Today’s family anniversaries

This afternoon I opened up my Relatively Yours program to look at details for the Congress 2015 Research Interests. I was somewhat surprised to discover what an important date today is in the lives of my families. Perhaps it’s something we should do daily to pick up these coinciding anniversaries.

On 25th January my family honours these family anniversaries:

Hannah Partridge nee Kent is my 2 x great grandmother.

Hannah Partridge nee Kent is my 2 x great grandmother.

The birth of Richard Kent at Red Hill near Sandon, Hertfordshire, England in 1805. Today would be his 210th birthday! Richard is my 3 x great grandfather. He, his wife and family emigrated from Sandon on the General Hewitt arriving in Moreton Bay on 16 December 1854. This Richard Kent followed a long line of descendants with the same name, but it is through his daughter’s female lines that I am descended. My mtDNA comes from Richard Kent’s wife, Mary Camp later Shepherd.

The arrival of the Woodlark in 1877 with my ancestor Stephen Gillespie Melvin, and family, on board. Accompanying him were his first wife Janet Melvin nee Peterkin, and his young son, Laurence, named for Stephen’s father. Janet Melvin died at Peel Island on 2 March 1877. Stephen remarried on 21 August 1878, quite a long bereavement given he had a young son to care for. His second wife, and my ancestor, was Richard Kent’s granddaughter Emily PartridgeToday is the 138th anniversary of the arrival of one of my ancestral lines.Emily Melvin (nee Partridge) with her husband Stephen Gillespie Melvin, probably c1906-1910.

The death of Margaret Gillespie (born Tyneside) in 1906. Today is the 109th anniversary of her death. Margaret Gillespie had married Stephen Gillespie Melvin’s father, Laurence Melvin, in Leith in 1850 but was widowed as a young woman in 1858. She remarried in 1868 (again in Leith) to John Simpson Ward, a master mariner. She had worked as a stewardess at sea so perhaps emigrating when she was no longer young was not such a challenge for her as for some. After John’s death, she married Arthur Wheaton in Sydney and after his death, she moved to Charters Towers to join her son Stephen and family. Margaret was buried in the Charters Towers cemetery on Australia Day 1906.

The Melvin grave (2008) makes its own social statement in the Charters Towers cemetery. Easily the largest and most ostentatious of my family history gravestones.

The Melvin grave (2008) makes its own social statement in the Charters Towers cemetery. Easily the largest and most ostentatious of my family history gravestones.

I found it quite interesting that today’s anniversaries affected interweaving family branches on my tree.  Do you have similar anniversaries which link your families?

Fearless Females: The tragic stories of Julia Kunkel and Janet Melvin

Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist blog presents Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month. March 11 — Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how this affected the family?

There are two tragic deaths of young women in my family tree. One was my maternal great-grandfather’s first wife, Janet Melvin nee Peterkin and the other my paternal great-grandmother, Julia Celia Kunkel nee Gavin.

Janet Melvin nee Peterkin

Janet Melvin’s story is a truly tragic one. Last Friday, 2nd March 2012, was the 135th anniversary of her death. Janet set sail for Australia from London on the Woodlark in October 1876. With her were her husband Stephen and infant son Lawrence, aged 4 months.

The family were all when the ship arrived in Moreton Bay in January 1877, but not long after Janet fell ill. She died on 2 March 1877 at Peel Island, in quarantine. I feel so sad when I think of her courage in making this voyage then knowing she would leave her infant son motherless. I was consoled that her husband and son were still with her on Peel Island when she died, and she wasn’t entirely alone. Janet had just turned 22.

Janet’s son Lawrence survived this early tragedy but I’m told his father tended to favour him above his other children – hardly surprising under the circumstances. My family descends from Stephen’s second wife Emily nee Partridge.

Julia Kunkel nee Gavin

Julia Kunkel saw more of life perhaps than young Janet but she also died young, at only 42, in what I feel was a particularly gruesome way. This was her obituary:

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.

Each time I read this I am horrified anew at the prospect of her being operated on without anaesthetic because she had a weak heart. Her husband died only five weeks later on Christmas Day 1901 leaving their children orphaned.

The impact on the family was significant because while some were old enough to be self-sufficient, they took on some responsibility for the younger ones. Over the years the siblings became alienated for different reasons and the younger ones in particular seemed to suffer the loss of their parents the most. I often wonder if my grandfather’s marriage at a rather late age wasn’t influenced by seeing what happened to his mother.

Julia Kunkel was 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.

Tomorrow I’ll be visiting her grave site, so the timing of this post is particularly apt. One of my family history “bucket list” items is to put a grave stone on her grave which she shares with her mother and a friend.