The Happs – innkeepers in Dorfprozelten

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

For my own interest I’m summarising the inn-keeping genealogy of the Happ family in Dorfprozelten. The approximate time frame of direct descendancy is c1740-1940s.

Generation 1: Adam Happ c1690

Generation 2: (Johann) Martin Happ (Fass) and Johann Happ (Anker) c1740-1770s

Generation 3: Johann Martin Happ II (Fass) and Nikolaus Happ (Anker)

Generation 4: Eva Catharina Happ/Ulrich/Kunkel (Fass) and Michael Happ (Fröhlichkeit) 1830s-1860s

Generation 5: Jakob August Ulrich (Fass) (step-brother to my George Kunkel who emigrated to Australia) and Maria Antonia Happ/Staab (Fröhlichkeit) (three siblings, Anna, Raimund and Julius emigrated to USA) c1860-

Generation 6:  Sophie Staab/Bohlig (Fröhlichkeit) c1900 – c1940s

While the Fass continued in other hands, the Happ family’s management of it came to an end with multiple deaths due to Lungensucht in 1868. I can find no translation for the word but it seems to be a highly infectious lung disease. Jakob August Ulrich was the first to die on 19 June 1868, followed by son Karl on 1 July 1869, wife Elisabeth on 20 August 1868 and finally his mother, Eva Catharina Kunkel, on 15 October 1868. There were children who survived: Josephina (b 1852), Maria Augusta (b 1856), Lothar Jacob (b 1858), Bertha (b 1860), Ernestina Veronika (b 1863) and Georg Jacob (b 1865). All except Maria Augusta and Ernestina Veronika emigrated to the United States in the 1880s. Who took care of them in the intervening period is unknown. I wrote about their lives here and here.

A sad end to the long association of the Happs and Das Goldene Fass guesthouse in Dorfprozelten. What tragic news it must all have been to my ancestor George Kunkel when the news finally made it across the world to him. 

The Fass guesthouse was sold on 1 October 1967 to the Raiffeisenbank and the old building was demolished. In autumn 1971 a new bank was built on the site. The Anker and the Fröhlichkeit are still part of the village’s built heritage.

In Georg Veh’s book on Dorfprozelten is this poem[i], written by Agnes Bohlig, the wife, and co-innkeeper, of 7th generation Happ innkeeper, Philipp.

In der “Krone” da is gut wohne        In the Krone is a nice place to stay

Im “Stern” da sitze nur die Herrn     In the Star only the men sit (a reference to its table for the seamen’s union?)

Im “Anker” hocke die Kranke            In the Anchor the sick sit/crouch

Im “Fass” da is mers zu nass           In the Barrel it is….too wet (defeats me this one)

And nuff “die Fröhlichkeit”                  And in the Happiness

Is mer der Weg zu Weit.                 the road is too far.

I’m quite sure my translation is not accurate and there are vernacular expressions here, … even my huge German dictionary and Reverso are defeated. Feel free to jump in and correct me…it would help make sense of it all.

I am indebted to Georg Veh and the published local history for providing me with so much background information on my family in Dorfprozelten, and being generous with access to it.

[i] Dorfprozelten am Main Teil II. Veh, G, Benedict Press, 2002. Page 216.

The Happ family emigrants: Part 1

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

Some time ago I set up a Facebook page, The Dorfprozelten Diaspora, for those whose ancestors came from this Bavarian village. New members to the group are asked for their link to the village and who their ancestors were.

The village of Dorfprozelten is situated on the River Main which formed the boundary between Bavaria and Baden.

The village of Dorfprozelten is situated on the River Main which formed the boundary between Bavaria and Baden.

Two weekends ago a new member, Keith, joined the group and to my delight it seems likely that we are distant cousins. Keith’s family had a German certificate which was translated as “some sort of acknowledgement for having conscripted others, not his own conscription record”. This document indicated his great-grandfather had been born in Dorfprozelten.

We’ve still got to achieve further verification via death/marriage certificates but so far the indications are that Keith and my Dad share a 5th great grandparent, Adam Happ. Admittedly, at this distance it seems such a tenuous connection but thanks to the wonderful German record-keeping and the oft-lauded local history, Dorfprozelten Teil II by Georg Veh[i], it’s actually possible to link families up over three centuries, and to track their history.

I’ve “fixed” my header photo for these posts so you can see what the village looks like in context.

Meanwhile in Bavaria

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 in the 1960s. Image kindly provided by Georg Veh.

The Happ family were one of the early inn-keeper families in Dorfprozelten, and their ownership dates back at least to circa 1750 when (Johann) Martin Happ ran Das Goldene Fass. This Martin’s son, another Johann Martin Happ II, inherited it from him, followed by Johann Martin II’s daughter, Eva Catharina later Ulrich and Kunkel, my own 3xgreat grandmother.

Meanwhile just across the street, Martin’s brother, Johann Happ was running the Gasthaus zum Anker. Johann and Martin’s father was Adam Happ but his occupation is unknown. The Anker passed from Johann to his son Nikolaus Happ, then was transferred to the family of Johann Anton Zöller…who knows why…perhaps it’s part of the German text I’m struggling with.

Die Fröhlichkeit in 2003.

Die Fröhlichkeit in 2003.

In the 1860s, Nikolaus’s son Michael Happ established a new guesthouse called Die Fröhlichkeit, built from the local pink sandstone taken from the cliffs adjoining the village. Michael is documented as an economist as well as a guesthouse keeper, which I think is quite interesting…how did it come to be that he was an economist at that time? Where had he studied? Other references in Veh’s book indicate that Michael was fairly well off and also served as Bürgermeister (mayor) from 1856-1863.

Michael Happ married Catharina Zöller and had the following children who survived to adulthood: Anna Apollonia (1835-1892) emigrated to USA; Maria Antonia (1840-1915) who took over the guesthouse; Julius (1844-1923) emigrated USA; Ernst (1847-1865); Corbinian (1849-1905) and Raimund (1852-) emigrated to USA.

In such a small village as Dorfprozelten everyone would have known each other, and I assume, also known their relationships. This interests me especially because Anna Apollonia was almost exactly a year younger than my 2xgreat grandfather Georg Matthias Kunkel so not only would they have known each other, they may have played together and also attended school together.

Emigration to  America

Siblings Anna and Raimund Happ emigrated to the USA and newspaper notices of 30 August 1869 indicate their imminent departure from their home village.

Unmarried siblings Raimund and Anna Happ....Beobachter am Main und Aschaffenburger Anzeiger: 1869,7/12

Unmarried siblings Raimund and Anna Happ….Beobachter am Main und Aschaffenburger Anzeiger: 1869,7/12

Anna and Raymund/Raimund arrived in New York ex Bremen on the ship Main (ironic since that’s the river on which they had lived in Bavaria), on 4 October 1869.

