No glory for the Melvin family

NFHM AlexThis week is the finale in Family Tree Frog’s NFHM blog challenge and the theme is “Power without Glory”. Sadly, my family branches are singularly lacking in powerful people – at least beyond their own kin. So let me tell you another story about last week’s ancestor, Stephen Gillespie Melvin, and the events that would turn 1887 into his family’s annus horibilis.

In last week’s post we saw how Stephen had been rescued from the flooded Bremer River in Ipswich on 22 January 1887 by Thomas Shedrick Livermore. We also learned that by mid-year his business was in liquidation. What came between those two events and indeed what followed?

MELVIN Qld Times 23 Sept 1886 p8

1886 ‘Advertising’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 23 September, p. 8. , http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122559893

In September 1886 Stephen G Melvin had instructed Elias Harding Jnr to offer the contents of his confectionery plant and sawmill for sale[i], due to the expiry of his lease. Was he already feeling a financial pinch? Had he over-extended himself? How would he continue his business without these assets? It doesn’t quite make sense.

Stephen meanwhile advertised a property for rent[ii] and his wife Emily advertised for a general housekeeper[iii]. Perhaps the family was living beyond their means and SGM (as I call him) had over-extended himself financially.

By March 1887, the case of Hunter v Melvin and Finch[iv] was about to be heard in civil sittings of the Queensland Supreme Court on a claim “that partnership accounts be taken”. This case was to be heard by His Honour Sir Charles Lilley. Little did SGM realise that he was now on a very slippery downward legal slope.

The proceedings of the court case were extensively reported in the newspapers – one of the benefits of reporting on legal matters is that the journalist has to record accurate details. The jury found in favour of the plaintiff, J Hunter. Based on the decision and the testimony heard, Justice Lilley declared “he was strongly disposed to exercise my summary power by committing them for perjury – very strongly indeed.”[v]

MELVIN Qld Times 31 Mar 1887 p5 crop

1887 ‘BRISBANE.’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 31 March, p. 5. , viewed 22 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122819744

The “them” to whom the judge referred were all those who had sworn to their testimony, now found to be invalid: the defendants Samuel Finch and Stephen Gillespie Melvin and witnesses Harry Jackson, Stephen Wilson and Susan Wallace. They were bound over on recognizance of £100 to appear in court the next day on a charge of perjury. The ground must have felt like it moved under their feet, and perhaps SGM felt he was back in the maelstrom of a flood, though this time is was a flood of legal issues.

The perjury case became a cause célèbre, widely reported in newspapers around the country. It was interesting that it was in Ipswich that those charged seemed to have a lot of support.

MELVIN Qld Times 27 Sept 1887 p5

1887 ‘THE PERJURY CASES.’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 27 September, p. 5. , viewed 22 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122824946

The individual cases were heard in the Supreme Court in September 1887[vi]. I was particularly interested that Melvin’s barrister, Mr Lilley (not the judge) had submitted testimonials from 13 ships from when Stephen first went to sea at age 16, until he came to Ipswich. These testified to Stephen’s good character – how I wish I could see those documents but they don’t appear to have been retained by the court. Lilley also stated that he had been requested by those who knew the prisoner to extend to Melvin, and one other prisoner, the provisions of the Offenders’ Probation Act[vii].  Notwithstanding this, at the completion of the trials His Honour, Mr Justice Harding, passed the following sentences: Finch five years, Melvin five years and six months, and Jackson three years. Wilson and Wallace had been found not guilty[viii].

As you might imagine, at this point I was thinking “but what on earth happened?” Within that sentence period of 5.5 years Stephen Melvin’s wife had four children including my own grandmother. Something must have transpired as I also knew he’d been in Charters Towers within that time frame, so I kept hunting.

MELVIN Oct 8 1887 p8 extract The Week

1887 ‘The Perjury Trials.’, The Week (Brisbane, Qld. : 1876 – 1934), 8 October, p. 8. , viewed 22 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article182629807(extract only)

No sooner had the judge’s sentence been passed than a petition was circulated in Ipswich to gain a remission of the sentences[ix]. This arose because there were jury members common to the cases, who believed that they had been provided with different testimony across the five trials. Ultimately the petition went to the Queensland Executive Council[x].

