Trove Tuesday: The Kunkel family leaves Ipswich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[ii] Queensland Times, Ipswich, 18 December 1861

[iii] Courier, Brisbane, 10 January 1862.

[iv] Queensland Times, Ipswich, 7 July 1866

Missing Friends: Murphy’s Creek (Qld) people

Were your family part of the railway construction between Ipswich & Toowoomba?

Was your family part of the railway construction between Ipswich & Toowoomba?

The topic of one of my papers at Congress 2015 is The marriage of local history and family history: a bridge to the past. In part this will be a case study of the town of Murphy’s Creek, Queensland, at the bottom of the Toowoomba range.

For several years I’ve been collecting information on the town and its people from a range of sources. However it’s just (duh!) occurred to me that with the internet, and widespread interest in genealogy, I now have another opportunity to learn more about the people who lived and worked in Murphy’s Creek back in its formative years.

So, to paraphrase the Beatles, I’m looking for a little help from my friends. I’ve already picked up a few previously-unknown links through online genealogy sites, but I’m hoping this request will take my message wider.

If you have any family member who you know was born, baptised, married, died or was buried in Murphy’s Creek I’d really love to hear from you. It’s often only on certificates that some of these hidden clues come to light. You can leave a message in the comments, or contact me via email.

Please help me to bring those “missing friends” back into the Murphy’s Creek heritage story.

The Chapman and Marshall families: Qld pioneers

Over the past days I’ve been working on my Congress 2015 about family and local history. I came across this wonderful photo which I wanted to share right now – regular readers may see it again in a few months <smile>. It is wonderful because of the four generations included in it rather than the photo itself which could have done with a lot less contrast, not helped by being published in the paper.

Chapman Marshall 4 gens_edited-1

FOUR GENERATIONS OF AN OLD DOWNS FAMILY. This group includes Mrs. William Marshall, Mrs. Robert Cooke, Mrs. Sydney Chapman, and Baby Harold Chapman. Mr. and. Mrs. Marshall, of Well station, near Warwick, arrived at Sydney from Scot land in the Mary Pleasant in December, 1858, and came on to Queens land, making their home in the Warwick district, where they are engaged in dairying and grazing. Mrs. Cooke, second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall, married Mr. Robert Cooke, railway engine driver of Toowoomba, and Mrs. Chapman is their eldest daughter, residing at Murphy’s Creek, where Mr. Chapman is engaged in general storekeeping. (Photo, by Schaefer and Deazeley).

My key interest is in the Chapman connection as the family were among the first European settlers at Murphy’s Creek. However, this is actually four generations of the Marshall family. After a quick hunt through the Qld BDMs and NSW shipping I’ve come up with their brief story (helped by all those clues!).

Generation 1, 2 & 3

William Marshall snr, 56, arrived with his daughter Catherine 22, son John 14 and daughter Janet 12 at Sydney in 1858 on the Mary Pleasants. Also on board were William snr’s son’s family: William 20, his wife Margaret 21 and infant son William 1. All the family were from Fifeshire in Scotland and all could read and write and all belonged to the Church of Scotland. William snr and William jnr were both carpenters. Their voyage had been under the remittance regulations, so I wonder who paid their way. Three generations of the Marshall family had arrived together.

William Marshall (snr) of the Well Station, South Tooburra, went on to become the third mayor of Warwick in 1864. He died on 14 February 1885.

Generations 2 & 3

Mrs William Marshall (nee Margaret Hogg) in the picture is the wife of William Marshall jnr who immigrated with William and his father in 1858. Margaret and William lived at Greymare, near Warwick, Queensland. Their daughter, Catherine Mary Marshall was born in Queensland in 1869 (Qld C3235). Margaret Marshall nee Hogg died on 6 July 1924, an early Warwick pioneer. William Marshall junior died in 1920.

Photograph from the Toowoomba cemetery grave search.

Photograph from the Toowoomba cemetery grave search.

Generations 3 & 4

Catherine Rennie Marshall (note name difference) married Robert Cooke in 1882 (Qld C6797). Their daughter, Margaret Elizabeth Cooke, was born in 1882 (Qld C6797). Catherine Rennie Cooke died on 30 July 1937 (Qld C3666) and is buried in the Toowoomba and Drayton cemetery.

Generations 4 & 5

Margaret Elizabeth Cooke married Sydney Chapman of Murphy’s Creek in 1903 (Qld C582) and their son Harold Chapman (pictured) was born in 1904 (Qld C3278).

Both the Chapman and Marshall families were indeed true Queensland pioneers.

Sepia Saturday and Trove Tuesday: Two for one on picnics

Sepia saturday 190There I was, thinking of the myriad picnic photos I could use for this week’s Sepia Saturday 190, when I had a sense of déjà vu. A quick search of this blog and I realised I’d posted at some length on this very topic during the February Photo Collage Festival. If you’d like to read what I had to say about family picnics back then, here is the link.