Anna and Raymond NYM237_319-0091 (2)

Year: 1869; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 319; Line: 27; List Number: 1150. From

Initially I couldn’t help wondering why Anna didn’t stay to take over the running of the inn. However, the discovery of Anna’s marriage to another Dorfprozelten emigrant, Franz Michael Scheubner, made it apparent why she had decided to leave her home village.

Anna Happ marriage 1869

The marriage occurred in New York on 24 October 1869, shortly after Anna’s arrival. It is indexed in the New York Marriages 1686-1980 under Scheibner, a further reference to Veh’s book clearly correlated to Scheubner rather than Scheibner: his parents were Sebastian Scheibner and Anna Maria Rheinthaler and Anna’s are also correctly shown as Michael Happ and Catherine Zöller.

Like many Germans, Franz Michael was more typically known by his second name, Michael, and this is how he appears in records in the US, other than his immigration record. He arrived in New York on the ship Union, on 8 May 1869, aged 30, and this document[ii] uses Franz, probably because this is how his baptism was recorded.

So now my question is why Anna brought her younger brother, Raimund, with her when she emigrated, rather than why she herself emigrated.

Life in America

It seems from all the records I’ve found that the couple lived in Manhattan through their life together.

In the 1870 US Federal census[iii], Michael and Anna were living in New York Ward 17, District 21. Michael was shown as a cook. Their surname has been misindexed as Scheibner.

By the 1880 Federal census[iv], Michael and Anna had two children, Frederick Scheubner aged 4 and Kathe aged 1 (probably Catherine after her mother) and were living on the east side of 16th Street, Manhattan. There were plenty of Bavarians living close by but it’s interesting that Michael showed their origins as German. Michael was working as a cook in a hotel and had dropped 7 years from his age.

Despite my best efforts and searching across multiple sites, I have been unable to locate any of the Scheubner family in the 1890 Federal census or the 1892 New York census. I am assuming that it has been mis-indexed, though even using wildcards or first names they have still eluded me. As it’s not my direct family I’ve had to put it aside for now rather than spend more time on it.

I have had more joy with City Directories. In the 1879 New York City Directories Michael Scheubner (a cook) is registered as living at 191 Orchard and in 1888 at 104 1st Street and was a cook. In 1894 he is registered as Mich’l Scheubner and he has an eating house at 61 Grand (see below) and a residence at 48 Grand. In later directories (1902, 1903 and 1906) he is at 61 Grand.[v]

On the 1900 census I found a Michael Scheubner living with his wife Katie at 61 Grand St between Wooster St and West Broadway, Manhattan[vi]. Michael is 50 and lists his birthdate as August 1849 (rather than July 1838) and arrived in the USA in 1870, having been there for 30 years. Katie, his wife, is also German-born and enumerated as aged 30, even though she supposedly arrived in 1869 and had been in the US for 31 years….obviously some error there. They had been married eight years (soon after Anna’s death in 1892?) and had two children, but neither was alive. Michael is working as a cook, which is why it’s tempting to think he’s the right man.

I’m curious, too, whether it is this Michael Scheubner who is a 38 year old (est YOB 1839) passenger on the Weser to New York in 1877. He is a cook and an American citizen. Is this our guy going back to Germany to see family, then returning?[vii]

Oops forgot this before...the Manhattan residences of the Scheubners.

Oops forgot this before…the Manhattan residences of the Scheubners.

And deaths in America

I knew from Dorfprozelten Teil II (page 229) that Anna Happ (Scheubner) had died on 14 February 1892 in the USA, though there is no mention of her married name. Indexes on Ancestry record her death on 12 February 1892, aged 56 in Manhattan.[viii]She died the day after her 56th birthday.

It seems it may be “our” Michael who died in 1905, also in Manhattan, aged 63[ix]. Michael is rather more prone to providing variable dates of birth.

I have done preliminary searches for the children Frederick and Kathe (Catherine?) Scheubner without success. Throughout this research I’ve been cross-referring between Family Search,, and

Please join me for Part II of this story as I reveal what happened to Raymond and his brother Julius in the USA.

For the record, this is my 600th post to this blog…whew!

FYI: When reading German references I particularly like the Reverso online dictionary. You can even use it to translate sentences.


[i] Dorfprozelten am Main Teil II. Veh, G, Benedict Press, 2002. See pages 41, 143-144, 198-199, 192-193, 213-214 , 229, 23-239 for the families mentioned in this story.

[ii] Year: 1869; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 310; Line: 27; List Number: 457.

[iii] Year: 1870; Census Place: New York Ward 17 District 21 (2nd Enum), New York, New York; Roll: M593_1038; Page: 208B; Image: 420; Family History Library Film: 552537. From

[iv] Year: 1880; Census Place: New York City, New York, NewYork; Roll: 887; Family History Film: 1254887; Page: 221A; Enumeration District: 420; Image: 0307. From

[v] U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

[vi] Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1080; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 0012; FHL microfilm: 1241080.

[vii]  Passenger Lists of vessels arriving at New York, 1820-1897 , Affiliate Film Number: 410 , GS Film Number: 000295774 , Digital Folder Number: 004680490 , Image Number: 00869.

[viii] New York, New York, Death Index, 1862-1948 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.Original data: Index to New York City Deaths 1862-1948. Indices prepared by the Italian Genealogical Group and the German Genealogy Group, and used with permission of the New York City Department of Records/Municipal Archives. Certificate 5447 can be ordered.

[ix] Ibid certificate 18960.

My thoughts on David Malouf’s A First Place

David MaloufI’ve just begun an e-book of short stories, A First Place, by David Malouf. Absorbing stories written by Australians always seem slightly disorienting, so accustomed are we (or is it only me?) to reading books whose settings are elsewhere. Which came first, the sense that “other is better”, leading to the exodus of much of Australia’s talent, or the relative weighting of other and local?

One story, A First Place, is about growing up in Brisbane and how its particular topography and lifestyle defines not only who we become as adults, but how we think. That certainly gave me pause for thought, and I can’t decide the merits of the case, but is that because it’s part of me?

Brisbane is a hilly city – not mountainous, just hilly, where travelling by car or foot anywhere involves the negotiation of hills. From a large-scale view, the hills are not so obvious, it’s when one is on the ground that it becomes so much more apparent. One of the earliest things a Brisbane learner-driver has to come to terms with is hill starts in a geared car. After nearly two decades of living in flat-as-a-tack Darwin I sometimes forget I have to change gears or use more power when going up a hill. Our geography does change our daily patterns.

Taken from a hotel in the CBD, this view is to the south.

Taken from a hotel in the CBD, this view is to the south.

Malouf posits that the topography of the city means “it shapes in those who grow up there a different sensibility, a cast of mind, creates a different sort of Australian”. The hilliness of the city means that its residents miss the long vistas of flatter cities like Adelaide or Melbourne. They become accustomed to new views at every rise, and this may make them restless in the absence of variety, as well as precluding a clear map of the mind. I’d suggest it might also inculcate a sense of mystery in the same way that a door into a garden, rather than shut you out, makes you more curious what lies behind…or is that, once again, the Brisbane girl in me? He’s certainly correct that it gives the legs a good workout, especially if you grew up relying on Shanks’ pony to get you everywhere – something that’s noticeably absent from Darwin’s flatness, and the laziness that tropical humidity generates.

