L loves Loch Fyne and Loch Awe

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which).  Today I get to talk about some of my favourite L places.

L is for Loch Fyne

Loch Fyne near Inveraray © P Cass 2010

Do you think there’s a statute of limitations on how time-distant a place can be and still tug at your heart strings and speak to your DNA? Although I’ve visited lots of my genealogical heritage places and walked the land, there are only a few that truly make me feel like I’ve come home. Dorfprozelten in Bavaria comes close because the history is so close to the surface, but language and cultural difference stand between me and that feeling of home-coming.

Loch Fyne in Argyll is that home-place where I can truly feel my roots deep into the land and scenery, and as I stood on its banks one day, that realisation came to me so clearly. I may identify more with the Irish people and love its scenery but it’s the sparseness of the Scottish highlands that call my name.

Strachur on Loch Fyne on a wintery March day. © P Cass 2006

Scattered along the shores of Loch Fyne are family places: Ardkinglas and nearby Strone where James McCorkindale and family lived; Cairndow where Isabella Morrison McCorkindale is buried; and Strachur where my Morrison ancestors lived back into the C18th. Inveraray, home of the ruling Campbells, is pivotal to anyone who lives in the vicinity, including my McCorkindales (earlier aka McCorquodales, various spellings). I love that when I feel the smoothness of a timber egg from the Ardkinglas Tree Shop I have a long-distant link to my ancestor who worked on this estate.

L is for Loch Awe

View over Loch Awe from Kilchrenan side © P Cass 2010

Loch Awe is another place which calls to my heart. Just over the hills from Inveraray my earlier McCorquodales lived along Loch Awe for what was probably centuries, later apparently moving from the parish of Kilchrenan on what is called the northside (though I think of it as west) to Inishail on the southside. There is something soothing about being on either side of the loch, despite what I know of its blood-thirsty history. In fact this northern end of Loch Awe was traditional country for Clan McCorquodales, centred on nearby Loch Tromlee, land-locked in Kilchrenan parish. I’m quite sure that my own McCorquodales are minor members of the clan, but equally I’m reasonably confident that they lived hereabouts for many years.

The history of Laufach is told on the carvings on this pole (don't know its correct name). © P Cass 2003

L is for Laufach

My love of ancestral places doesn’t quite extend to Laufach, pleased as I was to visit. Its railway role should have made me feel at home but it didn’t, making the town feel rather industrial. However I’m certainly indebted to the local historian from Laufach, also a descendant of the Kunkel family, who provided me with an ancestral pedigree stretching back many generations into 17th century. Our language barriers proved a challenge to real communication as he spoke little English and my German really wasn’t up to what was needed.

L is for Limerick

Although my O’Brien family were from Broadford in east County Clare, they belonged in the Limerick Union. Had the Famine driven them to a workhouse, which mercifully they weren’t, it would have been to Limerick Workhouse they’d have been admitted. As part of my east Clare research I spent some time looking at the early 1850s Board of Guardian minutes to learn more about emigrants to Australia who may have left the workhouse. Murphy’s Law being at work, these records are now online and you can read more here.

I think it’s almost certain that Mary O’Brien and her sister Bridget would have visited Limerick at some point and may even have transited through Limerick on their migration to Australia.  The Silver Voice blog has a wonderfully descriptive tour of Limerick here. My own photos of Limerick have vanished somewhere so no pics from me I’m afraid.

L is for London

We loved the interior of St Saviour's, Southwark where my husband's Cass ancestors married. It seemed quite simple despite the decoration. I know, makes no sense. © P Cass 2010

At different times I’ve had quick flits into London to read old census microfilms, or pull down the BDM registers in those pre-digital searching days, or a one-day visit to the National Archives. However the horrendous pound-dollar exchange rate ensured these were never going to be long stays.  Thankfully on our last visit the Aussie dollar was strong so a visit of a few days was possible. This time we played the tourist and were able to investigate some of my husband’s family history sites on the south bank of the Thames including St Saviour’s at Southwark. While I know I have some London ancestry, I’ve not found much about the specific locations so I gave myself permission to just go out and have fun!

L is my wish for a winning Lotto ticket…

It’s a bit of an Aussie pastime to plan what you’d do if you won the Lotto. Imagine the fun that could be had in all these heritage places, visiting the sites and spending days weeks in archives. Oh well, one can but dream!

G goes to Goroka, Gorey and Glasgow

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which).

G requires grit to get to the end!

G is for Goroka (Papua New Guinea)

Some places are larger than life and offer experiences beyond your imagination. Goroka, headquarters of the Eastern Highlands District/Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG) is one such place. We lived there for a few years in the 1970s arriving from the tiny town of Alotau and being bedazzled by the shops and variety on offer. Before you get the wrong idea, Goroka was not a thriving urban metropolis with glittering shops…not at all, it was just that we’d become accustomed to shopping by post/catalogue, ordering food in by trawler, or shopping at one of the four trade stores in Alotau.

