Sepia Saturday 258: Meeting the GI Cousin in Sydney WWII

Sepia Sat 258 This photo gave me an instant connection to some from my 3rd cousin’s photo albums. This particular cousin, Nora, has provided me with so much information over the years: old histories, photos of my Kunkel ancestors and our mutual O’Brien relatives. I owe her an enormous debt in terms of what she’s given to my research, which is why I asked her to launch my Kunkel family history book.

Cousins meeting at Circular Quay, Sydney.

Cousins meeting at Circular Quay, Sydney. The American with glasses is not a relation. The three on the left are 1st cousins, once removed to the American on the right and his first cousin Nellie Garvey.

During World War II, many American soldiers were stationed in Australia, and to be honest they weren’t all that popular with the Aussie men who were left behind for whatever reason: the snapshot phrase was that they were “overpaid, oversexed and over here“…a case of jealousy I fear. The girls were not so reluctant to meet these men, and many married and became War Brides, relocating to the United States after the war, some successfully and some not so much. I think the American GIs had rather more finesse when it came to women than the rather blunt Aussie style.

Two cousins meet: John Garvey (USA) and Reg Gill (Sydney).

Two cousins meet: John Garvey (USA) and Reg Gill (Sydney).

SCAN1298_edited-1However in some cases this wasn’t all about the whole “boy meets girl” story, it was about cousins meeting cousins from across the world. This particular branch of the O’Brien family descended from Honora Garvey nee O’Brien from Bodyke County Clare, one of my Mary (O’Brien) Kunkel’s siblings who remained in Ireland. However Honora’s children were, and are, part of the great Irish diaspora with some moving to the States and some moving to Australia. I wonder why, and how, they came to the conclusion regarding which place to choose.  No doubt the increasing literacy of the Irish population assisted this branch of the family to keep in touch over the miles and the years and across vast distances.

The Sydney siblings, Nora, Kevin and Marie with their aunty Nellie (in the hat).  I like the war bonds notice on the building.

The Sydney siblings, Nora, Kevin and Marie with their aunty Nellie (in the hat). I like the war bonds notice on the building. I was intrigued that Marie was the only woman wearing gloves as I’d have expected the to be de rigeur in this era. Those 1940s shoes were really not glamorous. I can’t quite figure out what Nora is carrying…is it just a purse?

The war provided a chance for the cousins to meet. On reflection it seems possible these photos were probably taken by the street photographers that have been the topic of blog posts lately…it just hadn’t occurred to me…we do tend to assume that cameras were as readily available then as they are today. On the other side of the Pacific, two other Aussie cousins were being welcomed by the American branches as they commenced their WWII Air Force service. These connections, many years after their grandmother, Honora Garvey, had died, reinforced the kinship links.

No one remembers what this guy's name was...will anyone recognise him I wonder?

No one remembers what this guy’s name was…will anyone recognise him I wonder?

So today we have a bunch of cousins and a ring-in GI mate, whose name is no longer recorded…I wonder if anyone will recognise him? Why not march over to see what other Sepians have made of this week’s prompt? And because I’ve found an image among Nora’s collection that suits last week’s image very well I’m going to post it here as well – I’d forgotten all about it.

The reverse says "Michael Keane and friend" circa 1900s. He would also have been 1st cousin to John Garvey.

The reverse says “Michael Keane and friend” circa 1900s. He would also have been 1st cousin to John Garvey in the photos above. Their chaps look as woolly as the dog in the featured image.

Sepia Saturday 257

Trove does it again – Bridget Widdup and the Florentia

URANA. (1912, May 25). Wagga Wagga Express (NSW : 1879 - 1920), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article145395082

URANA. (1912, May 25). Wagga Wagga Express (NSW : 1879 – 1920), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article145395082

Our good friend Trove has done it again!

I mentioned in my East Clare post last week that I was waiting on a new release news story which looked tantalisingly optimistic. It’s now been released and has exceeded my hopes.

Regular readers will recall my excitement back in late December when I found a clue to my Mary O’Brien’s immigration in an advertisement for her sister, Bridget. Since the family’s oral history has them both arriving in Australia together I thought I’d hit the jackpot.

Hours of research online and in archives in Hobart, Sydney and Brisbane had left me none the wiser in terms of hard evidence, and if anything doubting whether even Bridget had come on this sailing ship. Nowhere was there a mention of her name and my hopes plummeted. I felt like the prince trying to make that glass slipper fit.

O'BRIEN Advert Florentiaarticle13011791-3-004

This new death notice and obituary once again opens up the research and reveals so much more. It tells of:

  • Bridget’s arrival in Queensland (also mentioned on her death notice)
  • Arrival on the Florentia (a confirmation of Mary’s advertisement for her)
  • Relocation to Sydney. Her death certificate mentions 1 year Qld, remainder in NSW, so she probably left Ipswich for Sydney some time in 1854.
  • Arrival in the Urana area with Mr James Broughton to work on Cocketgedong[i] Station, on Billabong/Billybong Creek, near Jerilderie, probably around 1857-58.
  • Arrival in the town of Urana before it was surveyed. “Urana village was laid out in 1859” according to Bayley[ii]. Urana was proclaimed a town on 6 May 1859 and gazetted on 10 May[iii]. This roughly fits with when Bridget was believed to have married John Widdup, who would become the town’s poundkeeper, a role Bridget took on after his death in 1876.
LOWER MURRUMBIDGEE. (1858, May 11). The Sydney Morning Herald, p. 3 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13009895

LOWER MURRUMBIDGEE. (1858, May 11). The Sydney Morning Herald, p. 3 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13009895

There is some oral history that suggests Bridget worked as a children’s nurse which would fit with the birth of Emily Church Broughton in Sydney in May 1858 and Mary B on 25 April 1860. This would tally with Bridget’s move to Cocketgedong especially if she had been working for the Broughtons in Sydney. She’d certainly have been well qualified in this role having been the eldest of the eight O’Brien children. The impact of women arriving in the district was among the subjects discussed in this interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 11 May 1858[iv].

