I is for Interviews and Immigration

My A2Z 2016 theme is how to pursue an interest in family history/genealogy – I’d love you to join me on the journey.

I is for Interviews aka Oral History

IIf there’s one thing you will repeatedly hear among family historians, it’s the wish that they’d asked more questions of their immediate ancestors – parents and grandparents – about their lives and experiences. I’m certainly among those, as while I lived next door to my grandparents until they died in their 80s, I have no recollection of them ever speaking of much in this line. Like many of us in our childhood and teens I guess I was just too self-absorbed in my own activities. Now I curse my stupidity! Of course there’s another thing we fail to recognise which is that not everyone wants to share their life story. I heard more stories from my parents than ever before, once I started writing my history of the Kunkel-O’Brien family.

Nor can every person we speak to can be regarded as a “reliable witness”. We do still need to cross-check the stories with documentation where possible. Every time I say that I question myself…if, for example, I say I moved to the Northern Territory to live, surely I know whereof I speak. So balance what you follow with common sense.

Grandma and me reading

Reading with my grandparents – a bit young for interviews.

Don’t just focus on your immediate family – some family members have been more curious, or had a different relationship and so they may know more. I was lucky enough to track down a grandchild, Annie Kunkel, of my Kunkel ancestors and as I’ve repeatedly acknowledged she was a gold-mine of stories of their life on the farm, the names of kin who lived far away and the extended family names. She was an extremely reliable witness because I’ve been able to confirm certain details, lending more credibility to other stories.

Another interesting side-shoot is that when being questioned people are likely to focus their answers on the type of approach you take or the person who is asking the question. For example, Annie told the local historian a totally new story about her Bavarian grandfather than she ever mentioned to me, either because it had passed out of her memory or she was focused on family: “He [grandfather Kunkel] was a clever man and he could take a pocket knife and carve a thing. We had a pen handle carved from a bone. It was a perfect thing with a folded hand on the end of it like that on the end of it”.[i]

In most places there are organisations which specialise in oral history recording, so if you’re interested in becoming more expert in this field, I suggest you approach them. This is Australia’sAmerica’s, Canada’s, Ireland’s and the United Kingdom’s.

I for Immigration

Immigration information is one of those gold nuggets we seek about our earliest immigrant ancestors. Australia is blessed with fantastic records in this regard, especially up to about 1870.  This is one of the advantage of how many of our ancestors came under government funding – needed to tempt them to travel the great distances.

A further source of immigration information for Aussies is the great certificates I mentioned before. You have two chances to pin down the information: marriage and death, the latter being generally the less reliable, depending on the informant.

Renfrewshire ship

The Renfrewshire, State Library of Queensland, copyright expired. oai:bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:49708 Can you imagine months at sea on this small ship?

Once again speaking to close kin may help you take your family stories back in time, and obtain clues to search for your ancestor’s arrival from the ‘old country”.  I would guess that a common story of mid-19th century arrivals is that “he came as a sailor, jumped ship, and went to the gold fields”. Now I know this was often true but there must have been a lot of them!

One story for which I’d love to find the answer is the rumour that my George Kunkel came to Australia but two brothers went to “America”. Unfortunately, he didn’t have two full brothers, only one, though he had step-brothers, and I’ve managed to trace a couple of his step-siblings to upstate New York, but where, oh where, did his brother Philip Joseph Kunkel (b 1840) end up, given he didn’t stay in Dorfprozelten? Did he move within Bavaria, or Germany, or emigrate? Will I ever know?

Annie Kunkel told me her Irish O’Brien grandmother, from Broadford in County Clare, arrived on an old sailing ship, they were six months at sea, and she was 16 while her sister Bridget was 18.  Despite thirty years of searching I’d been getting nowhere until I found a newspaper clue….only to be frustrated by the documents. If you’re curious you can read about their likely migration on the Florentia here.

One of the things you learn as you research your family’s history is how often when one question is answered, another half dozen spring up – sad but true <wry smile>.

Immigration is a complex topic, closely related to naturalisation, and it requires learning more about the circumstances which applied at the time of our ancestor’s arrival. This is where that life-long learning kicks in.

For others who are keen to learn more you might have a read of my earlier Immigration (arriving in the new country) and Emigration (leaving the old country) posts.

Thank you for visiting me on this journey. I love comments <smile>
There’s a plethora of reading choices on this year’s A to Z Challenge, so my challenge to you is to visit the sign-up page and select one (or more) blogs to read between the numbers 1000-1199.

[i] Oral history interview with Cameron McKee, local historian for Murphy’s Creek, circa 1984.