Young Highland women seen around Goroka. © P Cass 1973

Nothing about Goroka was mundane or familiar to anyone who grew up elsewhere (which included me, but not my husband). When you live in PNG, you become accustomed to people wandering around almost naked: warriors in beads and loin cloths, women in beads and slightly larger loin cloths and almost always a child at the breast, men and women shiny with pig grease to keep the cold out, and smelling of smoke from living in a hut with only a tiny gap in the roof for ventilation. We had a village at the back of our government-issued house and a squatter settlement down the end of the street…anything left under the house had a habit of going walkabout. Yet strangely our vegetable patch survived untouched.

Goroka is at 1600 metres (about 5200 ft) and sits among high mountains. It has a fantastic climate: about 21C daily all year, and cool enough for blankets at night. Heaven! The local Seventh Day Adventist Mission at nearby Kabiufa grew fresh vegetables and flowers and we’d drive there each Sunday after Mass to buy up for the week. Until then I’d never eaten broccoli or cauliflower, for example, and these were miniature versions, so cute. We had a great system going where we sent fresh vegetables in an esky to my in-laws on the coast, and they sent us fresh crayfish tails in return. I can’t tell you how much our friends loved us when the flight came in, and how much we all enjoyed the delicious crayfish curry.

Highlands scenery around Goroka © P Cass 1973.

Goroka was accessible by road to other places via the Highlands Highway which was an adventure in itself. We drove to Lae one year with my parents, something of a challenge to our little Datsun 1200. We took day trips up to Daulo Pass or down to Lufa for a picnic: something that always drew a crowd in the Highlands..no chance of going anywhere without someone watching you. On one return drive to Daulo, we came around a corner with a small cluster of warriors running towards us, spears in hand, and “singing”, plainly intent on some stoush or other. We locked the car doors, made no eye contact and kept our fingers crossed. Mercifully they had other issues to deal with and were not interested in us. Payback is huge in PNG, over the loss of a pig, issues with women, perceived slights etc. Best not to be around when that happens!

Wahgi men at the Goroka Show © P Cass 1974

And then there was the Goroka Show! Imagine thousands of warriors in one large football area all dressed in their specific dress-styles, armed with arrows, spears etc, all coming together in peace for a massive singsing (singing and dancing). Truly if you haven’t seen it you can’t imagine it…do click on the link above to get an idea. There was the year when there was a bit of a stoush somewhere on field and the Police let off tear gas and the crowd stampeded, knocking down the fence. Or the year when the mud at the Show came up to your ankles. Shoes were useless and you just had to hope you didn’t catch anything infectious.

Where else would you forever wonder if your beautiful cat had wound up in someone’s cooking pot or as a new hat.

Or the day the helicopter barely cleared the power lines near our “new” house to bring someone into the hospital. As they brought him out on a stretcher, he still had the spear sticking up out of him.  Or the flying in general, in steep mountainous country prone to sudden cloud cover. I could go on…

Queen Elizabeth II visited Goroka in PNG in early 1974. Not a superb photo but can you imagine being allowed to get this close today? © P Cass 1974

In early 1974, Queen Elizabeth II came to visit Goroka, along with Prince Philip and Princess Anne and Capt Phillips and Lord Mountbatten. Nowhere else in the world would you be likely to get so close to royalty, even in those days. As I clicked and clicked, from one location to another, I swear Philip looked at me as if to say “not you again”.

PNG gained self-government in September 1974, and we were a little fearful given how bloody this event had been in many African nations in the preceding decade. Our fears were unfounded and all we heard were some rubbish-bin-lid banging (something of a local tradition) and yelling. This was great because when Independence came along a few years later we were able to fully enjoy it.

G is for Glasgow (Scotland)

I wonder just how many Aussies can trace their Scottish roots back to Glasgow, however briefly. My guess would be an enormous number because Glasgow was the transit point for those displaced from the Highlands and country areas, the source of work in the increasingly industrial age, and a point of departure by bus, train or ship.

Bolton Tce, Glasgow where Duncan McCorkindale died. © P Cass 2010

My McCorkindale family are no different. Duncan McCorkindale left his birthplace at Cairndow on Loch Fyne, to head to Glasgow some time between 1851 (aged 9) and 1861 (aged 19). On the latter census Duncan is living in Central Glasgow (probably Albert St) and is a lodger with the family of Thomas and Elizabeth Logie (also from Argyll). He is listed as a joiner, as is Thomas Logie, which suggests to me that Duncan has already completed his apprenticeship, or perhaps was training with Thomas. In 1864 when he married his first wife, Annie Tweedie Law, he states his occupation as journeyman joiner. Over the years the family moved from pillar to post around Glasgow. It’s hard to know why this was so, perhaps just because of a growing family, perhaps to get work.

Duncan died in 1906 and in 1910, his widow and their children, one of whom was my grandmother, Catherine (whom I wrote about recently here), emigrated to Australia presumably for a better life and to rejoin their eldest sons who’d emigrated in 1900.