And then on 12 December 1887, the judgement was passed: After a careful consideration of the petition praying for a remission of the sentences on Melvin, Finch and Jackson, recently convicted of perjury, the Governor in Council yesterday decided to accede to the prayer of the petition. The prisoners will therefore be released forthwith[xi]. The prisoners were then brought up from St Helena prison and released. St Helena is an island in Moreton Bay, a short distance from Peel Island where Stephen’s first wife, Janet Peterkin Melvin had died on arrival in 1877. As best as I can ascertain, the remission of their sentences did not come with the overturning of the guilty verdict, which must have been a difficult shame to carry, but at least Stephen was free and could go home.

Plan of St Helena 1887

Queensland. Parliament. Legislative Assembly. Votes and proceedings of the Legislative Assembly during the session of 1887 1887, Plan of the island of St. Helena, H.M. Penal Establishment, Queensland, Government Printer, [Brisbane] (Click to enlarge)

What a Christmas present that must have been for all the Melvin family! The arrival of my grandmother, Laura, nine months later is probably a clue <smile>. It had been a torrid year for the family and I’m sure a lot of pressure fell on the shoulders of Stephen’s wife Emily with the support of her father, William Partridge: parallel to the trials, they were dealing with liquidation of the business and the award of the bronze medal to Mr Livermore.

MELVIN July 16 1888 p6 Courier

1888 ‘SUPREME COURT.’, The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), 16 July, p. 6. , viewed 21 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3480414

The legal process of sorting out contracts continued progressively through 1888[xii].  William Partridge provided financial support to the family as evidenced in news reports.

A further by-product of the trial was the amendment of legislation….now if only I could locate my notes. While I have used newspaper articles to tell this story, I have also traced the clues through a myriad archival sources at Queensland State Archives. Although I reviewed these documents with an open mind, I felt the initial case seemed very much a case of “he said, she said” so I can only assume there was some non-verbal indications of guilt. How I sometimes long for an Aussie Legal Genealogist to demystify the legalese.

A family case of minimal power and no glory at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[i] 1886 ‘Advertising’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 23 September, p. 8. , viewed 21 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122559893

[ii] 1887 ‘Advertising’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 26 March, p. 2. , viewed 21 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122823758

[iii] 1887 ‘Advertising’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 1 March, p. 2. , viewed 21 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122824339

[iv] 1887 ‘The Brisbane Courier.’, The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), 21 March, p. 4. , viewed 21 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3465267

[v] 1887 ‘BRISBANE.’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 31 March, p. 5. , viewed 21 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122819744

[vi] 1887 ‘Perjury Trials.’, The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), 27 September, p. 4. , viewed 21 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article201025066

[vii] 1887 ‘SUPREME COURT.’, The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), 16 September, p. 3. , viewed 22 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3478852

[viii] 1887 ‘THE PERJURY CASES.’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 27 September, p. 5. , viewed 22 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122824946

[ix] 1887 ‘The Perjury Trials.’, The Week (Brisbane, Qld. : 1876 – 1934), 8 October, p. 8. , viewed 21 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article182629807

[x] 1887 ‘LAST NIGHT’S PARLIAMENT.’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 8 December, p. 3. , viewed 22 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122819651

[xi] 1887 ‘The Perjury Cases.’, The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), 13 December, p. 4. , viewed 22 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article174766614

[xii] 1888 ‘SUPREME COURT.’, The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), 16 July, p. 6. , viewed 22 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3480414

Flooding rains: Ipswich 1887

NFHM AlexThis week’s topic in Family Tree Frog’s NFHM Blog Challenge is All the Rivers Run. Australia alternates between extremes of weather as illustrated by the famous poem by Dorothea Mackellar: My Country[i].

I love a sunburnt country

A land of sweeping plains

Of rugged mountain ranges

And drought and flooding rains.

This is just one story of my ancestors’ experience with the dramas and dangers of flooded rivers. Some resulted in fatalities, others in property losses, but this is the most well-covered in the newspapers, and also a story lost (or hidden?) by the family.

Floodwaters rise in the heart of Ipswich January 1887

Unidentified (1887). Floodwaters rise in the heart of Ipswich, January 1887. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

On 22 January 1887, the Queensland town of Ipswich was deluged by a severe flood. Some said it was the worst in European memory, others that it was only exceeded by the 1864 flood. The newspapers document that it had also passed the level of the 1841 flood[ii]. It would not be the last time the town was hit, as even in recent years Ipswich has been inundated by enormous flooding.

