So this is Christmas 2014 – a geneameme

Christmas_L6My friend Sharn from FamilyHistory4U blog has set us all a Christmas geneameme challenge.In previous years I’ve posted on the Geneabloggers’ Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories and this meme offers a change of pace for me. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to check with mum on a couple of the questions.

1. What kind of Christmas did you have as a child? 

Baby Jesus in mangerChristmas was always a religious event at our house with Midnight Mass and adoration on Christmas Eve. I’d often pester my father, who was a non-Catholic, to come with us….poor man, he got no Christmas peace. Our Christmas celebrations were pretty low key as we have a small extended family and so it was usually just roast dinner with Christmas pudding and cake.

  1. Where did you spend Christmas?

We always spent Christmas at home, apart from when we’d visit my maternal grandfather’s house across town – no mean feat on a public holiday using public transport.  Mum tells me we mainly did this before her mother died, and only occasionally after that, which surprises me that I can remember, as I was only a small child when she died.

The maximum number of people we had were my own family, plus grandfather and sometimes one set of maternal aunts and uncles and cousins, so between 7 and 11 tops. For the life of me I can’t remember my paternal grandparents, who lived next door, being invited to partake in Christmas lunch….don’t go there, sigh…perhaps Grandma came over after Grandad died. Mum tells me the rellies would come over on Boxing Day mostly.

Image from

Image from

When I was a child we never went away on holidays at this time of year because it was peak period and expensive.

When we lived in Brisbane I used to dislike (hate/loathe) sitting in the northbound traffic to visit rellies, while the southbound freeway was totally free.

Mostly we’re at home for Christmas, though once when we lived in Papua New Guinea and once (or twice?) since we’ve been in Darwin, we’ve been back to Brisbane for Christmas. Once we had a white Christmas in Lucerne (some of the family) and once Himself and I returned from a trip on Christmas Eve, just a tiny bit jetlagged. And a few years ago we had Christmas in Tasmania with DD1.

  1. A letter and something yummy for Santa

I may have written to Santa (surely everyone did?) but I have no recollection of doing so. We certainly didn’t leave anything out for Santa or the reindeer – I remember being a bit mystified to find that other people did that.

Our gum tree Christmas tree when I was a child.

Our gum tree Christmas tree when I was a child.

  1. The Christmas Tree

Yes, we always had a Christmas Tree and it was always a small gum tree (eucalyptus) from down the creek bank near our house I’m pretty sure we only put it up close to Christmas so it would survive.

We still maintain our family tradition of putting up the tree together, though now it’s an artificial one, and we always decorate it while playing Christmas music. It basically stays up over Advent.

  1. Decorating the Christmas Tree 

Mum and I would decorate the tree together as Dad would either be on shift-work or think he was too clumsy. I think we had a mix of handmade and special glass baubles. I see in one photo we had balloons – I guess gum trees are less spikey than firs.

We have a wide variety of Christmas tree decorations – no colour-coordinated themes for the Cass mob. Some go back to the first year of our marriage, some were made by our children, some were gifts and quite a few have been brought back from our travels which has become a family tradition, helped by the fact we often travel off-season.Xmas decorations collage

  1. Did you decorate outdoors? 

Not really. I think we may have had some sort of wreath but no lights as they were not readily available then, as far as I know.  I don’t remember anyone else doing it either, unless it was those paper chains we made as kids…but then it is the rainy season in Queensland (and Darwin). These days we put up a wreath and solar lights in the frangipani.

7  Christmas Cards

P1160921Mum would write our Christmas cards and send them to a small group of family and friends…she has amazingly neat writing, even in her advanced years. What did we do with them? Hmmm, I think we may have cut them up and used them for craft and Mum would save the stamps and send them to the Missions. If I remember correctly they were hung on tinsel with our clock in the centre (why, I don’t know).

Remember when the postie would do two mail “runs” a day in the stinking heat of a Brisbane summer? We would always have a cold drink for him when he came by with his big pack…I think he was more like Santa than Santa himself.

These days I send electronic cards to some, paper cards to the older generation and try to ring my interstate friends for a catch-up chat…more fun, and informative, than a card.

I made this kermit stocking for my youngest daughter but it is really only used for decoration.

I made this kermit stocking for my youngest daughter but it is really only used for decoration.

  1. Christmas Stockings 

No, I never had a Christmas stocking other than those ones you bought in the shops with little round lollies, blowers, cartoons etc, which I really liked. All our presents would go under the tree. In my husband’s family there would be one gift at the bottom of the kids’ beds and they were told when they first woke up they could open that and read (it was usually a book). We maintained that tradition too, but the joy of Midnight Mass is that it makes the kids too tired to wake up super-early.

9. Christmas Presents

I got presents from Mum and Dad and Santa, something from my grandparents and a small gift from my aunts and uncles, and I would swap gifts with close friends. I think I made small gifts for my parents and I remember the first time I was able to go shopping in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley for gifts for my parents. Mum’s confirmed we didn’t do gifts for the nuns who taught me.

My bride doll Mary on display.

My bride doll Mary on display.

I remember that it was traditional to always leave out some beer as gifts for the garbos in those days when they had to carry the bins and empty them manually. The milko also got something.

These days we’ve rationalised our family present buying: the adults exchange a secret Santa gift to a limited amount and I swap presents with some of my friends. Ironically my oldest friend and I don’t do presents any more – we ran out of inventiveness – but if we see something during the year we’ll buy it at the time.

Each year we have a craft session with the grandchildren when they make gifts for their parents. They seem to have a good time and so do we. I remember some school holidays when the girls were young and we had chaos while neighbourhood kids made fymo necklaces and decorations.

