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.

F is for the Fifteen Mile, Fromelles and Fleurbaix

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).

F is for the Fifteen Mile (Queensland)

The Fifteen Mile in Queensland would be unknown to most people except locals. Part way up the road between Murphys Creek and the Crows Nest road, it is mostly scrubby bush with little apparent activity. You can get a sense of its geography by clicking here. You can see that in amongst the trees and scrub, there is a cleared semi-valley and a smattering of buildings. This inconspicuous spot is where my 2xgreat grandparents Kunkel selected their land in 1874, paying it off over five years until the total £19/5/- was reached[i]. They had very nearly lost out on the land in a bureaucratic glitch when George Kunkel filed his claim in the Ipswich Lands office while Mr Pechey filed his in Toowoomba. By the time their land purchase was finalised in 1879, they had ringbarked 154 acres, cleared two acres and cultivated it with maize, stocked the land with cattle branded GK9, and a four room house had been built and was occupied by the “selector’s wife and family” while George himself was earning cash on the railways.

The old road down to the Kunkel property at the Fifteen Mile c1988 © P Cass 2010

Early land maps[ii] of the area from the Queensland State Archives, revealed the settlers who lived in the area. I was struck by the correlation of the names with some of those I knew had emigrated from Dorfprozelten. Further research proved this to be a small settlement of former Dorfprozelten people and their descendants. I doubt it was a deliberate ploy to settle together, rather that the land became available when they were eligible and they had saved some money. It was also not a well known area, but more likely to be known to those who had worked on the railway line through Murphys Creek.

George Kunkel had been clever in his selection of land because the creek ran below his property (you can see it if you enlarge the map – a snake like curve marks his boundary) but stepped down from his buildings. This gave him natural irrigation for his fruit orchards and grape vines. In recent decades the creek had dried up in the drought and bush fires were a very real hazard. However the drastic January 2011 floods affected the Fifteen Mile in a way I hadn’t fully understood until we drove through in July last year. I couldn’t believe my eyes to see trees up in trees and debris scattered high up the creek banks.

The old Horrocks property at the Fifteen Mile is now semi-derelict. Photo taken 1988 © P Cass

This small community gathered with those close by to play tennis and hold dances in the Horrocks’s barn, and shared their excess produce[iii]. Few people live in the area now and the names of old are gone: Horrocks, McLean, Stack, Jerrard, Zoller, Bodmann, Ganzer, Kunkel.

F is for Fromelles and Fleurbaix (France)

Rue Petillon cemetery, Fleurbaix.

Last year on the 95th anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles I wrote about my grandfather’s cousin, James Augustus Gavin. James was also the grandson of Denis and Ellen Gavin who you’ve met in the “D is for…” post ( I think they’re following me at present). Fromelles is also a pivotal battle for my husband’s great uncle. Despite participating in Gallipoli, it was the Battle of Fromelles which destabilised him with the shock of the huge losses of his men. I won’t go into more detail here but if you have time, please read a little more about this fierce battle in which 5533 Australian soldiers lost their lives or were wounded or missing.

The muddy fields of Flanders 1992. © P Cass

In recent years DNA sampling has been used to identify Australian Diggers (soldiers) buried in mass graves after the Battle of Fromelles…an amazing and sobering use of modern technology to bring closure to families, and allow these soldiers to be laid to rest under a named gravestone, no longer missing.

Our James Gavin was fortunate in a sense (if you can say that) in as much as he died early in the battle, perhaps even before it officially commenced. Consequently he was laid to rest in a known grave in the Rue Petillon cemetery at Fleurbaix (about 5kms from Amentieres). In November 1992, my husband and I made a pilgrimage to see his grave, and that of another of my grandfather’s cousins (James Paterson) at Villers Brettoneux.

Rue Petillon Cemetery, Fleurbaix, amidst the farm lands of Flanders. © P Cass 1992.

The cemetery at Fleurbaix is so peaceful, set amidst French farm land. As we parked the car, a local farmer gave us a nod of acknowledgement…they take their debt of loyalty quite seriously, it seems to me.  All was tranquil with birds singing and the distant sound of farm machinery. Farm buildings lie across the road and beside the cemetery. If you must die at war, then surely this is a place where you can truly lie at peace.

Across the road, the agricultural fields gave a clue of just how difficult it would have been to fight in those conditions at any time, let alone as winter approached. The deep plough furrows showed just how clay-y and sludgey the soil was as it took on water. I couldn’t begin to truly imagine what it would be like to try to advance the German front line in those conditions.

We were pleased to be able to pay our respects to a distant family member, and indirectly to my husband’s relative, Lt Col WEH Cass. Since 1992 I’ve learned a lot about Fromelles, a battle that had long been overshadowed by Gallipoli. If I was to do a battle field tour, it would be to the Western Front, I think, rather than Gallipoli, and definitely not on Armistice Day or Anzac Day so I can have time and peace to reflect on all that happened.