He also talks about the river’s unusual snake-like twisting through the city: one of the reasons the flooding a few years back caused so much damage, as it has in the past. Add to that the relative lack of bridges forcing the traveller to negotiate twice as many suburbs as a direct route would allow.  The river conspires to shut off vistas as do the hills, but I think it also opens up a sense of a city of two sides on both banks.

Brisbane River snakes through the city and here, the CBD. You can see some of the bridges, two of which are new.

Brisbane River snakes through the city and here, the CBD. You can see some of the bridges -the one in the centre is a new pedestrian bridge, called the Kurilpa Bridge (or the Knitting Needle Bridge as I do).

Now that the river has become an active character in the Brisbane landscape with the arrival of the City Cats (ferries) along with the riverside walkways, it does open up the city in a different way. In much the same way as the hills, it makes you wonder (if you don’t already), what is round the next corner. No wonder a river tour has become so popular over the past decades.1113 Brisbane river and ferry stop

The hills and river combine in a story my father has handed down. I often wondered whether it was something he’d made up, even though it made eminent sense, until a friend whose father was also a born-and-bred old Queenslander confirmed the same story. In the pioneering days, the drays would travel across the city along the ridges of the hills when the river was in flood. My father did much the same when my cousin’s house was in imminent risk of flooding back in 1974, helping him to get his belongings up to the ceiling before the flood hit (reaching very close to the ceiling – two floors).

The Story Bridge at sunset, a city cat, and in the distance my school, one of Brisbane's heritage sites.

The Story Bridge at sunset, a city cat, and in the distance my school, one of Brisbane’s heritage sites.

As Malouf says, Brisbane has a radial design, striking out from the city centre. In the days when few families had their own car, this meant that setting out on a journey could make two suburbs seem immeasurably far apart, and mystifyingly disconnected. This is how I experienced visits to my grandfather at Buranda from Kelvin Grove, or family friends at the outside reaches of Mt Gravatt. It wasn’t until we acquired a car, or until I travelled more by car, that the geography of the city started to make sense in a quite different way. The CBD of the city may be suitably laid out in grid-fashion (and flat) but not the rest of the place. Motorways (and bus lanes) cut through suburbs like knives now, but the new tunnels and underpasses generate a lack of knowledge of the landscape above, until one pops out, bandicoot-like, at the other end, hopefully in the right place, or somewhere you recognise and can navigate from.

Although not in a very hilly street, the home my grandparents lived in is a good example of the Queenslander style of house.

Although not in a hilly street, the home my grandparents once lived in is a good example of the Queenslander style of house.

Malouf also has a theory that Brisbane’s tree-house-like homes, built on stilts to accommodate the hills and introduce breezes, affect the psyche of those who grew up there.  His argument is that their openness, with doors always ajar, introduce an element of not-seeing, not-hearing as appropriate to the circumstances. The timber of the building moves in a way that brick structures do not, and are more vulnerable to climate as well as protecting the family from it. I’m not entirely sure that I agree with his thesis on the effect of Brisbane (or more accurately, tropical, housing). It seems predicated on a particular type of house, the old Queenslander with its encircling verandahs rather even than post-war timber housing, and certainly not on the more modern brick bungalow or two-story house. On the other hand, doors are only shut here because of air-conditioning so perhaps he has a point.

“Under the house” is a different world from that above where all serious living takes place. Home of the household washing machine, tubs, wringer or boiler, Dad’s workbenches and the kids’ play area, it has a sort of wondrousness about it as well as a daily practicality. It offers the chance to explore what Malouf calls “a kind of archaeological site”, hosting as it does all sorts of odds and ends that have found their way to rest there, as well as on-going practical items. This space certainly features prominently in my childhood memories of both my own home and that of my grandparents next door. I used to love using my grandfather’s vice to crack the Queensland nuts (now known as macadamias) which grew on our tree. Usually enclosed by timber battens, “under the house” is both open and yet secure. Surely this experience is different from those for whom a basement may serve similar functions?

Malouf asks himself “what habits of mind such a city may encourage in its citizens, and how, though taken for granted in this place, they may differ from the habits of places where geography declares itself at every point as helpful, reliable, being itself a map”. I suspect it gives your internal GPS such good training that ever after you are more able to understand other places.

The Brisbane River approaches the city from the west.

The Brisbane River flows out to Moreton Bay -you can see the Gateway Bridge here, dwarfed by altitude. Very kind of the pilot to take the river and city route that particular time -doesn’t happen frequently, and then you have to have the camera ready too.

If a good writer’s goal is to make one think, and challenge our internal assumptions, then Malouf has achieved this for me today.

Have you thought about the impact of the geography of where you grew up? Do you think it has affected how you see the world psychologically and emotionally, your habits and sense of the world’s geography.

Book: A First Place, David Malouf. Random House 2014. A collection of personal essays and writing from David Malouf to celebrate his 80th birthday. This includes the following short story: A First Place. 1984 Blakelock Lecture.

Like so many cities, Brisbane has its own sight-seeing ferris wheel. Adjacent is the Cultural Precinct.

Like so many cities, Brisbane has its own sight-seeing ferris wheel. Adjacent is the Cultural Precinct.

Diary of a Genea-Cruise: Days 7 and 8 – Hobart Town

It was a longish voyage from Adelaide to Hobart (yes, I know, our ancestors would disagree!)  so we had a combination day with genealogy and then some sight-seeing after our arrival in port at 2pm.

The sailing ship Florentia. Image from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and reproduced with permission. Image PW 7704

The sailing ship Florentia. Image from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and reproduced with permission. Image PW 7704

I loved arriving by sea into Hobart because it brought to mind that Mary O’Brien had probably come this way before me, back on 4 April 1853. Just imagine the relief of all those on board the Florentia after four and a half months at sea, with a diminishing supply of provisions. Hobart is such a pretty town with its encircling hills and Mount Wellington towering over the city. It may not have the drama of Sydney’s sandstone cliffs but it has an amiable, welcoming vibe. I could happily live in Hobart but that wouldn’t be an improvement on the remoteness of Darwin, and my heat-loving tropical friends would simply refuse to visit. It must surely have been appealing though to the immigrants from Ireland, England and Wales on board the Florentia.(Apologies to my mates who are heartily sick of Mary O’Brien from County Clare).

It was a public holiday for Regatta Day as the captain brought his huge ship to dock at the wharf. Little boats were skimming round the harbour but my friend Sharn and I chose to head off along the wharf to Salamanca Place and Battery Point for some sight-seeing. Having decided to stop for a coffee, we joined other Unlock the Past Cruisers for a chat at a local coffee shop.

