottish descent, I was suprised how dominant my English ancestry was at the immigrant level, especially pre-Separation (4). One branch of my Irish (5) came in the early 1880s and my Scottish in the 1870s (1) and 1910 (2).

With the current focus on genetic genealogy all this becomes pertinent, because these are the ancestors, and their ancestors, who I need to focus on to make kin-connections. Place is, I think, almost as important as names – after all if your ancestral families never left Argyll in Scotland, you’re unlikely to match someone with that name who never left Ayrshire, or Nottinghamshire. However, never say never, people did migrate internally as well as internationally, but even so my starting point is usually place of origin.

immigrant-ancestors-generationsA number of my immigrant ancestors came as family groups, some even as three generations eg my 1880s Irish and my 1850s English.I looked at this a few years back – you can read about it here.

I’m including some graphs to show visually the distribution across the generations and also country of origin. In my Ancestry family tree, I have the immigrants shown with two flags -one with their country of origin and one for Australia.

On Australia Day let’s consider our First Australians, and the impact of the arrival of all those convict and immigrant ships on their lives, survival and culture. Let’s also recognise the impact each generation of our immigrant ancestors has had on the development of Australia….one of the reasons I’m so proud of my early pre-Separation Pioneers: George Mathias Kunkel (Bavaria); George’s wife-to-be Mary O’Brien (Ireland); Richard and Mary Kent and daughter Hannah (England); Hannah’s husband-to-be, William Partridge (England); Denis and Ellen Gavin (Ireland).

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And if anyone ever finds my James Sherry aka McSharry (not the railway contractor), I’d love to know where he got to within a few years of his arrival in 1883. That’s one brick wall that refuses to topple.

Pride, prejudice and genealogy

As they say “pride comes before a fall” and that applies in genealogy research as well. Over the years you’ve heard me say that I vastly prefer narrative documentation to conventional genealogy in trees, pedigree charts and ahnentafel numbers.

My earliest genimates, in the late 1980s, both belonged to the narrative tribe and they were both super-smart women. Perhaps that influenced my documentation but more likely it was also a personal predisposition. One was a little inclined to over-romanticise the story within the facts, which didn’t suit my direct style.

qld-muster-rollI suppose somewhere in the distant past I must have started with some pedigree charts and family group sheets – in fact it comes to me that this is what went into my contribution to the Genealogical Society of Queensland Bicentennial Muster Rolls (somewhere on my shelves). My preferred genealogy program has always been the now-defunct Relatively Yours and this is where I kept my basic data of BDMs. Writing my Kunkel book required me to have a full chart for the family in there. However, overall the program contained the bare data while the rest went into narrative from my notebooks.

Now that DNA has arrived on the scene this level of pride, and prejudice, has come back to haunt me. Now I need to know exactly where everyone fits on a family tree. Now I need to know the degree of relationships and who is a third cousin twice removed. How the genealogy gods (our ancestors?) must be laughing! On the positive side I’ve always been a fan of FANs (friends, associates and neighbours) or FFANS and I’ve used my research of collateral lines to solve mysteries and knock down the odd brick wall.

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Playing nicely in the sandpit. Wikimedia commons.

My documentation has been expensively and laterally obtained from original sources in archives and libraries in Australia and around the world. I was more than a little precious about it and reluctant to share especially where it was a one-way street. A few cases of slurping up my data with no thanks or reciprocity had made me cynical….no more playing nicely in the sandpit for me. Then there were a few cases where the fanciful family story was stacked against the facts and came out ahead…in came that pride and prejudice again. Let the facts speak and if you want to tell the inherited story, tell it as exactly that.

Another source of pride has been my blithe, and close to total, disregard of Ancestry trees. Funnily enough I do think you need to know what you’re looking for, by working steadily back from yourself, the old-fashioned way.

There was the day that one tree gave me a dose of conniptions when I saw a tree with umpteen more children than my particular family. Back to the drawing board and it took only a short time to realise they had mixed up two totally separate families (albeit with the same parents’ names): one lot was in New South Wales (Aussie royalty) and the other was my Queensland mob.  The children from each had been interleaved on the one tree. Whew! Prejudice confirmed.

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Naryshkin family tree: Wikimedia Commons

Over the time I’ve also been too prideful to much attention to online trees because I’d been careful and was confident my research was a rigorous as I could make it. What I missed was that those trees  were being grown by likely cousins….how astonishing! I may shake my head at seeing un-cited images from my book but I’ve come to the conclusion that at least people are enthusiastic about their family trees and sharing information. I’ve even bitten the bullet and put up a tree of my own and made it public….believe me that’s been a huge leap of faith. Get back pride, take a seat prejudice.

So my task at present is to work through those shaky leaves on family trees and pin down where they fit in: are they cousins or do they simply have some remote peripheral family link? It’s going to take time and it can only help build up my knowledge of family and should help with my DNA matches, and maybe encourage some to test as well. There’s certainly no shortage of kin out there.

Accentuate the Positive 2016

My good friend and genimate GeniAus reminds us each year to be positive about what we’ve achieved. Initially I felt like I’d achieved little in 2016, perhaps mainly because my blog languished for much of the year, and even my 7th anniversary went past unacknowledged but not forgotten. It seems that retirement and relocation require adjustment which somehow is yet to reach a balance…being the family travel agent has also taken a lot of time. However, Jill is quite right and once I focused on remembering the positives, they outweighed the dearth of blog posts, so here is my list. Thanks Jill for giving me a boot to:

Remember to Accentuate the Positive 

1.  An elusive ancestor I (haven’t) found was…still on the trail of James Sherry who continues to elude me. Did he die, do a runner from his family, emigrate back to Ireland, or perhaps New Zealand…or outer Mongolia. He was the primary reason for my DNA testing.