[i] Queensland State Archives PRV9882-1-740 (LAN/AG739) Deed of grant.

[ii] QSA Map Parish of Murphy, County of Cavendish, A3/18 1932.

[iii] Oral history from Anne Kunkel, granddaughter of George and Mary Kunkel.

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.

Introducing my family

Hello blog-world

This is my first posting on what I hope will be my family history blog, with occasional snippets about travel (another interest) and life in the Top End of Australia. While the research interests will be my own family and those from Dorfprozelten and Broadford which I’m researching, I hope to talk about the ways I go about finding new information and new discoveries that emerge, with luck and perseverance, like all family history.

My focus is more on the history of the families, their places of origin and their life history, rather than just their genealogy.

At different times I’ll be referring to my ancestral family – branches and individuals -but not to current-day people. So I thought I’d start by introducing the earliest members of my family who arrived in Australia, most of them in the mid-nineteenth century.

George KUNKEL who came from the village of Dorfprozelten am Main (on the River Main) in Bavaria. George married Mary O’BRIEN from Broadford in East County Clare, Ireland. They lived for about six years in Ipswich, Queensland before moving west with the construction of the railway line to Toowoomba. After a few years living on the Toowoomba range at Highfields, they moved down the range to the Fifteen Mile, an out-settlement of Murphy’s Creek, where they bought, and built, their own farm. Murphy’s Creek had been a major staging post during the railway’s construction. George and Mary were both working as servants when they married but in later years George was pork butcher, boarding house keeper, railway worker, and farmer. Both Mary and George were what we often refer to as “swimmers” as no record has yet been found of them in the records, despite 23 years of searching. It is believed that Mary O’Brien travelled with her sister, Bridget O’Brien, who later became Bridget WIDDUP and lived at Urana, New South Wales

William PARTRIDGE was born in London, but lived most of his early life in Coleford, Gloucestershire with his parents John & Eliza (nee Thompson).  He stated his occupation as “groom” when he arrived in Moreton Bay on board the Fortune in December 1855. He married Hannah KENT who arrived in Moreton Bay with her parents and siblings on the General Hewitt in December 1854. William Partridge was the brother of Lucy ROSEBLADE who emigrated with her husband John and family,arriving in Queensland on the Duke of Westminster in July 1866, first settling in Ipswich but later being pioneers at Yungaburra.

Also on board the Fortune in 1855 were Denis & Ellen GAVIN from Ireland (Wicklow, Kildare and Dublin) and their small daughter Mary. The family immediately went west out near Roma where Denis worked as a bullock driver.

Stephen Gillespie MELVIN and his young wife (Janet nee Peterkin) and child, Lawrence, arrived in Moreton Bay on the Woodlark in January 1877. Janet died while in quarantine soon after arrival. Stephen remarried in August 1878. His second wife was Emily Partridge, daughter of William and Hannah Partridge, and a first-generation Queenslander. Stephen and Emily lived in Ipswich and Charters Towers and after Emily’s death in 1912, he moved to Sydney. Stephen came from many generations of merchant seamen from Leith, the port for Edinburg, and had worked in that occupation himself after completing his pastry cook’s apprenticeship in Edinburgh. He was a skilled pastry cook gaining recognition in his new home for his sweets and cakes. Stephen’s mother, Margaret Gillespie (later Melvin, Ward and Wheaton) also emigrated and died in Charters Towers where she and her daughter-in-law are recognised with a large memorial stone. Margaret also came from a sea-faring family and indeed worked as a stewardess herself. She was born in North Shields, Northumberland.

Later arrivals included the McCORKINDALE family (in different immigration waves) who came to Australia from Glasgow but whose roots lie in Loch Awe and Kilmorich (Ardkinglas) in Argyll, Scotland. 

The SHERRY family emigrated from Gorey, Wexford and became two branches: the McSHERRY branch and the McSHARRY branch. The earliest identified origin for this family is Tullamore, Offaly (then King’s County) where James Sherry married Bridget FURLONG in the 1860s. James was a railway worker in Ireland and probably in Queensland but his home place is unknown. The surname is typically concentrated in the north of Ireland.  The McSherry/McSharry family worked on the railways of Queensland, building new lines and always being closely involved with the Catholic Church wherever they went.

My husband’s family, the CASS family, arrived in Victoria in the mid-19th century from Bath, England but the family originally lived in West Drayton and Retford in Nottinghamshire.

My wider interests are in emigrants from Dorfprozelten in Bavaria and Broadford in eastern County Clare. Although I’m primarily interested in those emigrants who came to Australia, I’m still keen to hear from anyone with connections back to those places.

As I dig further back into the records other names will come to light.

Happy hunting

Cassmob NT