Serendipity down the rabbit hole

The research week started off with a plan to translate a document about one of the Dorfprozelten families: simple enough with a very large dictionary to one hand, or so I thought. Throw in some rather archaic terms about 18th century events, and my extremely rusty German, and it all went downhill rather quickly. I did manage to sort the families into clusters and reached the conclusion that there were two men by the same name in the village, at the same time….complicated. Now I have to compare notes with the local historian for the village.

Down we go: where will there be more carrots?

Some of the archaic terms defeated my dictionary, so back to my trusty friend Google where I found some other old translations. Before I knew it I was off down the rabbit hole chasing information following one lead at a time. However:  the research diversion was definitely serendipitous!  Last week I mentioned that the German emigrants were supposed to advertise their departure in the newspaper. I also commented that I didn’t know if any were online. Well Google Books answered that question with a bang, and my occasional whimpers.
So here’s the good, bad and ugly of the research process (stories and translations to follow later).

THE GOOD GREAT

  1.  I found some ground-breaking information on my George Kunkel’s family in Dorfprozelten which has made me think completely differently about why he might have emigrated (story will be forthcoming).
  2. As you know I pursue a group of about 30 families from Dorfprozelten – I’ve managed to track down the advertising for about 70% of them. Woo hoo!
  3. The advertisements provide an opportunity to do a timeline for each of these immigrants: notification of departure from village; departure date (sometimes); departure information from the Hamburg shipping lists and then arrival in Australia (mostly Sydney) and mostly via Port Philip.
  4. The Christian names on the departure advertisements sometimes vary from those on the immigration records because they were using their second name: this confirms which of the villagers I’m looking at. In one case, this is particularly helpful because while he arrives as Franz Zöller, he leaves Germany as Ignaz and appears in Australian BDM and newspaper reports also as Ignaz. Bingo!
  5. A small group of Dorfprozelten single people arrived in Australia in 1862. The advertisements revealed they were planning to go to Brazil! How the change occurred we may never know, but it makes a big difference, especially in the case of one family whose story was already particularly tragic and is now much more so. (again, more anon)
  6. Google Books search does a “good” job of reading the Gothic print and finding your search term.
  7. My new best friend in terms of web sites is the Reverso dictionary which quickly lets me translate from German to English (or vice versa). I’m in love with it and it’s so much less weighty than my real-world dictionary and equally effective.
  8. The newspapers of most use to me have been those based in Aschaffenburg and Würzburg as Dorfprozelten as situated between the two.
  9. I learnt/reconfirmed that some of the emigrants were not married when they left Dorfprozelten. As they had to arrive as married couples in Australia, they must have been married somewhere en route, perhaps Aschaffenburg, Frankfurt or Hamburg.
  10. My advice is to limit your search to the 19th century in Advanced Google Book search as that brings up “hits” that don’t appear when you restrict it by a block of years.

 THE BAD

Dorfprozelten am Main (click to enlarge).

  1. Google MAY find the term you’re looking for, but like any OCR on old books or newspapers it is decidedly unreliable. I found more “hits” going in a convoluted way rather than directly.
  2. The page may/may not be able to be enlarged and the search term may/may not be highlighted. Both of which can make it challenging.
  3. Once inside the “book” further searches are unreliable/unpredictable.
  4. You can’t print off the page (as far as I can tell)
  5. You can download the file but some are huge.
  6. I tried my usual strategy of searching by a header that was regularly associated with these ads eg Bekanntmachung or TerminKalender. Somewhat bizarrely this proved to be even less reliable than just searching for “Dorfprozelten” or perhaps “Prozelten”.
  7. General unreliability: it seems a bit harsh to carp about this, given the hoops Google is jumping through, but if you get a negative result I encourage you to be lateral in your search terms.
  8. I also eventually had the sense to use advanced google books search and limit the time frame.

 THE UGLY

I do look a bit bug-eyed right now!

  1. Between relearning Gothic script which we used to do occasionally at school and reading it in a foreign language, my brain is suffering from overload and my eyes are out on stalks. ( I knew I should have done that calligraphy class).
  2. My strategy has been to retype the Gothic print into normal print German. Phase 2 is then to translate the German to English. This is partly underway but see (1) above.

Hopefully I’ve given you some sense of how exciting, as well as how tiring, these discoveries have been. I’m thrilled to bits with it and know there’s going to be hours of exploration and translation ahead. Perhaps time to swap to the external monitor like a sensible person?

 

Beyond the Internet: Week 41 Emigration Records

Beyond the Internet

This is Week 41 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. The topic this week is Emigration records: those documents created as our ancestors left their homeland en route to a new life.