Sailing into Hobart on Day 7

Sailing into Hobart on Day 7

But first there was some genealogy while still at sea:

Dealing with Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy (panel discussion)

GeniAus (Jill Ball) hosted this Panel on Ethics which got good feedback from the audience. The panel was Kirsty Gray, Maria Northcote and myself and Jill had prepared a range of pertinent questions for us to respond to in turn. It was interesting to see the consistency between our responses …and there’d been no prior consultation or discussion. (if anyone has thought on the session I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on the panel – difficult to retain it all while in the thick of it)

391 ethical dilemmas

Chris Paton again unravelled the complexities and variability of Scottish records with his talk Scottish marriage: instantly buckled for life. Scotland may be (currently) part of the UK, but Scottish family history is really not the same as that for England, make no mistake! Among the warnings Chris issued is that people only needed to have a witness to their commitment and the marriage was a valid one, and also the the (wonderful) ScotlandsPeople only has marriages for the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Churches. If you can’t find your ancestors you may wish to follow up the Statistical Accounts to see which other denominations were active in their parish at the time. 

After arrival in Hobart people scattered to their various activities and plans. I was fortunate to spent a few fun hours with fellow genie and photo obsessive, Sharn from Family History 4 U. Some of my photos from the day will eventually make it to my photo and travel blog Tropical Territory and Travel which has been sadly neglected of late, like other things. Although the weather looked a little precarious in the beginning it turned into a magnificent afternoon with crystal clear vivid blue skies.

The day finished with a very good fireworks display over the harbour, with resounding toots of the ship’s “horn” in thanks for the display. It certainly gathered the crowds on the high decks and afterwards I was invited to join my table-mates, Cathy and Dot and friend Maria in the cocktail bar on Deck 14…a very pleasant end to the day.

547 painting the shipDay 8 was another full day in port and imagine our surprise to look out from the verandah and see another cruise ship had arrived overnight. It was interesting to see that life at sea involves little down-time for the crew who were busy painting any blemishes on the ship’s hull.

My priority for Day 8 ( a shore day) was to hit the archives in Hobart although initially I’d hoped to go to the Cascade Factory. However that was superseded by following up all possible leads on the Florentia and whether they would offer any further clues to whether Mary O’Brien was on board as an unassisted immigrant when the ship sailed into Hobart. Despite searching a range of pre-ordered documents, the answers were still ambiguous by the end of the day. My research outcomes re the Florentia will be the subject of an upcoming post.

And so we sailed from Hobart Town with my thoughts reflecting on whether Mary O’Brien and her sister Bridget were similarly sorry to leave this pretty place behind to head north to Moreton Bay, or in my case, to Sydney Town.

Leaving Hobart behind.

Leaving Hobart behind.

52 weeks of Genealogy Records: Internal Migration

libraryShauna Hicks has initiated a new 52 week series of prompts, Genealogy Records. We’re only into Week 3 but there have already been some interesting topics: Military Medals, Internal Migration and Probate.

Over the past few years I’ve done several 52 week series: Personal Genealogy and History (2011), Abundant Genealogy (2012) and my own Beyond the Internet (2012). I’m currently signed up for Angler’s Rest’s Book of Me 15 month series as well, with which I’m very much behind. Combined with various A to Z April posts and other daily or monthly posts I’m reluctant to get involved in more as it starts to feel like I’ve got a tiger by the tail.

However Shauna’s topic is a great opportunity to personalise my own stories to her theme so I will probably join in from time to time where the topic is relevant to my own history.  I have such a migration mania that I couldn’t possibly not participate in her second topic, Internal Migration. Whenever I get on the topic of migration it turns into a long yarn, so grab a coffee and a comfy chair, and read on for a while.


With so many railway people in my family tree, it’s inevitable that they’d be a peripatetic lot. Some moved across vast distances, others only relatively short postings when in their early years.

Image from Office online.

Image from Office online.

My greatest internal migrants would be the Sherry family who arrived in Rockhampton, Queensland, from Ireland where they also worked on the railway: the Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford Railway line judging on their progressive movement through those counties. On arrival, the patriarch James Sherry, changed most of the family’s name to McSharry. Oral history suggests this may have been to piggy-back on the fame of James McSharry from the railway construction firm, O’Rourke and McSharry.  Who knows whether this is fact or fiction. I suppose it’s also possible that the two families may have been connected but that’s an exploration I’ve yet to undertake.  Whatever the reality it has certainly caused immense confusion when trying to unravel what happened to my own family over the years, especially the mystery of what happened to my James McSharry.

The McSharry family moved from Rockhampton where they arrived, to Maryborough (why?) for a number of years, then back to Rockhampton where wife/widow, Bridget McSharry, settled and ran a boarding house until her death in 1900.

The adult children of this family moved around Queensland in response to work. Early family events revealed at least some of these through death certificates, police staff files, Post Office Directories, electoral rolls, and marriage records.

The eldest son of the family, Peter Sherry, arrived with his family a year after the rest of the Sherry family. Strangely he changed his name to McSherry rather than McSharry. Within weeks of arriving in Rockhampton he had been recruited to Queensland Government Railways and so began his migration around the state. The family spent a long time in Longreach, then moved on to Hughenden and Townsville before being transferred to Rockhampton where they put down roots.

Tracing this family’s internal migration has been greatly facilitated by Trove as it has revealed stories that would otherwise never have been known. I have a full copy of Peter’s railway staff record which tells the bare bones of his positions and postings over the years: a great base for knowing where they migrated internally.

Obviously the children of this family moved with Peter and Mary McSherry in their childhood, but even in their adulthood, the migrations continued. My grandfather James, worked in Hughenden then later Townsville before moving to Brisbane so his children could obtain jobs, or so the oral history goes. Given the move occurred in 1942, mid-war, in the thick of the Brisbane Line concept, I have to wonder whether it was because he was needed to build the railway carriages further from risk of Japanese invasion.

Once again my sources are: railway staff files, Trove, oral history.


George and Mary Kunkel, of whom you’ve all heard often, settled in Ipswich after their marriage there in 1857. While there George worked in a number of occupations: servant (pre-marriage), pork butcher and boarding house keeper. To all extents and purposes he was there all the time, after all there were children being born at regular intervals.

Cobb & Co coach from National Library Australia, out of copyright.

Cobb & Co coach from National Library Australia, out of copyright.

It was a court report, that enlightened me differently. While the family was settled, George was also working on the Tooloom goldfields in northern NSW as a butcher. Further reading on Trove revealed that there were regular coaches between Tooloom and Ipswich so plainly he could get home fairly often, perhaps to restock his supplies.

Recently I posted how he’d had a financial setback and this may have prompted their move westward, reportedly working on the railway, or perhaps again supplying meat. The next precise confirmation of where they lived was at Highfields, via the school admission registers and through church baptisms and birth certificates.

A Queensland railway camp, possibly Fountain's Camp at Murphy's Creek.

A Queensland railway camp, possibly Fountain’s Camp at Murphy’s Creek.