  1. Your favourite Christmas Present

Well I’d be stretching it being confident about this but one I very much remember was a large Readers Digest book on animals. I was desperate that it would be among my gifts and was thrilled when I did, but was it a Christmas or birthday gift? I still have it in my library.

Actually my favourite Christmas present was always a book, any book. A sad Christmas would be one with no book (don’t think that every happened). I still have many of them, especially some from one of Mum’s close friends.

  1. Was there an unrealistic present you wanted but never received?  

I was going to say “no” but on further reflection, every year I wished for a baby sister or brother but it never happened. Obviously that was not in God’s plan for our family.

12. Did you give gifts to teachers and friends at school? 

I thought I might have given presents to the nuns in high school but mum thinks not, and since she would have done the buying (what mum doesn’t?) then I’d guess not. I don’t think it was the almost compulsory activity it has been with our children onwards. Perhaps we just gave them a holy Christmas card.

Again, close friends exchanged gifts but the wider circle of girls would exchange holy pictures with messages on them.

Christmas in Tasmania was all about the seafood and a fantastic meal by DD1, oh yes, and the company :)

Christmas in Tasmania was all about the seafood and a fantastic meal by DD1.

  1. Christmas Food
Green Peppercorn Xmas cake recipe from the Australian Women's Weekly (I think) circa 1990

Green Peppercorn Xmas cake recipe from the Australian Women’s Weekly (I think) circa 1990. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Now this I do remember!

Despite the heat we always had a hot Christmas meal. Chicken was an expensive treat in those days and I don’t recall anyone having turkey or seafood. Roast potatoes, carrots and onions with peas for vegetables. Steamed Christmas pudding, custard and cream for dessert (yes please Dad would say, meaning all three). Shortbread was made according to my Scottish grandmother’s recipe and we would always have crystallised ginger on the table….one of Mum’s favourites. Dad might have a  beer (remember that Scottish mother) but no one else had anything alcoholic.

We always had our meal inside on a formally dressed table with all my parents’ quality linen and crystal…one of the few times each year that the crystal made an appearance.

  1. A special Christmas Recipe

Yes we made the shortbread (see above) which I still make to Grandma’s recipe. The pudding was also her recipe and is a delicious, moist version. Mum made the same delicious Christmas cake for decades which I also made until I found a new recipe for a Green Peppercorn Christmas Cake which we really like but which no longer likes me…sigh.

  1. Christmas Traditions 
Backyard Christmas celebrations Gerehu, Port Moresby.

Back yard Christmas celebrations Gerehu, Port Moresby.

Bon bons were always on the table too with their usual sad jokes but still fun. We didn’t go carolling – that was done around the church services and we also listened to them at home.

And yes, grace before and after meals –always, not just at Christmas.

In Papua New Guinea where we were all far from our families of origin, we would hold Christmas gatherings of friends and rotate through different households from year to year. It was always great fun.

  1. Christmas Music 

Me, in a choir?? Thank heavens, no! Mum has a good voice and I would sing at home but that was it. Dad was tone deaf unfortunately and couldn’t even carry a tune. We would listen to the music on LPs once we got a player and one of our first Christmas records was one which included Oh Tannenbaum. That was when I was learning German so I guess we got it when I was in Grade 10.

At church in Brisbane the band would play carols before and during Mass, but then let rip with the liveliest ones as the Mass ended.

It’s a shame that the abuse of Christmas carols in shops as a marketing ploy has taken the edge off our enjoyment of such a happy part of Christmas.

For a very long time our family would go to Carols by Candlelight in the park in Brisbane – our youngest even went when she was only a few weeks old. It was a very special part of our family’s Christmas tradition until it became way too commercialised and tacky.

nana-mouskouri 1_edited-1We love listening to a CD we have of Carols from Oxford…just so relaxing.

  1. Your favourite Christmas Carol 

Can I remember that far back? I guess the traditional ones like Silent Night and Away in a Manger then as a teenager Oh Tannenbaum. As an adult, Feliz Navidad, the Little Drummer Boy, and Mary’s Boy Child are my absolute favourites.

  1. Christmas Parties

Our family didn’t do parties, period. I remember being taken to the Railway Club where I got presents but not every year. I was in Guides but again, I have no recollection of having parties there.

Hmm, I guess I contradicted myself with the Gerehu parties above, but then I didn’t really see them as parties per se.

  1. Christmas Concerts/Plays

Mum confirmed for me that we didn’t have Christmas concerts at my primary school, only St Patrick’s Day ones. We didn’t have them at All Hallows’ because every second year was the state-wide exam so we all finished school on different days.

20. Christmas Holidays

As I mentioned, we never went away over the summer holidays so mine were spent hanging around the house, playing with the kids who also were at home. I remember that at least once we went up to my aunt and uncle’s camp site at Noosa, right in the midst of what is now a very upmarket resort. My cousin says we stayed with them at least once, but I only remember visiting.

I loved it when I got books as Christmas presents and could just hide from the heat and read…not that mum was so keen on that idea when there were jobs to be done <smile>. One Christmas in high school I read an entire collection of Dickens’ books which my cousin had left with us to mind. Since I read books like a glutton at a smorgasborg I’ve forgotten much of what I read.

Christmas Holiday camping at Hastings Point in northern NSW

Christmas Holiday camping at Hastings Point in northern NSW….a packed “house”…better to just visit.

21 What is your earliest Christmas memory? 

Whew, my brain is stretched from all these questions….I don’t have a specific memory but I guess it might be the year I got my bride doll.

Thanks Sharn for inventing this meme for us. I’m looking forward to seeing what others have written – it’s so interesting to see the things we have in common, and the ways we differ.