Emigration and immigration records are like the double-faced Janus, superficially much the same, but revealing different aspects of our ancestors’ migration experience.

In my experience the emigration data is easier to locate once you’ve identified your ancestor in the immigration records. This makes it possible to then focus on the ship and its voyage as it departs the home country, or country of departure. More than most other topics I fear this one will involve cross-over to the online world, in no small part because most of us are limited in our opportunities to search in overseas archives.

The Janus statue in the Vatican Museum, Wikipedia Commons.

BOARD OF TRADE: BT27 Departure Lists from UK 1890 to 1960

From my own research one of the most valuable search tools was these records indexed on Findmypast UK and now available through their other subscriptions. Yes they are online, and yes they are indexes, but when you find a pertinent record what you’ll see is an actual image of the original document.  The benefits of having a subscription rather than pay-to-view pages, is that you can flip through the lists for that ship to see if there any other passengers who may be connected to your family.

Of course hindsight’s a wonderful thing, but wouldn’t it be amazing to have these records available prior to 1890?

PUBLIC RECORDS OFFICE OF VICTORIA

Within the Australian records systems, I’m very partial to the Public Records Office of Victoria’s Index to Outward Passengers to Interstate, UK, NZ and Foreign Ports 1852-1915. I’ve found this amazingly helpful for both the immigration voyages (where Port Philip was the first Australian landing point) but also for those moving back to the UK, on to New Zealand, or simply taking a business trip overseas. I routinely compare information from these to what I find via other sources.

IMMIGRATION DEPOSIT JOURNALS

 

These were mentioned last week in terms of who was sponsoring chain migration of friends or family. However there’s another aspect to their usefulness. You can search the IDJs (manually), to see who else left the same village at the time, who was their referee and perhaps some additional or different information on their personal details, which might enlighten (or confuse!) you. This was certainly the case with my study of the East Clare emigrants.

 

GERMAN EMIGRATION

The SS Adolph brought German emigrants from Hamburg to South Australia. Copyright expired State Library of South Australia Image B 63263.

As you know German migration is an area of keen interest to me, notwithstanding the fact that my George Kunkel’s departure and arrival remains elusive after all these years. At the time of our mid-19th ancestor’s migrations Germany was comprised of independent states or kingdoms so you are often focused on the independent state or kingdom eg Bavaria.

An absolutely fantastic resource for Australians with German ancestry is the indexes prepared from the Hamburg shipping lists by Rosemary and Eric Kopittke for the Queensland Family History Society. These indexes cover the period 1850 to 1879 and their primary benefits are twofold:  (1) you may obtain slightly different information on your ancestors but especially (2) the fact that the emigration records include all passengers and not just those assisted by the government of the day. The latter is particularly important for Germans who came as single people as the government sponsorship was directed at families while the single people often came on private contracts set up via emigration agents in Germany.  The other advantage is that the Kopittkes are experienced readers of the German script and so are able to pick up information that you and I might struggle with.

Some microfilms by can be ordered through Family Search and are listed here. Be aware, though, that they are written in German.

Whenever you are reading a particular microfilm, try not to focus only on your specific name of interest: have a look at the others on the ship’s manifest. For example, how did John and Frederika Eichorn feel as they left their sick child behind in Liverpool when they sailed on the Commodore Perry. Did the child come later? Did he/she live or die?

In theory the “German” emigrants were supposed to have a pass to leave the country/state and their departure advertised in the local newspapers.  How often this happened I don’t know, but with limited access to those newspapers from overseas it is a challenge to advance this line of research. If anyone knows of an online resource please do let me know.

Another superb resource for German migration information is the articles by Jenny Paterson published in the Burwood and District Family History Society magazine, Ances-Tree. If you have mid-19th century German ancestry in Australia, don’t omit to follow up these articles.

A helpful online link to migration from the various German states is here.

Oh, and if you find George Kunkel from Dorfprozelten, Bavaria, will you please let me know?

NEWSPAPERS

The Morning Post (London, England), Saturday, November 20, 1852; pg. 8; Issue 24622. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II.

If you know the name of the ship on which your family arrived I would definitely search the overseas newspapers eg The Times Digital Archive or other newspapers via your National Library of Australia card, or the British Newspaper Archive. Either of these will provide additional information on the voyage at its starting point: delays, weather, minor accidents etc.

Similarly the newspapers at the receiving end may also tell you about the departure. Of course you need to search in the timeframe when the ship was leaving and you’ll most likely find this information in the Shipping News section of the paper. Trove is always a goldmine.