I thought I’d have an early mark for Trove Tuesday and see what was on offer for picnics near Murphys Creek, Queensland where my Kunkel ancestors lived.

oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:92588. Negative number: 54369 SLQ, Copyright expired.

oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:92588. Negative number: 54369 SLQ, Copyright expired.

This image of Charlie and Alice Patrick and their family is from the State Library of Queensland (copyright expired). Are they setting off on a picnic or some other more formal event? The image is taken near White Mountain, very close to the Kunkel property at the Fifteen Mile.

And then there are picnics with a purpose. I’d guess that most Aussie school kids have been on picnics and things were no different in earlier times.  One school picnic I remember in particular, took us to Stradbroke Island across Moreton Bay, however privacy prevents me from sharing the photos with you.

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), Monday 24 December 1928, page 21

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), Monday 24 December 1928, page 21

And then there were the church picnics:

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), Friday 7 May 1926, page 18. The Chapmans were neighbours of the Kunkel.

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), Friday 7 May 1926, page 18. The Chapmans were neighbours of the Kunkel.

When I went searching Trove I had in mind a particular image of boys swimming au naturel in Lockyer Creek near Gatton and Murphys Creek. Imagine getting away with taking a photo like this today!

Group of boys swimming in Lockyer Creek 1890-1900. oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:52304 Copyright expired.

Group of boys swimming in Lockyer Creek 1890-1900. oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:52304 Copyright expired.

The newspaper gave me a different perspective of what seemed like youthful fun. Mr Gill, another resident of Murphys Creek was upset that his cows were disturbed by the boys swimming in the creek –or was it that they were nude? I love the Council response: the boys could keep swimming so long as they were appropriately attired. Do you wonder if Mr Gill and his cows were satisfied by this outcome?

The boys, the cows, the creek and the fences.

The boys, the cows, the creek and the fences. Queensland Times (Ipswich) (Qld. : 1909 – 1954), Wednesday 7 February 1923, page 8

And then there’s this lovely 1896 report of a cricket competition between the Toowoomba men and the Murphys Creek team, and ancillary picnics. The fifteen mile route by horse is likely the one through the Fifteen Mile where the Kunkels lived, or perhaps it’s the more direct route down the range? And what on earth does he mean by “the blackboy in the waste paper basket”?

Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907), Saturday 18 January 1896, page 11, 12

Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 – 1907), Saturday 18 January 1896, page 11, 12

Do have a look at the Linky Lists on both themed topics to see what other bloggers wrote about this week.

M is mulling over Milne Bay Islands, Murphys Creek and Mull (via Lismore)

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 we travel to different locations on the far side of the world from each other. 

M is for MULL (with a detour to the Isle of Lismore) (Scotland)

BTW I’m trialling a slideshow below for Mull because there’s a number of photos I want to show you. My husband’s Argyll ancestry is drawn from the islands of Lismore and Mull so it was important for us to schedule the two islands on our latest Scottish excursion. The family story went that his Donald Black (2x great grandfather) used to row across the strait between the two islands to woo his future bride, Mary McIntyre. It is possible that the story is true given you can easily see Mull from Achinduin on Mull…they were probably well used to the sea, but you’d have wanted the tide and weather with you.  On the other hand, when the weather is fierce you really know what you’re up against. I’m sure we didn’t see the worst weather by any means when we walked down to the ruins of Achinduin Castle, but even so we were struggling to stay upright in the wind.

Lismore is just gorgeous though its population is small due to the massive emigration and evictions during the 19th century. The island now has a new Heritage Centre with displays and genealogical information, so if you have Lismore ancestry it’s definitely worth getting in touch. Caledonian McBrayne took us over the sea to Mull, with our goal of learning more about the McIntyres. If the weather was blowy on Lismore it was truly hideous on Mull that day, wet, blustery and cold. We were ever so pleased to place ourselves in the hands of our hospitable B&B owner, Helen, hours earlier than planned. With a nice hot coffee and a piece of homemade cake we could look out over Tobermory harbour from the warmth of our room. Delicious!

But of course these diversions do not make for good family history so on a much sunnier day we took ourselves back to the Cal-Mac port at Craignure and the information centre, where the ladies did their very best to assist us. With their help and an internet map from the Mull Genealogy site, we managed to locate the area of Ardchoirk (my aide memoir is to call it Artichoke). As always, still more research to be done, but at least we saw the area where they lived. The Mull Historical Society site offers some historical background for interested readers. While on Mull we made the drive to Iona, a small island off the coast easily reached by ferry. Iona is the site of St Columba’s ancient monastery and almost as soon as you arrive the peace of the place seeps into your spirit. We loved everything about it: the ancient carvings, the simplicity of the church, the ancient chapel, the amazing carved gravestones, the scenery…. We drove back to Tobermory via the west coast road which would have been more relaxing if we hadn’t been racing the fading daylight, but we did have an interesting encounter with a Highland cow and calf. And probably my favourite quote attributed to St Columba: Angel nor saint have I seen, but I have heard the roar of the western sea, and the isle of my heart lies in its midst. And on a pragmatic note, I’m trialling the slideshow facility because I had a number of photos I wanted to share with you.