William Rudolph (Robert) Kunkel: Always missed

A few years back I wrote in detail about my father’s cousin, William Rudolph (Robert) Kunkel, who went missing in Korea. Dad always said that Robert’s parents never gave up hope of finding him. Like so many families whose sons went missing in action during battle, there must have been a sense of ambiguity and uncertainty…perhaps one day he’d turn up.

Recently I was searching Trove and came up with another news story about Robert Kunkel. It was a very big entry on page 4 of Brisbane’s Sunday Mail on 12 December 1954[i]. Robert’s mother, Hilda, plainly believed that it was her son seen in the march-past at the City Hall of the 3rd Battalion, recently returned from Korea, even though he’d served with the 1st Battalion. As a child I always heard that Robert had never returned so it’s plain that the man marked didn’t turn out to be her son. What a sad loss it was for Robert’s parents, Hilda and Bill, who never stopped missing their son.

I had hoped to hear from one of Robert’s mates after my previous post, but would still welcome contact from them or a descendant if they inherited a story about Robert’s capture by the North Koreans. The surviving men from the patrol were Corporal William Crotty, Brian Ransfield Mau from Hamilton, New Zealand and S Brent (Sidney Henry Brent?). Crotty and Kunkel were apparently good mates.

Robert Kunkel from Sunday Mail top of pic

Robert Kunkel from Cour Sunday Mail 12 Dec 1954

[i] Mother seeks her son. (1954, December 12). Sunday Mail(Brisbane) (Qld. : 1926 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved December 1, 2014, from

Brisbane Catholics and Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi march to-day. (1954, June 20). Sunday Mail (Brisbane) (Qld. : 1926 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved December 1, 2014, from

Corpus Christi march to-day. (1954, June 20). Sunday Mail (Brisbane) (Qld. : 1926 – 1954), p. 6.

Thinking of parades for this week’s Sepia Saturday reminded me of a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while. Growing up as a child there was one memorable “parade” every year when Brisbane Catholics would arrive en masse at the Exhibition Grounds for the Corpus Christi procession. This liturgical feast celebrates the belief that the host is turned into the Body of Christ during the Mass.

In those far-off days, religions were demarked by denominational differences and it was unacceptable to attend a service in another denomination’s church, so Anglicans would not attend Catholic services, Catholics would not attend Presbyterian services etc. This applied whether the event was a family wedding or not and my family has several events where religion kept close family members away. The days of the 1960s ecumenical movement had not quite arrived, and Catholics were obsessed about the onslaught of Communism and the Red Peril. Catholicism and Irish were almost synonymous, with many priests and nuns born in Ireland or with recent Irish ancestry. It was only with the arrival of the post-war immigrants from eastern Europe that this started to change.

Corpus Christi article50315380-3-001

Display of faith. (1952, June 23). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), p. 3.

In this community context, the Corpus Christi procession had an underlying element of defiance against the rest of the religious creeds. Unsurprisingly one hymn was sung with gusto, and some belligerence, was Faith of our Fathers (click to hear it sung).

An example of an Hibernian sash.

One of my grandfather’s Hibernian sashes…he had several depending on his role in the society.

Leading the procession would be the Archbishop or his delegate and following behind were various groups representative of the Catholic community. I don’t remember when I first went to Corpus Christi but it may have been when I was young as we lived not far away. Certainly my memories of the procession are dominated by always seeing my McSherry grandfather marching with the Hibernian Society of which he was a life-long member. He was always easy to spot in the crowd as he was very tall with a very bald head.

I think we may have marched as a parish when I was in primary school – I must ask Mum. I do recall attending at least some in my Children of Mary blue cloak, blue ribbon and medal, and white veil. I often think that the non-Catholics among us must have thought we were all a bit weird in our strange clothes. Once I started high school at All Hallows’ we attended as a group. My husband, then a boarder at Nudgee College, also remembers being there with school and being traditional teenagers, it never hurt to keep an eye on the passing girls’ schools and hope they’d line up next to you in the middle of the oval.

The new Australians, our recently-arrived immigrant Catholics, also marched in their traditional costumes and were very colourful and exotic as we’d never seen anything like them before. In our parish alone we had Czechs, Poles, Yugoslavs, Hungarians and Dutch Catholics….so many of the latter we even had Dutch priests.

1951 Corpus Christi article50103012-3-002 (1)

70,000 Attend Corpus Christi. (1951, May 28). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), p. 3.


The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), Friday 13 June 1952, page 5

The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), Friday 13 June 1952, page 5

To get an outside perspective on Corpus Christi over the years I turned to the Aussie researcher’s friend Trove. It’s unfortunate that the digitised newspapers don’t go quite as far forward as I like but they still give a good sense of how important this event was to the faithful as you can see from the images I’ve included here and taken from the newspapers.

I was interested to read that prior to 1950, the event had been held elsewhere but the crowds grew too large. Attendance was very high:  over 50,000 (1950); 70,000 (1951); 100,000 (1952); and 60,000 (1953). Not all the crowd processed but the stands and the oval would be packed. During the event, the Archbishop or the Coadjutor Archbishop would also celebrate the Benediction.

Corpus Christi article49724950-3-002

OVER 50,000 GIVE DISPLAY OF FAITH. (1950, June 12). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), p. 5.

Reading back through decades of newspapers, and history books, reveals how much the Irish Catholics were disliked, and in some ways feared, in the early days of our nation. Difference is rarely well-liked. When I think back even to my childhood days, I reflect on how much times have changed but also how marginalising a religion makes it more socially strident and internally cohesive.

