Sepia Saturday 205: Moustaches and mysteries

Sepia Sat 205I featured this photo on my blog nearly three years ago but since the mystery continues to elude me, I thought I’d include it under this week’s Sepia Saturday topic of moustaches. There’s certainly a plethora of all styles of moustaches and whiskers in this photo.

The history behind the photo is that it was found backing another picture which hung in my grandparents’ house. It is quite a substantial size but very much worn as you can see.

Mystery photo includes Denis Kunkel: are the other people Gavin family members?

My father identified his father as the man to the left rear of the elderly seated gentleman. It is very like other photos of Grandad taken about the time he went to war, 1917, or perhaps a year or two earlier. There are a number of young men in the group which might also tie in with that. There are definite family resemblances in some of the faces eg the man at the front left always reminds me of my Dad, and the young woman beside him looks like an older version of Grandad’s youngest sister whose photo appears in a wedding photo.

The presence of women in the group suggests it is not something like a Masonic group, and he had “spat the dummy” with the church so it’s unlikely to be a church group. There is a proprietal air, and I think a facial familiarity, about the older man with his hand on Grandad’s shoulder.

But is it a family group or some sort of social group? If the former it’s most likely to include members of the Gavin family from Pechey and perhaps a handful of Kunkels? If the latter it could have been taken on the Darling Downs or in Brisbane.

It’s certainly a mystery which I would love to solve.

Why not pop over and see what other Sepians have written this week.

Jogging into Jondaryan, Jimbour and Jimboomba

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). These “J” stories come with a genealogue warning.

J is for Jondaryan (Queensland, Australia)

Head west from Toowoomba en route to Dalby and you will come to Jondaryan, a pastoral station which in its heyday of the 1870s was a “colonial colossus of 62,750 hectares (about 155,000 acres)”[i] with a large population of sheep, all of which needed shearing in season, and caring for between times. As I read this excellent article about the station’s history, I looked at the bullock wagon-load of wool and wondered if my Denis Gavin had been among the men who moved the vast quantities of wool towards Brisbane.

Was Jondaryan Pastoral Station the place where my great-grandparents, George Michael Kunkel and Julia Celia Gavin met, perhaps through Julia’s father’s work as a carrier?

We visited Jondaryan in 1989, a few years after I started my family history. This was a working example of re-metalling the wagon wheels -putting new metal bands on the wheels and tightening them.

What is known from the station’s records[ii], is that young George (aged 16) was employed as a lamber for three months from 15 September to 3 December 1875, the year of a big drought. This was when the Kunkels were buying their farm at the Fifteen Mile, so perhaps as the eldest son George was helping to bring in much-needed cash, to supplement his father’s railway earnings. Other members of a Julia’s family and another unrelated Gavin family also worked there: hardly surprising given the scale of the operation and the number of people it employed.

These days Jondaryan’s past history is visible to anyone who wishes to visit: it’s now known as Jondaryan Woolshed and is a regular feature on school excursion itineraries. I wonder how many children have visited without knowing a distant relative worked there.

A key reference book on Jondaryan is Jondaryan Station: the relationship between pastoral capital and pastoral labour 1840-1890, click on the link to see my comments on the book. Picture Australia also has a number of images from the early days. The map below gives you some idea of the distirbution of the places mentioned starting from Jimbour in the north west through to Jimboomba in the south east. (it is about 126 kms from Toowoomba to Brisbane, to give you a sense of scale).

 

J is for Jimbour  (Queensland) 

In the late 1980s I was struggling to unravel the strands of Gavin families all living and working on the Downs in the vicinity of Dalby. I had connected with another researcher by snail mail and slowly but surely we made progress on figuring out these families. Carmel died over twenty years ago but I still think of her and how we collaborated on this challenge…how much easier it would have been via email and with digitised records, but perhaps less fun. We had gone to the same school in Brisbane, some 20+ years apart but somehow we were simpatico.

Among my earliest family history discoveries was the story of two boys who drowned on Jimbour station back in its early days[iii]. The  were cousins aged 12 and 6 and both named Michael Gavin.The inquest[iv] identifies the parents of Bridget and the younger Michael as Stephen and Anna (aka Honora Mulkerrin) Gavin. The twelve year old Michael was the son of Mark and Anna Gavin.