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M is for MILNE BAY ISLANDS (Papua New Guinea)

I’ve talked a bit about Milne Bay under my A for Alotau post but I just wanted to add some comments on its islands. Milne Bay Province, or District as it was known then, is a now-peaceful coastal area of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The people lack the aggressive attitude sometimes found in other parts of PNG, perhaps a reflection of their surroundings. My husband’s family lived in this district for many years and it was to Milne Bay that he returned from boarding school a couple of times a year for the holidays. In those days the district headquarters was on the small island of Samarai, off the southern tip of PNG.

Apart from the government offices, the churches and two sort-of-general stores (BPs and Steamships) and some trade stores, there really wasn’t a lot there. By the time I visited you went there by government trawler on a 3-4 hour trip, breathing in diesel fumes from the engine and trying to rest. A visit to the Steamships Trading Co store caused much interest to those who’d worked with my husband during the school holidays, and knew his parents well. Mr Cassmob has many fond memories of Samarai: their house on the waterfront with the little crabs scurrying on the flats; the Catalinas taking off and landing; evenings at the Club. These two blogs provide stories about Samarai here and here.

Yam huts, Trobriand Islands, taken by Les Cass in the 1960s. © L Cass 1962.

Margaret Mead and Malinowski, both famous anthropologists, are known for their research in the Trobriand Islands. Less well known is that these islands are part of Milne Bay. As a young and fairly naïve woman I visited Losuia on a charter flight not long after I got to PNG. It was quite an introduction as the Trobriand Islanders are known for their minimal dress, explicit dancing, and amazing, and sometimes graphic, carvings.

These old photos were taken by my father-in-law in the early 1960s on the Trobriand Islands © L Cass 1962.

Selling carvings and artefacts on the Trobriand Islands © Les Cass 1964.

On another charter Losuia became our refuge. We’d visited Guasopa on the Woodlark Islands earlier that day, when I’d been in raptures to see surf and sand again, but on the return flight in the six seater, 4 passenger, aircraft the weather closed in.

Despite the fact that the area is generally flat as a tack, there was a minor sticking point: the 100 ft hill en route to the Trobs, which couldn’t be seen because of the cloud cover (these were the days of visual flying). Luckily the cloud lifted at the last minute and we landed with minimal fuel in the tank, so we had an enforced overnight stay at Losuia and were very grateful for it. We have always regarded that day as a lucky-flight day and I’ll bet the pilot did too! Papua New Guinea certainly made for interesting life experiences.

M is for MURPHYS CREEK (Queensland)

How on earth I omitted this initially I don’t know as it was on my writing list, probably talking too much about Mull and Milne Bay. Murphys Creek is a pivotal place on my family tree as this is the nearest village to where my Kunkel ancestors lived at the Fifteen Mile. It’s highly likely they also lived there during the construction of the railway line and I’ve wondered whether the newspaper quote which refers to them “even having their own pork butcher”, might relate to George Kunkel whose occupation that was.

After they’d returned to the area in 1874, and settled at the Fifteen Mile(see F is for..), George worked for the railway as a labourer to earn cash for the family’s support. Oral history suggests that his wife Mary also lived there “in a humpy” (a shack) where she looked after him during the week. Whether this is true or not I have no way of knowing. There was also a string of young children to care for back on the farm so perhaps this was after they’d grown up.

Murphys Creek is also where they worshipped at the little timber Catholic church, which they no doubt contributed to financially and possibly in labour. The Kunkel children would have attended the Murphys Creek school but unfortunately the admission records don’t survive back to that time. One of the Kunkel sons was also on the school board later on. In short, the Kunkel lives were woven into this community.

The newly restored gravestone for the Kunkel family in the Murphys Creek cemetery, Queensland. © P Cass 2012.

Murphys Creek is also where George and Mary Kunkel were buried, together with their son George Michael and daughter Mary Ellen, who had predeceased them. Their gravestone stands isolated at one side of the small cemetery and I suspect they are in the Catholic area. Over the recent decades their gravestone had taken on a nasty lean with the impact of drought and a few bits had snapped off.

In the terrible floods of January 2011 I feared it had been swept down-river to Moreton Bay, a small potential loss compared to what others suffered on that shocking day. Fortunately for our own family’s heritage this wasn’t so and our plans to restore their memorial took effect soon afterwards. We’d collected funds at our second reunion in 2007 to celebrate George and Mary’s 150th anniversary but these things take time. I visited recently and the newly-levelled and restored stone is standing proud with a bronze plaque which repeats the information carved into the stone but which is slowly deteriorating and far too expensive to restore.

Abundant Genealogy Week 10: A collage of genie journeys

Amy Coffin of the We Tree blog, in conjunction with Geneabloggers, has a new series of weekly blogging prompts for 2012 and the theme is 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy.  Week 10: Genealogy Roadtrips. No two genealogy road trips are the same but they’re always fun and meaningful. Describe a memorable trip in your past. Where did you go? What did you find (or not find)? Did you meet any new cousins? What did the trip mean to you and your family?