Sepia Saturday: Colonial Fishing Days

Sepia saturday 253This Sepia Saturday has three young men relaxing at their leisure on the creek bank after a spot of fishing with their flimsy fishing rods. It brought to mind many similar scenes that would have occurred in colonial Queensland beside creeks and waterways throughout the countryside. I could well imagine my Kunkel great-grandparents, and perhaps their children, dropping a line into the Fifteen Mile Creek which bordered the property owned by George and Mary Kunkel at Murphy’s Creek. Jack Kinnon and grouper

But those images exist only in my imagination, whereas this real-life image is a more confronting, and to my mind, less pleasant aspect of colonial life. Once again we have a fishing trio with a 517 pound (about 234kgs) giant grouper which had been caught circa 1900-1910 by our fishermen, Frank Anderson and Jack Kinnon snr. The battle was uneven as they were using a tailor-made hook and a chain “line” wrapped around a 44 gallon drum. The fish is about 5.5ft (167cms) so it would have been very old, and was almost certainly swimming in the waters off Queensland well before the arrival of the white man. It makes me want to weep every time I look at this photo, and yet it’s also the story of our colony. How ironic that the giant grouper is the aquatic emblem of Queensland and how unsurprising that it is a threatened species.

As an antidote to the imbalance of the fish vs men image, let me tell you the tale of a young lad, Jack Kinnon jnr, fishing with his grandmother, Bridget Connors (daughter of George and Mary Kunkel). I included this passage in my book Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel Story.

This is Bridget Connors sitting on the running board of her car. I can imagine her with the same contented expression sitting by the pond fishing.

This is Bridget Connors sitting on the running board of their car. I can imagine her with the same contented expression sitting by the pond fishing.

At the time there was a butter factory on the Mary River where it ran through Tiaro. The buttermilk run-off from the factory flowed into a small pond of the river with which Bridget was very familiar. She knew the mullet loved to come and feed on the buttermilk and get fat. So off they’d go, the old lady and the young boy, with their bamboo rods, cork floats and tiny hooks with bread threaded on for bait. They’d sit by the pond quietly waiting for the fish to bite and when the float disappeared below the water they’d reel in their catch of the day, a plump mullet. Bridget got a great thrill from catching the fish but Jack’s pleasure was diminished slightly by the need to scale and clean the fish.

Are you feeling relaxed now? Why not drop your fishing line and wander off to see where other Sepians went fishing this weekend.

Trove Tuesday: The Kunkel family leaves Ipswich

Kunkel book cover cropThe people had to go where there was work for them and where there was a living. Wages were six shillings a day. They followed the establishment of the railway line right through. It’s been said that it’s a pity they ever left Ipswich because they could have bought something in Ipswich. But then there wasn’t the work.”

This is Anne Kunkel talking in 1988 about her grandparents, George and Mary Kunkel. In fact George had been quite busy in Ipswich in the early years, some of which I’ve been able to piece together from certificates, news stories and archives documents.

Over the years I’ve often wondered why the couple had left Ipswich, given their early activity there. However, I put it down to the wish for land, perhaps more so on the part of Mary Kunkel, coming as she did from a farm in Ballykelly townland, Co Clare. George Kunkel perhaps might have felt more comfortable in the small township of Ipswich, with its community echoing, a little, his home village of Dorfprozelten.

I knew from my timeline that George and Mary were both servants when they married in 1857. When daughter Catherine (Kate) was born in 1861 George was working as a pork butcher and they were living in Union Street. George’s occupation was further confirmed by discoveries in the Supreme Court records when he was a witness to the court case involving Carl Diflo[i]. It transpires George had been working as a pork butcher on the goldfields at Tooloom in northern New South Wales in 1859.

Newspapers further reveal that George had initiated a court case against Richard Gill for stealing three fowls. The paper refers to him as the “well known proprietor of a highly operative sausage-machine in this town[ii]. A later report states “No plea had been filed in this case, but the irresistible eloquence of the postmaster melted the obduracy of the Bench; the case was heard, and dismissed”[iii]. Behind those two statements lies a story I’d love to know but unfortunately have been unable to trace.

Two years later, in March 1864, when George and Mary’s daughter Louisa (registered as Elizabeth) was born, George stated his occupation as a boarding house keeper. Again, finding out more on this has proven challenging. It seemed he was doing okay, so what precipitated the move away from Ipswich.

Once again Trove solves a mystery. Firstly there’s two brief mentions in the Queensland Times of 8 July 1866 relating to the Petty Debts Court, Ipswich:[iv]

Charles Wilson v. Kunkel.–£6, dishonoured promissory note; costs, 5s. 

Charles Wilson v. Kunkel.-£8 2s. 6d., goods sold; costs, 5s. 

It seems George had cash flow problems as there’s nothing to suggest he typically reneged on his debts. The sequel to this ruling indicates he couldn’t, or didn’t, pay the debt. From the Queensland Times of 14 July 1866:

Wilson v Kunkel article123331889-3-001THIS DAY-AT 2 O’CLOCK. In the Court of Requests, District of Ipswich. WILSON v. KUNKEL. TAKE Notice that HUGHES & CAMERON have received instructions from the Bailiff of the Court of Requests to sell by Public Auction, at the Residence of the Defendant, East-street, THIS DAY (SATURDAY), the 14th Instant, at 2 o’clock sharp, 

The following GOODS and CHATTELS, the property of the Defendant in the above cause, seized under execution, unless the claim be previously satisfied :  1 handsome Carriage, 1 Cedar Table (Pine Top), 5 Chairs, 2 Forms, 1 Dressing Table and Cover, 2 Clocks, 2 Pictures, 1 Decanter, 1 Cruet Stand, 6 Tumblers, 1 Butter Basin and Glass, 3 Chimney Ornaments, 1 Double Cedar Bedstead, 1 Single Cedar Bedstead, 1 Box. 10 Stretchers, 1 Toilet Table, 3 Looking-glasses, 1 Jug and Basin, 2 Washstands, 2 Dressing Tables, 6 Mattresses, 4 Pillows, 2 Blankets, 1 Counterpane, 2 Plates, 4 Dishes, 1 Pine Table, 1 Pine Bedstead and Mattress, Crockery, Household and Kitchen Utensils, &c., &c.Terms: Cash on the fall of the hammer. No Reserve. Sale at 2 o’clock. 269

The couple had obviously worked hard over the nine years since their marriage as their property looks quite substantial for the time. There’s nothing to indicate whether the sale went ahead, though it seems likely to have done so. Surely if George had the money to pay the debts, a total of £14/12/6, he would have done so.