An overview of the Glasgow Heritage displays in the Council Chambers. © P Cass 2010.

Until recently we’d never really spent time in Glasgow, rather using it as a transit point like so many of the emigrants. In 2010 we flew into Glasgow and prioritised having a look around. We did the tourist thing and checked out various tourist sights and took the city bus tour. By sheer coincidence there was a Glasgow heritage event, which was really interesting.  This event was held in the Glasgow City Chambers and if you’re ever in Glasgow I can highly recommend taking their free tour just to see the fabulous architectural features. I’d also wanted to refer to some shipping business records in the University of Glasgow Archives tucked away in a funny little building, and fit in a visit to the Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society who were very helpful. Of course we also did the drive-around checking out the family’s addresses, learned from certificates and censuses. Many of the buildings were no longer standing, demolished and replaced by new businesses, but we did manage to find two of their homes. As always, never enough time, including the opportunity to visit the Mitchell Library, and I wish for a longer visit in the future when we can hopefully afford to stay in the same fabulous B&B…the perfect antidote to jetlag…thank heavens for a strong Aussie dollar.

G is for Gorey (Ireland)

St Michael's Catholic Church, Gorey, Co Wexford where my Sherry family were married and baptised. © P Cass 1992.

Gorey in County Wexford has lots of significance in my McSherry family who lived there for over 15 years. My great-grandparents Peter McSherry and Mary Callaghan were married there and their first two children were born there. It was from here that the family would leave for Australia in 1883, a year after Peter’s parents and siblings had also emigrated. James and Bridget McSharry (then Sherry) lived in the townland of Knockina. I’ve recently told the story of Bridget’s life here.

When I visited Gorey in the late 1980s, St Michael’s Catholic Church, was of course a focus. The priest was amazingly kind, and let us peruse the church registers to find the various family events. I wonder if there were any I missed due to lack of experience?

Gorey also has a high profile in Irish history being involved in the 1798 uprisings. I’ve not researched this in detail so will leave that to anyone with a specific interest. Rebelhand’s blog talks about the 1798 Wexford and family history.

I’m following some of my genealogy buddies on this A to Z voyage:

Julie at Anglers Rest who tempted me onto the A to Z path and is posting about her experiences in Australia and her Aussie genealogical connections.

Susan on Family History Fun whose posts I thoroughly enjoy each and every time.

Ros at GenWestUK came recommended by Susan and I’m enjoying learning completely new things…who knew Englishry was a word, I didn’t.

And for a change of genealogy pace here are a couple of new-to-me A to Z blogs I’ve popped into:

Holly Michael’s Writing Straight. Holly commented on my blog posts and I enjoyed looking at her posts. I especially liked that she is “nodding” to other blogs and has inspired me to try this too.

Seams Inspired is writing about sewing terms: lots of memories for me on this one.

C is a very busy letter…

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which).

C is for Clare, Cairndow, Coleford and Charters Towers

It looks like C has been a busy letter of the alphabet in our family, and that’s without going into names!

C is for County Clare, Ireland

County Clare is my 2xgreat grandmother’s home place and her granddaughter remembered her saying always that she was “Mary O’Brien from Co Clare”. I talked a little about Mary in “B for Ballykelly” so I won’t detour here. Because I’ve never managed to locate her immigration records despite years of searching, I started looking at all the migration records for O’Briens from Clare to Australia. One thing led to another, and the next thing I was researching the immigration of anyone from East County Clare, with a focus on the baronies of Tulla Lower and Upper. This has been a pretty interesting voyage including clerical intrigue to ensure young parishioners could come to Australia during the American Civil War era. This research project has been languishing a little, while I decide “where to from here” but I’d love to hear from anyone who comes from the Clare parishes east of Ennis. You can read more about my interest here.

Kilmorich Parish Church at Cairndow. Isabella’s grave on the right side of the path is starred.

C is for Cairndow, Scotland

Cairndow aka Cairndhu is one of my favourite places. It’s a tiny hamlet near the head of Loch Fyne in Argyll, Scotland and close to Ardkinglas, which we’ve already discussed. Although I had done lots of family history homework before I went to Scotland in the late 1980s, Cairndow hadn’t come up, so as we came off the highway we took the left turn and headed further down the loch to Strachur, another ancestral site. Some time after my return, while roaming through my old memorabilia I found a postcard from my paternal grandmother’s belongings. On the front it had an image of the church at Cairndow and on the reverse the notation “Doesn’t it put in mind of puir old Scotland”…you might imagine my frustration.

Pauleen visiting with Isabella. Daffodils planted on her grave, but snow still on the hills

Eventually I found out that the Cairndow church pictured was the final resting place of my paternal grandmother’s grandmother, Isabella Morrison wife of James McCorkindale (love the way Scottish women kept their identity!). The little church at Cairndow is actually the Kilmorich Parish church and is an absolute delight. It rests below a Scottish hill covered in bracken, heather or snow, and is hexagonal in shape with a small tower. Inside it’s simplicity itself, probably typical of Presbyterian churches, but I find it so much more soothing than ostentatious cathedrals of any denomination. Inside the door there’s an ancient baptismal font from the late 15th century. Just outside the door as you leave the church, on your left as you walk down the path, you will see Isabella’s grave. The inscription at the base is beautiful “My star of life is set, I await the morning sun”.  I often wonder if the daffodils we planted on her grave one early spring, burst forth anew each year, echoing her hope of eternal life.

