Australia Day 2011 meme: the importance of church records and archives to my early documents.

Shelley from has invited us to submit an Australia Day post on our blogs. She suggests that we “Find the earliest piece of documentation you have about an ancestor in Australia. If you don’t have an Australian ancestor, then choose the earliest piece of documentation you have for a relative in Australia”

On Wednesday 26 January 2011 post your answers to these questions:

  1. What is the document?
  2. Do you remember the research process that lead you to it? How and where did you find it?
  3. Tell us the story(ies) of the document. You may like to consider the nature of the document, the people mentioned, the place and the time. Be as long or short, broad or narrow in your story telling as you like!

The earliest Australian documents I have for many of my ancestors is their shipping documents: the extended Kent family on the General Hewitt into Moreton Bay in 1854 or two lines of my families arriving on the Fortune into Moreton Bay in 1855: the Gavin family along with another ancestor, William Partridge on the same ship, even though they had differing views of the success of the voyage.

But these documents posed no real challenge so I opted for ones that were a little later but were absolutely pivotal to my family history research. [It didn’t help that these ancestors don’t appear anywhere in the shipping records and have defied all my attempts over 20+ years.]

Like pretty much everyone else I started out buying the marriage certificates of my first Australian couples. In particular the one I was most curious about was George Kunkel’s marriage to Mary O’Brien. The certificate duly arrived, probably helpfully collected from the Registry by my daughters on their way home from school. You might well imagine I had visions of every section of our wonderful certificates comprehensively completed and sending me back to my ancestors’  “Old Country” to locate further branches of their families.

My early-research illusions were quickly shattered when the certificate revealed the following:


When & where married: 26 September 1857 at Ipswich
Name & Surname: George Hatheas Kunkel Mary O’Brien
Condition: Bachelor Spinster
Profession: Servant Housemaid
Usual place of residence Ipswich Ipswich
Parents-Father’s name and surname, mother’s name and maiden surname
Father’s rank or profession

George had signed and Mary made her mark. The witnesses were stated to be Carl Blomai and Sarah O’Brien. Officiating Minister was Wm McGinly. (Qld Birth certificate 140/81 of 1857 registered in the Colony of NSW)

I could have wept….so many blanks just where I needed them and an additional puzzle because I knew nothing about Sarah O’Brien. Somehow I concluded George & Mary were married in the Catholic Church Ipswich (because I knew they were Catholic, and I suppose I’d read that Wm McGinly was actually Father William McGinty, parish priest of Ipswich. In those days in the late 1980s I was allowed to look at the parish registers (no longer possible) but still there were blanks.

Sometime later I was talking to an experienced researcher at the Genealogical Society of Queensland who told me there were actually two registers at St Mary’s Ipswich, as they’d discovered when GSQ was indexing the records. I needed to go back there and ask for the second one. This wasn’t quite as straight-forward as it sounds, because I needed to get time off work, drive to Ipswich, and then get the staff to find the correct book.

However, when the register was finally delivered to my table, all the trouble was worth it. There, in faded writing, was so much I hadn’t known and which had been omitted from the certificate!

THE PARISH REGISTER from St Mary’s Catholic Church, Ipswich (not quite in this format but easier to see how the gaps are filled)

When & where married: 26 September 1857 at the Catholic Church Ipswich
Name & Surname: George Mathias (not Hatheas) Kunkel Mary O’Brien
Condition: Bachelor Spinster
Birthplace: Dorfprozelten, Germany
Profession: Servant Housemaid
Age: 23
Usual place of residence Ipswich Ipswich
Parents-Father’s name and surname, mother’s name and maiden surname Adam KunkelCatherine Happ
Father’s rank or profession Innkeeper

You can imagine my excitement! I figured that if an Irish priest had bothered to write down a difficult name like Dorfprozelten it had to be correct. I’d earlier tried buying almost every one of George & Mary’s children’s birth certificates and he’d persistently said he came from “Bavaria” and nothing else, except for one time when he put Aschaffenburg, again, who knows why. Research into that had turned up blank prior to finding this marriage register.

Armed with the correct information I was eventually able to confirm (after multiple visits and letters) that George had been baptised Georg Mathias Kunkel in Dorfprozelten Bavaria, to parents Adam Kunkel and Catherine Happ. Technically it was Catherine who was the innkeeper as the inn had been in her family for generations. Adam came from another part of Bavaria, but that’s a story for another day.