One of Fountain's Camps, possibly at Murphys Creek.

One of Fountain’s Camps, possibly at Murphys Creek.

It seems likely that this is the reason the Kunkel family left Ipswich and joined the movement on the railway line west. It’s also quite likely that George’s economic demise was related to the financial crisis in Queensland in 1866 given small businesses often take the hit first. This article tells the story of the economy of the time.

Ultimately this move led to the family settling on land at the Fifteen Mile on the outskirts of Murphys Creek. However, there’s one thing I’d still like to know, but likely never will: was George Kunkel the person referred to in this news story about Fountain’s Camp?

not only are there five stores, three butchers’ shops (another one just setting up), and two bakers, but we have actually a full-blown sausage-maker and tripe dealer, whilst vegetable carts are arriving every week from Ipswich and Toowoomba”. (Courier, 26 Jan 1866)

In my flights of fancy I’d like to think so – but the timing is wrong when compared to the events above. He certainly had the skills as further stories from Annie Kunkel reveal.

He (grandfather) went down to the creek which was quite close, just down the bottom of the hill where there was running water and he cleaned them thoroughly there – let the water run on them and turn them inside out and everything until they were thoroughly cleaned and then put them in a bucket over night and probably put salt with them and the next day the performance of making sausages! Grandfather made the sausages and he used to put mace and salt and different things like that in it. In the white puddings he put oatmeal and liver and that I think. The big oval boiler was where they’d be cooked on the open fire. You could hang them in the smoke house for weeks in the cold weather

How I wish George Kunkel hadn’t died in 1916, in the midst of the WWI anti-German sentiment – perhaps there’d have been an obituary to reveal a little more of his and Mary’s story.

Sources: Birth Certificates for Catherine and Elizabeth Kunkel; oral history recording with Anne Kunkel. Others as per endnotes.

[i] PRV11583-1-1 Queensland State Archives, now Item 94875. Equity Files, Supreme Court.

[ii] Queensland Times, Ipswich, 18 December 1861

[iii] Courier, Brisbane, 10 January 1862.

[iv] Queensland Times, Ipswich, 7 July 1866

Men of the Queensland Bush: Sepia Saturday 249

Sepia Saturday 249This week’s Sepia Saturday is about the horse, the cart and the drivers. While my Denis Gavin from Kildare and Dublin worked as a bullocky out west when he first arrived in Queensland I have no photos of him, or his bullock dray. Many of my ancestors also rode the iron rails but today’s photo is of none of these.

This photo is one I included in my Kunkel family history. It was given to me by Dad’s cousin and shows a bunch of dodgy looking blokes hanging around the 20th century cart and horse…a truck. I know my grandfather’s brothers worked as carriers but the cousin couldn’t identify which was her father, Matthew David John (John) Kunkel. If I was guessing I’d say it was the bloke on the front right, and strangely she wasn’t sure…or perhaps he was the photographer. Actually I’d have expected John’s brother Ken to have been with him as they were very close.qld mafiosi men incl john kunkel

But isn’t it a great photo?! All dressed in their Driza-bones and wearing hats with character. The front row are crouched in the typical bushie pose that Dad always took up when waiting for something. Time was I could do it too, but sadly I’m no longer that flexible or agile. The pipes remind me of my grandad who would sit on the back steps of their house tapping the tobacco out, refilling the pipe then having a quiet smoke, looking over the back yard.

The Darling Downs is the lime green area on the bottom right.

The Darling Downs is the lime green area on the bottom right.

While these men would have probably given anyone in need a hand, you can’t help feeling you wouldn’t want to meet them on a dark night. I’d place a good bet too that many, if not all of them, were returned service men from World War I. If you recognise anyone in this group, please do comment as I’d love to know about it.

It looks to me like a silo behind the men, which would fit with it likely being taken on the Darling Downs. To the right is a typical old Queenslander house, on stilts, with its two tanks and no doubt a slow combustion stove to cope with the chilly weather typical of winter on the Downs.

Gallop over to see how other Sepians transported themselves this week.

Sepia Saturday 244: Circus monkey business

Sepia Saturday 244Each week there’s a new photo theme on the Sepia Saturday blog. The idea is to post to the theme a close as possible to Saturday but for one reason and another I find myself always running late. This week I thought I’d be ahead of the game but with various other commitments here I am again, mid-week.

My recollections of my first visit to a circus are brief but have lasted through the years. Mum said I wasn’t all that young, but my feeling was that I was probably about five. Apparently Dad got cheaper tickets through the railway because the circus was set up on the park opposite the Show Ground and the Royal Brisbane Hospital: the route he used to walk daily as part of his numbertaker duties. My memory tells me we were seated on the end of a row and I remember the clown coming up to Dad and pulling out a great long string of cheerios (aka cocktail frankfurts etc) from Dad’s pocket. You can imagine that seemed pretty weird to a small girl. I also remember that someone, clown or magician or… pulled a connected string of vividly coloured handkerchiefs from his pocket….a pretty standard circus trick, but eye-popping for a young girl on her first visit to the Big Top.