Of course the question remains why Bridget left Ipswich and her sister, having journeyed so far together. To the best of my knowledge there were not yet any relatives in Sydney. Perhaps she just didn’t like the Queensland heat and dryness. Certainly it can’t have been the isolation as Urana was far more isolated.

Link with the Early Days. (1924, October 24). The Burrowa News (NSW : 1874 - 1951), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article103199365

Link with the Early Days. (1924, October 24). The Burrowa News (NSW : 1874 – 1951), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article103199365

So here I am, back pondering the mysteries of the Florentia migration and again I’m left with the following questions.

  1. Did Mary and Bridget emigrate together?

All the oral history suggests the two young women came together. Annie Kunkel’s usually reliable information fits with what’s now known of the Florentia’s voyage. Furthermore I’ve re-read the notes I took at the time and see that she refers to them on an “old sailing ship”. I’d blipped over the “old” previously but it particularly fits with what’s known of the Florentia which had made voyages to Australia as a convict ship in earlier decades.

  1. Why would Mary advertise for her sister on the Florentia if she didn’t arrive on it?

This question now seems to be answered. I have two different sources citing the Florentia which gives me confidence that Bridget at least arrived on that ship. It only had one voyage to Queensland, in 1853. Earlier ones to other states would have meant the women were too young to travel alone, so I’m now happy to place Bridget on this ship. But why is she not mentioned anywhere in the records?

  1. Were they unassisted passengers?

I can find no evidence or mention anywhere that there were paying passengers on board the ship. It was an old ship and less likely to provide suitable cabin accommodation for anyone other than the captain and surgeon. However, is it still possible that it offered cheap paying accommodation to two young women? The records, as always, are focused on the assisted passengers and there was enough kerfuffle about the voyage that the assisted may have gained no recognition. Or am I clutching at straws?

  1. Were they assisted passengers?

As I mentioned I’ve looked at all available passenger lists for this voyage. There are no single women named O’Brien other than the daughters of Daniel O’Brien who I mentioned in the earlier post. I’d checked them out years ago because of the family’s on-going connection to Mary O’Brien and the Kunkel family. However, once again I married each girl off, and checked their deaths until I was sure none of them were actually our Bridget or Mary. Case closed there.

  1. Were there substitutions or impersonations?

As implausible as this sounds it is not impossible. State Records of New South Wales (SRNSW) makes mention of it:One practice which frequently occurred during this period was the taking on of an alias in order to obtain passage. This happened in cases where passage had been denied under the correct name; in these instances, the assumed name was often the maiden name or the name of a person with whom travelling. In other instances, an immigrant assumed the name of a person to whom a passage certificate had been granted. An example of this is Joseph Golding who came in place of John Mahon. In these cases the lists usually record the person under his/her correct name with a reference to the alias (or assumed) name. (always assuming they actually came to light)

I’ve also found manipulated records, and impersonations, in the East Clare database I’ve built up, though they are only the ones which have come to light, as per the SRNSW examples above.

It seems logical that if the O’Brien girls had taken up other passengers’ tickets/permits that they’d (a) have to have been Irish and (b) most likely have been from Clare or nearby eg Limerick or west Tipperary.

I also eliminated from consideration single women whose married siblings or single brothers were on board, just because that would have required more extensive collaboration.

Similarly two young women in their mid-teens were unlikely to be able to pass themselves off  as women over thirty.

It really does defy logic, and Irish propriety, that the girls would have been languishing on the docks of Plymouth hoping to catch a ship to Australia until some other young girl(s) changed her mind about the voyage.

  1. Checking the single women

Over the past weeks I’ve been researching the single women on the Florentia.

Even eliminating the English and Welsh women from consideration there were still lots to investigate and I set to by looking at potential marriages via Queensland’s online BDM site. If I found one that seemed plausible I traced the death and compared the parents listed with those provided on the shipping lists.

Again and again I hit brick walls, often not even finding marriages at all. I also checked the NSW BDMs, just in case, because some of the immigrants had stated they had relatives interstate. Eventually I had to give this away due to the overall ambiguity, but if any reader had ancestors arrive on this ship I’d love to hear from them.

CONCLUSION

Glass_slippers_at_Dartington_CrystalTo be honest I’m still floundering, though I’m now much more confident that Bridget was on board the Florentia when it arrived in Queensland in 1853. However, was she an assisted or unassisted passenger? Did she/they come out under someone else’s name? There is a suggestion in the local history of Broadford that some young people were assisted to emigrate and perhaps that’s where the clues lie. Perhaps the girls came out as privately funded passengers but on a very old ship, with perhaps a cheap rate.

