Genea-learning and touring

We’re not long home from a week of genealogy indulgence…what’s not to like about genie-adventures? Especially when they take you on a road trip!

First up was two days at the Unlock the Past Roadshow in Brisbane with Scottish/Irish guru Chris Paton, German expert, Dirk Weissleder and local speakers. Learning new strategies and sources for research is always fun and even better when you get to catch up with genimates. The Roadshow is heading to other cities too, so you might want to consider booking.

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Image from Wikipedia.

From Brisbane we ventured west towards Toowoomba and the Darling Downs. We were no sooner on the Darren Lockyer Way[i] when my spirits soared with the wide open vistas of the Lockyer Valley and the sense of moving away from the urban coastal belt. Don’t get me wrong – we love where we live near the coast, but this trip made me realise how much I’ve missed being away from the open spaces we used to enjoy in the Northern Territory.

We made our way up the Range via the obligatory ancestral route through Murphy’s Creek and a wander through the cemetery saying g’day to my Kunkel 2xgreat-grandparents and great-grandfather.

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The renovated Kunkel grave at Murphy’s Creek.

However, on this trip we also made time to lunch at Spring Bluff Railway Station. Of course we’ve known forever that it’s there, but there always seemed to be other priorities. I imagine it’s busy on the weekends but it was tranquil on a lovely mid-week Spring-like day. With the burst of warm weather, the flowers are coming into bloom early.

On Friday, I toddled off to the Catholic Diocesan Archives in Toowoomba where I’d made an appointment. I’ve rattled on many times about the benefits of checking parish registers for additional information…it’s amazing how much you can discover.

Lockyer and Toowoomba

This Google map could be called “Ancestral Pathways” as it lists so many towns and settlements where my family lived, worked and died.

Golf (or surf) widows are a common phenomenon, but for a few days Mr Cassmob got another large dose of being a genealogy widower. His Aussie ancestry is all from Victoria so there was nothing specific for him to follow up. However, he’s had lots of practice with my meanderings and this just one more. We tried to balance some of the genea-obsessiveness with touring options we haven’t taken up before. Our wander through the Japanese Garden at the University of Southern Queensland was a delight! Some of the trees were already in blossom, azaleas were starting to peek out and the landscaping is beautiful – definitely on the agenda to see it again a different season.

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Japanese Gardens at USQ.

Saturday was spent at the Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society. I love that it’s aptly located adjacent to the enormous Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery (search burials here). The Society launched its third volume of Our Backyard, containing stories of those buried in the cemetery. Most are submitted by family members but some have been researched by society members. My submissions for Kunkel and Gavin family members, plus a few Germans, are in Volume 1. The Society has some great publications if you have Darling Downs ancestry. They are also very good at catering for their remote members.

After the book launch, and morning tea, we were treated to a very thought-provoking presentation by Queensland local and family historian, Janice Cooper. Janice encouraged us to think about scrutinising our sources and their merits, as well as seeking the content and analysing them for our conclusions. Very much worth listening to and something I’ll be revisiting.

A speedy AGM was followed by lunch. I was the post-lunch speaker and presented on The Marriage of Family and Local History as applied to Murphy’s Creek and using a variety of sources, of which it’s impossible to cover the whole spectrum. Like most marriages there might be offspring – and a One Place Study is one of them. I found it interesting to talk to a group familiar with the township and my mention of the former publican, Mr Bloom, certainly grabbed one member’s attention. My thanks to the society for giving me this opportunity.

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After our few days in Toowoomba we’d decided to stay out of town for the next couple of nights and booked a delightful cottage adjacent to the Ravensbourne National Park. It was chilly at night but we were cosy inside with a gas fire and it was a pleasure to wake up to the sound of kookaburras and honeyeaters in the grevilleas beside the deck.

Touring the area, we visited the Woolshed at Jondaryan as it was decades since we’d last been there. I’d known for some time that some of my relatives had worked there but we met up with the historian to see if he had any new information – strangely that included the letter I’d sent him with Kunkel and Gavin details many years ago <smile>. I’ve brought away some print-outs so that I can send him further information on some of my other interests eg Stephen and Mark Gavin. The station ledgers have been preserved for long periods of time, especially in the earlier times, largely because the property was in the same hands for a long time. You can check out the list of names in Mr Eggleston’s book or write to him at the Woolshed if you think your ancestor worked there. Don’t forget to provide him with some details of your family to add to his database.

Jondaryan was an enormous property back in its day and you can read some of its history on the website. Merino sheep were its forte and my great-grandfather George Michael Kunkel worked as a lamber for a few months in 1875, paid £1 a week. Lambs were valuable assets and hence the role of the lamber was important -he had to watch over them to protect them from animal marauders, help the ewes if there were difficulties with birthing and generally ensure the lambs well-being.

The Woolshed has some wonderful old buildings, not least being the woolshed itself which is the largest oldest still operating anywhere in the world. However, I was most interested in the shepherd’s hut since this is the type of accommodation inhabited by some of the early Dorfprozelten immigrants during their first employment contracts.