Mark Gavin/Gavan was a convict, one of those known as an exile, who was granted his ticket of leave on arrival in 1849 and sent to Mr Bell at Jimbour to work as a shepherd. Mark’s brothers Thomas and Stephen emigrated as remittance passengers with their families in 1859 and 1862 respectively. One of Mark and Anna’s children emigrated with Thomas and all lived and worked at Jimbour, at least initially. The drowned six year old had arrived as a baby of one. Stephen and his wife Honora are the only family I’ve encountered returning to Ireland, and I feel they must have had some financial support to do so. This only became apparent because the family re-emigrated to Queensland in 1874.

The newspaper story of the “melancholy and fatal accident” was comprehensive.[v] Three children, Michael Gavin 12, Bridget Gavin, 9 and Michael Gavin 6, were playing at bullocky near the water at the Maia Camp outstation on Jimbour on Monday 29 October 1866. They slipped, lost their footing and slid into the water. The little girl, Bridget, managed to escape by grabbing some rushes and could see no sign of her brother and her cousin. Just imagine a nine-year old’s panic as she ran to the hut to fetch her mother, and the distress of her mother as she ran another three miles to the washpool for assistance. The bodies were recovered later by George Perkins and an unnamed Aboriginal man.

The two young lads are remembered on a memorial plaque at Jimbour. These Gavin families had already experienced so many hardships to survive the Great Famine, and then sailing to Australia. Theirs was true pioneer courage. There were new members of Mark’s Gavin’s family born in Australia, baptised by Ipswich’s travelling priest, Fr McGinty who rode many miles across Moreton Bay to care for his own flock.

Jimbour remains a long-standing Queensland property which opens its doors to visitors these days. It’s many years since I looked at the area, but not the house or garden, and it too is on my future visit-list.

J is for Jimboomba (Queensland)

Jimboomba was one of several railway camps and towns where great-grandfather George Michael Kunkel and his family lived and worked. He is known to have started work with Queensland Railways in 1878, aged 20. His wife Julia was also sometimes employed as a carriage cleaner or gate operator. Little is known of their time in Jimboomba and they may have been stationed between Logan Village and Jimboomba. Indications are that two of their children were born in Jimboomba, William Thomas and Matthew David John. Another son, George Michael Kunkel, was reported to have died as a child and been buried there, but I have been unable to get any verification of that.  These days Jimboomba is a village not too far from where we used to live in Brisbane, but in those far-off days, life would have been very basic, as it usually was in the railway camps.

Translation: A station in this context is the equivalent of an American ranch.

Somewhere I have old photos of these three places, or their environments, but they are lost in the maze of my personal photos. The more I scan, the more confused the picture archives become…perhaps a project for May when the A to Z challenge is complete.


[ii] These books were found by John Eggleston in the late 1980s. There is an index of names available at the Genealogical Society of Queensland and also Queensland State Archives (in a book near the door).

[iii] These stories are easy enough to find now that Trove has digitised the newspapers but in the late 1980s, it would have been impossible to find this story without the indexing work of the Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society.

[iv] Page 3, column 6. The inquest into the death of Michael Gavin (12) and Michael Gavin (6) is in Queensland State Archives at JUS/N13 66/174.

[v] Darling Downs Gazette of 3 Nov 1866

52 weeks of Abundant Genealogy: Week 3: Celebrate the generosity of free websites

This week’s questions are gifts in themselves. I have two sites that I routinely sing the praises of, one international and one for regional Australia, and one that I think deserves to be better known.

Ennis has delightful narrow streets. This image is from Wikipedia. Unfortunately I've now discovered my Ennis photos have gone AWOL.

Clare County Library is my all time favourite resource for free family history and Clare history, aided and abetted by CLASP (Clare Local Studies Project). In the real world you will find them in Ennis, County Clare where the Local Studies Centre is a treasure trove. The good people there have been leaders in the field of promoting the county’s history at a personal, regional and international level for many years. While the rest of Ireland languished in a “what can we get from you” mindset, Clare Library was generously sharing its information and harnessing the enthusiastic energies of volunteers around the world. Careful scrutiny of transcriptions have ensured their indexes are reliable. The townland and parish indexes are particularly helpful.  The value of the site is really only fully appreciated when you go to look up something in another county only to find blank walls or minimal information. I can’t thank them enough or praise them highly enough! If you have Clare ancestry you just don’t know how lucky you will be with this site.