Frustrating as this is, without Trove I’d still have no clues about their migration as I’d exhausted other avenues many years ago. My gut feeling for some time has been that they came out as unassisted passengers so perhaps that was the case on Florentia.  I’m still walking around with that glass slipper in my hand looking for a perfect fit but will it ever happen? Digitisation has saved my research and perhaps will do so again.

Other posts on this topic:

Have I cracked it?

Bridget Widdup nee O’Brien

Was it all fun and games on the Florentia?

Mixing my metaphors: macadamias and glass slippers.

[One day I may manage a short post!]

[i] Also known as Cocketygong, Cockegong from Trove reports. Cockejedong Creek was a tributary of Billybong or Biallabong Creek: Billabidgee, History of Urana Shire. Bayley, WA. Urana Shire Council 1959, page 59. For overseas readers, the word “station” here does not refer to the railway but an extremely large rural property. In American terms it would be called a ranch.

[ii] ibid, page 75.

[iii] ibid, page 23.

[iv] I was alerted to this by a reference in Bayley, op cit, page 22. Although not referenced in the book, Trove picked it up immediately when I searched by the phrase used.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sailing into Hobart on Day 7

Sailing into Hobart on Day 7

But first there was some genealogy while still at sea:

Dealing with Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy (panel discussion)

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

391 ethical dilemmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leaving Hobart behind.

Leaving Hobart behind.

52 weeks of Genealogy Records: Internal Migration

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

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

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

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.

Have I cracked it? Shall we dance?

Mary O'Brien, my 2xgreat grandmother.

Mary O’Brien Kunkel, my 2xgreat grandmother.

The midnight fairy came to visit me last night with an amazing surprise –in fact such a big surprise that I can’t quite believe it, and have spent the day trying to confirm or deny my conclusions. Oh ye of little faith!!

As a prelude to sleep (!!) I decided to have a quick look on Trove for Bridget O’Brien Ipswich. Bridget was my Mary O’Brien’s (2x great grandmother) sister. You see the other day I’d found a new obituary for her on Trove which mentioned that her year in Queensland had been spent in Ipswich. Up came the following advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald on 9th and 12th February 1859:

SHIP-FLORENTIA – BRIDGET O’BRIEN  Your sister Mary is anxious to hear from you. Mrs KONGEL, Post Office, Ipswich.

It’s as well I was lying down I tell you!! I couldn’t believe my eyes and kept saying “keep calm, keep calm”.

Why was I so excited? Because I’d pretty much guarantee that this is my Mary Kunkel (nee O’Brien) and her sister Bridget. Kunkel is routinely mangled even today, or greeted with a “what??” so the mis-spelling doesn’t bother me much, especially since Mary was illiterate and had a Clare accent.

I’ve been hunting for Mary’s immigration for 27 years to no avail. I’ve looked at every possible immigration record I could find, including checking every Mary O’Brien entry, as well as Bridget and Kate/Catherine.

So am I leaping to conclusions? Please tell me what you think after reading this.

My memory didn’t instantly retrieve Florentia but it was ringing loud bells for me. A quick search of my records reminded me this was the ship that the Daniel O’Brien family from Tipperary arrived on. I wrote about the connections in this post early in 2013. This O’Brien family and my Mary O’Brien Kunkel were involved as witnesses in each other’s church events.

So let me put together the details and compare it with the oral history given to me by Mary’s granddaughter, Anne Kunkel who lived with her, and who was an extremely reliable witness (she’s been spot-on about 99% of what she told me):

1.      Mary left Ireland when she was 16

In 1852 when the Florentia sailed Mary was 16 years old. This tallies with the age stated on several children’s birth certificates as well as her death certificate. Bridget’s age at death, and the details on her certificate also indicate an arrival year of 1852-53.

2.      Mary was six months at sea coming to Australia

The Florentia was at sea for 22 weeks, slightly over five months. On top of that Mary had to get to Plymouth to catch the ship, either by boat from Limerick or Bianconi carriage to Dublin. Either way you can see how the total trip would have been close to six months. And wouldn’t the temptation be to round up, not down?

3.  Mary and Bridget came together…though Anne did suggest perhaps sister Kate also came, but then she would have been <10 at the time.

Assuming this is correct, then Mary would have been on the Florentia too. I had eliminated Kate as an arrival through Moreton Bay as she married in Sydney in 1871 but now I’m rethinking that. Kate witnessed a baptism in Broadford, Clare in 1860. A Kate O’Brien witnessed Mary’s child’s baptisms in 1864 and 1866 in Ipswich. Was this her sister or Daniel and Winifred’s daughter (born 1854), which does seem young to be a witness? Our Kate’s details suggest she arrives in the early 1860s, just when there are some Board Immigrant Lists missing.

4.“Mary had a job before ever she got here…and she worked for a sea captain in Brisbane

Was Mary arriving as an unassisted passenger? Or did she come under a false name as happened occasionally (and perhaps more than we realise?).  Certainly the passenger list of the Florentia tallies with the stated number of passengers, and does not include two unassisted passengers because when the ship docked in Hobart on 4th April 1853 to take on additional supplies, there is only one cabin passenger stated on the Tasmanian documents, the Surgeon Superintendent for the voyage, William Clegg. Might she have been under an alias? This is tricky and yet none of the ages quite fit, let alone for two young women, aged 16 and 18.