Not much happening in the World on this particular morning in 2008… I spy an NT X-Trail. You can see the different styles of architecture remaining today.

Charters Towers, Australia

Charters Towers, the town they called The World, was a boom mining town of the late 19thcentury and it was there that my great-grandfather and his family repaired to rebuild both his reputation and their fortune after various family disasters in southern Queensland. Stephen Gillespie Melvin established refreshment rooms in Gill Street, with a confectionery factory behind. It was a family business and Stephen was supported by his wife Emily and children. Charters Towers lost its economic oomph when mining ceased to be such a key industry after World War I, and this probably helped preserve the significant number of heritage buildings. Sadly the Melvin’s shop was not one of the current survivors…it was demolished decades ago.

The Melvin grave (2008) makes its own social statement in the Charters Towers cemetery. Easily the largest and most ostentatious of my family history gravestones.

The cemetery is a family heritage site Stephen’s wife, Emily, and his mother, Margaret nee Gilhespy/Gillespie, are both buried there and remembered with a rather ostentatious gravestone.

C is for Coleford, England

Coleford is a market town in the Forest of Deanin the very west of England not far from the Welsh border. Although my 2xgreat grandfather on my maternal side, William Partridge, was born in London, his family subsequently lived in Coleford, Gloucestershire. It seems the family’s roots were not in Coleford specifically but rather the general area. William’s parents John and Eliza Partridge are buried in the cemetery there. While the town doesn’t excite me, or speak to me greatly, the surrounding areas can be quite beautiful and one wonderful place to visit is the Cathedral of the Forest.

The tower in the centre of Coleford is the remains of a C19th church.

This is a fantastic website for anyone with Forest of Dean ancestry: Forest of Dean Family History.

B is for Ballykelly, Broadford and Backrow, Bothkennar

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which).

B is for Ballykelly in Broadford (Co Clare) in the parish of Kilseily

Ballykellytownland is the home of my great-great grandmother, Mary O’Brien from Co Clare. Unfortunately I have no evidence of how long the family had lived in Ballykelly as there are no traces of the family in early records (found so far). Despite Mary’s extremely common name I was able to find her place of origin thanks to oral history linking families in Ireland, the US and Australia, and by tracing her sister’s records in Australia….all of Mary’s said merely “Co Clare”. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Broadford a few times and to visit the actual farmland where the O’Briens lived and worked.

The view from the former O'Brien land at Ballykelly on a typically "soft' Irish day in March.

On the first visit, decades ago, Broadford was shrouded in fog, and the general response to my enquiries was “it’s up there” pointing into the hilly distance. While enquiries at the local shop, owned by O’Briens, directed me to visit elderly parents, that proved to be fool’s gold despite their kindness in trying to help me…they were not my family. It took another visit, and assistance from a missionary priest with whom we’d bonded, to be taken to meet the family who had inherited the farm. Paddy had inherited it after my 2xgreat uncle’s family had died. He and his wife were extremely generous and showed us the property –up a muddy dirt “goat track”, as we call them in Australia. It was a thrill beyond words to stand on their land and look out at the magnificent view Mary had known every day of her young life, until she emigrated with her sister Bridget.

B is for Backrow farmhouse in the parish of Bothkennar in Stirlingshire (Scotland)

Backrow farmhouse Bothkennar in 2010.

The story of my first visit to Bothkennar is the opposite to the Ballykelly one. My young daughter and I dutifully followed the maps to Bothkennar and stopped to enquire at the store/post office if they knew where Backrow was.  I could hardly believe my eyes and ears when they pointed and said “That’s it, over there”. We took the short road ahead and parked on the verge to look at the house where my great-grandmother Annie Sim, had lived as a young woman and where generations of her family had lived, stretching back many, many decades. At the time it was looking a little run-down in parts but had substantial enough outbuildings and large fields.

Staring proud across the road from Backrow were the kirk, school and kirkyard…only a few steps to the venue for all life’s major events…and no escaping the minister’s eye. I took a photo (the old fashioned kind) and would you believe that this was on a roll which did not come out….Murphy’s Law at work. On the next visit I made sure I did a sketch as well as take a photo! I’ve never yet worked up the courage to knock on the door and ask if I can see the property but I’ve promised myself that next time I’ll write in advance and beg admittance.

As always, click on the photos to see them as a larger view.