Drayton & Toowoomba Cemetery

Closer to home, my much-used Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery grave search, hosted by Toowoomba Regional Council, is my top contender. I couldn’t have done without it when writing my Kunkel family history or in researching “my” Dorfprozelten emigrants or other Darling Downs ancestors. It not only tells you who is buried there with their grave location, but also gives you a death date and tells you how old they were as well as who is buried in the same grave revealing further, sometimes unanticipated, links (like the stray Gavin buried with my female Gavin ancestors). Other councils have followed suit and offer similar services, but like the Clare County Library they get the honours for being truly innovative as well as tremendously useful.

Another site I use less regularly but which deserves to be better known is one which is dedicated to photographing gravestones in cemeteries in South-East Queensland. This is a personal rather than an organisational website and again was among the leaders in this type of activity. If you have ancestry in South East Queensland, do have a look at what they have to offer.

The abundance of free sites available to us as family historians is quite remarkable and is truly something to be grateful for.

2011: the Genie year in review: SLOBR

I’m not a great one for lists and New Year’s resolutions so I didn’t formalise what I wanted to do at the start of 2011. This may have been a mistake because there have been times when I felt I’ve swirled along without a clear direction whereas I’m usually fairly good at being task-oriented when I want to complete something. So what DID I achieve in family history during 2011? This is an aide-memoir for me as much as anything so feel free to skip as much as you like.

SHARING

Blogging has been my big sharing contribution in 2011. After a tentative first year, I dedicated a lot of time and energy to it this year. Some of what I’ve learned from blogging, I’ve talked about recently here.

I like to think that by helping out the people who’ve contacted me through the blog, especially those with Dorfprozelten ancestors, that I’ve contributed a little to the genie community. There has also been extensive email correspondence around a number of families I research (though not my own).

I’ve started in on my Blurb blog-to-book already and finding that I should have inserted my images at higher resolution…live and learn. I plan to get one book in hard copy then others in e-books for my family. The sharing of my personal history in the 52 weeks series was motivated by being able to pass that on to my family. My failure was not getting my husband to write more of his off-line.

LEARNING

A morning of talks by Suzie Zada in the middle of the year was a highlight for me. We were going on holidays that weekend and I kept saying I’ll leave after this presentation – and stayed to the end, even though the topics were not specifically relevant to my own research.

I learn every day through the blogs I read and the strategies and discoveries other make. Books, books and more books also add to my learning.

I enrolled in four Pharos courses, two great ones on Scottish family history by Chris Paton, one on enclosures which was excellent and one on old handwriting which was also valuable but because I had other commitments didn’t dedicate time to properly engaging.

RootsTech was a fascinating insight into a partially-online conference and I was able to learn a lot from the presentations I watched, including using cloud document storage. Looks like a few mid-night wake-ups in February 2012 for me!

Shamrock in the Bush was and is a great learning opportunity as well being companionable. Not Just Ned was not only a great reminder of aspects of my personal history but an insight into Irish lives in Australia (especially that voyage chest).

ORGANISING

This one teeters on being a fail. My weakness is gathering the information re disparate families and then not entering them immediately into my informal narrative. I don’t file until I’ve written them up – you can see the pitfall.

On the plus side I’ve started reviewing a potential book on my Melvin family – I wrote about 150 pages a couple of years ago and while I’d done some more research, the narrative needs editing, adding to, and reviewing for further research.

Also on the plus side I’ve been scanning lots of photos –some for the 52 weeks series, and hundreds of our old slides. This achievement gives me a big tick in terms of cyclone preparation as well.

Thanks to some house renovations and ensuing chaos, my library of books and family history references got catalogued. I used Collectorz but also dabble in LibraryThing. Still can’t decide which I prefer but I think Collectorz is quicker to find the book reference I need whereas LibraryThing is online and gives you tips on books similar or relevant to those in your library.