A Tagxedo word cloud of genie journeys.

When I saw this topic I ran a mental scan of the genealogy trips I’ve done over the past 26 years. There have been so many that in truth I simply don’t remember each in detail –just the highlights. Many have been genealogical flight trips to places far away, either within Australia or overseas, though usually with a road trip added in. I decided on a collage of memory highlights over the decades from our genealogical journeys at home and away. The memories here focus on my Kunkel/O’Brien ancestry but I could list just as many for other ancestral families of mine, or my husband’s.

Murphys Creek and the Fifteen Mile, Queensland

Murphys Creek cemetery circa 1987/88. The Kunkel grave is on the right nearest the trees.

  • Learning my Kunkel ancestors had lived and died there we visited the cemetery. Set aside in one corner was the grave of my 2xgreat grandparents and their son, my great grandfather. It was a thrill to see it standing proud in what was probably once the Catholic part of the cemetery. It’s telling that theirs is the only gravestone in that area –presumably other Irish Catholics were too poor to manage a stone.  (Have I mentioned that my daughters have adverse memories of Queensland cemeteries with dry crackling grass and high temperatures?)
  • Driving along a gazetted roadway that felt like a private access path to other farms, so that I could see my Kunkel family farm (at a distance). Having heard that the then-resident was rather fond of his shotgun when it came to visitors I was mighty glad to have a long telephoto on my camera and wished that the cows would stop announcing my presence.

    The old property circa 1988.

  • Learning about the place through genie-visits with the Kunkels’ granddaughter in Toowoomba and finding out about their life on the farm and much family history.
  • Taking a steam train ride with a couple of my kids along the very line that my 2xgreat grandfather worked on (we all loved that trip).
  • Many decades later, being invited to see through the old farm property and walk the land.

    The steam train arrives at Murphys Creek station.

In Australia

  • Visiting St Mary’s Catholic Church in Ipswich to see the original registers (in those days) and finding my ancestors’ marriage entry. Being able to see the second register which had more detail and gave me the clue to George Kunkel’s place of birth.
  • Meeting my third cousins in Sydney who shared wonderful family knowledge and photos, enabling me to link the Irish O’Briens.
  • Visiting Drayton &  Toowoomba cemetery and seeing the unmarked grave of my 2x great grandmother and her daughter, my great grandmother. Putting a marker on their grave remains one of my Bucket List items.
  • Holding the first reunion of all the Kunkel relatives in Toowoomba –what an experience for all of us! What a noise we made with our conversations!
  • A second reunion a few years later introduced many family members to family places they hadn’t know about before.

Dorfprozelten, Bavaria

One of the old buildings in Dorfprozelten.

  • A laborious train/walking day trip to visit the Kunkel home village of Dorfprozelten –and being told by the priest to come back another day. Protestations in German that we’d come from Australia fell on deaf ears, as had letters sent before and after the visit.
  • Convoluted conversations in churches and cemeteries in my poor German as I tried to learn more about my family. A similar experience with a later priest who was Polish-born: a multi-lingual challenge for both of us.
  • Some years later being shown the church registers by the then parish priest as he pulled them out of a metal compactus in the sacristy and nodded sagely at the various illegitimate births. We readily found my George Kunkel’s baptism entry.
  • Meeting local historians in Laufach and Dorfprozelten who shared their family and local knowledge with me. The Laufach historian was something like a 5th or 6th cousin!
  • Walking the streets of the village and getting a feel for the historical continuity of many of the buildings.

Broadford, Clare

A work colleague and friend had bought me these green socks to celebrate the ancestral trip to Ireland.

  • I visited Broadford first with my mother and daughter in the late 1980s. We drove in constant fog from our B&B wondering whether this was all we’d see after travelling half way round the world. A visit in the church and a prayer to my 2x great grandmother to plead our case – as we walked out the church door, the fog lifted like a blind rising. It remains one of my strangest family history experiences. My daughter celebrated her birthday that day, receiving her presents near the Broadford Catholic cemetery and then touring another one at Tuamgraney in the half dark with the owls hooting. A birthday she hasn’t forgotten! On this trip the attempt to pin down the right O’Brien family was unsuccessful.
  • On a subsequent visit we were taken by the visiting missionary priest to meet my relatives. Strictly speaking they weren’t blood relations but they had inherited the various properties and were so incredibly generous and hospitable to us with Paddy taking us to see the original farm at Ballykelly. Returning all muddy and damp Nancy, his wife, helped us clean up and then fed us. The memories of this trip and subsequent meetings with them are treasured ones.
  • Meeting third cousins in Broadford, over a pint and a whisky in the local pub. Great craic.

These memories are the tip of the iceberg of our genealogical road/air trips. We’ve had such great times, seen wonderful places and met hospitable people off the beaten track. Some places immediately give a sense of homecoming, others are special but don’t tug at my heart strings. It’s been worth every dollar and every moment that we’ve spent on these adventures. I’m rearing for more adventures as time and money permit.