A few years later and the family would move a short distance to the Fifteen Mile between Highfields and Murphys Creek where they would take up farming and settle. George supplemented the farm income by working for the railway as a labourer.

Kunkel descendants, many of them railway workers, also moved around south-east Queensland and west as far as Roma with postings as the railway was constructed. One family branch moved to Mackay in northern Queensland and set down roots cane farming.

Records: court reports, school admission records, baptisms and birth certificates, railway staff files, land selection records.


The Gavins were short-migration people. Denis came from Kildare in Ireland and his wife, Ellen, from Wicklow. They married in Dublin before they emigrated though it’s not known when they each made that internal move.

Bullock dray loaded with wool, Qld 1898. Image from Qld State Archives, out of copyright.

Bullock dray loaded with wool, Qld 1898. Image from Qld State Archives, out of copyright.

On arrival Denis went to Binbian Downs station (per his obituary) as a carrier, then to Dalby, Toowoomba and Crows Nest. Although the distances are short by Australian standards he would have covered a lot of ground carrying wool on the bullock dray from Binbian Downs which is out near Wallumbilla.

Like the other Gavan/Gavin families with whom they interweave, but are unrelated, they remained on the Darling Downs.

Records: Convict records (the Galway Gavins), birth certificates, employment records, death certificates, re-marriage certificates, obituaries, maps, Trove.


These families were my stay-at-homes. The Kents and Partridges both went straight to Ipswich on arrival as far as I can tell. There they remained until their deaths, though descendants moved around the state.

Highland Gathering Acton Flats: Duncan McCorkindale was a judge of the dancers. National Archives of Australia: A3560, 2882

Highland Gathering Acton Flats: Duncan McCorkindale was a judge of the dancers. National Archives of Australia: A3560, 2882

The McCorkindale exodus from Glasgow commenced with Peter and Duncan’s arrival in Sydney in 1900. Well actually I eventually discovered it commenced with an uncle’s arrival quite a bit earlier. After the death of their father, their mother (Annie Sim McCorkindale) emigrated with the rest of the family excluding one stay-put son, Thomas Sim McCorkindale who’d moved to London. Close analysis of the shipping lists showed that other family members had arrived as well.

Once settled in Brisbane on arrival, Peter joined them, and the family remained there except for country excursions to decimate the opposite in bagpipe and Highland Dance competitions. Duncan McCorkindale moved between Sydney and Canberra where he was part of the teams that built the nation’s capital, and their Caledonian Society.

Records: Trove, shipping lists, BDM certificates, church registers.


Stephen Gillespie Melvin’s family was tied to the sea, with generations of merchant seamen. No surprise then that they were born to be migrants, both internal and international.

After the death of his wife, Janet, soon after arrival SGM settled in Ipswich, Queensland where he promptly established a well-regarded confectionery shop. He must have gadded around a bit though because his land portfolio was scattered around the south east of Queensland. But it was his foray into mining that brought him undone, resulting in insolvency and a little jaunt to jail.

Not long after being released from jail, the family moved to Charters Towers which was then experiencing a gold boom. No doubt escaping his notoriety would have been on his mind as well, though the coverage of the trial was so extensive that it would have been known in Charters Towers as well.

Around the time of his second wife’s Emily’s death, SGM started acquiring businesses and land in Sydney and thus the younger members of his family set down their roots in New South Wales. Meanwhile he continued his migrations on a temporary basis, as he travelled back and forth to the UK for business. One such migration became permanent however when he died in London.

Records: BDM certificates, church registers, shipping records, Trove, court reports, gaol records, insolvency records, wills.


I know from my Irish research that the emigrants were keen to follow their own destiny even at the expense of family connections, but the internal migration of Bridget O’Brien (later Widdup) is one that puzzles me.

Bridget (O'Brien) Widdup's grave in the Urana cemetery.

Bridget (O’Brien) Widdup’s grave in the Urana cemetery.

If Bridget was in Ipswich with her sister Mary after their long emigration journey, why did she decide to move south to the Albury area, and to Urana? This has always mystified me, since I knew from her death certificate that she’d spent one year in Queensland.

The possibilities seem to be:

  • She didn’t like the Queensland environment or climate
  • Friends were moving interstate
  • She had met her future husband, John Widdup, on the ship as the story goes so she moved to be with him.
  • Her employer in Queensland relocated and offered her a position elsewhere.

It’s the Whys of family history research that keep us on our toes.

Records: Death certificates, oral history, Trove

So there you have it…the peripatetic wanderings of my families over the years. It has always seemed to me that having made the long journey to Australia, rather than the comparatively short hop across the Atlantic, they were not daunted by further moves if they satisfied their occupation or life goals.

When I was 18 – there were no dinosaurs

Over the past months it often occurs to me just how much has changed in my lifetime, so I’ve been thinking about this post for a while…must be a sign of increasing age. Doesn’t mean I won’t forget something, so please add your comments at the end, or join me and write your own post on the topic as your experiences may be very different.

I grew up in Brisbane in Queensland as a number of my blogging friends did as well. I wonder how much our experiences will overlap and where they’ll differ.


Voting and drinking were illegal for us, being under 21, but our brothers or male friends could be sent to war.


Image – Creative Commons.

Communism and Vietnam: Australia was still nervous about “Reds under the Beds” and suddenly wanted to go “All the Way with LBJ”. Universities were agitating over civil liberties, Australia’s presence in the Vietnam War and the enforced conscription of young men, who “won” the conscription lotto if their birthday was drawn out for a free excursion to the Vietnam War. Queensland was very conservative in all sorts of ways.

Multi-culturalism hadn’t been invented as a concept, though the reality had arrived with the post-War immigrants.  They retained national dress, dance and language for special events, and at home. Their influence was about to be felt in the realms of food as we were introduced to garlic, olives etc.

Church: Many, if not most, people went to church regularly. Vatican II had arrived and Catholic women shed their hats for mantillas (a lace veil over the head). People started to think independently about their actions. The barriers between religions were still standing and most people were horrified at the thought of entering a different type of church.

Brown or Asian faces were rarely seen in the city as Australia’s hideous White Australia Policy was still enforced. No one admitted to having indigenous or convict blood.

Neighbours: whether you liked them or not, you knew pretty much everyone because you passed them as you walked to the bus/tram. You always said hello to those you passed.

Hospitals: Queensland had a public hospital system funded by the Golden Casket. There was no Medicare for all.

The effects of World War II were still evident around town in the men’s physical injuries – empty sleeves or trouser legs pinned up and prostheses. Their mental injuries weren’t so evident except perhaps in the occasional drunk seen on the street.


Image from Creative Commons.

Image from Microsoft Images Online.

Daily Transport: we didn’t own a car until I was 20 so getting around town involved shanks’s pony (walking), bus, tram or train. Standing up and offering your seat to an adult or pregnant woman was totally non-negotiable. My Dad rode to work, hail, rain or shine, on his no-gears push-bike.

Air Travel was expensive and not available to most. I didn’t fly in a plane until I was 19 (with a friend who was a pilot), and on a commercial flight at 21. I’ve been on and off planes like buses ever since.