I always find it intriguing to learn what cargo the ship brought to the new land as it provides interesting insights into the goods in demand.  I also love those newspaper advertisements where a business advertises their new stock that arrived on a particular ship. Passengers weren’t the only focus of a ship’s arrival.

In my immigration post I omitted to mention that newspapers sometimes advertised which passengers had arrived on a particular ship so that their family and friends could come and meet them. This seemed to be more prevalent once immigration reached the chain-migration, sponsorship stage.

BOOKS

You can see from the contents how useful this book by Robin Haines would be to your research.

At least some of the books I mentioned in my Immigration post will be helpful in terms of understanding the process behind your ancestor’s migration.  The Australian migration process was much more structured than that to north America, so that the often-bewildered emigrants were not as prone to the abuse or manipulation by crafty touts on the waterfront in England. Their luggage requirements were specified so they were not as vulnerable to weather changes, and every stage of an assisted passenger’s migration, including prior to commencement, was supervised.

FAMILY SEARCH

A learning tool on migration is the Family Search research wiki on migration and citizenship, well worth a look.

SUMMARY

There are many online links which you can find on this topic by doing a Google search, but hopefully this has provided some opportunities for off-line research.

You may not find as much about your ancestor’s emigration specifics as you do about them on arrival, especially if they came under a sponsorship scheme. However, learning more about the general aspects of their particular voyage, or the broader circumstances governing the voyages will add a broader historical context to your family story.

H hops into Hughenden, Herston, Hastings Point and H ships

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).

H is for Hughenden

Hughenden is a small town on the road between Mt Isa and Charters Towers and Townsville. We’ve visited in passing a few times but I can’t say I feel any empathy or true understanding of it…perhaps the most noticeable feature is this stretch of road is ancient dinosaur country and the locals are making the most of this tourism opportunity.

Hughenden's main drag. I love those old country pubs with their imposing presence.

My great-grandfather McSherry and his family lived in Hughenden for several years when he was an inspector with the railways. My grandfather McSherry was also working here with the railway when he met my grandmother who lived in Charters Towers. How they came to meet I don’t know, but I’ve always assumed (yes, I know!) it was through her family’s refreshment rooms in Charters Towers. I’ve heard the Melvins also had railway refreshment rooms but I’ve found no evidence whatsoever of that, so I’m assuming it was probably a furphy, albeit a credible one.

On our last visit the people at the Visitor Centre were very helpful and tried to put me in touch with the local historian who wasn’t available. This H post reminds me that I’ve still not followed this up….the “to do” list is growing with each letter.

H is for Herston

Clydesdale c1900 John Oxley Library image, copyright expired. This was the convent during my school years.

School days, school days, good old golden rule days! My school and parish church were both “over the border” into the Brisbane suburb of Herston. Neither the church nor the school remain, replaced by a post-Vatican II church of simple architecture, while the old building shared by church and school have disappeared into memory…another job on my “to do” list is find a photo. Time, it’s always time, that catches us out.  I talked quite a lot about the school here so I won’t repeat myself in this post.

One thing of relevance to family historians: if you find your relative has been buried from St Joan of Arc church Herston and are wondering why…it’s because the priests were the curates for the hospital, and some people either converted at the last minute or came back to the church. I recall singing as part of the school choir at any number of funerals, many with no connection to the parish.

The other interesting aspect to Herston parish was the influx of European immigrants in the 1950s and especially the Dutch migrants. Don’t ask me why so many came to Herston, because I really don’t know, but as a result of the numbers, we ended up with Dutch priests for a number of years. Recently I commented on the fact that Family Search has digitised parish registers from the Netherlands: an invaluable resource for Australians with Dutch ancestry.

H is for Hastings Point

View south from Hastings Point

Hastings Point is part personal history and part travelogue. An inconspicuous mark on a map but for our family it’s been a special part of our story, filled with memories and fun times, shared over the years with friends and children’s friends. We have always camped as close to the beach as possible which means that the strong wind bent every tent pole we had. After a day of down-time from the normal rush of urban life with busy jobs and children, we’d take to exploring the rock waterholes which might conceal all manner of marine life. The area off the point is a marine park so there was usually plenty to see on these mini-expeditions and there was always the fun (perhaps less so for the feet) of navigating from one rock to the other. Most of the time there was a small spa-sized pool near the rocks which made the perfect spot for lolling around, unless you were mad keen to get into the surf, which swimming across the creek first, or wading, carefully avoiding the oyster-shelled rocks. On the southern side of the Point the surf near the rocks could be quite fierce and not all that safe for swimming unless you were a strong swimmer or out on a board.