At the time of the 1887 flood, my ancestor, Stephen Gillespie Melvin, had a confectionery store in Ipswich as well as various other business interests. He had worked hard to establish himself after the tragedy which accompanied his arrival in the colony when his first wife, Janet Peterkin Melvin had died in quarantine on arrival. He had won prizes at the local Agricultural Show[iii] and established a surprising portfolio of property…almost certainly to the overall detriment of his balance sheet.

MELVIN SG location shop

1886 ‘Advertising’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 27 April, p. 6. , viewed 18 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122553790

The 1887 flood came powering in just days after the 10th anniversary of Stephen’s arrival on 18 January 1877, not exactly an auspicious anniversary. Perhaps he was already feeling down, remembering his young wife’s death, or perhaps he was increasingly aware of his precarious financial position.

 

MELVIN Telegraph 8 July 1887 p3

1887 ‘Royal Humane Society.’, The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), 8 July, p. 3. , viewed 18 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article201023744

It was through news stories about the Royal Humane Society Awards that I became aware of Stephen’s near-tragedy. Trove documents that “The (Bremer) River was in flood, and Melvin, who had been assisting to remove goods from a store (his?) which was surrounded by water, got into the vortex on the edge of the roaring current. Livermore swam out at great risk, took Melvin by the collar, and brought him back to the building in safety. The current was running very strong. Awarded a bronze medal.”

Stephen’s courageous rescuer was Thomas Shadrach Livermore, a 26 year old blacksmiths’ labourer[iv]. (Following his entries in Queensland Births, Deaths and Marriages it appears his correct name was Thomas Shedrick Livermore). The stories place Stephen’s age as 45 years but this overstates his age, as he was born in 1854 in Leith, Scotland.

Naturally I returned to Trove to search newspaper dates closer to the event to see if I could find the rescue mentioned. None seemed to match the award details exactly, however this one stood out for me:

Qld Times 25 Jan 1887 p5 MELVINWe have heard of some acts of recklessness and even foolhardiness-in fact, one was so glaring, on Saturday last (22nd January), in Bremer-street, that many persons who were witnesses of the scene thought the man referred to was trying to commit suicide, and said it was not worthwhile venturing their lives to save his. However, two men went into the river after him, and dragged him out of the water, and thus saved him from drowning, though he almost drowned one of his rescuers in the struggle.[v]

 Perhaps I’m misjudging my ancestor, though while there are anomalies in the report, it fits with other factors affecting him at the time. Perhaps it really was an accident and he got caught in the vortex, which makes sense if he was trying to evacuate his store. In his earlier life he had been a merchant seaman, and it was common for them not to be able to swim.

MELVIN Qld Times April 1887Only a few months later in 1887, Stephen’s estate had gone into liquidation, as detailed in a news story[vi]. He specifically cites the impact of the flood on his business[vii]. I’ve also referred to the Insolvency files at Queensland State Archives, and Stephen’s holdings of property were quite amazing for a relatively recent immigrant. It’s also interesting to see that his father-in-law, William Partridge, was one of his creditors. These events were not to be the end of Stephen’s annus horribilis but those stories will keep for another day.

There was much made about the proposed presentation of the medal to Thomas Livermore including a description of the medal.

MELVIN Qld TImes 3 Sept 1887 p5On the obverse of the medal is depicted a female figure, representing Australasia, in the act of placing a wreath on the head of one deemed worthy of honour, while around is stamped the motto, ” Virtute paratum.” The Southern Cross above fixes the locality as being in the Southern Hemisphere. On the reverse is the name, date, etc., and a wreath supposed to be composed of eucalyptus and laurel leaves. The Police Magistrate is directed to present the medal and certificate to Mr. Livermore in as public a manner as possible; but he has not yet fixed a date for this ceremony…[viii]

Personally, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Thomas Shedrick Livermore. Had he not saved my great-grandfather from the flooded river, my grandmother, mother and I would not have been here, nor would seven other branches of Emily Partridge and Stephen Gillespie Melvin’s family.

I certainly hope that the medal has been preserved in the Livermore family, along with the story of their ancestor’s bravery. The presentation was held on Tuesday 6 September 1887[ix] and the Police Magistrate Mr Yaldwyn rightly summed up Mr Livermore’s courage when awarding the medal[x].