Holiday Transport was by intra-state train. Those taking the semi-obligatory trip to the “Old Country” for a year or two’s work experience travelled by ship. As the ship pulled away from the wharf there were streamers held by passenger and friend which snapped as the distance grew. Very symbolic.

Overseas Travel was a fantasy for most people. Only our one family of “rich relations” had travelled overseas.

Suitcases were solid, heavy and were carried, not wheeled. (What a great invention that’s been!)

The Brisbane city skyline as I finished school.  From my photo collection.

The Brisbane city skyline as I finished school. From my photo collection.

Brisbane’s first Freeway was still a few years away.

Space travel was a recent competition between Soviet and America (US) astronauts and scientists. The Soviets were leading the way but the US was yet to put Apollo 11 and the first man on the moon.


The Brisbane City Hall clock tower was still holding its own as one of the highest buildings and you could read the time from it around the streets. 

Illustrating Jill's point, dressed for town or church with gloves, hat and patent leather shoes.

Illustrating Jill’s point, dressed for town or church with gloves, hat and patent leather shoes.

Shopping malls didn’t exist. You went to the city or Fortitude Valley when shopping for clothes or household goods. My mother used to like to walk the length of Brisbane from Finney’s to McDonnell & East to check the items and prices. We were “allowed” to catch the tram or bus to the city from the Valley. Going to town always involved getting “dressed up”, no informality in those days. Parcels at the good shops were wrapped in brown paper and tied neatly with string, with a loop to make it easier to carry.


Technology: TV and radio were our main technology. There were no cable TVs, DVDs, VCRs, fax, internet, computers, iPads, MP3s, cassette players, tape recorders, answering machines, or mobile phones. Colour TV was still on the horizon. Records were 78s or 33s (LPs) and small 45s. If you were lucky you had a record player in the house, either a family one or a portable one, which was likely a gift. My grandmother owned a gramophone which I have inherited.Portable record player c1960s

Postage: If you wanted to share news with someone you had limited choices: letters for ordinary events, postcards for holiday news, and telegrams for urgent news or special celebrations. The postman (it was always a man) walked his route twice a day delivering the mail and blew his whistle if you had mail. On hot summer days it was a common courtesy to offer him a cold drink.

"My Fair Lady" Programme

My copy of the “My Fair Lady” Programme.

Telegrams were delivered to your door and if you knew it was a birthday or you were sharing exam results with people it wouldn’t strike fear into your heart as one would if “coming out of the blue”.

Entertainment: There were no multiplex cinemas and you “went to the pictures” in town or at a local theatre. Stage shows were something special. Both movies and theatre offered published programs with pictures and stories about the actors and the movie/show. There was always an interval in the movie and young women walked through the theatre selling lollies and ice-creams.

Cameras and watches were something special: reserved for adults, and fortunate children, but often to recognise a special birthday or achievement.


Food: Meals were cooked from scratched. Roast chicken was expensive, unless you had your own chooks and was often a Christmas and Easter special meal. Baking in our house was a Saturday event. The only take-away, very occasionally, was fish and chips. When I was about 18, Mum & I occasionally ventured to the Valley to a Chinese restaurant where we had exotic meals like sweet and sour pork and stir-fried rice. I don’t recall Mum and Dad ever going out for a restaurant meal, partly because of his shift work.

Ingredients: Fruit and veg were basic and chokoes were deemed to be a reasonable option for preserving or vegetables. Avocadoes, mushrooms, zucchini, unusual herbs etc were in the future. Many of these I first “met” when I worked in a fruit and veg shop as a part-time job. Bread was always white and fluffy, and also fresh from the bakery. I remember even in my 20s it was a challenge to find coconut milk in Brisbane (they had it at Toowong Woolworths).

An old laundry copper recycled as a water feature in the NT. Photo P Cass.

An old laundry copper recycled as a water feature in the NT. Photo P Cass.

Glad Wrap/ Cling Wrap hadn’t arrived and sandwiches were wrapped in greaseproof paper.

Telephone: Most homes near us didn’t have one. Those who did would take urgent messages for friends who lived close by, otherwise you used the local public phone or wrote letters.

Laundry Day was always Monday and was a heavy-duty workload with coppers, wringers and hand-washing. Twin tub machines were a grand invention and automatic washing machines in our future.

Corner Stores: we had a corner store for the basics and a butcher’s shop a couple of streets away. I have no idea where the groceries came from or how they were delivered. A cart came around sometimes with bread and fish.

Appliances and housework: The Sunbeam mixer, the pressure cooker, and carpet sweeper were “it” as far as appliances went. Mum was always the dishwasher, and I was the dryer. Dad mowed the lawn, looked after the garden and mended the shoes.


Boys and girls in private schools were not permitted to speak to each other on public transport, even siblings….a fine excuse!

Make up was reserved for the mid-teens and was a ritual of passage unless you were playing “dress-ups” as a child.

The Great Court at UQ c1998

The Great Court at UQ c1998. P Cass

Books were special purchases, usually only for birthdays or Christmas, or perhaps when you were sick because they were expensive.

Your friends lived in your own neighbourhood, unless/until you went to high school in the city. No one drove you to meet them, no matter where they lived, you caught public transport.

University was a dream for many people but the newly-introduced government scholarships made it possible for working class kids who studied hard.

I met my beloved Mr Cassmob and my life changed in ways I’d never have imagined.



Image from Microsoft Images Online.

No, didn’t see any of those around there, even though this all sounds like light-years away. I’d love to hear your comments on whether your experience differed from mine, and in particular from younger readers.

Book of Me: Home is where the heart is.

Book of meThe prompt for week 20 in the 15 month series of Book of Me is “Home”: Home means different things to different people, so this week we are going to explore what it means to us: What does it feel like? How do you recognise it? What makes it home -people, place, time. This will be a long post I fear, so get comfortable with a coffee or tea.

This is something I’ve pondered generally over a long time, in the context of my own life but also for my emigrant ancestors. Were they ever truly at home in Australia or did they still think of their places of birth as home? Did they hanker for grey skies, old buildings, green fields? Of course these are answers I’ll never have since there are no diaries to read, no letters and no oral history touching on the topic.

My own sense of home is sometimes elusive. We are empty nesters and our “children” have established their own homes. They are family but they are no longer part of “home” except inasmuch they live in the same city.Peter and Springer low

The core of “home” for me is my husband, Mr Cassmob. We’ve been together so long it’s almost impossible to imagine home without him, though that will be a reality one or other of us will have to face one day, hopefully far in the future. Another part of home on a daily basis is our very indulged fluffy tabby cat, Springer. Certainly both of us felt a gap in our lives when he went missing for seven weeks last year. He has, I suppose, become a surrogate “child”: he even gracefully returns our affections – when it suits him – occasionally.

My childhood home.

My childhood home.