Google Earth aerial view of Hastings Point, New South Wales

Each visit the path of the creek would have changed with tidal and weather conditions so you never knew what you’d find. One visit the creek would have a lovely sandy bank which might luminesce at night time as you walked up to the toilet block. Another time there’d be little sand on the bank and you’d be dodging around the rocks. One visit we even found a low tide mini-aquarium of marine life in a tiny pool in the creek…great fun.

Hastings Point was where we went to see Halley’s Comet uncontaminated by urban lights. Our viewing was much better on an early visit than on the date they’d say it would be optimal.

This aerial view from Google Earth shows some of the beauty of the place. Time was when the northern approach to Hastings was equally beautiful, driving through native bush of banksias. Sadly much has been altered with the bush replaced by resorts.

If you’d like to know a little more about this wonderful place you may wish to read a couple of my posts from last year, here and here.

H is for H-named ships

A ship called Hotspur, but is it the one which brought the Irish immigrants? State Library of Queensland Negative number: 63060, copyright expired.

I have done some research into emigrants from east County Clare, Ireland to Australia. When I was looking at the names yesterday I realised a number of these immigrants arrived on ships whose names started with the letter H. So here’s to them…name of ship (year) [number of east Clare people on board]. You can see the increase in numbers in the 1860s with the American Civil War.

Humbolt (1852) [4]; Himalaya (1855) [3]; Hilton (1855) [2]; Herald of the Morning (1858) [9]; Hornet (1859) [3]; Hotspur (1863) [26]; Himalaya (1865) [6]; and Hornet (1865) [15]

The original source for this data came from the Board’s Immigrant Lists from State Records NSW. The east Clare data has been extracted from my own database.

Today’s A to Z 2012 recommendation:

Somebody has to say it…I love this woman’s bolshie attitude. Her position is set out clearly and logically on her topic of the day. She reminds me of a friend and former colleague of mine.

Limerick Board of Guardians Minute Books

If you have ancestors in the south-east corner of County Clare or Limerick, you may be interested to know that the Board of Guardians Minute Books for Limerick Union (which includes parts of Clare) are available online through the Limerick Archives at http://www.limerick.ie/DigitalArchives/LimerickCityCouncilandLocalGovernmentCollections/LimerickUnionBoardofGuardiansMinuteBooks1842-1922

While these are not searchable they provide a fascinating insight into the workings of those who “governed” the fate of the poor in the workhouses in particular. References are made to workhouse residents who are given funds to assist them to emigrate.

Some examples include:
Meeting 14 October 1848: Page 8: The subject of emigration for females was brought before the Board and the clerk was directed to furnish the Earl of Clare Chairman with a statement of facts as regards the steps already taken by this Board in reference to that subject.

Meeting 1 November 1848: Page 51: Chair Earl of Clare; Other Guardians incl W Bently: Page 55
The master reported that 5 male adult inmates and I female were sentenced at this session to transportation for 7 years for absconding from the workhouse with the clothing

Meeting 22 Nov 1848: Page 116: Letter read from M Reddington under Secretary Dublin Castle stating that the letter of Lord Clare Chairman of the Board applying for emigration of orphans from this workshouse was referred to the Poor Law Commissioners. Proposed by W Monsell MP  Seconded by D Cullen and resolved  unanimously that the Poor Law Comrs be urgently requested to accede to the request of the guardians in the emigration of the orphans from this workhouse and we beg to refer the Poor Law Comrs to our former minutes in this respect which we trust entitle us to a fair share of the emigration of orphans.

Meeting 29 Nov 1848: Page 138: In reference to the resolution of last Sat Patt and Mary Hassett attended the Board and Mr Mahony produced parcel left in his charge for them as executors of Bridget Hassett an inmate of the the workhouse which was opened by the Board and found to contain 2 bank pass books L51/13/1 with will 8c. It was resolved with the concurrence of the executors that arrangements be made by C Delmega and JW Mahony to bind the girl to a trade out of the workhouse out of the said sum of money.

Dec 1st, 1852: Page 156: From Catherine McNamara to state that having recd fm the Colonial Lands and Emigration Commissioners (CLEC) a certificate for a free passage  for herself and her son to proceed to her husband in NSW and being an inmate of the Limerick workhouse at the same time she retired from the union and proceeded to Cork for embarkation-that on arriving their both (?) She and her son were objected to as they had not the necessary clothing and outfit for the voyage and hoping that the Guardians will now provide the outfit for herself &amp; son and thus rid the union of two inmates.
Commissioners consent to the request to give L3/4/0 to enable these parties to emigrate.

Although it can be slow reading each page, and making notes, it provides an interesting insight to the times especially around the Famine years.