Telegraph 8 Sept 1887 p3 crop

———————

[i] http://www.dorotheamackellar.com.au/archive/mycountry.htm

[ii] http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122819295

[iii] The Ipswich Show. (1882, December 16). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), p. 856. Retrieved August 17, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19788354

[iv] Queensland Births

1862 C385 Thomas Shedrick Livermore George Mary Ann Haydon

 

[v] 1887 ‘Advertising’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 25 January, p. 5. , viewed 17 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122819289

[vi] 1887 ‘Supreme Court.’, The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), 11 July, p. 2. , viewed 18 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article201021946

[vii] MEETING OF CREDITORS. (1887, April 30). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 6. Retrieved August 18, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3468421

[viii] 1887 ‘LOCAL AND GENERAL NEWS.’, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), 3 September, p. 5. , viewed 18 Aug 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122820644

[ix] LOCAL AND GENERAL NEWS. (1887, September 6). Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), p. 5. Retrieved August 18, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122821625

[x] Our Ipswich Letter. (1887, September 8). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), p. 3. Retrieved August 18, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article201023537

Today’s family anniversaries

This afternoon I opened up my Relatively Yours program to look at details for the Congress 2015 Research Interests. I was somewhat surprised to discover what an important date today is in the lives of my families. Perhaps it’s something we should do daily to pick up these coinciding anniversaries.

On 25th January my family honours these family anniversaries:

Hannah Partridge nee Kent is my 2 x great grandmother.

Hannah Partridge nee Kent is my 2 x great grandmother.

The birth of Richard Kent at Red Hill near Sandon, Hertfordshire, England in 1805. Today would be his 210th birthday! Richard is my 3 x great grandfather. He, his wife and family emigrated from Sandon on the General Hewitt arriving in Moreton Bay on 16 December 1854. This Richard Kent followed a long line of descendants with the same name, but it is through his daughter’s female lines that I am descended. My mtDNA comes from Richard Kent’s wife, Mary Camp later Shepherd.

The arrival of the Woodlark in 1877 with my ancestor Stephen Gillespie Melvin, and family, on board. Accompanying him were his first wife Janet Melvin nee Peterkin, and his young son, Laurence, named for Stephen’s father. Janet Melvin died at Peel Island on 2 March 1877. Stephen remarried on 21 August 1878, quite a long bereavement given he had a young son to care for. His second wife, and my ancestor, was Richard Kent’s granddaughter Emily PartridgeToday is the 138th anniversary of the arrival of one of my ancestral lines.Emily Melvin (nee Partridge) with her husband Stephen Gillespie Melvin, probably c1906-1910.

The death of Margaret Gillespie (born Tyneside) in 1906. Today is the 109th anniversary of her death. Margaret Gillespie had married Stephen Gillespie Melvin’s father, Laurence Melvin, in Leith in 1850 but was widowed as a young woman in 1858. She remarried in 1868 (again in Leith) to John Simpson Ward, a master mariner. She had worked as a stewardess at sea so perhaps emigrating when she was no longer young was not such a challenge for her as for some. After John’s death, she married Arthur Wheaton in Sydney and after his death, she moved to Charters Towers to join her son Stephen and family. Margaret was buried in the Charters Towers cemetery on Australia Day 1906.

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

I found it quite interesting that today’s anniversaries affected interweaving family branches on my tree.  Do you have similar anniversaries which link your families?

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.

THE McSHARRY/McSHERRY FAMILIES

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.

THE KUNKEL FAMILY

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 GAVIN FAMILY

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.

THE KENT, PARTRIDGE AND McCORKINDALE FAMILIES

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.

 THE MELVIN FAMILY

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.

THE O’BRIEN WIDDUP FAMILY

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.

Sepia Saturday 188: The Melvin/Melville Family of Leith

SS 188Despite my late response to this week’s Sepia Saturday post, this theme produced an instant image association. It was so reminiscent of photos I’ve seen of the old harbour in Leith – the port for Edinburgh, Scotland, over many centuries. Just imagine the whisky that may have been shipped!

Cassell's Old and New Edinburgh by James Grant Vol 6. This 1829 engraving reflects life in Leith as my ancestors would have known it.

Cassell’s Old and New Edinburgh by James Grant Vol 6. This 1829 engraving reflects life in Leith as my ancestors would have known it.