Fearless Females #2: Thoughts from a photograph: Annie Sim McCorkindale

The photo which inspired this post is the same as that for the Carnival of Genealogy  post on Catherine McCorkindale for Women’s History Month 2012. It shows my great-grandmother, Annie Sim McCorkindale seated with her daughters Catherine, Jean and Edith around her. Her eldest daughter Isabel is not in this photograph. I’ve estimated the date of this photo at c1900 which makes me suspect it may have been taken to give to sons Duncan and Peter before they left for Australia.  She looks composed in this photograph and I’m guessing she’s holding her bible.

Annie Sim, second wife of Duncan McCorkindale, gives every evidence of being a strong woman capable of dealing with life’s challenges. She grew up on Backrow farm at Bothkennar, Stirling, daughter of James Sim and his wife Ann Wood. The farm had been in the family’s management for generations, though it’s likely they only leased it, but it does mean that she came from a family with rather more money than many of my ancestors. Backrow farm faces the Bothkennar church and school and Annie’s parents are buried in the kirkyard.

As a young woman, Annie defended her father when some hooligans entered the farm property and took her father into the corn fields to rough him up, apparently all because the family dog barked at them.[i] I loved discovering my female ancestor was a feisty woman!

Annie had an illegitimate daughter, Annie Lindsay Sim. I’m waiting on the release of the online Kirk Sessions to see what they tell me about the circumstances surrounding her daughter’s illegitimacy. Annie Lindsay Sim was essentially brought up by her grandparents after Annie’s marriage to Duncan.  I wonder how Annie felt having to care for the two children of her husband’s first wife while forgoing her own first-born child. She did not inherit under her father’s will because he had brought up his granddaughter. However history proves that the family links remained close as we’ll see later.

Family legend tells that shortly before Annie’s husband Duncan died in 1906, her wedding ring came off and rolled across the floor. She went to give him a cup of tea, only to find him dead. Of course these may be only family stories, impossible to verify. Four years after Duncan’s death, Annie and most of her children emigrated to Australia. Her sons, Duncan and Peter, had come to Australia about 10 years earlier, supposedly to separate them from the 2nd cousins they wanted to marry. Annie’s first-born child, Annie Lindsay Sim, who by then had been widowed and remarried, arrived in Australia with her husband Daniel McVey and his family, around the same time. It’s interesting that the whole family, minus one son (Thomas Sim McCorkindale), had decided to make the big move.  Annie Lindsay Sim’s son from her first marriage, Robert Anderson, also made emigrated.

I admire Annie Sim McCorkindale’s fortitude at making this international migration when she was 59 years old. She arrived in Queensland as a sponsored migrant, nominated by Alex McCulloch of Paddington, and documented as “married” rather than widowed[ii].  I’m still trying to work out what the connection was between Alex McCulloch and the McCorkindales.

Annie Sim McCorkindale in her old age, near their house in Brisbane. Do you think this might be the same dress revamped? The chain looks the same to me.

In her old age Annie lived with her daughter and son-in-law in Guildford St, Kelvin Grove. A granddaughter remembered that Annie had blue and white jugs in the kitchen, loved “wee brown eggs” and the family grew a coffee plant and ground coffee (people after my own heart!). It’s safe to assume that Annie would have met my father as an infant and toddler, since she lived quite close to my grandparents’ home. Annie Sim McCorkindale died in 1926, aged 75, and is buried at Toowong Cemetery with an infant grandson.

Annie’s relocation was worthwhile for her adopted country as well as the family. Her descendants made their impact on Australian society in various ways, small and large. Her son Duncan was a foreman at the Kingston joinery works and so instrumental in the construction of Canberra. He also contributed to the development of a Caledonian tradition in Canberra, acting as a judge of the pipers and dancing at the first Highland Games held by the Burns Club in 1925. His early death in 1928 was a loss to the Caledonian community as well as his family. Duncan’s daughter Ida was also worked in Canberra but subsequently vanishes. Annie’s other sons Peter and Malcolm were great pipers and Highland dancers, and although my father said Malcolm was the better piper, his nerves affected his performances. Newspaper reports reveal Peter winning one competition after the other at various Highland or Caledonian games as well as being Pipe Major with Brisbane’s Caledonian Band. (I wonder if there’s anyone still alive who was taught or mentored by one of the McCorkindale pipers). Annie’s step-grandson, Sir Daniel McVey, had a pivotal role in post-war aviation and was also Director of Posts and Telegraphs.

——-

[i] A discovery from the recently released British Newspaper Archives. Falkirk Herald Saturday 14 September 1872.

[ii] Queensland State Archives microfilm Z3985 IMM 132 p57.

Carnival of Genealogy – 116th edition – Catherine McCorkindale

My grandmother, a girl on the verge of young womanhood, looks at us sidelong from her position beside her mother, yet her gaze is direct and intense. I see echoes of myself in this photo, taken when she would have been about 12. This makes it likely that the photograph dates from around the time of the 1901 census, when the family was living at 3 Bolton Drive, Mt Florida, Glasgow. Catherine McCorkindale, second daughter and sixth child of Duncan McCorkindale from Argyllshire and Annie Sim from Bothkennar in Stirlingshire, was usually known as Kit by her family, yet on this census she is called Katie, obviously her childhood name.