Along with sightseeing we enjoyed a yummy lunch at the Woolshed’s cafe: meals with bush tucker ingredients. We’ve also flagged Jondaryan as somewhere it would be good to camp – but perhaps not at a busy time. Nearby, the little Anglican church, St Anne’s, is simple yet beautiful so of course I had to buy the book on its history.

An error in navigation took us back to Murphy’s Creek which was fine as we wanted to check out the Fifteen Mile again. It was interesting to see that the old Kunkel property seems to be being expanded and now I’m dying of curiosity to know what’s happening and if it’s changed hands again.

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The old Horrocks’ barn – in a state of collapse, and the brick chimney of the house behind.

I also took a current photo of the old Horrocks’ barn, which appeared in my slideshow for the presentation. It is now “on its last legs” so I was pleased to take some photos while I could. As always the nearby cows looked on suspiciously, as they’ve done on every occasion when I’ve driven there.

All in all, a wonderful short holiday: learning + genealogy + genimates, balanced with touring on the Downs and chill-out time with Mr Cassmob.

[i] Named after a popular footballer who shares his surname with the region. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/rugby-league-legend-darren-lockyer-honoured-with-a-stretch-of-road/news-story/dee213cd3bb5c255d5430b3e6405a9e4

New Gavin family blog

Long-term followers of my blog will have read many posts about the Gavin family, either searching for them in Ireland, their links to the convict Gavans, or the young men who went to World War I.

Thanks to my recent posts and last year’s Anzac Day post, a 3rd cousin has got in touch with me. She holds many photos of her branch of the Gavin family and we’re hoping we can sort out some blanks on photos we each have. She’s been inspired to start her own blog and has put up some wonderful photos of the young Gavin men in uniform and their parents. I’ve been thrilled to finally put faces to the names of these people I’ve known about and been researching for so long. Louise also has lots of family anecdotes so it will be interesting to learn more about the family through her stories rather than just through documents.

I’m really hoping I may yet be able to put names to some of the faces on  this Wordless Wednesday photo.

This is the link to the Gavin Coman blog. Why not pop over and have a look at the photos and say g’day to Louise.

Fearless Females #10 Religion: Catholic branches in my ancestry.

Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month #10: What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?

Religion played a pivotal role in my family and that of many of my ancestors. Unfortunately sometimes it was a divisive influence in situations where there were mixed marriages (Catholic+Other), or where adult “children” left the church causing separation from siblings or parents. As my family history research has taught me more about my families’ long term religious affiliations, I’ve often found it ironic that my “Catholic branch” actually has a mixed Methodist/Baptist and Catholic ancestry while my nominally “non-Catholic branch” was Catholic through-and-through for generations. Life’s little paradoxes.

The old decommissioned church from Murphys Creek now on a rural block at Upper Laidley. Photo copyright P Cass 2011.

I’ll talk a little about the Catholic branches of my family as I’ve found out more about them, and have a better understanding myself. In the early days of Queensland there were no churches and much depended on gaining the support of the community, Catholic and non-Catholic, to build new churches for the community. My family members were among those who subscribedto these collections to ensure that they could practice their faith in a place of worship. Before churches were built however, they were also said to be among those who had the Mass celebrated in their own home. This oral history was known in Ireland, even 150 years later, which is quite astonishing.

I wonder if they tired of funding one church after the other, as they moved to progressively more rural areas. Thanks to the local historian I learned that the little Catholic church which was built at Murphys Creek (no doubt with the aid of money from the Kunkels), is now a home library on a private block of land not too far away. While there’s quite a lot in the papers about its consecration at the time, I’ve not found a subscription list.

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Consecration of the family to the Sacred Heart: this would have hung in the farmhouse owned by the original Australian Kunkel family.

Father Dunne (later Bishop), who is known to have said Mass in bush homes around Toowoomba where my Kunkel ancestors lived, believed firmly that “in every country, and in every age, the farming districts were the chief abode of Faith, the choicest dwelling place of virtue”. He knew those agricultural areas around Toowoomba “to be studded over with pure and beautiful homes, as is heaven studded over with its silvery stars. In those homes the parents teach their children goodness, and the children repay by their innocence the parent’s care a hundredfold”.[1] I like this quote and the imagery it provides of parents bringing up their children in faith despite their distance from regular worship. Nonetheless I suspect Dunne was also prone to romanticising the rural lifestyle, glossing over the level of sheer hard work involved.

Catholic homes and families would be blessed and dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Very recently I’ve been given one of these Consecration “posters” which hung in my Kunkel ancestors’ first home, possibly when it was rededicated after my 2xgreat grandmother’s death.

Although I have no firm evidence for my view, I believe that it was probably my women ancestors who ensured the faith was carried forward, by teaching the children their prayers and taking them along to Mass when it was held. In those early pioneering days Mass was far from a weekly event but when the priest arrived on horseback, the faithful would gather together to celebrate: shepherds, stockmen, railway workers, wives and children.

My Catholic ancestry includes the following names: Kunkel, O’Brien, Gavin, McSherry/Sherry/McSharry.

My Methodist and Presybterian families remain under-researched, waiting for me to have discretionary time to follow them up in Queensland. One day!

My non-Catholic families are Melvin, Partridge, McCorkindale, Kent.

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[1] Published in the Catholic newspaper of the time, The Australian, 1 March 1884.