MONKEY BUSINESS. (1952, April 7). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved September 4, 2014, from

MONKEY BUSINESS. (1952, April 7). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved September 4, 2014, from

In later years the Moscow Circus would come to town and would be so much more exuberant and exotic than Bullen’s with which we were more familiar.

Surprisingly since I’ve always loved animals I have no recollection of the monkeys, lions or other animals though they were undoubtedly there. However I did find this great story on Trove of the circus monkey to enliven this post. You have to feel sorry for the poor animal with all those kids crowded round him.

As always the Sepians have been inventive in their response to the theme. Why not pop over and see what they wrote about? I have to say I think Kristin’s poem on Jo Mendi was just perfect for the theme, but I think Deb’s cheeky and unexpected story has to be the winner!

A near miss in Coolangatta: Sepia Saturday 243

Sepia Saturday 243This week’s Sepia Saturday 243 is one of those topics where a personal theme leaps to mind. Every family has its story traditions and family anecdotes, perhaps even about get-rich schemes and near misses.

Unidentified (1914). Illustrated advertisement from The Queenslander, December 5, 1914, p. 59. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Unidentified (1914). Illustrated advertisement from The Queenslander, December 5, 1914, p. 59. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

All my life Dad used to tell the story of “the one that got away” in our family. My grandfather who I’ve written about before, worked for the railway all his working life. At one stage, perhaps around 1900-1910, he worked on the rail line that went from Brisbane city to the interstate border at Coolangatta. I don’t know about other countries, but here in Oz, a twin town (as opposed to towns twinned with overseas), is one that has a matching town on the opposite side of the (state) border. Coolangatta is one such town, sitting right on the border of Queensland while across the Tweed River sits its twin, Tweed Heads. One of the quirks of these twin towns becomes obvious with the start of daylight saving each year. Queensland doesn’t “do” daylight saving (no, I’m not going there with that topic!) so for six months or so, Coolangatta is 30 minutes behind Tweed Head. Could be handy if you urgently need shops which close promptly at 5pm.

Tweed Heads, showing railway passengers walking down Bay Street into Wharf Street. Queensland (or Federal) Hotel, Coolangatta, is on the right. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, 1905

Tweed Heads, showing railway passengers walking down Bay Street into Wharf Street. Queensland (or Federal) Hotel, Coolangatta, is on the right. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, 1905.

Unidentified (1914). 18 residential and business sites at Coolangatta for sale by auction in the Tweed Heads Hall on Easter Saturday, Queensland, 1914. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Unidentified (1914). 18 residential and business sites at Coolangatta for sale by auction in the Tweed Heads Hall on Easter Saturday, Queensland, 1914. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Dad told me that while Grandad was working on the Gold Coast railway line they used to fish for stingrays in the river using star pickets…those long metals poles with three sides. Personally I think that was a bit unfair on the fish, to say the least, but it is still a part of local lore.

But the one that got away wasn’t a monster fish, rather the real estate deal that might have made the family fortune. The story goes that he was offered a beach front block of land at Coolangatta for a tiny sum, £100 springs to mind. Given that property on the Gold Coast now sells for seven figure amounts, we were dazzled by what might have been, not to mention the sheer bliss of living within sight and sound of the surf and the ocean. But it was not to be, and perhaps even if it had, Grandad would no longer have had the money to buy the land that our family lived on for 96 years….the turn of the fate wheel.

Unidentified (1900). Greenmount Beach, Gold Coast, 1900-1910. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland,

Unidentified (1900). Greenmount Beach, Gold Coast, 1900-1910. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland,

Coolangatta has never been the glitzy, glamour (tarty?) queen of the Gold Coast, that role was left to Surfers Paradise. That didn’t stop Coolangatta’s nearby beach, Greenmount, being a big hit with families as a holiday destination. I recall that we had only one holiday at Greenmount, compared with the several we took up the coast a little at sedate but beautiful Currumbin.

Pauleen at the Porpoise Pool, Snapper Rocks.

Pauleen at the Porpoise Pool, Snapper Rocks.

Apart from the attraction of sun, sand and surf at Greenmount, one of the big “pulls” during the 1960s was the Porpoise Pool run by Jack Evans at nearby Snapper Rock. It was de rigeur to visit the attraction and see the trained dolphins leap from the pool to catch their fish. (You can see a video here). Afterwards it was almost inevitable to have a photo taken with Sammy the Seal, another feature of the attraction. In this photo of me I would have been about 12.  I remember that rainbow top, which Mum sewed, very vividly especially the texture of the fabric.

Part of the reason our family was able to visit the border towns was because of the railway line. Dad’s annual railway pass made it possible for us to travel close to our destination – an important factor as we had no family car. The lack of a car was unfortunate also because, dare I say it as a loyal Queenslander, there’s some spectacular scenery and beaches just south of the border….an area our own family grew very fond of in later decades… I wrote this story about it a while ago.

It’s always good to know that families aren’t the only ones to have near-misses…Queensland Rail closed the line to Tweed Heads in 1961 and to Southport in 1964, no doubt due in part to the increased numbers of people who owned their own cars. Decades later they had to rebuild the same line to cope with just some of the burgeoning commuter traffic. The one that got away indeed.

Don’t forget to visit the other Sepians to see which beaches they’ve visited or how they interpreted the image.

PS: I’ve just noticed something my sub-conscious may have latched on to earlier. The man in the suit in the foreground reminds me of a photo I have of my grandfather.


Genealogy World Photo Day Challenge

genealogy-photo-challengeBeing behind with my blog reading seems to be a chronic condition these days so I’m pleased that I spotted Alona’s post about the Genealogy World Photo Day Challenge proposed by The Family Curator. While I was there I decided to purchase Denise’s book, How to Archive Family Heirlooms, which comes with excellent reviews. I’ve got heaps of sorting to do and certainly hope it will help.