Kit and her family were said to move often because with all four of her brothers expert pipers, the noise of their practicing was too much even for their Scottish neighbours! She was always so proud of her family’s Highland heritage, and taught me early to love the sound of the pipes and the music of the reels, even though she generally disapproved of dancing. She passed on her love of all things Scottish (except religion!)…not a good combination with the Irish Catholic ancestry on my maternal side.

As a child, Catherine attended the Cathcart Mt Florida school and among my heirlooms is her hard-bound Merit Certificate from the Scotch Education Department in April 1900, though she is still a scholar in 1901, aged 13.[i] Kit would become a dressmaker like her mother and older sister Belle, but unfortunately no oral history has survived about where or how she worked at this trade in Scotland. I certainly hope she was not forced to work in the inhuman conditions of some Glasgow factories.

Kit’s father died suddenly in 1906 and in 1910 Kit, her mother, and most of her siblings emigrated on the Perthshire to Australia where her two older brothers (and unbeknownst to us, an uncle) had already settled. Catherine and her sisters are recorded on the Queensland immigration cards as domestic servants, arriving as assisted immigrants. The family settled in Brisbane, where Kit is known to have worked for David Jones’ store as a dressmaker. David Jones was one of the more up-market department stores so presumably her needlework skills were good, as evidenced by her lovely wedding dress, which I assume she made. I’m also fortunate to have heirlooms from this time in her life – her treadle sewing machine and pair of silk pyjamas she made.

Catherine met my grandfather at a Christmas party when he asked if he could get her a drink (almost certainly non-alcoholic). I don’t know what year they met but it was possibly around the time of World War I, and it’s thought that my grandfather visited some of her relations while he was serving overseas in 1917-1918.  Even on his return the couple did not marry quickly and it’s difficult to be sure why that was. It may have been due to religious differences because my grandfather was brought up a Catholic. It may have been because he continued to contribute to the upkeep of his youngest siblings, orphaned in 1901. I’ve often wondered if he feared the consequences of marrying young and having too many children – the cause, in part, of his mother’s early death.

Dinny and Kit married in the Ithaca Presbyterian Church, Red Hill on 29 April 1922. None of Denis’s siblings were witnesses and his non-Catholic marriage was certainly a problem for many of them. As a result their social circle revolved around Kit’s family. My grandparents lived in the same house all their married life and were our next door neighbours. I spent lots of time jumping the fence to be with them both and I have very fond memories of my grandmother brushing my hair and talking to me. Her hairbrush (minus bristles) is another of my “treasures”. Catherine lived to see my marriage and the birth of her first great –grandchild. She died on 19 December 1971 aged 84.

This Carnival of Genealogy post was inspired by Jasia at Creative Gene. The challenge was to honour a woman from our family tree by starting with a photograph and telling the story of the photo or a biography of the woman. I chose my grandmother.


[i] Scottish education was compulsory from ages 5 to 13.

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: the heirloom that got away

Amy Coffin of the We Tree blog, in conjunction with Geneabloggers, has a new series of weekly blogging prompts for 2012 and the theme is 52 Weeks of Abundant GenealogyWeek 6’s topic is Family Heirlooms. For which family heirloom are you most thankful? How did you acquire this treasure and what does it mean to you and your family? 

As a child I lived next door to my paternal grandparents so it was rather like having two homes. I knew where “everything” was and largely had free rein. Through all those years my grandmother kept one drawer in her kitchen dresser for her family news clippings. Into it went all the notices for births, deaths and marriages that occurred in her family, and probably her friendship circle, though I must admit I never knew her to have a friend other than family. Of course she was quite elderly when I was growing up (hmm thinking on it, when I was a child she was probably a similar age to me right now). She’d also emigrated with her mother and siblings when she was in her twenties so I guess that made them even more tight-knit.

I’ve spoken to different members of my grandmother’s family over the years and we all hold the memory of her BDM drawer. As a teenager I could so easily have talked to my grandmother about the family stories represented in that drawer and built a family tree from them, but I was a typically self-obsessed teenager, focused on school and uni. My love then was science not history so this great opportunity for family knowledge was wasted on me.

So what happened to this family heirloom collection?

My grandmother died near Christmas one year when I was down from Papua New Guinea on holidays but her effects weren’t sorted for some time. My best guess is that in the cleaning-up process this “scrap” paper went into the bin. A couple were salvaged, including those relating to her brother’s violent death in a road accident, but most have long gone. It would be nice to think that if I’d been around I might have boxed all those clippings up, but if I’m honest I may well have taken no interest – in those days I was preoccupied with our young baby. I’d also have lost the opportunity to understand their significance as my father was never big on family stories. I do have other heirlooms that have family significance though none has any financial value. I also have furniture from my grandparents’ house. I treasure them and will hand them down to my children and grandchildren but somehow the “one that got away” is the one that haunts my “might-have-beens”.