5.      She met her husband on the voyage

This tale is common to both Mary and Bridget. Bridget’s future husband was a mariner, John Widdup, so that may be plausible. I’ve never found George Kunkel’s immigration either, and have conjectured he too may have worked his passage given his upbringing on the River Main. The Tasmanian records indicate there were 26 crew on the Florentia…I wonder if either George or John was one of them. Unfortunately the Mariners and Ships in Australian Waters website does not include the Florentia.

So far at least I’ve also been unable to trace them through the CLIP website.

Green, Allan C (1900). [Unidentified barque (sailing ship) in full sail]. Copyright expired.

Green, Allan C (1900). [Unidentified barque (sailing ship) in full sail]. Copyright expired.

The voyage

The ship’s captain was Capt TH Banks and Surgeon Superintendent William Clegg and the ship arrived in Moreton Bay on 25th April 1853. The Florentia was a barque of 453 tons, and on arrival was carrying 249 immigrants so a fairly small ship. Apart from being unusually long, due to “contrary winds and calms”, the voyage had a fairly high fatality rate, with two differing death rates: 17 deaths (Moreton Bay) and 9 deaths (Hobart). Although “offset” by either 8 or 12 births, this was not a good tally. And yet surprisingly very little is documented in the Trove newspapers about the voyage, other than an elusive hint that there were issues with the ship’s officers: The local Immigration Board is now engaged in the investigation of certain charges against the ship’s officers, but what their nature or justice may be, remains a mystery.- Moreton Bay Courier, May 7 quoted in the Maitland Mercury of 18 May 1853.

The Moreton Bay colonists were far more concerned that the ship brought far more women and children, than the men they wanted to boost their workforce.

Further Queries 

Was there another Florentia voyage? Yes, but back in 1841 when Bridget was only a girl of about eight. It seems logical that the 1853 voyage is the correct one. Our Bridget witnessed her brother’s and sister’s  baptism at home in Broadford in 1846 and 1850 adding to that likelihood.

It’s also not surprising that Mary might have been advertising for her sister, as Bridget left Ipswich after a year, so about mid-1854. By the 1860s she was married and living with her little family in Urana in southern New South Wales. Meanwhile Mary too had married in 1857, to George Kunkel, which Bridget may not have known.

So why was Mary “anxious” to get in touch with Bridget in early 1859? Their parents didn’t die until much later. Mary’s marriage and children seemed to be having no problems. Perhaps she just hadn’t heard from Bridget for a while or perhaps Mary knew that Kate was thinking of emigrating and wanted to get in touch.

jumping-people-silhouettes-colorful-illustration_275-6273

Image from Freepik.com

Plainly there’s room for further research at various archives and online.

So what do you think? Does my hypothesis hold up? Can I do a happy dance or is it all wishful thinking? Pearls of wisdom and advice would be much appreciated.

Sources:

http://www.trove.nla.gov.au

Tasmanian Archives, Immigration document MB2-39-1-16 Image 183

Family oral history: Anne Kunkel

Sepia Saturday: shops and genealogy mazes

sepia saturday 26 JanDaniel (38) and Winifred O’Brien arrived in Queensland on board the Florentia on 29 April 1853. Accompanying them on the voyage were their children Mary 18, Ellen 16, Denis 13, Sarah 12, Hanora 9 and Daniel 2. The family came from Tipperary and on the immigration lists Daniel stated his parents were Denis and Mary O’Brien (mother still alive) and his wife’s parents were Thomas and Ellen Carter (both dead). Daniel apparently went on to become a blacksmith near the current Amberley airforce runway. This photo of his shop, with staff, and possibly family standing outside, is reminiscent of this week’s Sepia Saturday theme. The photo has been digitised by Picture Ipswich.

Ipswich Library &​ Information Service, Ipswich City Council, 1860-1869oai:picture.ipswich.qld.gov.au:8704

Ipswich Library &​ Information Service, Ipswich City Council, 1860-1869   oai:picture.ipswich.qld.gov.au:8704

An Ancestry family tree indicates that Daniel was born c1801 at Bishopswood near Dundrum, Tipperary. This is a slightly longer distance from Limerick than my O’Brien’s home in Ballykelly near Broadford, Co Clare. From time to time, I’ve wondered if my Mary O’Brien Kunkel somehow emigrated with the Daniel O’Brien family, but this remains conjecture or fantasy rather than fact. Daniel and Winifred’s daughter, Ellen O’Brien, married a John Collins and son Daniel married Anne Brennan from Maitland. There is nothing whatsoever to suggest that this family is any way connected to my O’Brien family from County Clare…BUT…

So why do I say “BUT”? Well there are a number of connections between my O’Brien-Kunkel family and this family.

Daniel O'Brien /Picture Ipswich/People/Families/ARCHIVE/qips-2010-10-24-0003p.jpg

Daniel O’Brien /Picture Ipswich/People/Families/ARCHIVE/qips-2010-10-24-0003p.jpg

I believe it’s likely that the Sarah O’Brien who witnesses George Kunkel’s and Mary O’Brien’s marriage in Ipswich Queensland in 1857 is the daughter listed above, although I have no strong evidence that she’s the right one, rather perhaps than any other.

The link to one sister is stronger however. Sarah’s sister, Mary O’Brien, married a James McGrath and this couple witnessed the baptism of the Kunkel’s second child, Joseph.