A couple of months ago I started documenting what I worked on each day. This has been a mixed success as I followed it faithfully for some weeks then dropped the ball. However I did find it useful in keeping me on-track with what I want to, and also not being distracted by emails etc as they arrive. When I do focus I am like a terrier in getting through something, so I need to find a balance there.

BREAKTHROUGHS

For the first time I found a trace of my Gavin family in Ireland.

Having chased up my grandmother’s brother’s family for years, I’m now almost certain that he has no surviving descendants. Ancestry releases of war records have also filled out his history.

Through a combination of my research last year in Hertfordshire, online resources and the enclosure course with Pharos, I learned about the pubs my Kent family owned in Hertfordshire.

New digitisation of newspapers with Trove gave me a full list of my great-grandfather’s property which was sold after his death, right down to the picks and shovels. I’ve confirmed his will is not held by the Queensland State Archives so this newspaper advertisement was a find.

RESEARCHING

Sadly, I didn’t get enough opportunities to get to the Archives interstate in 2011. While I’ve been in Brisbane a few times this year, research hasn’t been the primary purpose so archives visits have been all too brief and far too whirlwind. It’s been a few years since I’ve had good solid archives time. However with more information coming online there’s more background research that I can do from Darwin.

One of my favourite strategies is to use LDS films to read old parish registers, parish chest materials, land records or whatever else is available on microfilm for “my” parishes. I’d be lost without these.

Thanks to Scotlands People I’ve added more information to my own families, and kick-started a friend’s family history for her. Love SP and all for the cost of a coffee.

SUMMARY

All in all not an unsuccessful year but I do want to have a more clear-sighted focus in 2012. More research and more documentation are on the agenda. Where to for 2012? Time to plan.

 

International Women’s Day – Ellen Gavin, Julia Kunkel and Johanna Gavan

This is possibly George & Julia Kunkel on their wedding day  Today is the centenary of International Women’s Day and an appropriate day to honour our female ancestors. I have chosen to highlight the lives of my great-great-grandmother Ellen (Murphy) Gavin and great-grandmother Julia (Gavin) Kunkel as well as an unrelated friend.  Their lives were so much harder, and stoic, than ours and I thank them for their contribution to our family and our country.

Among the unmarked graves in the Old Roman Catholic section of the Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery is one where my women ancestors from the Gavin family are buried: Ellen Gavin and her daughter Julia Kunkel née Gavin. Also buried with them is an unrelated friend, Johanna Gavin (aka Gavan)[1]. Despite the sacrifices they made for their families and the roles they played in the development of their new country, their lives have passed unremarked by posterity.

 Ellen Gavin, with her husband Denis Gavin, and daughter Mary Gavin aged 2, arrived in Moreton Bay on the Fortune on 18 December 1855 having left Liverpool on 3 September 1855. Eleanor (aka Ellen) Gavin was 24, a Catholic whose native place was Wicklow. Her parents were James and Annie Murphy. Her father was dead but her mother was living in Wicklow. Her husband Denis was a farm labourer, aged 23 and a Catholic. His native place was Kildare, where his mother was still living. His parents were Denis and Mary Gavin.  Ellen could read but Denis was illiterate. Information on her death certificate indicates she was born in Davidstown, County Kildare.  Their daughter Mary Gavin, born in Dublin, was two years old. From her husband’s obituary and her first child’s birth, it is believed that Denis, and probably Ellen, were employed to work for Mr Gordon at Wallumbilla station out near Roma. In 1855 this area was near the edge of European settlement so the isolation must have been quite a shock to the new immigrants. Denis was employed as a carrier travelling between Wallumbilla and Ipswich so he would have been away for many weeks at a time. Unless Ellen was able to travel with him on his journeys, a rough and demanding life, it is likely that she was often left alone on the property to take care of the children, and possibly had responsibilities to the station owner. Their first Australian-born child, James, was born at Binbian Downs station on 3 June 1857 and baptised by Father McGinty in Dalby in 1858.

 The family must have moved into Dalby soon after this, probably when his employment contract finished, as Denis’s name appears there on various records. Denis continued to work as a carrier while they were in Dalby and their second daughter Julia Gavin was born there on 15 November 1859. Another daughter Rosanna Ellen Gavin was born 20 December 1864 and died 27 March 1865. Like many of our women ancestors, Ellen’s life is not visible in official records. Throughout she would have supported her husband and children, helping to establish a family life for them in their new home while reconciling herself to her infant’s death. As her children were devout Catholics it must be assumed that their mother played an important part in their religious training.