Two degrees of ancestral separation

Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun last weekend was Two Degrees of Separation. Obviously I’m not having much fun on Saturday nights that it takes me to Tuesday to respond to this challenge, which rather intrigued me.

So, how far back in time could I go with my ancestors by using an ancestor I knew as the pivot point.

As it happens not too far, certainly not as far as Randy managed. Despite many branches of longevity on our tree the furthest back my known personal linkages took me was the 1830s. There were two reasons for this: 1. the timing of my families’ migration to Australia and 2. (in some cases) the early demise of their ancestors.

I was surprised to discover just how recent and ephemeral was this grandparent-grandchild link that we seem to take for granted these days. But more on that another time.

I was lucky that I knew all four of my grandparents and these are the links which took me back.

My grandfather, Denis Joseph Kunkel b 1880, knew all four of his grandparents and would have seen quite a lot of them I imagine. Even though his family moved around with the railway, they spent most of their time near where the grandparents lived. I like the fact that he knew them well and perhaps was close to them. I only wish he’d told me about them …or was I not listening?  All these grandparents have birth dates in the early 1830s though only one is a confirmed date (the rest were Irish –say no more!). If Denis lived in today’s world, where international travel and Skype connect families separated by distance, then he would also have known two of his great-grandparents who were still alive in Ireland, and I could connect back to the c1804..

My paternal grandmother, Catherine b 1887, may have the record for the earliest connection, assuming (and it IS an assumption) that she met her grandfather, Duncan McCorkindale before his death in Greenock Poorhouse in 1889. She wouldn’t have remembered him though, as she was only two when he died. Still IF the family visited him from Glasgow then he would be the earliest contender for our “two degrees of separation”, having been born in 1808.

With my maternal grandmother, Laura, the story is the same. Her Northumbrian-born grandmother lived with them in Charters Towers and Laura would also have known as her Partridge grandparents but again, birth dates are in the 1830s. All earlier generations pre-deceased her birth.

My paternal grandfather, James, certainly knew his paternal grandparents (both born 1830s) as they also lived in Gorey, Co Wexford and the two families emigrated to Australia within a year of each other. Perhaps before they emigrated they travelled to Tullamore, Co Offaly to visit his great-grandfather Martin Furlong, in which case this link would connect back to the early 1800s.

Thanks Randy for a new way of looking at our ancestral families, and enlightening our current family experience.

Guess who’s coming to dinner…my ancestors.

Julie over on Angler’s Rest totally inspired me to write this post in her story for NaBloPoMo on Relatives. Thanks Julie for the inspiration!

I’d love to welcome my earliest Australian ancestors to an early evening dinner party so I could get to meet them as real people. I think it would have to be a typical outdoor event, under the shade of a spreading Banyan tree or a Moreton Bay fig so everyone felt at home. We’d have long tables and folding chairs. I’d buy some brightly-coloured melamine plates and drinking glasses to match pretty place mats and napkins (of course).  Hurricane lamps with lightly scented candles would light the tables so the mood was familiar and cosy, and I’d hang some lamps from the trees.

To welcome everyone we’d have a good malt beer to honour my Kent family who were Hertfordshire publicans…before they became Methodists…and some spring water for those who were traditionally abstemious. Thinking on my maternal 2x great grandfather, William Partridge from Coleford, I think we’d need a good Gloucester cheese to go with the beer.

We would have to serve roast pork in honour of my Bavarian 2 x great grandfather, George Kunkel, who was a pork butcher. Instead of slaving over a hot oven in the kitchen we’d cook the pork in our Weber Q – would that seem familiar to them or somewhat wondrous? George also made his own wine and so we’d drink a white wine similar to that traditional in his birthplace…and again that spring water.

The pork would be accompanied by crispy roast tatties for my Irish ancestors, Mary O’Brien Kunkel and the Gavin and (Mc)Sherry families, and, come to that, my Highlanders, the McCorkindales. We might even introduce them to multi-cultural 21st century Australia with an Asian-inspired salad as an accompaniment.

While we ate we’d play some Scottish reels and Irish fiddle music to cross the cultural borders of my ancestry. How much nicer it would be to have a real fiddler play rather than a 21st century i-touch and if our feet wouldn’t stop tapping, we’d dance a quick reel in the twilight. There are so many questions I’d love to ask my ancestral visitors about their lives…another reason to keep that wine and beer flowing. I think they’ll be glad to escape by the end of the night!

McCorkindale brothers informal jam session. Gift of a family member c1988.

Dessert would certainly have to be spectacular to impress my pastry chef ancestor, Stephen Gillespie Melvin, with perhaps a real Aussie pavlova (great pic) decorated with King Island cream and superb fruits like passionfruit, mango, kiwi fruit and fresh summer berries. Maybe we could even buy some delicious Haig’s hand-made chocolates to see if they match SGM’s standards…I’m realistic here, I couldn’t make them myself.