So is there a relationship connection between my Mary O’Brien from Co Clare to the Daniel O’Brien family? Unfortunately I just can’t say.

Winifred O'Brien nee Carter. Picture Ipswich/People/Families/ARCHIVE/qips-2010-10-24-0002p.jpg

Winifred O’Brien nee Carter. Picture Ipswich/People/Families/ARCHIVE/qips-2010-10-24-0002p.jpg

There’s yet more confusion to add to this O’Brien maze because a Kate O’Brien witnesses the baptisms of the Kunkel daughters Mary Ellen and Elizabeth (later known as Louisa).  Is Kate a “ring-in” or is she really my Mary’s sister, who oral history says came with her older sisters Bridget and Mary? If she was a sister, and they arrived together, surely she would have witnessed Mary’s marriage as well? I’d previously discounted this because of no clear links, because Kate marries in Sydney in 1871. Would she have waited that long if she’d arrived in Moreton Bay circa 1855? She’d have been quite young, about 14, on arrival but that’s far from impossible too.

Just to add to the confusion, there’s yet another O’Brien strand to add to the mix. Bridget O’Brien, daughter of Patrick O’Brien and Mary Latchford of Limerick appears regularly in my Kunkel-O’Brien history. Bridget married a Robert Mullen and one of the witnesses to the wedding was my George Kunkel. Bridget’s husband Robert then witnesses Mary Ellen and Louisa Kunkel’s baptisms (together with Kate above). Bridget is later the sponsor at the baptism of Bridget Catherine Kunkel. My Mary O’Brien Kunkel is in turn the sponsor at the baptism of baby Mary Alice Mullen who dies in 1865. My working hypothesis is that Robert Mullen may also worked on the development of the railway line to Toowoomba. The families appear to have remained in contact over the decades as evidenced by the loan of a wedding gown by their daughter to Mary O’Brien Kunkel’s granddaughter. Robert Mullen died within a year of his old friend George Kunkel on 7 July 1915.

This interwoven story comprises several O’Brien strands:

Strand 1: My Mary O’Brien from Ballykelly near Broadford, County Clare

Strand 2: Sarah O’Brien who witnesses the Kunkel-O’Brien marriage –is she a relation of my Mary’s? Daughter of Daniel and Winifred? Or someone else altogether?

Strand 3: Kate O’Brien who witnesses baptisms (a relation or a friend?)

Strand 4: Bridget O’Brien married to Robert Mullen who we know is not obviously related to any of these families. However the Mullen family continues their links with the Kunkels over many years.

Strand 5: Mary O’Brien, daughter of Daniel and Winifred, who married James McGrath and who witnesses the Kunkels’ second child’s baptism.

This is something of a muddled link to the theme of shop and staff for this week’s Sepia Saturday, but it does show the importance and complexity of FANs (friends/family, Associates, Neighbours) in relation to our family history. Maybe something will come of this post to make the connections less ambiguous.

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: Week 42 – Greatest Genie Achievement

It’s ages since I participated in the 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy by Amy Coffin and hosted by Geneabloggers as I’ve been rather preoccupied with my own 52 weeks Beyond the Internet series.

This morning I read that the topic for Week 42 of Abundant Genealogy is Biggest Genealogy Accomplishment. What do you feel is your biggest genealogy accomplishment? What were the steps you took to get there, and what was the end result?

 My first thoughts turned to an earlier Abundant Genealogy post from Week 7 when I wrote about discovering my Bavarian ancestor’s roots. It was only later that I thought, no that’s not my biggest genealogy accomplishment, even though it was certainly a critical point in my family research.

 MY BIGGEST GENEALOGY ACHIEVEMENT?

The thing I’m most proud of, genealogically, is writing the history of my Kunkel family in Queensland: a pioneering family who, although not important as individuals, participated in important events in our country’s and our state’s achievements and progress. It was the family’s everyday ordinariness that gave me the name of the book: Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel Family.

Thanks to the discovery I mentioned above, and fantastic oral history connections that were uncovered, I was able to include the background story of my Happ-Kunkel families in Bavaria and my O’Brien ancestors from Ballykelly near Broadford in Co Clare, and a little about the other emigrants from Dorfprozelten in Bavaria.

I knew literally nothing about this family when I started out other than the fact Kunkel was plainly a name of German origin, and that my grandfather had several siblings only one or two of whom he had anything to do with. I also knew that he had originally been a Catholic and one of the points of contention had been his marrying a Scots Presbyterian.

 GOING ABOUT IT

My research started in the pre-internet era so I accumulated every snippet of information I could find from as many sources as possible. One day I realised that if I didn’t write up this family story, it would become a major regret.

So what did I do? One of the strange things I did was to decide not to look at other family histories because I didn’t want to pinch their ideas. In retrospect this was fairly silly as there are so many strategies that can be used – you don’t have to recreate the wheel. Instead I launched in, started writing and kept at it, day after day, until the story came together. I was still working full-time so I wrote in the early mornings and late into the evenings.

Sir Cassmob is knighted for services to genealogy.

As I found gaps in the story I chased down more clues, did more research, and phoned more people. I’m proud of all the research, determination and sheer persistence that went into writing up this story, including challenging my reluctance to contact formerly unknown relatives.

Like the Oscars I have to acknowledge that many people helped me along the way with their stories, photos etc, but my greatest debt is to Mr Cassmob, who got a Family Knighthood for Services to Genealogy! I’ve said many times, either the book wouldn’t have been written or I’d have been much thinner.