After spending all my younger years years in one house, , our own family has moved house eleven times, some houses being but passing phases, others being our home for long periods. While I’ve loved living in each of our houses, the house itself does not define home, except for the duration we live there. If we return for a drive-by it’s out of curiosity to see what’s changed and especially to look at the garden. So I guess we have to add the garden to a sense of home. It may be a townhouse block or a larger suburban block, but the plants and birds who visit become part of our feeling of home. And in every house, a cat has been part of our home.29 bally st 7 front

There is really only one house for which I feel nostalgic and that’s my my grandparents’ house which I visited daily as a child. I think it was the indulgence and exploration that made it so irresistable. That is perhaps the home of “time”, a special place in memory and affection.

Other than husband and cat, the constants of home are the belongings we treasure and take with us from house to house. Always a core of books, special items and “treasures” we’ve acquired wherever we’ve lived or travelled. Very little has any real commercial value, but they reflect our lives. It’s hard to imagine our home without them, though that is something that has to be considered when living with the annual risk of cyclones. Perhaps that’s why my cyclone emergency packing pays minimal attention to clothes, linen and other practicalities. It’s interesting to ponder what I would take with me to define home if we were to spend an extended time overseas.

DSC_0272 (2)

Is “home” a specific place for me? For a long time Brisbane was home, as I’d known no other. That changed when I went to live in Papua New Guinea after we married, the transition to a new sense of home being surprisingly speedy. Returning to PNG in 2012, there was a real sense of being home again: the familiarity of place and people. We feel the same every time our plane lands in Cairns because the density of the tropical ranges evoke PNG so clearly. Now, each place we live imprints itself on mind and emotion.


My parents didn’t own a car until I was in my late teens so Brisbane was a series of disjointed images rather like map segments stuck together. Flying in regularly, my vision of it changed: the serpentine Brisbane River wound its way through the city; the hills enclosing the city and the red-roofed houses seemed so obvious.

Eldest daughter with her Poppy, feeding the lorikeets.

Eldest daughter with her Poppy, feeding the lorikeets.

Brisbane is kookaburras laughing, magpies warbling and lorikeets drunk on nectar. The sound of cicadas on a hot summer’s day. The different flowers and plants of this sub-tropical town: perhaps the best of both “worlds”.Billabong2

DSC_1100The Top End will remain with me for its very different geography and vegetation, and its wide open spaces. The drama of the Wet Season with its fierce electrical storms and torrential rains. The inability to swim in those magnificently turquoise waters (crocodiles, stingers, sharks etc). The tropical beauty of a bush billabong. The peep-peep of the crimson finches in our yard, the flash of colour from a rainbow bee-eater, the strangled laugh of the northern kookaburra, the speed of a whistling kite as it snatches a sausage.

All these places become part of my history of “home” as we move around.

Near Renner Springs NT

Near Renner Springs NT

What remains unchanged is my core sense of Australia as home. Whenever we return from a trip overseas it’s the wide, bright blue skies that strike me first and the vivid colours so different from the northern hemisphere. The sense of space when travelling through our much-mythologised outback. The sound of surf breaking on the vast white sands of our beaches. A huge sky emblazoned with the southern stars and the Southern Cross marking their transition through the night. Its bizarre animals and magnificent native flora. Dorothy Mackellar’s poem, My Country, though a little old-fashioned in style, sums it up well in essence.

So what is truly home for me? On a daily basis it’s Mr Cassmob, the cat, our books and belongings, the garden and its flowers and birds. The house structure is important but only while we live there. Underpinning it all is the sense of place: the affiliation with the land and landscape of Australia in all its manifestations.Birds better

Sepia Saturday 210: Award-winning relatives

This week’s Sepia Saturday focuses on old books and the treasures (photographic or otherwise) found in them.Sepia Saturday 210

I don’t think I’ve ever found photos tucked away in old books but we did find a group photo behind another picture from my Grandparents’ house and I talked about that in my Moustaches and Mystery post recently.

Instead I thought I’d share a few book inscriptions with you. Over the past year I’ve acquired some of the family’s old books, including my childhood books, thanks to Mum’s move to an independent retirement unit.

Book inscriptions can be interesting I think as they reveal otherwise hidden parts of an ancestor’s or relative’s life. Back in the days when books were expensive and only rarely bought by families who weren’t affluent, they were often gifts or even school prizes.

Two of the books I have included prizes awarded to family members. One was for Mr Cassmob’s grandmother, Katie McKenna, for writing in 1901.

Katie McKenna

Another was for my grandmother’s brother, Duncan McCorkindale, who was awarded the prize for passing second stage physiology and physical geography in his Glasgow school.

Duncan McCorkindale

In fact it was something about Duncan that was one of the few things I found tucked away in a bible: the notice of his rather gruesome death in Sydney. Which makes me realise that I’ve never written about that story, or his role in the building of the nation’s capital, Canberra. I need to put that on my blog post list.Irish book

I’m curious who this book belonged to as there’s no inscription, and no publication date. My best guess is that it belonged to my Irish grandfather or one of his children.

A while ago I wrote about a prize that my grandfather’s young brother had won, but I’ve no idea what his prize was. I wonder if it too was a book.

Have you found prize inscriptions in books you’ve inherited, either from your family or a used-book store?

To read the stories other Sepians have submitted this week you can click here.

It’s All in the Numbers Geneameme

A while ago Alona from LoneTester HQ blog launched the It’s All in the Numbers Geneameme. For ages my mind was blank on what numbers would be relevant, but eventually the lightbulb went from dim to bright and here is my contribution, focused as so often, on my immigrant ancestors.

But first I want to remember my great-great grandmother Mary O’Brien Kunkel who was buried in the Murphys Creek (Qld) cemetery on this day 95 years ago. You’re not forgotten Mary.

My McSherry great-grandparents and some of their children, kindly provided to me by a cousin.

My McSherry great-grandparents and some of their children, kindly provided to me by a cousin. My grandfather on the left, and his sister beside him seem to be an addition to the photo.

My McSherry/Sherry/McSharry family gets the guernsey for the greatest number of winning entries and here they are:

3             most name changes – from Sherry on arrival to McSharry for the parents and most children (many adult) and McSherry for my own great-grandparents (2nd phase arrivals a year later).

15           most children in one family, to Peter and Mary McSherry; with Stephen and Emily Melvin in second place, with 14 children.

5             most direct immigrant ancestors: two great-great grandparents, two great-grandparents and my grandfather (James and Bridget, Peter and Mary, James Joseph)

2             the age of my youngest immigrant ancestor on arrival –my grandfather

The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 - 1929), Saturday 12 March 1887, page 17

The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 – 1929), Saturday 12 March 1887, page 17 The unidentified man was John McSharry, aged 22.

2             set of twins to my great-grandparents – one set died as still births, another daughter died in infancy, but one survived.

10           children in my McSharry 2xgreat grandparents’ family

3             “children” (ages 7, 9 and 22) who died within 7 years of arriving

15           largest number of immigrants from one family (two phases 11 + 4)

1             most elusive ancestor – James Sherry aka James McSharry  – but not to be confused with the man of the same name who co-owned O’Rourke & McSharry, a big railway construction company.