The family were living in Toowoomba by 1876 and Denis worked for a while as a gardener. On 28 March 1896, Ellen Gavin died at her residence in Seaton Street, Toowoomba. The death notice refers to her as the “beloved wife of Denis Gavin” and “mother of Mr James Gavin of Pechey and Mrs Kunkel of Jimboomba”. She was 74 years old and “formerly an old and respected resident of Dalby”.[2] Her death certificate indicates that she had given birth to 2 males and 5 female children, although we know only of the son and 3 daughters. Ellen was buried in the Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery on 29 March 1896.

Julia Gavin, Ellen and Denis’s daughter, was baptised in Dalby by Father McGinty on 25 June 1860 in front of witnesses John Healey and Barbara Ross. She married George Michael Kunkel at St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Dalby on 17 August 1879. George had commenced employment with Queensland Railways as a ganger in August 1878. Throughout their married life they moved around southern Queensland, working on the railway line near Dalby, Beaudesert (1896), Jimboomba, Highfields (1899), Grantham and Geham (1901). Julia and George had eleven children whose birth places reflect the family’s railway postings. My grandfather, Denis Joseph Kunkel, the couple’s eldest child, was born at the Forty Mile Camp near Dalby in 1883. His birth in a railway camp highlights the huge challenges and risks that our women ancestors faced in delivering their children and caring for their families. As time progressed Julia also worked as a gate-keeper for the railway at Gowrie (1886) and at the 27 Mile on the Beaudesert line (1890).[3] 

Julia Kunkel  nee Gavin died from post-natal complications of puerperal fever and a septic embolism. Her obituary reports that she had been operated on without anaesthetic because she had a weak heart, a terrifying and horrendous situation. The doctors deemed her operation a success but her family would disagree.[4] She died aged only 42 years, on 20 November 1901, leaving behind her husband, George Michael Kunkel, and ten children ranging in age from 21 down to 2.  (Julia’s obituary is included at the end of this story). Only a month later the children were orphaned when their father also died suddenly, on Christmas Day 1901. Julia Kunkel was buried from her father’s residence in Seaton Street, Toowoomba and laid to rest with her mother in the Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery on 21 November 1901. The full story of Julia and George Michael Kunkel is told in Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel family.

Ellen and Julia are among the many unacknowledged women pioneers of Queensland whose lives have largely passed unnoticed. However their social contribution has not been insignificant with many descendants living in Queensland or around Australia, including some high profile achievers. There is no known photograph of Ellen. The photograph included may be Julia and her husband George, a conclusion based on various factors.

Buried with Ellen and Julia is another unrelated Gavin (or Gavan) woman, Johanna Gavin. Years of research have established no genetic relationship between the women so it must be assumed that there was a link of friendship as they had lived in the same area for many years. Perhaps sharing a surname was a further link. Johanna Gavin nee Mackin or Macken was the estranged wife of Stephen Gavin, son of Mark Gavan, a convict from Galway. Johanna Mackin sailed on the Southesk which departed London on 17 March 1877 and arrived at Moreton Bay on 4 June 1877. She was a single woman of 22, who had paid her own fare and so was classified as “free” not “assisted”. It is unlikely Stephen had paid her fare as Johanna came from Tipperary while Stephen was from Galway. Stephen and Johanna’s marriage does not appear in the indexes but as their children’s births record both parents’ names it is assumed they were married. Their children were Peter Michael Gavin (b 1880), Johanna Gavin (b 1881), Bridget Gavin (b 1884 d 1885) and John Gavin (b 1890). The family were living at Fairy Land, Maida Hill in 1890 but by 1895 when Stephen applied to be admitted to Dunwich Benevolent Asylum, the couple were living apart. Johanna Gavin worked as a cook at the Commercial Hotel in Allora and later in Ruthven Street, Toowoomba, possibly at the Shamrock Hotel. Johanna Gavin died on 17 May 1913, aged 54 years. Her husband Stephen was still alive at the time. Perhaps it was an act of charity that Denis Gavin permitted her to be buried with his wife, Ellen Gavin and daughter Julia Kunkel.