Sir Cassmob receives his award.

When I first held my “baby” in my hands I was just so thrilled and besotted. Now of course I can see its flaws, mistakes, and things I could have done differently, but even so it was, and remains, an achievement to be proud of.

THE END RESULT

The book was launched by one of my distant O’Brien cousins, who always tells me “oh you’re wonderful” but what she really means is that I’m quite mad to keep doing all this family history. We launched the book in Toowoomba not far from where the family had lived for many years and as far as is known it was the first Kunkel family reunion in close to 100 years.

A mob of Kunkels chatting hammer and tongs.

It was a great day and there was a non-step level of chatter even among people who’d never met before. Many were astonished to discover they had Kunkel ancestry and everyone appreciated learning more of the story. The genealogy chart stretched along the walls and everybody had fun finding their name. Another great thing, retrospectively, is that quite a number of the third generation of Kunkel descendants were able to attend even though in their eighties or nineties Many have now left us so it was a special privilege to have them there. The reunion and all the pleasure people got from it and from the book was definitely the icing on the cake.

My beautiful Alexander Henderson Award was hand-delivered to the GSNT.

The glitter on the cake was winning two awards for the book. I was so proud to be joint-winner of Queensland Family History Society’s annual award with Joyce Philips’s book The Wrights of Tivoli.  And then to my utter astonishment I also won the Alexander Henderson Award from the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies.  I was over the moon with excitement and pride as you might imagine.

It’s very counter-cultural to blow one’s own trumpet, certainly in Australia where there’s an absolute dislike of people who puff themselves up, so it feels very brazen to be telling this story.

There’s something special about knowing you’re leaving a family history for posterity and that you’ve opened up your family’s story to many family members. It’s certainly one of my proudest moments.  So if you’ve been thinking of writing your own family history, give it a go and don’t let the fear stop you. I guarantee you will be so pleased to have provided this inheritance for generations to come.

The Bodyke Evictions and the Garvey family

In the summer of 1887, 125 years ago, a grassroots agrarian revolution was taking place in the otherwise quiet parish of Bodyke, County Clare.  Colonel O’Callaghan , one of the local landowners, had significant rental arrears on his tenancies and planned to take action against those in default, evicting them with force.  There is a tendency for family historians to assume that landowners simply evicted their tenants without fear of the law, yet this was not the case. The eviction would be preceded by a legal process before sending in a force of constabulary or emergency men to enforce the eviction.

Nevertheless the rents had been steadily increasing over the preceding years, in part because of O’Callaghan’s own personal expenses.  Such was the increase that the judicially imposed rate might be nearly double the Griffith Valuation of the early 1850s, yet the rack rent would be a further 50% or more higher.  Despite these rents, at least some families were not farming quality land. Rather the land they rented was often poor quality mountain land with limited productivity.  Often the tenants were truly poor and utterly unable to fund the exorbitant rack rents. To put these expenses in context, a housemaid on the O’Callaghan/Westropp estate in the 1830s would earn only £3 a year, nearly the same amount (£3/4/7 ½) that tenant John Garvey had to find on each gale day in March and September of the 1830s. This clearly shows how each family member would need to earn and contribute to the rental payments.[i]

I love this photo of Honorah O’Brien Garvey which was given to me by her great-granddaughter. Her face reflects her hard life yet also shows her strength of character, offset with the bunch of violets.

John Garvey, rented poor mountain land in the townland of Ballydonaghan, valued at £7/10/- by Griffith with a judicial rent of £8 and rack rent of £12. His land was among the poorest on the estate which perhaps reflects the close correlation between the judicial rate and Griffith’s valuation. Over the years his rentals were often paid late and the payment was a mix of cash and labour, including gamekeeping or his wife’s needlework.  It’s no surprise then to find that he was listed among the 57 to face eviction in June 1887.

The local Catholic parish priest, Fr Peter Murphy and his curate Fr J Hannon, were both strong supporters of the Land League and ownership of the land by the people. Throughout this struggle, they were naturally on the side of the tenants, virtually all of whom would have been their parishioners. Fr Murphy attempted to negotiate a compromise agreement with Colonel O’Callaghan which might satisfy the landowner yet be possible for the tenants to pay. The 57 tenants joined the Plan of Campaign to challenge the evictions, supported by their clergy. However the negotiations faltered and these 57 tenant farmers on the O’Callaghan estate received eviction notices.

The memorial christening font in the Bodyke Catholic church. P Cass 2003

The evictions went ahead amidst much public outcry and significant press attention. The tenants put up a feisty defence, barricading houses and passing belongings to their neighbours. Of the 57 families, 30 were evicted[ii] before the process ground to a halt. The name of John Garvey is number 32 on the list so it seems the family narrowly avoided being turned out of their home and the roof knocked in.

Are you wondering why tenant John Garvey is the person I’ve chosen to highlight? He became my 3xgreat uncle when he married Honorah O’Brien from the nearby parish of Kilseily (Broadford), itself a venue for huge Land Rights meetings in the 19th century.  Honorah was sister to my Mary O’Brien and they had grown up on the hilly townland of Ballykelly not far from Broadford village.