From Dorfprozelten to Australia – new blog

When I started this blog two years ago, one of the pages tabbed under the image was “Dorfprozelten, Bavaria”. This has easily been the single biggest “hitter” on my blog, no doubt aided by the unusual name bringing it up in Google searches. It’s attracted quite a number of people with ancestry from this little village in Bavaria and it’s been a means of connecting up those researching the same families.

In the greater scheme of Australia’s migration, they are a small group – some 62 individuals in 23 family groups or alone. However the loss of these individuals, mainly over a couple of short years, must have been severely felt in their home town. They are also a little different from the general Australian perception of German immigrants, as they were Catholics not Lutherans. The majority of them were family units who arrived under New South Wales’s vinedresser assisted migration scheme. A smaller number arrived as individuals mainly contracted to work as shepherds before they arrived here.

I’ve been researching these emigrants from Dorfprozelten to Australia for about 10 years, initially in the hope they’d lead me to my George Kunkel’s arrival information. I’d also I noticed that land owners around his property in the Fifteen Mile near Murphys Creek, Queensland shared some of the same names as the Dorfprozelten immigrants. Over the years I’ve managed to confirm the connection between these families, which was largely lost to the descendants of these families. Even my reliable oral history from George’s grand-daughter suggested the families were just neighbours.

Also over the years I’ve slowly accumulated quite a bit of information on these families. I have more on those who came to Queensland (then called Moreton Bay and part of New South Wales) and less on the New South Wales immigrants. This is mainly an access issue – I’m more often in Brisbane near the Queensland archives than I am in Sydney.

For all these reasons I’ve launched another new blog called From Dorfprozelten to Australia where I’ll draw these stories together. Although the focus is on Australia I would certainly be keen to hear from anyone whose ancestors emigrated from Dorfprozelten – I know that over the years many emigrants left the village for “America”, be that USA or Canada.

One of these immigrants may be my ancestor’s brother Philip Joseph Kunkel, or perhaps Joseph Philip Kunkel, born 1840. Family stories throughout all the branches say a brother went to America and I think it likeliest he was the emigrant as he disappears from the church records. I’d really love to hear from anyone who might be descended from him.

I suspect the new blog will mainly be of interest to those with Dorfprozelten ancestry but may also interest researchers with a Bavarian background though I am unable to help with that in any specific way.

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: Week 5 Life experiences: Finding Mary O’Brien

Amy Coffin of the We Tree blog, in conjunction with Geneabloggers, has a new series of weekly blogging prompts for 2012 and the theme is 52 Weeks of Abundant GenealogyWeek 5’s topic is Life Experiences: Sometimes the challenges in life provide the best learning experiences. Can you find an example of this in your own family tree? Which brick wall ancestor are you most thankful for, and how did that person shape your family history experience?

This gorgeously framed photo of Mary O'Brien was given to me by my Sydney cousins.

This is a tricky one and after some reflection I decided on my ancestor Mary O’Brien from County Clare.  Why? Well for two reasons really. Firstly, with a name like that from Clare, you’d have had more chance of finding the proverbial needle in the haystack and secondly, her own life experiences gave her the fortitude to make her new life in Australia.

So how do you solve a problem like Mary O’Brien from Co Clare? I’d have to say that to a large degree I got lucky. I’d been doing my family history less than 12 months when I sent out a barrage of letters to people with the Kunkel surname in and around Toowoomba. What’s Kunkel got to do with it? You see Mary O’Brien, an Irish lady, married George Kunkel, a proud Bavarian and also a strong Catholic. Luckily for me, the Kunkel surname is an unusual one and my father always said anyone with that name in Australia was related…not 100% correct as it happened but about 97%.

Anyway, by pure chance one of my letters went to an unknown cousin who had close links to the surviving grandchild of Mary & George Kunkel and after they’d spoken to her, got in touch with me. Before long we’d organised a meeting in Toowoomba…it was the strangest feeling to find myself amidst a group of equally tall strangers who were really 2nd or 3rd cousins. Anne Kunkel, the granddaughter, was by then in her mid-80s and steadily going blind but her memory was as sharp as a tack. She quickly told me the family tree, who was whom, where they lived, and where they fitted in. She confidently knocked on the head that George and Mary had a daughter Elizabeth, but did have one called Louisa….one and the same person as it turned out.

During a few visits over the coming year or two, we met up again and Anne filled in gaps for me about her grandmother Mary O’Brien, telling me she came out to work for a sea captain, that she had a job lined up “before ever she got here”, that she was 16 when she left Ireland and was six months at sea. Despite the fact that Anne thought two of her sisters, Bridget and Kate, came to Australia with her, I have proved that Kate came later but have never found Mary and Bridget’s immigration records. Anne also knew the names of Mary’s siblings who stayed behind in Ireland.