OBITUARY: Darling Downs Gazette 21 November 1901

We sincerely regret to have to record the death of Mrs George Kunkel, wife of the respected railway ganger of Geham, and daughter of Mr Denis Gavan (sic), of this town. The deceased was born in Dalby and was 42 years of age, and leaves a husband and 10 children to mourn the loss of a good wife and mother. Deceased, who had been ailing for some time, came in about a week ago to consult Dr McDonnell, who found her to be suffering from a serious internal disorder and at once pronounced the case to be hopeless. On account of the weak state of her heart, the doctors could not administer chloroform and had to perform an operation without its aid. Although the operation was a success, the patient’s constitution was too weak to make the recovery and she gradually sank and expired at 3.45 on Wednesday morning. The husband is at present also in a poor state of health.  Deceased throughout her life has been a particularly devout adherent of the Roman Catholic Church.  The deepest sympathy is felt for the bereaved husband and children in their terrible loss. The funeral leaves Mr D Gavin’s residence off Seaton St at 2 o’clock this afternoon.


[1] Roman Catholic section 1, block 16, allotments 18 and 19.

[2] The Chronicle, Death notices, 4 April 1896.

[3] Queensland Government Railways: index to staff employed in various departments and stations 1889-1912, Caloundra Family History Research Inc., Caloundra, 2007.

[4] Darling Downs Gazette, 21 November 1901.

[5] Cass, P. Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel family, Darwin, 2003.

Wordless Wednesday (not quite) -Brickwall photo

This photo definitely includes my grandfather, Denis Kunkel (second left, second back row) and was found as a backing board behind another picture. I have a theory it is be an extended family photo because of some of the poses and family resemblances-some look very like my father. Or it could be some local society -but less likely as it includes women. It was probably taken in the Toowoomba area circa 1917. If anyone thinks they recognise someone in this picture I would LOVE to hear from you. The most likely family names are Kunkel and Gavin (from Pechey). (Click on the photo to enlarge it).

Mystery photo includes Denis Kunkel: are the other people Gavin family members?

Ancestor Approved Award

Ancestor Approved Award

I am delighted and honoured to receive the Ancestor Approved Award from Kim at Footsteps of the Past at http://footstepspast.blogspot.com/. It was a real treat to receive this in an emotional week as I watched from afar as my home town, and others with links to my family’s heritage, were flooded, lives lost, homes demolished and heritage destroyed.

The Award was created by Leslie Ann Ballou At Ancestors Live Here and asks two things of those who receive it:

  1. They should write 10 surprising, humbling, or enlightening aspects of their research
  2. Pass the Award on to 10 other researchers whose family history blogs are doing their ancestors proud.

So here are my 10 surprising, humbling or enlightening findings, in no particular order or indeed order of importance:

  1. Enlightened, surprised and humbled that I was able to find the birthplace of Mary O’Brien from County Clare through meeting up with an elderly lady from Toowoomba who gave me one contact name. This distant relative provided clues and links that let me build a history of this whole clan of the O’Briens from Ballykelly, in Ireland, Australia and the United States.
  2. Surprised to find my great-grandfather Melvin was saved from drowning by Thomas Livermore, a blacksmith’s labourer during the Ipswich floods of January 1887. Humbled because if he hadn’t been saved, my line of the family would not exist.
  3.  Enlightened by finding the church marriage register for my Kunkel-O’Brien gt-gt-grandparents (this will be a blog for Australia Day –a topic suggested by Shelley at Twigs of Yore http://twigsofyore.blogspot.com/-so I won’t elaborate further here).
  4. Humbled by the day-to-day courage and commitment of my many Queensland pioneer families as well as “my” Dorfprozelten pioneers.
  5. Humbled by the many young men of my families who went to fight for the Empire in France and the Middle East during World War I, World War II, and Korea especially those who lie in foreign graves or whose bodies were never found. Also humbled by the determination with which the families left behind pursued every option to find out more about the men who were killed and sought to get keepsakes for their father-less children. Enlightened to read War Diaries which explained the circumstances surrounding their deaths.
  6. Surprised to discover that my great-grandfather married a woman who was a bigamist twice over (at least that’s what the evidence to date indicates and certainly once).
  7. Humbled and surprised, but not in a good way, to learn that my great-grandmother Julia Kunkel was operated on without anaesthetic in 1901 because her heart was too weak! Unsurprisingly she died of the childbirth-related illness, and the shock of the surgery. Six weeks later my great-grandfather also died. All their 11 children, aged 21 down to 2, were left orphans (the recently-delivered child appears to have died although not shown in indexes). Enlightened to read a novel which dealt with the horror of puerperal fever.
  8. Surprised to discover that the woman who is buried in the Toowoomba cemetery with my great-great grandmother, Ellen Gavin, and her daughter, Julia Kunkel (see above), is not a relation despite sharing the same surname. Why it was so, remains a mystery, except that she had also lived in Dalby in the early days and was estranged from her husband.
  9. Enlightened, humbled and delighted to stand on the lands where my ancestors walked in Ireland, Scotland, England and Germany so that I could “feel” their lives and connect to them. Humbled by internet “strangers” going out of their way to show me over their land where my ancestors lived in Argyll in the early 19th century and explain the remains of the small buildings where they had lived.
  10. Surprised (more like astonished) to connect with the inheritor of my O’Brien family’s land in Ballykelly and to be shown over the land by Paddy. Enlightened to know oral history meant he knew that they had Mass said in their homes in Australia’s pioneer days. Enlightened to be able to track the transfers of the land through the Griffith Valuation revision books. Humbled to be welcomed by distant family in Ireland.

Now for my honour list of 10 other bloggers doing family history proud. I’ve chosen to focus on Australian blogs, some of whose authors have been contributing to family history for many years. I’ve also chosen to bend the rules somewhat and add two web-pages that I think deserve to be here for their extensive contribution to family history research for all researchers…a research Honour Badge.

  1. Shelley, Twigs of Yore at  http://twigsofyore.blogspot.com/
  2. Geniaus http://geniaus.blogspot.com/
  3. Judy Webster, Queensland Genealogy at http://qld-genealogy.blogspot.com/
  4. My Family History Research at http://baker1865.wordpress.com/
  5. Carole’s Canvas: http://caroleriley.id.au/
  6. The Family Curator at http://www.thefamilycurator.com/about/
  7. Irish Family History at http://irishfamilyhistory.ie/blog/
  8. Family History Research at http://famresearch.wordpress.com/

The next two are my “Honour Board” –they aren’t blogs specific to families but they are websites which provide a truly invaluable resource to family historians:

  1. South east Queensland cemeteries headstone photos: http://www.chapelhill.homeip.net/FamilyHistory/Photos/
  2. Clare County Library at http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/genealogy/genealog.htm

Book reading: Jondaryan Station: the relationship between pastoral capital and pastoral labour 1840-1890

During the holidays I was reading this book by Jan Walker, published by UQ Press back in 1988. It’s been on my “to do” list for some time & I finally got down to reading it. The book was easy to read but also very informative and insightful, adding new information to previous readings I’d done. There were two levels of relevance: one in terms of the historical context generally and secondly, the specifics applicable to the families I research. Some of the key elements for me were:

1. the ways the squatters used to ensure dependency on the workers on their stations -high prices for stores being one example

2. the co-dependency between workers and employers with the latter providing many of the services required for day-to-day living

3. the authority of the squatters in relation to the Masters and Servants Act due to their role, or that of their peers, as magistrates. I wondered about this one because I have definitely seen newspaper articles where the employer was the “loser” in the exchange though perhaps it’s the relative infrequency of this that is the main issue.

4. the difference in power, and approach, between the Darling Downs squatters/land owners compared to those holding land in other parts of the colony of Moreton Bay/Queensland

5. the “rigging”/manipulation of land sales and selections available to the workers/selectors leaving the latter with poor land, poor access to transport and worst of all in our climate, poor access to water.

Why were these issues relevant to me?

1. my great-great grandfather George Kunkel very nearly lost the selection he had selected because a local VIP had also selected it, but in a different registry some days later. My ancestor’s success was even more significant when seen in the context of the historical trend. Why was this land so important -it lay along a creek which provided fresh water to sustain crops and livelihood. George went on to grow excellent citrus fruit, and his oranges were among a trial shipment sent udner refrigeration to the “home market” in 1904. (The Queenslander 16 July 1904)

Newspaper Article.