Although the Garveys escaped eviction, the fight presumably took its toll and John died in March 1888. On some of the eviction lists his name has been replaced by that of his widow, Honorah Garvey. Life didn’t become much easier for Honorah as when their home was “visited” by the landlord’s agent on 22 April 1892, she is recorded as being in rent arrears of £60, a huge amount of money. The same page is also noted showing rent of £8 yearly, arrears £15 and £75 wiped off. The reason for the difference appears to be the reduction in rent from the rack rate of £12 to the judicial rate of £8 but this does not explain it all. The Garvey land of 260 acres and 12 perches is described as “mountain with patches of tillage”. A faint annotation on the bottom of the page says (smashed) (going away) yet we know she never left Bodyke and other records, including the 1901 and 1911 censuses, indicate she remained on the property.[iii]

Nothing on this window gives a clue that John and Honora Garvey lived and died in Ireland.

The annotations also note her husband is dead and she has sons Patrick and Cornelius.[iv] The latter is interesting because at different times both sons went to America to earn a living, as did some of their siblings. Five of Honora’s children emigrated permanently to Australia showing the significance of chain migration in Irish research.

John and Hanorah Garvey are my family’s faces from the Battle of Bodyke, illustrating the precariousness of tenancy until land ownership became possible.  They are honoured by their Australian family with a stained glass window in the Catholic parish church of St Peter’s Surry Hills, Sydney.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Clare Library’s Bodyke Evictions pages.

East Clare Heritage Commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the evictions 20th July 2012.

The Bodyke Evictions, J S Kelly

Further references are included in the footnotes.


[i] Manuscript MSS3250 Servants’ wages book of the O’Callaghan-Westropp family 1824-1863.

[ii] Bodkyke, Henry Norman. Held at the Clare Library, Ennis. Other reports say 28 households were evicted.

[iii] My notes include the comment on these records “fantastic information on some tenants including sons in America”.

[iv] Rent rolls of the O’Callaghan-Westropp estate County Clare, National Library of Ireland, manuscripts 866 (1853-1883) and MS 867 (1865-1882), page 103.

U is for Urana and Ubud

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), but sometimes like today it involves a simple travelogue as well.

U is for Urana (New South Wales, Australia)

Urana's Soldiers Memorial Hall, another type of war memorial. © P Cass 2004

My 2xgreat-grandmother Mary O’Brien from County Clare, and her sister Bridget, reportedly travelled to Australia together around 1852-53. Bridget’s death certificate indicates she had spent one year in Queensland so it appears they both came to Queensland first to settle and work. However Bridget then moved to New South Wales, though the reason why is unknown. It does seem strange that she left her sister behind to move a further 1500kms away. Perhaps she’d already met her husband-to-be and went interstate to join him. Like Mary, the story is that they met their future husbands on the voyage over, a not uncommon tale. Unfortunately as I can find no record of their arrival I can’t even begin to verify or reject the story.

A typical Australian country shed with corrugated iron and a windmill overlooks the lake at Urana. © P Cass 2004

Bridget apparently married John Widdup in Albury on the NSW-Victoria border around 1858 (not on the NSW indices) and around 1864 they moved from there to Urana in the Riverina district between the two great rivers, the Murray and the Murrumbidgee. In 1866 the town had been in existence for seven years and had two hotels, the Urana and the Royal, several dwellings, “a post and telegraph station, two large stores, a police station and a lock up, and a church”.[1] The stores serviced the squatters as well as the shepherds and boundary riders who managed their stock.[2] Even in 1872, the town’s population was only 100 people with a periodic influx of shearers. I do find it interesting that both Bridget and her sister Mary chose to live their Australian lives in fairly small communities, perhaps drawing on their experience is the distant townland of Ballykelly, Parish of Kilseily.

John Widdup was the town’s pound keeper, responsible for wandering stock, but he also played an important role as Chairman of the Board in the establishment of the Urana School. Bridget was no doubt kept busy with their large family. Oral history also suggests she may have been a local midwife.

Bridget O'Brien Widdup is buried with her daughter Louisa Luckie in the Catholic Section of the Urana Cemetery. © P Cass 2004

John died in Urana on 29 February 1876, aged 48 years though strangely his death is unrecorded in the registration books. He was buried in the Church of England section of the Urana cemetery. Although united in life, they were not united in death as his wife Bridget lies in the Roman Catholic section. Their religious separation in death makes me suspect that religion was a major issue in their marriage.

The Widdup family settled permanently in Urana, and nearby areas including Narrandera, and to this day there are family members living in the area.

U is for Ubud (Bali)

Bali is just a hop, skip and jump from Darwin so it tends to be a short-stay holiday for many Darwinites. Due to its general reputation as a young Aussies’ party place, Bali had never been on my travel list until we came here to live. There’s so much more to Bali than partying, and I’m sure we’ve only scratched the surface but the stand-out features are the friendliness of the people and their focus on religious practices.

Ubud is perfect for “chilling out” as you can do a bit of browsing, but also enjoy the cooler weather that comes with being in the mountains. Ubud is the setting of the Love segment in the book and movie Eat, Pray, Love, but personally I haven’t seen any Brazilian eye-candy hanging around.

We both love the gardens, tropical flowers and statues so I thought I’d just include a slideshow of some of these (but you get the Urana ones first).

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E explores Edinburgh and Ennis

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).