Back to the photos…the other day in my Book of Me story I’d included some “Then and Now” photos of our first home in Papua New Guinea. It reminded me that a few years ago I’d participated in a “Then and Now” activity run by our ABC when we walked the Darwin streets matching up old photos with the current image….good fun.

Inspired by all this, here are my collaged images for the Genealogy World Photo Day Challenge.

Image 1: my grandparents’ house, then (c1930) and now (2012)Then and now 29 Bally St low res

Image 2: my grandparents, Denis and Kit Kunkel, with my Dad as a boy then as a man: Then c1920s and “now” c1944.

Collage Norman Denis Kit Kunkel

Image 3: left: Mum and I in the same position, and in the same chair, near the stairs of my grandparents’ house; right: me, Mum, my great-aunt Emily, my aunt Mary and cousin Patsy, with the stairs in the background.

farrahers Kunkel Melvin

Thanks Denise for the inspiration, and fun, of this challenge!

Last but not least: Julius Happ

Die Fröhlichkeit in 2003.

Die Fröhlichkeit in 2003.

As I mentioned previously it was the addition of a new member to our facebook site that kicked off all this manic research, mainly because the family connected, however distantly, to my own Happ ancestry in Bavaria. Keith had written that his mother’s grandfather was a Julius Happ and they knew he came from Dorfprozelten because of a document the family held. On translation it turned out to be some form of recognition for Julius Happ in recruiting conscripts. As yet we know no more about that….perhaps, as Keith said facetiously, he did his best recruiting in the family’s inn late at night <smile>.

Julius was the son of Michael Happ and Anna Catharina Zöller born/baptised on 11 November 1844. Michael was interesting because his occupation is stated as Ökonom or economist, as well as being the guest house keeper for the Fröhlichkeit which he had built from local stone. He was also Bürgermeister between 1856 until 1864.[i]

Julius Happ in Germany

Apart from what can be extracted from the local history, it is difficult to get a sense of Julius’s life in Germany. As we’ll see later Julius didn’t emigrate until he was around 30 years of age. My searching of the German newspapers on Google Books did turn up some references to his education however. The initial one is high school information, as for his brother Raimund. Dating from 1864/65, he would have been 21….which does seem old.[ii] He is studying religion, the Latin, Greek, German and French languages, Mathematics, History and Geography.

julius happ school

The second is more obviously university enrolment and I think it indicates he was enrolled in the faculty of law.[iii] This is for the winter semester 1867/68 when Julius would have been nearly 23. Perhaps this explains why he delayed his emigration to the USA.

Julius Happ university

When I sent this information to Keith he remarked that the family had oral history that Julius had a degree from Germany and this notice seems to confirm that story.

Emigration to “America” and naturalisation

The local history, Dorfprozelten Teil II, indicates that Julius emigrated from Bavaria to “America” but no date is given. Despite searching a variety of sites I have been unable to locate his arrival and I’ve also been unable to locate an emigration notice in the German newspapers, as I could for his siblings Raimund and Anna.

I also checked that Julius hadn’t arrived with his siblings but he certainly didn’t travel on the ship Main with them. It doesn’t help that he gives varying dates of arrival on the census enumerations.

One possibility in terms of Julius’s arrival is Julius Hopp from Bremen on the Marco Polo, aged 24, a labourer, arriving in New York 3 March 1873[iv]. There is no other distinguishing information and given his varied responses on the census it’s difficult to be sure. I really don’t think we can be sure this is him rather than another.

Julius didn’t become a naturalised American citizen until 8 October 1894[v], much later brother Raymond. This search highlights the importance of accessing multiple sites as I found it only on Family Search. There are noticeable gaps in the details on the form and I wonder if the original document might include further details re his immigration.


Julius Happ natn 1894 fm FamSearchTies to the country of their birth, the kingdom of Bavaria, was understandably strong in some of the emigrants, though it weakened the longer they lived in their new country, and also as Bavaria became part of a new federated Germany. My own ancestor arrived in Australia in the 1850s and wasn’t naturalised until 1903, after Australia had become an independent nation.

Unfortunately because Julius hadn’t been naturalised earlier he also doesn’t appear on the voter registers – something my George Kunkel seemed to work around here, but in the USA they seem to have asked when and where you were naturalised.

Julius Happ in the USA

Julius Happ has been elusive in the US records from his immigration in the 1870s until I found him on the 1885 Rhode Island state census. He is living at North Kingstown, County of Washington, Rhode Island, is 40 years old, unmarried, boarding with the Horsfall family and working as a florist[vi].

Nor can I find a record of his marriage or his children’s births, except via their death entries on the Social Security Death Indexes (SSDI). According to Cyndi’s List, there is no 1890 Federal US census for Connecticut which explains that omission. As with any research, we are limited by the records which survive. Fortunately the City Directories go a good way to overcome that as we’ll see later.

I had more joy with later census enumerations. In the 1910 Federal Census Julius Happ is on the Federal Census in Bridgeport, District Fairfield, Connecticut (CT). He is 62 and a florist, working in a hot house. Julius is married to Regina (52) and his children are Mary (22), Chas (21) and Julius (14), all born Connecticut. They also have two boarders in the house as well as a nephew (his or hers?), a Frank A Will (10) born Delaware. On this record Julius snr says he immigrated in 1876 and has been naturalised, while Regina arrived in 1874.[vii]. If we knew Regina’s maiden name we might be able to find her immigration.

In the 1920 Federal Census the family is still in Bridgeport (ward 5) and his year of immigration has changed to 1870 and Regina’s to 1872. The “children” are now 32, 29, and 24 and they still have two lodgers in the house, both Russian-born. Daughter Mary’s name is recorded as Marie. Julius is 73 and retired, while Regina is 52[viii].