My own Melvin (aka Melville) family were closely associated with the waterfront of Leith for many generations. Much of the time they lived either on the Shore or very close by. I first visited Leith in 1992 when it had that run-down, vaguely seedy atmosphere stereotypically associated with busy working ports. On my most recent visit in 2010, gentrification had settled in, with Michelin-starred restaurants and flash water-side apartments.

Cassell's Old and New Edinburgh by James Grant Volume 6: Leith Shore.

Cassell’s Old and New Edinburgh by James Grant Volume 6: Leith Shore.

Despite this, so many of the old buildings remain that it’s easy to see where my ancestors lived and, with some imagination, envisage the bustling scenes they’d have witnessed daily as goods and ships were loaded ready for their voyages up or down the English coast or across the North Sea to Scandinavia.

Image of Leithh shore including the Martello tower. © Pauleen Cass 2010

Image of Leith Shore including the Martello tower. © Pauleen Cass 2010

My Melvin family included porters (perhaps bustling with the whisky casks being loaded) and many merchant seaman, some just ordinary seamen but a few who were also the ship’s cooks or stewards. The life of a seaman is not an easy one, with the risks of the sea and the economic hazards of getting work. The evidence suggests that my ancestors were fairly poor, living in the tenements near the waterfront in small rooms, but they presumably gained regular work.

Shore, Leith © Pauleen Cass 2010

Shore, Leith © Pauleen Cass 2010

Of all my emigrating ancestors the Melvins were perhaps the best prepared for the long voyage ahead. They would also become the first of my families to make the voyage back and forward to the old land: international voyagers. The price they paid can be counted in the graves of Janet Peterkin Melvin, my great-grandfather’s first wife, who died at Peel Island in Moreton Bay shortly after arrival in Australia or that of my great-great grandfather Laurence/Lawrence Melvin who is buried somewhere in Rotterdam.

Leith and Australia have other connections. Governor John Hunter was born here.

Leith and Australia have other connections. Governor John Hunter was born here.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 10: Aunty Emily

4 x 7UP collageToday’s post is an absolute pleasure to write. The lady featured in this photo is my great-aunt Emily, sister to my maternal grandmother, Laura. Emily was Laura’s younger sister, the next in line, born in Charters Towers less than two years after her to parents Stephen Gillespie Melvin and Emily Partridge.Aunty Emily Williams nee Melvin

Sadly my grandmother died in her sleep from a heart attack when she was only 64. Our family was on holidays at the coast at the time, so you can imagine what a terrible shock it was to everyone. I’m pleased that I still remember small things about her, which is surprising given I was quite young.

Her sister Emily had lived in Cairns for a long time and memory tells me we’d seen her there perhaps on the eventful cyclone trip. However around 1960 or so, she moved to Brisbane where she lived at New Farm for a while. I have clear memories of meeting her with Mum and going to New Farm Park to look at the spectacular roses. Whenever I visit the park now I inevitably think back to those special days with her.

Aunty Emily became my default grandmother, showering me with love and affection and buying me special treats.  During Lent when she couldn’t buy me chocolates or lollies she would buy me teacups and I treasure these even though they have no commercial value. You might want to look at this photo of an Easter egg cup she also gave me. I associate her with lavender and violets and I’m not sure whether these were her fragrances.

Tiny teacups from Aunty Emily.

Tiny teacups from Aunty Emily: I’m saving them for my grandchildren.

Emily had two sons from her marriage to John Arthur Williams, and I think one grandson who was ill. I guess Mum and I were also daughter and granddaughter substitutes for her. Aunty Emily was one of those truly lovely people who you occasionally have the privilege to meet. I don’t remember her ever being nasty in any way, and always being kind and tolerant (as evidenced in part by her acceptance of our religion even though it wasn’t hers).

Aunty Emily's entry in my autograph book.

Aunty Emily’s entry in my autograph book.

Later on Aunty Emily had a stroke and went to live with her son at South Brisbane, on the former Expo 88 site at South Bank. In those days the docks were still there and I recall the building as being quite old with steep steps inside. She used to have to massage her hand using those stress balls which are now quite popular. A few years later she must have returned to Cairns to live, perhaps because that’s where another sister lived. She died there in December 1965 and is buried in the Martyn St Cemetery, separated in death as I suspect she was in life. At some point I was given a cameo and a filigree bracelet of hers with a matching pair of earrings. Again no commercial value, but very special to me because it came from her.