E is for Edinburgh, Scotland

Sunset lights up Calton Hill. © P Cass 2010

This is a city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas.  A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again.” Alexander McCall Smith, 2006

This quote was written on the side of an inner-city building when we visited Edinburgh again in 2010 and I imagine that Edinburgh is one of the places many people would have on their bucket list. I’m not entirely sure that I feel completely at home there…it is beautiful, or perhaps imposing, but the greyness of the buildings is always something of a shock coming from a sunny country full of blue skies.

Still I love walking on the streets and hearing the skirl of the pipes, even if it is rather touristy. I’d be more than happy to have the opportunity to live in Edinburgh for a while….imagine being able to sit in the archives as often as you like, or to see those days where the skies are a beautiful blue!

Despite having visited a few times over 40 years, I’ve rarely played the tourist. My time has invariably been occupied in the various family-history-related repositories. Thanks to the wonderful online access provided by ScotlandsPeople (SP), my most recent visit “freed” me a little to have a look around. I think I should have shares in SP as it’s by far cheaper to obtain digital copies of original records so that a real visit can be so much richer (hmm perhaps richer is not what I mean!). On my last visit I spent happy hours in West Register House (now closed) where the staff were wonderfully helpful and I could trawl kirk session records to my heart’s content…I’m looking forward to them becoming available online.

I loved the words on this memorial to a recent mariner who lost his life at sea. The words are the essence of what we aim for as family historians. Click on the photo to read the words.

Apart from the joys of archives, I have another reason for visiting Edinburgh. My ancestor, Stephen Gillespie Melvin, and his ancestors before him, lived in Leith which is Edinburgh’s port. Once, not all that long ago, it was a bit rough, ready and run-down but these days gentrification has come calling. There are expensive apartments being built near the Water of Leith, two Michelin-starred restaurants, and historical monuments including one honouring Australia’s, and Leith’s, Governor John Hunter. What remains constant in my visits are the grey skies. Only once or twice have I seen glimpses of blue skies, even though there’s evidence on the internet that such days exist…I’m sure they can’t all be photo-shopped. I love having a link to this earthy port with its tough maritime industry to which my family contributed for a very long time. Many of my ancestral family members are buried in the South Leith churchyard but of course, not being wealthy, I’ve found no gravestones. How coincidental that having just logged into my family history program, I’ve discovered today is the 158th anniversary of the birthday of my Leith-born ancestor, Stephen Gillespie Melvin.

Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.

This was one of those rare sunny days between the grey so we went to the Botanic Gardens instead of Leith …what was I thinking to not put family history first!

One of the luxuries of our last visit was visiting the Impressionist Gardensexhibition which was wonderful. The Botanic Gardens had a related theme with certain areas of the Gardens highlighting aspects of some of the paintings. We really loved it and had a great time wandering for hours. Actually this was a beautiful “blue sky” day so perhaps we should have prioritised Leith instead of just having fun.One evening we took a trek to the outskirts of Edinburgh to hear a great traditional band, Fiddlers Bid, from the Shetlands. The music was fantastic, but some of the commentary was lost to us in the broad accents.

We also wandered around the old town looking for where another ancestor had lived and saw this sign. I’m not entirely sure I understand what it truly means, but I know I really like it…Alastair Grey himself does have an explanation of it here. Will Scotland vote for Independence I wonder?

My husband is a die-hard rugby union fan, as am I, and we love to watch Scotland play if for no other reason than to listen to Flower of Scotland and belt it out in our lounge room. Sadly the playing infrequently lives up to the music. I had a Scottish rugby union jersey for the 2003 World Cup which I wore in Ireland…I kept wondering why people were looking at me strangely. Mind you, I can get behind Ireland’s Call with a similar level of enthusiasm.

E is for Ennis, Co Clare, Ireland

Ennis has no direct links to my Irish ancestry but oral history suggests that at least my 2xgreat aunt was familiar with Ennis, but whether before or after her sisters’ departure for Australia is unknown. Broadford, their home town, was on the Bianconi route between Limerick and Ennis so perhaps they were able to travel to Ennis for the markets or similar.

For me, Ennis is the home of the Clare County Library and the adjacent Clare Local Studies Centre. I’ve sung their praises so often in my blog so there’s little need to repeat myself and yet I can’t resist. What a great job these people do, and how wonderfully innovative and creative they can be because of the forward-thinking of the powers-that-be above them. Thanks to them Clare family historians are infinitely better served than those with ancestry in other Irish counties. Thank you, I love using the site and I loved visiting in person even more!

It’s funny the things that stay in your mind about a place: the truck jammed under a bridge on the way into town; the welcome and helpfulness of the research staff at the Local Studies Centre; finding the death certificates for my Mary O’Brien’s parents even without known death dates; the river that runs beside the centre of town so that you can have lunch in a café and watch the swans go by; the old narrow streets with their medieval feel; the school kids hogging the footpath as they do the world over; an anniversary dinner in the Old Ground hotel; updating my suite of topographical Irish maps; ginger bath gel for the unheard-of travelling luxury of a hot bath; cash deliveries to the banks complete with machine-gun-toting security guards and multiple armoured vans (this chicken colonial chose to duck into the Vodaphone shop…I’m sure there was something I needed…or not).

I’d love to show you some of my own photos of Ennis, but for the life of me I can’t find them, so have a look at what they have to say at the official website. I think the next time I visit I might take this rather intriguing walking tour…we think Mr Cassmob’s Clune ancestors may have come from Ennis, perhaps we’ll learn more.