The mis-reported 1900 census enumeration. The other children are on the next page. They are living at 1941 Fairfield Ave.

The mis-reported 1900 census enumeration. The other children are on the next page. They are living at 1941 Fairfield Ave.

After some difficulty I found Julius and his family in the 1900 Federal census, using the information from earlier census enumerations. The surname had been mis-transcribed as Hepp and Regina’s name as Vrechina. Julius then states he was 47 and born Nov 1852 (think he kept the month but changed the year – or the enumerator made a mistake). I wonder if he said he was 52 not born in 1852. Regina is 33, born Oct 1866, Mary is born Aug 1887, and Carl in March 1889. Son Paul (another enumerator error, actually Julius), is born August 1895. The couple had been married 13 years and had three children, all alive. Julius now says he’d arrived in 1878 and had been in the USA 22 years.[ix]

Julius Happ in the Bridgeport City Directories 1884-1923

This photograph appears in Dorfprozelten Teil II, page 229 with a caption indicating that the people were Julius Happ, his wife and child.

This photograph appears in Dorfprozelten Teil II, page 229 with a caption indicating that the people were Julius Happ, his wife and child.

City directories can be of variable use in family history but the listings for Julius were particularly helpful given his late naturalisation. I was able to trace his activities fairly consistently between the late 1880s until his death, using the Bridgeport City Directories.

One interesting early anomaly is that Julius appears as a gardener employed by J Horan, bds Fairfield Ave and RR crossing per the 1884 Directory. Remember that he was in Rhode Island in 1885? Did he just move briefly?

In 1887 he is again listed with J Horan as an employee at 647 Fairfield Ave. But in 1888, the directory notes he’d removed to New York. Unfortunately I couldn’t track him down there. Is this when he married Regina?

Bridgeport City Directory 1888, page 158

Bridgeport City Directory 1888, page 158

Shortly after, in 1890, he’s back in Bridgeport, once again living and working at J Horan’s florists and nursery at 647 Fairfield Ave. This continues through the 90s as the firm becomes J Horan and Son. It seems throughout this time he’s living on the nursery premises as in 1895 the street directory for 647 Fairfield shows the residents as Charles Barey, Julius Happ,  and Louis Wittman all employees of J Horan & Son as well as James Horan, florist and a John Puzak. Also from 1896, Julius is no longer listed as an employee but a foreman.

I suppose if you're in the florist business it's not surprising to advertise amidst all the undertakers' advertisements.

I suppose if you’re in the florist business it’s not surprising to advertise amidst all the undertakers’ advertisements.

In 1900 the business, and Julius’s residence, has changed to 1941 Fairfield Avenue and this is where he continues until 1913 when he is listed as a foreman at J Horan & Son and living at 1782 State Street, grocer. This listing continues until 1916 with the combination of foreman and grocer….perhaps Regina was running a grocery business? From the census it’s clear this was a rental property.

In 1916 the family relocated to 1796 State Street, and this would become their permanent residence, and one the family owned. Although then 74 years old, Julius was again listed as a gardener. He had worked for James Horan and son Stephen from 1884 until at least 1916, with only a couple of years absences. When you think that he had studied at university level in Germany, you have to wonder whether some immigrants really did benefit from the great American (or Australian!) dream.

A Google Earth search reveals that these locations have been cleared.

I found it strange that on the City Directories, a person’s date of death is listed with their age.Julius’s appears on the 1923 directory and his wife Regina’s on the 1933 directory (page 273)

Deaths in the USA

Julius Happ snr died on 22 September 1924, aged 79 years, 10 months and 11 days per his funeral notice[x]. By my calculations this fits with his known date of birth/baptism in Dorfprozelten, and interestingly contradicts the stated ages on the census.

Julius’s wife Regina died on 2 August 1933 aged 65, which I found in the City Directories[xi], but unfortunately I could find no reference in newspapers.

Julius and Regina’s family continued to live in the Bridgeport and Trumbull areas for many years.

Research warning: Searching German newspapers on Google books is fraught. I find it quite difficult to get the same results from the same search, which makes no sense. You just have to be lateral as I mentioned in my post about this some time ago.


[i] Dorfprozelten am Main Teil II. Veh, G, Benedict Press, 2002. See page 212.

[ii] Jahres-Bericht über das Königliche Lyceum und Gymnasium 1864/1865 page 15(Aschaffenburg)

[iii] Personalbestand der Königlich-Bayerischen Julius-Maximilians-Universität, Würzburg, winter semester 1867/68. page 29


[v] New England Petitions for Naturalization Index, 1791-1906,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 08 Aug 2014), Julius Happ, 1894; citing Connecticut, NARA microfilm publication M1299, roll 15, National Archives and Records Service, Washington D.C.; FHL microfilm 1429685.

[vi] Rhode Island, State Censuses, 1865-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013.Original data: Rhode Island State Census, 1885. Microfilm. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.

[vii] Year: 1910; Census Place: Bridgeport, Fairfield, Connecticut; Roll: T624_128; Page: 56B; Enumeration District: 0013; FHL microfilm: 1374141.

[viii] Year: 1920; Census Place: Bridgeport Ward 5, Fairfield,Connecticut; Roll: T625_175; Page: 21B; Enumeration District: 30; Image: 358.

[ix] Year: 1900; Census Place: Bridgeport, Fairfield,Connecticut; Roll: 131; Page: 22B; Enumeration District: 0015; FHL microfilm: 1240131.

[x] The Bridgeport Telegram, 23 September 1924, page 17.

[xi] Bridgeport City Directories 1933, page 273