 Aunty Emily remains one of my most treasured family members: one of those people whose memory gives you a warm glow.

This story has reminded me that I need to do more research into this branch of the family.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 7 – Grandparents and family history

4 x 7UP collage

Why we pursue our family history is a common question among geneabloggers and other genealogists. I’ve reflected on this over the years and have never had an entirely satisfactory response to that question. Why I continue with it is so much easier: the search continues and the questions remain. I can’t simply say “my family history is done”.

Denis and Kit Kunkel

My paternal grandparents and also my neighbours growing up. I was very close to them.

In my midnight mental rambles the other night, at least one of the reasons came to me. Behind both of my grandfathers lay an abyss of silence. I knew so little about each of them and their families. My grandparents were between 61 and 69 when I was born yet they seemed so old to me. When our first grandchild was born, we were not dissimilar ages, only 57 yet this seems quite a sobering comparison.

My paternal grandfather circa WWI.

My paternal grandfather circa WWI, an old moth or cockroach-eaten photo.

About my paternal grandfather I knew his unusual surname, definitely another of the reasons for starting on this quest: I wanted to know where it came from in Germany and who the first Kunkel was to come to Australia. The sole bits of “knowledge” I had acquired over the years were:

  • my grandfather was brought up Catholic
  • He had walked out of a church in Roma (western Queensland) after being told to stand up for the local squatter (true or fiction I don’t know)
  • there had been a falling-out with all but two of my grandfather’s siblings (he had 10)
  • my ancestor (who???) had “jumped ship”
  • one Kunkel came to Australia but two brothers went to “America”
  • All Kunkels in Australia were related.
  • He had gone to war (I think I knew this from his medals) and perhaps because of the paintings of Egypt on their dining room walls.
  • He had sent back souvenirs from France and Egypt but they had been “pinched” somewhere along the way.

Put like this, I seemed to know a bit but these bare facts camouflage just how much I didn’t know. What is even more surprising is that for 16 years I lived next to my grandfather and was very close to him: as the eldest grandchild of the original immigrants to Australia there would have been so much he could have told me and which I may have know except for the religious disputes in the background. The family stories I uncovered as I researched were a revelation to me, but not necessarily to my father, who had always known his great-grandparents lived at Murphys Creek but hadn’t told me until I discovered it for myself. Have I mentioned my family’s oyster-like tendencies?

My maternal grandfather was an incredibly hard worker.

My maternal grandfather was an incredibly hard worker.

Of my maternal grandfather’s family I knew even less:

  • He was born in Ireland, possibly Cork
  • I had met one of his sisters in Townsville once (he had 14 siblings, some deceased as children)
  • He was a devout Catholic with strong ties to the Hibernian society and a ready volunteer for St Vincent de Paul society and local Catholic church members.

Little did I know that my great-grandfather had only died seven weeks after my own birth.

My grandmothers were slightly more informative and I knew more of their families even though my maternal grandmother had died when I was only three years old.

My paternal grandmother and my neighbour.

My paternal grandmother and my neighbour.

My neighbouring Scottish-born grandmother had inculcated her love of Scotland, bagpipes and music in me. I have no memory of her trying to sway me from my Catholic religion despite her less-than-charitable comments to my mother. All that I experienced from her was the dedication to work hard, succeed in life, and her on-going love and devotion to me. It’s a surprise to me to discover that she was much the same age as I am in relation to my own grandchildren –like all kids she seemed incredibly old to me. I didn’t learn a great deal from her about family other than how close she was to her sisters but I did know:

  • Her brothers were champion pipers
  • She came from Edinburgh (actually she came from Glasgow though her mother came from Stirling. No doubt the capital did sound more refined)
  • Her mother’s maiden name (though I don’t believe I knew she emigrated with her mother and siblings)
  • She had three sisters with whom she was close and I knew of a couple of brothers
  • It was only later that among her newspaper clippings my mother found (and saved) her brother’s death notice in a vehicle accident in Sydney.
  • I knew nothing of her mother’s early illegitimate daughter or her emigration with them.
My grandmother as I knew her when I was a small girl.

My grandmother as I knew her when I was a small girl.