And some of my other family history numbers:

92           the oldest age at death (Martin Furlong –father of my McSharry 2xgreat grandmother)

11           children born to my Kunkel 2xgreat grandparents and great-grandparents. 10 to George and Mary survived infancy and 11 to George and Julia.

6             number of families who arrived in Australia (Kent, Melvin, Gavin, Sherry x 2, McCorkindale)

3             number of singles who arrived in Australia (Kunkel, O’Brien, Partridge)

8             Irish immigrants – direct ancestors (McSherry, O’Brien, Gavin)

4             English immigrants – direct ancestors (Kent, Partridge)

3             Scottish immigrants –direct ancestors (McCorkindale, Melvin)

1             solitary Bavarian (German) ancestor (Kunkel)

10           2nd largest immigration of family – McCorkindales -2 phases (2 + 8)

Thanks Alona for suggesting this topic. It took a while for me to get my head around it but once I settled on the theme I really enjoyed it.

And here is the grave of my Mary O’Brien, husband George Kunkel and two of their children including my great-grandfather George Michael Kunkel.981 George and Mary Kunkel grave

Flowers of Remembrance Geneameme

La vie en rosesA few days ago I suggested a new open-ended Flowers of Remembrance geneameme: which flowers remind you of your family (close and distant) and perhaps even friends. I’d been reflecting how certain flowers, or plants, made me think of those who’ve gone before me and wondered if other people did the same.

So here is my own response: a mix of fragrances, flowers and plants.

My Aunty Emily (great aunt) was like a grandmother to me after my maternal grandmother died. Aunty Emily makes me think of pansies because they were on the china she gave me and her own china, the magnificent roses in New Farm Park where’d we meet for an outing. She also makes me think of the fragrance of lavender and violets.

HydrangeaMy paternal grandmother is always associated with big blue-purple hydrangeas, which she had growing in tubs under the verandah. I don’t recall ever seeing cut flowers in the house.

My paternal grandfather makes me think of maidenhair fern which he had growing in old casks under the same verandah. Why he makes me think of ferns and her of flowers I don’t know…gender bias?

Dad conjures up thoughts of gerberas and roses. The gerberas were large double ones, usually orange, and he got the seeds from a nursery in Bundaberg (Bauer’s I believe). His Roundelay roses were spectacular and I loved a candy-pink and cream-striped rose that he grew as well, even though I usually dislike variegated plants (can’t retrieve its name). The mango tree and its flowers – the tree that was planted when he was born all those years ago – although a bit scruffy looking, still holding on, ninety odd years later.

PansiesMum and flowers go together like a horse and carriage. We often had cut flowers from the garden in the house. Floral thoughts take me to pansies, sweet peas and Dad’s roses. The roses and sweet peas would go in a crystal vase but the pansies were always displayed in a heart-shaped frosted green-glass dish where they sat perfectly. Mum was also behind my habit of taking flowers to school for feast days and other special occasions. Flower arranging has been a hobby of hers for a very long time, for her own pleasure and for use in the church, or indeed our wedding reception.

DSC_1396Mr Cassmob is forever associated for me with the dainty bunches of violets he would buy for me while we were at uni –the jealous looks I’d get you wouldn’t believe. The fragrance was magnificent. He also evokes red roses and hibiscus and I thank my lucky stars that his mother taught her son not only to love flowers, but to buy them for his wife.

My mother-in-law loved flowers but only displayed them, one or two at a time, in tiny vases. Her favourites were hibiscus which she grew in Papua New Guinea, including importing a special purple one from Hawaii back in the 1960s. Each day a new hibiscus would be placed in a small upside-down bowl on the dining table. At her husband’s funeral we learned that he had bought her yellow roses, so that’s an earlier association.

My father-in-law, apart from those yellow roses, was happy to have flowers around, as having Kaye happy was one of his raisons d’être.

606 roses 2One daughter also loves fresh flowers in the house, whatever is seasonal, and for some of us our memories will be of her Nairobi house filled with gorgeous roses.

Another daughter turns my thoughts to flower arrangements which she seems to accrue fairly often in her teaching role and orchids and stargazer lilies remind me of her wedding.

My husband remembers his grandmother in country Victoria, for her mulberry trees, and his other grandmother for the roses in the front garden.

My good friend Linda is a lover of all flowers but especially the fragrant ones: jasmine, gardenias and camellias. Another friend has frangipani in her Christmas displays. Thoughts of another friend bring to mind the hoya cutting we gave her, that has gone beserk and grown magnificently for her.

Lavender Bridestowe Tasmania Jan 09And my own favourites? What would others say? Perhaps lavender or grevilleas or frangipani …or just any flowers. Mr Cassmob says violets and red roses. My daughters might say the Stargazer lilies that we so often have in the house here. What I really dislike are arum lilies and gladioli which remind me of the many funerals I attended at my primary school. Recently I’ve been developing a passion for peonies which is thwarted because you just don’t see them here.

Even though I don’t know my distant ancestors, I’d associate George Kunkel with orange blossoms from his fruit orchard, and of course what else would Mary O’Brien evoke but shamrocks?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little geneameme with its evocation of sight, fragrance and those we’ve loved, now or in the distant past.

What it’s made me realise is how little I know about the flower preferences of some of my friends, and that not everyone has cut flowers in the house. I know some people prefer them to stay on the bushes (Robyn, are you reading?) but I like them in both places.

Do you have seasonal or travel floral memories?

A hibiscus for Kaye.

A hibiscus for Kaye.

Mine are: jacarandas flowering in Spring in the Great Court, or round the lake, as a prelude to exam time at The University of Queensland; a mass of pink Eucalyptus ptychocarpa (now apparently Corymbia ptychocarpa) blossoms that appear in Brisbane and Darwin at this time of year; the bright yellow pom-poms of Xanthostemon in Brisbane summers (spectacular last year); native violets blanketing the garden; masses of grevillea in spring, the cerise flowers of Melaleuca viridiflora smothering the tree in my parent’s backyard. The Cassia fistula’s magnificent yellow pendulous flowers in Brisbane and Port Moresby, and their hazardous seedpods; and the Golden Raintree (Koelreutia paniculata) on our Brisbane footpath. The arrival of the Christmas owls in the liquidamber in our Brisbane back yard remain a precious memory even though the tree-phobic neighbour has won out and had the tree removed. The poincianas bursting into red flower as Christmas approaches, the pinks of the frangipani at Christmas and the flush of white on the melaleucas, the waterlilies on the billabongs in Kakadu. The wonderful gardens we visit during each year’s Open Gardens scheme throughout the Dry Season.

Do you remember those Scratch’n’Sniff books which were around in the early 70s? That’s what we need for today’s post! If you haven’t already posted on this topic, why not join in? Please leave your link in the comments or use a #flowersgeneameme twitter tag.