As this wonderful inter-temporal gathering came to a close, I would ask one of my McCorkindale great-uncles to play Auld Lang Syne on the pipes, and with a wee dram, toast the courage of these ancestors who came to Australia. I’ve nary a doubt I’d share more than a few tears as I farewelled my guests who’d visited all too briefly.

I raise my glass to all my Aussie immigrants: George Kunkel and Mary O’Brien, Denis and Ellen Gavin, Annie Sim McCorkindale and her adult daughter Catherine, Peter and Mary McSherry/Sherry and their son James Joseph, Stephen Melvin and later his mother Margaret Gillespie Melvin/Ward/Wheaton, James and Bridget McSharry/Sherry, Richard and Mary Kent and their adult daughter Hannah and her future husband William Partridge.

Beyond the Internet Week 2 (belatedly): Ancestral homes and their history

My good intentions to publish this in week 2 were derailed by house-hunting interstate so, with my thoughts locked on real estate, it seemed appropriate to talk about ancestral houses and what we can find out about them beyond the internet.

My ancestor's inn in Dorfprozelten stood where the bank is on the left of the image. Sad as it is that it was demolished only about 40 years ago, the street remains much as it was so I could get a good sense of where my family lived.

For most of us a high point on our ancestral wish-list, is to actually see our ancestors’ homes. Sometimes that’s possible because they’re close by and still standing. Sheryl’s transcriptions and comments on her grandmother’s diary illustrate how personal documents can highlight the day-to-day usage of the family farm or house, but even just seeing the building can give us great excitement.

It was 19th century land enclosure records from the Hertfordshire Archives in England that gave me the necessary clues to identify the precise location of my ancestor’s pub in Sandon. I told this story here.

This stone wall is actually the remains of the old O'Brien house in Ballykelly townland, Parish Kilseily. How would I have known that without the knowledge of the inheritor of the property? You see the land they lived on in the header images for my blog - the red roofed shed.

Don’t forget, too, that there may be LDS microfilms for your ancestor’s original parish which may tell you about their house or land eg parish vestry minutes can be a wonderful source of information. In the online world, Heritage-listed property information gave me more details about the structure of the building and google rounded it out with some clues into its more recent life.

An underutilised resource, both offline and online, are the cultural heritage studies undertaken by many Shire Councils in Australia.

A view of the back of the old kitchen on the Kunkel property framed by the old fig tree.

These may make mention of your family’s home or property and it may be worth asking if there are unpublished reports on individual properties even where they are not mentioned in the final report. I was very fortunate when the current owner gave me a copy of the Cultural Heritage Study by Gatton Shire Council which referred to my Kunkel family’s farm at the Fifteen Mile. It makes mention of the kitchen outbuilding as a “slab building…of local significance”. Similarly the huge old fig tree that overlooks the cottage and kitchen, is a “significant fig tree” and is tied to the wedding photo of my grandfather’s sister where the whole family gathers underneath it.

The stone steps at the Kunkel property at the Fifteen Mile, Murphys Creek.

The study found that the stone steps to the cottage were a later addition, and yet they so exactly mirror the ones found in George Kunkel’s home village that I wonder. I confess that further investigation of cultural heritage studies is still on my to-do list though many references can be found on the internet. Time and being able to visit the local records office can be stumbling blocks but a phone call may reveal whether such reports exist.

Of course many of us can’t get to see our ancestors’ homes for one of two reasons (1) they’re too far away or (2) they’ve been demolished. In these cases we’re dependent on old records (some available online) to tell us more about them: newspaper articles, old photos or local histories. When the digital British Newspaper Archives was opened up recently I found a news article about my great-grandmother talking a little about troublemakers on their farm…because I’d seen the property I could envisage what was happening. Back on the internet, old online maps, Google earth or street view enable us to see houses, streets and places far away from where we live.

Similar stone steps in Dorfprozelten worn down by decades, if not centuries, of use.

Local archives host a vast array of records, some of which are likely to help with the history of your family’s homes. Queensland family historians are very fortunate that they have access to wonderful records of their ancestor’s land selections outside the urban area. As part of their selection, our ancestors were required to improve the property and the records that arose from this process are invaluable. You will find when and where on the block your ancestors built the land (especially useful if it no longer exists), a description of the house, what fencing they’d done, what crops and animals they had on the land and the like. On George Kunkel’s land selection it makes mention that there was a “four roomed cottage” with the “selector’s wife and family residing during the last five years” in compliance with the residence requirements. Does this mean that George was elsewhere or simply that the family’s residence was continuous while he may have been off working on the railway or pork butchering? As always each discovery seems to lead to more questions. It’s worth remembering that even if that house no longer exists, the paper records in the archives retain the story of its earliest life. You may never see a photograph but you will have a mental image of your ancestor’s home and how they lived their lives.

These records are held at the Queensland State Archives and no doubt similar records may be available from other archives. Local heritage centres and libraries may also provide further clues. It would be interesting to hear from other regions and countries about the resources they’ve found to fill out the story of the ancestral homes.

Week 3’s topic, coming up in a day or two, will also be house-related.