On my maternal grandmother’s side I “knew” only that:

  • Her father had owned a “chocolate factory”
  • That the family had lived in Charters Towers
  • She had not been a Catholic when she married
  • She had two sisters (one of whom you’ll meet in a few days, and another who was deceased) but of her eight brothers I knew nothing

Like my mother I did not know for many years that she had been divorced in 1913, nor did I know of her first child, Jack Tredrea.

I suppose a reasonable question would be “what have you learned from your family history?” The response is wide-spread and subtle. I now know so much about how my immigrant families came to Australia, where they originated, their joys and crosses, the ups and downs of life for people who were the grassroots of our founding society in Australia. I’ve learnt that I’m a Queenslander not just by birth but by virtue of being born in the place before it even became a separate state. I’ve learned that my genetic and cultural heritage comes from many countries and religions, though my surname is embedded in the former German kingdom of Bavaria, or Bayern.

My life is so much richer for these discoveries though occasionally I have to admit my brain is muddled from having to absorb all these facts. Would I do it again? Absolutely, without any hesitation!! After 27 years are there any discoveries still to be made and mysteries resolved? Absolutely!!! Is there any advice for other researchers? Yes, expand your search beyond your direct ancestors to their kith and kin who may well answer your questions, or open new avenues of research.

Were you close to your grandparents and did you learn about your family history from them? Did they play a role in your family history quest?

What genealogical bequest will you leave for your family? Or will they have to start anew on this quest?

Fab Feb image

Family Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Chocolate delights

According to Geneabloggers, today is International Chocolate Day and ties in with the blog hop What’s your Chocolate which was scheduled for Monday 10 September. I only read about this blog hop yesterday on Denise Covey’s L’Aussie Writer blog. I know I’m late but it sounded like too much fun to miss out on.

When I was a child I was told my mother’s grandfather had a chocolate factory. As delectable as that sounded it seemed as likely as a Golden Casket win….or Lotto in today’s “money”.

However sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction and as Stephen Melvin was indeed a confectioner with a factory it seems likely that he did indeed produce chocolates as well as other sweet treats. Unfortunately that was long before my time but can you blame me if I have a genetic claim to a sweet tooth?

As I child my chocolate choice was Cadbury’s with its ubiquitous milk chocolate in a purple metallic wrapper:  the type of choccie factory I imagined my ancestor owning. One of the treats I liked was a chewy bar of minty toffee coated in chocolate called a White Knight and a similar one which had a musk centre, not to mention the popular Clinkers.

Nestles, note – not Nestlé, was the competing company to Cadbury’s and in those distant days it had acquired none of today’s multicultural nuances.  My favourite in their range was their Golden Rough, a round delight of chocolate and coconut. These days all I can taste is the copha…has the recipe changed or my taste buds matured?

Then as a teenager there were Maltesers for the theatre, Jaffas for rolling down the floor at the movies, and the toffee-centred Fantales with their snapshots of movie stardom. Later, when working, I was infamous for my 5pm run to the dispensing machine for a Cherry Ripe (mm, mm) or Bounty (mmm) to go with my Diet Coke: I still maintain the calories should have balanced each other out. There’s a “chocolate+ coconut = yummy” theme emerging here. I loathe Turkish delight chocs and don’t think much more of super-sweet cream fillings with strawberry or orange.

It was when we lived in Papua New Guinea that I acquired a taste for European chocolate. Bizarrely all sorts of Swiss and Belgian delights arrived fresh from across the oceans while the Australian chocolates, and especially Easter eggs, seemed inevitably to be stale with a white coating.

I’ve never really looked back from my luxury chocolate tastes and much prefer these to any other, except perhaps upmarket hand-crafted ones. Do you think that’s my great-grandfather’s inheritance to me?

This blog hop was hosted by M Pax, Laura Eno, Brinda Berry and Ciara Knight. Thanks guys it was fun to have this sweet walk down memory lane.

X is for X-Trailing into the distance

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).

Since we got our Nissan X-Trail about four years ago, it’s taken us on some long adventures, though to be honest its 4WD facility hasn’t had much of a workout.

Heading for ruin, but I loved this old building seen en route to Townsville. © P Cass 2008.

The first long trip we took in the X-Trail combined genealogy and travel very nicely. We drove to Cairns in Far North Queensland visiting family sites such as Hughenden, Charters Towers, Townsville and Ingham along the way. Many were the cemeteries we explored for family plots and photos. We also visited a whole raft of family history centres, mining them for the indexes specific to the area. Oh yes, and we did have a holiday, exploring Magnetic Island which I used to visit as a child, and the mountains-to-reefs of the Cairns area. All in all we had great fun, and a very productive time indeed.