Anne couldn’t remember Mary’s place of birth but thought it was something like Longford. She did however remember the name of Mary’s sisters in Australia including Bridget’s married name of Widdup. Mary’s death certificate hadn’t obliged me with anything more than the usual “Co Clare”. Luckily her sister’s death certificate was more helpful and named Broadford as her place of birth though mixing up the parents’ names. It also enlightened me that Bridget had spent a year in Queensland and the rest of her Australian life had been lived in New South Wales. This tends to support the story that Bridget and Mary arrived together. The benefits of tracing siblings!

Another of Anne’s historical gifts was the name of family members in Sydney. Through these cousins I was able to combine their personal knowledge with archival and other research to confirm the links in Australia and Ireland.  Through them, too, I was able to link up with some of Mary’s sister’s descendants who live in the USA.  The triangulation of the family names in the record sources meant I could pin down the family in the townland of Ballykelly in the Parish of Kilseily, Broadford, Clare.

I’ve never regarded oral history as one of my strong suits so I’m eternally grateful that Anne Kunkel was the perfect interviewee, clear and accurate in her responses in ways that could often readily be verified in the official records. Her closeness to her grandmother as a small child meant that she had kept these stories close to her heart through all those years, to pass on just before her own death. But her gifts didn’t stop there. She also provided me with stories of their farm and the day to day life (she, her brother and her parents had come to live with the Kunkel grandparents in their old age). The stories of George Kunkel preparing his sausages and the ways of the farm are treasured parts of our family history. Without Anne Kunkel’s gifts, her grandmother would have remained just another Mary O’Brien from Co Clare, never to be distinguished from her many compatriots of that name.

Mary’s own life experience and stamina

Mary O’Brien was born around 1834 in rural Clare. She would have been about 12 when the Irish Famine decimated its people. Because the parish registers only start in 1844, there is no record of Mary’s birth, nor that of any siblings born before that time.  Catholic registers don’t usually record deaths and the Church of Ireland records, which did sometimes include all burials, no longer exist, so there is no way of knowing how many of her family may have died, though if they were typical perhaps as many as half would have fallen victim through this terrible time. What is clear from the registers is how the marriage and baptism rates plummet during the Famine.

Mary’s survival will no doubt have given her a high level of immunity to illness, as well as the strength as an adult to persevere when life’s challenges may have seemed insurmountable. She was a country girl, used to hard work and few frills, and life as a pioneer demanded all the skills, courage and stamina she could bring to bear. In her old age she was able to travel by train to Sydney to see her daughter and her sister’s children. I wonder did she ever meet up with her sister Bridget again after they parted in Moreton Bay in the 1850s? No one seems to know. Although she herself couldn’t write, the families plainly knew where each was, and must have kept in touch somehow. Perhaps her husband, who could write, had been able to keep them connected. Sadly no letters survive from their life in Murphys Creek, either in Australia or Ireland…at least as far as I can determine. How strange then, to meet with the inheritor of the O’Brien land in Ballykelly and both be astonished at our mutual knowledge of the family.

The power of oral history and personal knowledge! Oh, yes, and someone, somewhere has photographs.

Australia Day 2012: Wealth for toil on the railway?

Denis Joseph Kunkel (Centre) with his brother James Edward (left) and an unknown friend or relation (right) c1917.

Shelley from Twigs of Yore has again initiated an Australia Day blogging theme. In 2012 the focus is  “wealth for toil” drawing on the words of our national anthem, Advance Australia Fair. Our challenge is to choose an Aussie ancestor and relate how they toiled. There were several alternative approaches but I chose to tell the story of my grandfather’s occupation as a railway worker both in times of peace and at war. Is wealth for toil meant to signify the wealth generation workers create or does it mean they will gain “wealth”?

Many years ago, long before the advent of Ipswich’s wonderful Railway Workshops Museum, I visited a dusty, daggy old office where I was permitted to trawl through equally dusty drawers and boxes of old index cards. These were the records for some of Queensland’s railway workers. Although I’ve since searched similar records at Queensland State Archives, I don’t believe they hold the same cards.

This old image is thought to be Fountain’s (railway) Camp near Murphys Creek.

One of the cards I found all those years ago was my grandfather’s service history. Denis Joseph Kunkel came from a railway family, indeed he was born in a railway camp at the Forty Mile near Dalby. He might be said to have had iron tracks running through his bloodstream and the rattle of the trains in his ears: his grandfather worked on the Ipswich-Toowoomba line around its construction, his father worked on various lines on the Downs and near Jimboomba, while his mother also had jobs as a railway carriage cleaner and gatekeeper[i].

Denis joined the railway as a young lad and is first listed as a 19 year old lad porter at Central Station in Brisbane in 1900, earning a daily pay of 1 shilling and 8 pence (about 18 cents!). Wealth for toil…it appears not!

It’s likely Denis had been out working well before this but I’ve found no record of what he did or where. Denis was the eldest child of George and Julia Kunkel both of whom died in late 1901, and his move back to Grantham in 1902 was probably precipitated by the need to be involved in some way with his younger siblings. Even though he was still a lad porter, his pay increased to 5 shillings a day. Was this in any way related to his being the eldest and needing to provide some financial support to his younger siblings? My father always said that Dinny supported them financially though there are no anecdotes on this in other branches.