There’s another interesting fact about this marriage: that of a German immigrant to an Irish woman. I’d been confidently told by the German expert at GSQ that there were no Bavarians and no German Catholics in Queensland. Wrong on both counts as my research, and other’s, has clearly demonstrated. So a tip for those with German ancestry: if you find a marriage in the Catholic church, there’s a good (but not inevitable) chance that they were actually Catholic, not Lutheran, which is why they sometimes married Irish men or women who shared their faith.

Still there were all those blank spaces against poor Mary’s name: did George not know this detail? was the register filled out when she wasn’t there? Actually to give him credit George did well, my best estimate is that he’d arrived in Australia c1855 and could plainly speak enough English to get by. Mary’s death certificate gave me the name of her parents but not her birth place, other than County Clare. Mary O’Brien from County Clare is like finding a needle in the proverbial haystack.

It was oral history that solved the final puzzle of this couple’s ancestry. One of their youngest surviving grandchildren, Anne Kunkel, told me in the late 1980s that Mary had arrived with her sisters Bridget & Kate (actually Kate came later). She knew that Bridget had married a man named Widdup and lived in NSW. Luckily it was such an unusual name as I was also able to get her death certificate. This confirmed that her place of birth was Broadford, Co Clare, although that document had mistakenly put down her parents as Michael & Bridget not Michael & Catherine. Although the parish registers for Kilseily (Broadford) post-date the birth of Mary and Bridget, the fantastic oral history known by Anne Kunkel and other O’Brien descendants in Sydney gave such a good triangulation of data that Mary’s background could be confirmed.

But wait, we still have the mystery of the witnesses for whom I searched for many years. Carl Blomai looked more like Carl Mosrins per his signature on the church document but eventually turned out to be Carl Wörner as deciphered by the Dorprozelten local historian (thanks Georg!). Sarah O’Brien was the daughter of Daniel and Winifred O’Brien who came from Tipperary to Ipswich, Queensland. I still can’t find any family connection between these O’Briens and mine but as Broadford is in East Clare it’s quite possible, and the families do continue to witness each other’s church events for a long time.  I still haven’t managed to get to the bottom of the puzzle of these inter-connecting families.

Which just goes to show, quite often one document is just not enough to tie up the ends, but persistence, oral history, and multiple records can solve the problem if you’re lucky.

52 Weeks of Personal History & Genealogy: Week 4 Home

The house where I lived, until I left home as an adult, is a typical Queensland house of its era, in a near-city working class suburb. It is on stilts to gain the benefit of cooling breeze, but also to open up underneath for the typical working tasks, sort of like a combined men’s and women’s shed. This under-the-house area was used for carpentering, repairing shoes, tinkering with the pushbike (Dad) or boiling the copper and all the associated laundry tasks, a dry area for the clothes when it rained (Mum); house paint (Dad & Mum); as well as a play area (me).

Catfish catch!

But back to the house: it was built on a plot of land carved off from my grandparents’ large block in the year I was born. It was well constructed in the tradition of the time, with polished timber floorboards, timber cladding and a corrugated iron roof. It wasn’t large and had no verandahs when I was young, though they were added over the years. The underneath of the house was enclosed with timber palings which were painted with tar, a deterrent to weather and termites.

My mother was proud of her housekeeping and the house was always well maintained throughout with the tasks being done on different days as was traditional, for example, washing was always Monday and baking was always done on Saturday, while Sunday was a church day and day of rest. Over the years improvements were made to the house, new furniture and decorations bought, wallpaper hung and my mother became particularly adept at, and enjoyed, these various home improvements. We had no TV when I was a child (dating myself now!) only a large radio in the lounge room. In the garden Dad grew beautiful roses and large double gerberas but the landscaping was straightforward and unpretentious with a huge Queensland nut tree (known universally then by this name but now called a Macadamia) at the bottom of the garden.  We lived quite close to a creek which flowed slowly most of the time until there were occasional flash-floods. Even though we lived close (horizontally), we were unthreatened by rising water as our street was much higher and at no risk. Sometimes Dad & I would go fishing in the creek but by then it had been polluted by the nearby tannery and the best we’d usually manage would be a catfish –luckily it was the adventure that mattered, not the catch! The bush along the creek was a double-edged blessing as it routinely brought snakes to the yard and even as a child I was taught how to respond: stand still for a while, back away slowly, then when far enough away, run like hell…but never panic! The bush also attracted many birds and kookaburras which would come to our landing or a window-sill to be given snippets of meat.