2. George’s son, and his wife-to-be, both worked on Jondaryan station for a brief period during the late 1870s as did members of another branch of “my” research family, the Gavins. Jondaryan’s excellent station records document their employment and period of employment. They were not resident employees and so had rather more independence from the station and would have been working to bring in cash for their families.

3. Another unrelated Gavin family which I’ve also researched worked for nearby Jimbour station so this book provides direct and indirect insights into their lives as shepherds and washers on that property.

4. Some of the Dorfprozelten immigrants also worked on Downs properties so this provides further information to flesh out their story, especially those who were working in horribly isolated conditions as shepherds or hutkeepers.

5. a reference to the kin-relationship between William Kent from Jondaryan and the Kents in Maryborough -this requires further research as I have Kents in my family and don’t know as yet if this Maryborough Kent is the one the family thought belongs to our branch.

An interesting and thought-provoking book which will merit another reading in the near future with references (fully cited) included in my family stories.

Comments on Shauna Hicks’s talk on Asylum Records

On Saturday Shauna Hicks gave two very informative and enjoyable family history presentations in Darwin. Shauna apologised for her laryngitis and croaky voice but it didn’t affect the pleasure of listening to someone with such wide experience.

Shauna’s talk on asylum records highlighted how these records could help people to find missing ancestors and the diverse information one could gain from the records. She also rightly warned people that it can be distressing reading these records even if they are not for members of your own family, and more so when they are your ancestors. In the past many (if not most) people were placed in asylums for illnesses (eg post natal depression, post traumatic stress) which are much better understood today. Another reason was that there was no alternative institution in which to place them eg orphanages, old age homes. These records can be found through the online catalogue of most Australian state archives.

Shauna’s talks can be found on her web site at http://www.shaunahicks.com.au/resources/

In the past I’ve used the array of  Dunwich Benevolent Asylum records to learn more about family members or others I’m researching and they have been helpful in rounding out what I know about the person, confirming hunches, and  revealing marital and family separations. BTW Dunwich Benevolent Asylum was on Stradbroke Island off Brisbane.

I’ll give you some examples of what I’ve learned from the records.

  1. Stephen Gavin #1, with his wife Honora, applied to be admitted to Dunwich Benevolent Asylum on 2 February 1889 when he became too frail to work and Honora was suffering from blindness. They had been living in western Queensland with a daughter and son-in-law who were no longer able to look after them. The couple died on Dunwich and were buried in an unmarked grave. Some 100 years laters a descendant and friend of mine, Carmel, erected gravestones in their memory. Stephen and Honora had survived the Great Potato Famine in Ireland and the drowning of their son early in their Queensland life.
  2. The Dunwich records helped me to confirm that an illegitimate child, registered as Stephen Telford, was indeed the son of Stephen Gavin junior (#2 and son of Mark Gavin) . The admission record also confirmed the children of Stephen Gavin and his wife/de facto Johanna even though their marriage is not registered in the civil indexes and provided information on their residences.
  3. It helped to confirm that Stephen’s (#2) father, Mark, was known as both Mark and Matthew -presumably to disguise Mark’s convict past.

Early hospital records in Queensland can also provide biographical data as well as providing clues to the early lives of pioneers in the colony eg I found a record for Carl Diflo, an immigrant from Bavaria during the time of his tenured service in Moreton Bay. Other records can be more frank than the death notice eg alcoholism may be more truthfully documented in the hospital records. All of these sources are worth a try if you can find a family name among them.

Judy Webster’s site on Queensland genealogical records can be a fantastic tool to locating people in these records as she has indexed a diverse array of sources. http://www.judywebster.gil.com.au/index.html

Judy’s publication: Tips for Queensland Research (2008 edition) is also a fabulous resource for family historians with Queensland heritage. She is also available to undertake paid research for people who are unable to get to the archives themselves. (No this is not a sponsored advertisement -just a genuine recommendation).

So if you get the chance take Shauna’s advice and follow up asylum records in your state of origin.

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