Roma Street railway yards c1897. John Oxley LIbrary Image number: APO-023-0001-0001 Copyright expired.

Denis worked his way through the standard railway progression from lad porter to porter then to shunter, the most dangerous job in the railways with a tremendously high injury rate. However shunting was a necessary stepping stone on the way to becoming a guard. As he worked these jobs he followed the opportunities from Maryborough to Roma Street then to Ipswich and Gympie before finally buying his block of land in Brisbane (see this post). The old timber storage box in which he carried his belongings as he moved from one posting to another is a fixture in my mother’s house.

In his early working days he was involved with the unions and thanks to Trove I now know he was secretary to the Railway Employees Association in 1909 and was the Traffic Employees’ scrutineer in the election of members for the Railway Appeals Board. He attended the Federated Railway Transport and Traffic Employees conference in Brisbane in 1909 after which he was one of a deputation of 5 men to present “certain requests” to the Traffic Manager. He attended the Federated Railway Transport and Traffic Employees conference in Brisbane in 1909 after which he was one of a deputation of 5 men to present “certain requests” to the Traffic Manager (ii). Wealth for toil….every step negotiated with “management” and dependent on the strength of your union.

Railway workers were in a reserved occupation during World War II and as yet I’m uncertain as to whether this was the case in World War I. Either way my grandfather didn’t rush to enlist even though two of his younger brothers and several cousins had already volunteered. Two cousins had already paid the ultimate price on the Western Front. It was only in 1917 when the Army called for men with railway expertise that he enlisted with the AIF in the 59th (and later 5th) Australian Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company (ABGROC). As the battles raged on the Western Front, experienced men were needed who could operate the railway infrastructure so vitally important to the movement of men, fuel and supplies.

A Railway Operating Division (ROD) train at Couchil-le-Temple 1918: precisely where my grandfather was stationed at the time. AWM Image AO2516 copyright expired.

As their train steamed south to meet the troop carriers, Denis passed through Murphys Creek where his grandfather had worked on the railway and where his grandmother still lived. His young cousin, Anne Kunkel, remembered seeing these khaki clad men going off to war. Did his grandmother also come down to the station from the Fifteen Mile to see him while the steam train took on water for the steep climb up the range? A newspaper report specifically mentions that he and his brother Jim passed through Toowoomba en route[iii]. Did he defer joining up until after his German-born grandfather died in March 1916? So many questions without answers.

Although these new army recruits were experienced with Australian railway systems, they needed training in the specifics of European rolling stock before playing their part in the battles, and once in Belgium or France, to learn the routes. The Company’s war history reports on the shelling of the line in July 1918 between Ypres and Poperinghe, where Denis was stationed. It was generally thought that the Railway Operating Division’s men were “Right Out of Danger”[iv] but when the enemy knew how vital the railway was to the Allied war effort it’s hard to imagine it was entirely safe. Dad talked about the heavy weaponry being brought to bear on them with the Germans’ “Big Bertha” guns taking a line on them. The war diaries provide a surprisingly rich description of life for the members of the ABGROC. No doubt they were preserved to a degree from the craziness and unpredictability of the battlefront which impacts other war diaries. Perhaps this is the closest they came for wealth for their toil, despite the hazards of war.

Denis’s army file shows that only days after his 38th birthday he had two weeks leave in Paris. Somehow it’s hard to imagine him strolling down the Champs Elysees. Afterwards he had little to say about this adventure other than “one city is much the same as another”. After the Armistice he was granted a further two weeks leave in England and it’s also possible that during this leave he may have visited his future wife’s family in Scotland, but this is merely family story.

Railway staff card for Denis Joseph Kunkel showing wage variations based on economic conditions, changing Awards, and war time allowances.

On his return to Australia in 1919, Dinny resumed his working life in the railway. He was posted at Roma Street (1919-1925) then Mayne Junction (1926-1945) and by the time he retired he was a 1st class guard. Over the years his wages fluctuated with the Depression, the 40 hour week, and the WWII effort but he earned enough to have a secure livelihood for his family. Wealth for toil = steady wages + secure position – physical danger.

The workplace was a different environment then – no workplace mediation or counselling. If you got something wrong, you got fined, and every now & then if you did something innovative, you got a financial reward. In 1940 Dinny was fined £5 and loss of pay while on suspension for having “failed to keep a good look out and give due observance to the down home signal when approaching Roma Street station, thereby contributing to the engine and portion of your train passing the said down home signal in the stop position[v]. This annotation was on his staff card but from TroveI learned that this resulted in “his” train being in a collision with the up train. Denis appealed the charge at the Railway Appeals Board and won, gaining compensation of £2/2/- (two guineas). It’s not clear whether he was also recompensed the lost fortnight’s wages or the £5 fine. Wealth for toil: if you got it right and made no mistakes.

Illustrated front cover from The Queenslander October 2 1930 shows te head and hands of a railway guard. With one hand the guard holds a whistle to his lips and with the other he raises a green flag. John Oxley Library Image 702692-19301002-s001b. Copyright expired.