Peter's grandparents' gravestone in the Ouyen cemetery. © P Cass.

The longest trip the little X-Trail has achieved was Darwin to Tasmania (Tassie) via Adelaide and Melbourne. I think we notched up around 9,500 kms on that drive which was to celebrate a “special” birthday for us both. Despite the long drive Darwin-Adelaide, we had a lot of fun in the holiday sector of our journey. We ate lots of great fresh food in Tasmania, drank equally good wine and whisky, saw the yachts from the Sydney-Hobart race and admired some wonderful natural scenery. Of course what is any trip without a genealogy aspect, so we stopped along the way at a couple of places in western Victoria where my husband’s family has links: Ouyen, Horsham and North Laen.

A view in Oatlands showing the historic windmill. I loved that the stone walls near it were restored by women who learnt the skills. © P Cass.

In Tassie we visited the town of Oatlands where my husband’s convict ancestor spent some of his sentence. Oatlands has a wonderful array of old Georgian buildings and we fell in love with its vibe. A visit to the archives in Hobart revealed a few more clues about his ancestor and eliminated a possible migration record for my O’Briens.

Last year we drove Darwin-Brisbane-Canberra return and had quite a lot of genealogy fun. The timing of the trip was for us to attend the Not Just Ned exhibition and for me to enjoy three days of fun at Shamrock in the Bush 2011. As always, archives, family history centres, and cemeteries featured in our itinerary as well as seeing the countryside looking very green and lush after the early 2011 floods throughout the west.

The Murphys Creek railway station, of importance to the Kunkel family history. Murphys Creek was severely affected by the 2011 floods. © P Cass

On St Patrick’s Day 2011, we took Ms X-Trail for a quick skip down the Stuart Highway and I wrote about the scenery and the birds we saw here.

The X-Trail has given us a ton of fun, as well as a solution to the “X is for…..” conundrum.

Racing through R in Retford, Rotterdam and Rocky

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 am going to keep comments on each place succinct and refer you back to earlier posts.

R is for Retford (Nottinghamshire, England)

Grove St, Retford where Susannah Cass had her school for ladies. © P Cass 2006.

Mr Cassmob’s Cass ancestors lived in Retford where his 2xgreat grandmother Suzannah Cass and her sisters ran a school for young women with her sisters. The women lived in the adjacent area of Moorgate. Back in 2006 we had a great time on this particular leg of our family history adventures. You can read about it here.

R is for Rotterdam (Netherlands)

My 2xgreat grandfather, Laurence Melvin, worked as a merchant sailor, travelling between Leith and the northern European ports. He was a young man, with a wife and three small children, when he took ill on one of his voyages. He died overnight and is buried in Rotterdam. I’m not sure I’ll ever know precisely where.

R is for Rockhampton (Queensland)

Rockhampton was the Queensland hub for my McSherry/McSharry ancestors after they arrived in 1884/1883 respectively. Last year I posted about discovering the sale of my great-grandfather, Peter McSherry’s estate on Trove. More recently I wrote about how his mother, Bridget McSharry, had a boarding house in Rockhampton and the hardships she experienced in her new Queensland life, and the on-going mystery and brick wall of her husband, James McSharry.  Peter, his wife Mary, and mother Bridget are all buried in the Rockhampton cemeteries. Although I’ve visited Rocky briefly in recent decades, for me the mental associationis stopping there on the Sunlander train, and Dad making a mad dash to get us beautiful fish and chips for our lunch.

St Mary's Rushden is just delightful. © P Cass 2010

R is for Rushden (Hertfordshire, England)

Although my Kent (name, not place) ancestors belonged to the Sandon parish in Hertfordshire, it’s likely they also visited the Rushden church from time to time as it was just as close to the Red Hill area of Sandon. I too have visited this church several times over the decades. It may only be “just another 14th century church” to quote a family member, but I love its simplicity and its peace, tucked away up a lane. When the daffodils flower in the churchyard among the graves it is simply lovely. The village has many gorgeous old homes with timber work and thatched roofs. I’m also enamoured with the name of the local pub The Moon and Stars. In one of those flights of fancy I usually never apply to my ancestry, wouldn’t it be nice to think my Kent publicans might have worked there once.