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Patrick Callaghan (left) who was drowned off Dublin.

2.  A precious family photo I found was a serendipitous discovery of my great-grandmother’s brother. Patting random cats in genealogical areas can lead to all sorts of genearosity, companionable conversation and sharing of photos and stories.

3.  An ancestor’s grave was elusive. We visited the Offaly graveyard where my Martin Furlong is buried but could not find his grave among the many others…perhaps we were just too tired.

4.  An important vital record I found was the Irish civil registration which confirmed that my 2xgreat grandmother was born Anne Callaghan as well as being married to a Callaghan (pronounced Callahan in Ireland). Now…where did she come from?

5.  A newly found family member came from DNA matches which confirmed paper trails. I also discovered that a long-term local history colleague is a cousin…very exciting.

6.  A geneasurprise I received was being greeted by the librarian at the Clare Local Studies Library in Ennis like a Rockstar, and his supportive comments on my Kunkel family history book. I had forgotten about this until my friend Fran, the TravelGenee, reminded me the other day.

462-church-and-graveyard7. My 2016 blog post that I was particularly proud of was My Gratitudes because in 2017 I want to focus more on the positives and be less critical of myself and others. I started a meme called Monday Memories (so long since I’ve done one, I’d forgotten) – good posts were Milne Bay and Old Time Courtesies. My A to Z theme this year was “how to pursue an interest in genealogy/family history”…this was my third year, so I’m not sure if I’ll go round again.

And in December 2016, my blog had its seventh Blogiversary…I’d been thinking it was only six.

8. I made a new genimate who was courageous in making her first public presentation on Irish valuation records in company with some well-known Irish experts. Lots of good info in her talk. Congratulations Bobbie Ede!

9. A new piece of software I mastered was…learning more each day about genetic genealogy using Gedmatch. It will be a long time before I feel I can say I’ve “mastered” genetic genealogy though, hence why DNA talks feature heavily in my Rootstech 2017 schedule.

10. A social media tool I enjoyed using for genealogy was Facebook. Every day I connect with and learn more about genimates around the world. I love how it builds our community!

11. A genealogy conference/seminar/webinar from which I learnt something new was Judy Russell’s sessions in Brisbane – thanks to Unlock the Past; and the GSQ seminar featuring Irish history gurus Drs Perry McIntyre and Jennifer Harrison.

12. I am proud of the presentation I gave at the Clare Roots Conference on the Diaspora of the Wild Atlantic Way in Ennis in September. I was able to present the findings from my East Clare Emigrants research to an Irish and wider audience. Thanks to those from the Clare Facebook Group who shared their photos of their East Clare ancestors for me to include in my presentation.

I was so chuffed that Broadford local history guru and cousin, Pat O’Brien, commented so positively on what we are all doing writing and researching about our Irish ancestors – returning them to their Irish homes and their community’s history.It was such a pleasure that my cousins Mary and Eileen came along to hear my talk – thank you ladies and while I missed subsequent talks the special time we spent together was simply “gold”.I was also thrilled to meet Tulla researcher, Jane, who manages the Tulla Reaching Out Facebook page and another researcher who has interests in Broadford.

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I also had a new experience which I thought went well… my first-ever radio interview on Clare FM about my talk and the conference. If this works, you can hear it here…be warned it’s a large file. .

13. A journal/magazine article I had published was…nada, nil, zip….

14. I taught a friend how to…don’t know that I did, but I helped a friend of a friend who knew nothing about her parents’ background.

15. Complementary genealogy books that taught me something new were Blaine Bettinger’s well set out Family Tree Guide to DNA testing and Genetic Genealogy and Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Blaine Bettinger and Debbie Park Wayne. If you want to unravel the mysteries of DNA testing these are the tools you need.

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The joys of archives succinctly stated at Donegal Archives.

16. A great repository/archive/library I visited was The Donegal County Archives in Lifford where Mr Cassmob explored the Board of Guardian minutes in the hope of tracing his Famine Orphan, Biddy Gallagher.

17. A new genealogy/history book I enjoyed was Damian Shiels’ The Forgotten Irish in the Civil War. This is a superb book and I highly recommend it to anyone with ancestors who fought in the US Civil War and/or have Irish ancestry – it shows just what can be done with what might seem like dense government records. You can read my GoodReads review here.

18. It was exciting to finally meet genimate Judy Russell aka the Legal Genealogist on my home turf along with my local genimates. We had a great time introducing her to the joys of the local area with its amazing seafood and just getting to know each of them better.

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The shrine at Bedlam, Donegal near Gortahork.

19. A geneadventure I enjoyed was a three week jaunt to Ireland in September with Mr Cassmob, visiting libraries and archives, walking the ground, exploring home places and visiting the place where my grandson’s other line comes from in Donegal. Thanks to my genimate Angela aka The Silver Voice for her help and tips along the way.

20. Another positive I would like to share is …having Queensland Family History Society recognise my eleven Pre-Separation Queesland ancestors. You can obtain forms here if your ancestors arrived in what is now Queensland before Separation in 1859.

What a wonderful community we have among genealogists around the world – some blog, others Facebook, some work at local libraries: whenever and wherever we meet we share something truly precious – a little of ourselves, a lot about genealogy and the passion for this obsession of ours. I have made great friends through this network of genimates and treasure you all.

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I love Donegal’s wide open spaces and wild scenery. In some strange way it reminds me of Australia, but don’t be lulled into thinking it’s always sunny.

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