Denis took his job seriously and a family friend remembered that you didn’t dare run late for a train on which he was the guard, because he’d just blow his whistle at the allotted time and you would be left behind. Eventually, after 45 years and 9 months employment with the railway he took a well-earned retirement. He enjoyed sitting on the back steps smoking his pipe and watching the world go by. The wealth from his toil kept him secure in his retirement thanks to his pension and his savings.

However even in his retirement his occupation left its traces: his old railway whistle was one of my informal inheritances while his old guard’s cap lived at the very top of my grandparents’ wardrobe and was the home “bank” with spare cash, savings books, best jewellery etc stored in it. Obscured by the riser at the front top of the wardrobe it was “as safe as houses”. Wealth for toil indeed.

If you have relatives from the Darling Downs please have a look at this picture which includes Denis and some people with a Kunkel family resemblance. I’d love to find anyone who might recognise one of the other people in the photo.

——————-

[i] http://fhr.slq.qld.gov.au/qldrail/names_k.htm

[ii] http://trove.nla.gov.au/ . The Brisbane Courier, 23 February 1909 and The Brisbane Courier 28 June 1909. The Worker 3 July 1909. .

[iii] The Toowoomba Chronicle, 5 November 1917. Both Denis and Jim were said to be well known in the district.

[iv] No doubt a sentiment exacerbated by the large ROD acronym on the side of the engines.

[v] Rule 71b, 223a, 251s, Book of Rule By Law 308.

Advent calendar of Christmas Memories: 11 December 2011: Christmas traditions from Bavaria in Queensland

The old kitchen on the Kunkel farm c2001. Photo © Pauleen Cass

Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers is encouraging us to celebrate the 2011 Christmas season with a series of posts called the Advent Calendar of Memories. This is today’s entry.

Did your immigrant ancestors have holiday traditions from their native country which they retained or perhaps abandoned?

I’ve already spoken about my Melvin and McCorkindale ancestors and the trail of shortbread crumbs that followed them from Scotland to Australia.

A dazzle of decorations in the Christmas markets Nuremberg, Bavaria 1992.

The ancestor I feel for the most, in terms of traditions lost, is George Kunkel from Dorfprozelten. Bavaria has a centuries-old tradition of the most wonderful Christmas markets and it’s most likely he’d have visited one in the neighbouring towns. The lights, smell of chestnuts and sausages, and all the special crafts would surely have been such an enormous contrast to his life in the bush at Murphys Creek. I wonder if he was nostalgic at Christmas time for the old Bavarian traditions? The tragedy that would befall this family one Christmas Day would only have added to his sadness.

However, thanks to the memories relayed to me by one of George and Mary Kunkel’s grandchildren, Anne Kunkel, in 1988, our family knows a little more about how Christmas was celebrated by them out in the rural area of the Fifteen Mile in Queensland. This is an extract from my book Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel Family. Anne talked first about how her grandfather would prepare the pig for slaughter and make sausages and black and white pudding after cleaning the skins in the nearby creek. He had a big wooden packing case about the size of the table top, square, and salted the pig down in that. Every morning he turned the sides over, resalted it then we’d eat it for Christmas. There was the brawn to make and the lard to render. The brawn was lovely. Anne said Gran (Mary O’Brien) was a good cook and she thought George could cook too….she didn’t know he had worked as a pork butcher, a tradition which ran in his family along with running an inn in his home village. I talked on 2ndDecember about our own family tradition of eating roast pork, well before we knew of this ancestral connection.

Mr Cassmob following my ancestor's tradition of drinking gluhwein at Christmas in the town of Miltenberg near Dorfprozelten, Bavaria.

In Anne’s early years the family would return to Murphy’s Creek for Christmas, six families at least, and it was a happy time. “Of course the tradition with the hot meals and everything still existed, plum pudding and all that. We had our poultry and our own ham and we’d get whatever meat we wanted and whatever vegetables we wanted, we grew. There was always fruit that had to be stewed and that sort of thing. And you could have milk puddings and always had plum pudding and white sauce.

The Kunkels grew peaches and apricots in their orchard down near the creek. The grandfather also grew Isabella grapes from which he also made his own wine. They were champagne coloured grapes, a sort of big pink grape, and a lot of it would have come from the old country, the fruit trees and everything. There were grapes growing all around the orchard – big trellises of them. It was nothing for us to give away a kerosene tin of grapes[i]. Christmas (summer) is grape, melon and stone fruit season in Australia –some compensation for not having gluhwein, chestnuts, fires and sparking lights.

The Kunkels also used to have a sugar melon, they were sweeter than a watermelon. You’d wet a sugar bag and put it over the melon and put it in a cool place where it would get the breeze on it. With freshly churned butter, and no doubt fresh bread from the open fire in the kitchen, and if true to Mary’s heritage, lots of potatoes, it would have made quite a Christmas feast.


[i] Anne’s description doesn’t quite fit with the online information, however I’ve heard of a few of the Bavarian immigrants growing this grape.