Kookaburra snack

In those days before many people in the suburb had cars I have memories of various suppliers coming around in their trucks and vans, dinging a bell to let us know they were there. Otherwise you walked to the neighbourhood store and bought the essentials just as you walked to the neighbourhood public phone to make a phone call. Urgent messages would be passed through those who did have a phone and significant events communicated through telegrams. We’d often walk to the bakery about a mile away to get fresh bread straight from the oven, and you’d pick out soft bits on the way home –but not too much or you’d be in trouble! I also remember my grandfather’s youngest brother coming with his van, painted with slogans and advertising for health products –definitely not the norm in those days.

Grandma's house

My “home” loyalties were split as I also had a second home next door in my grandparents’ house. It had been built around 1920 soon after my grandfather returned from World War I. It was a bigger house with an L-shaped verandah around two sides of the house and it stood on hardwood stilts, capped by metal to protect the house from termites: a typical “Queenslander”. Their washing was hung on a long line with clothes’ props to raise it up while ours was pegged on that Aussie icon, the Hills Hoist. Clothes pegs were of the sort called, I think, clothes dollies. Underneath the house served the same purpose as my own home but included a workbench which had a vice attached so that I could crack the Queensland nuts which fell off our tree.  My grandparents’ house also had a large tank standing on hardwood poles level with the house: rain-water was regarded as very good for the hair and was routinely used for hair-washing.

Grandma and me

Upstairs, my grandparents’ house was my domain: they were elderly and indulged me.  I was allowed to spin the brass knobs on the iron-bedstead; sticky-beak in the little drawers in Grandma’s dressing table, and help her when she got down my grandfather’s railway cap from the recess in the top of the wardrobe which was her personal “bank” for money or jewellery. We listened to Scottish music on the gramophone and I was always intrigued by the kitchen drawer full of newspaper clippings for family events….how often have I wished for those since starting family history…

The kitchen had a stove in the recess but I think it was gas not wood-fired by the time I knew of it (ours was always gas). I remember clearly that there was still an ice-chest in the kitchen to keep things cold and the ice-man had one of the vans which came down the street.  There was also a meat safe with its metal screening which kept things fresh due to the breeze blowing through it, and protected from insects. The kitchen sideboard was large and essentially country-kitchen style with plates displayed on narrow shelves. My grandmother had a large dining service and I would not be surprised if that had come from Scotland with her when she and her family emigrated. Most of the furniture in the house was made of Queensland silky oak with its distinctive grain. The furniture was probably modern when it was bought, but by the time I was young, it was quite different from my own home’s modern furniture which is probably why it intrigued me. The windows were sash-windows so I really enjoyed ducking in and out of them –a simple pleasure. On the verandahs were timber squatters chairs, yet I don’t remember seeing anyone sitting in them….my grandfather would usually sit on the back steps smoking his pipe. The verandahs were screened partially by lattice and timber slat blinds. Under the verandahs my grandparents grew a massive tub of maidenhair fern and along the side there were hydrangea bushes. Their garden was dominated by a huge mango tree which had been planted when my father was born which I’d climb as high as I dared.

Both these homes are still standing but as this near-city suburb has been gentrified, many houses have been modernised or adapted including my grandparents’ house. Not surprisingly I still prefer the original version as it lives on in my head and heart!

52 weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Week 3 Cars


Family outing at Kelvin Grove c1950

As hard as it is to believe these days, when (and where) I was growing up, very few people actually owned cars and those who did were generous with their availability. Dad’s family had owned a car for quite a while when he was young but I don’t know why they sold it. My own family didn’t own a car until I was 20 and throughout the years my father rode his old un-geared pushbike to work in rain, hail or shine. Our family excursions were either bike rides or bus or train trips around the area. Dad worked for the railway so our family holidays didn’t really require a car as we got an annual train pass. On a day-to-day basis, we got around on “shank’s pony” ie we walked and as we lived in a hilly part of Brisbane, that was very good exercise!

Me and the neighbour's car at Kelvin Grove

Throughout my childhood, my experience with cars was through two sets of neighbours. One family, across the road, got one I think when I was about 10 and they used to regularly drive their daughters and I to Girl Guides, tennis or the library. This is a picture of me standing in front of it…talk about “legs eleven” as in the Bingo call. I’m guessing this must have been about the time that they got the car though I don’t honestly know.

The neighbours down the back used to take us occasionally on longer drives in the countryside. We would have singalongs in the car as we went. One thing that always mystified me (and still does!) is something they’d say every time we crossed a railway line: “rip up the railway line & sack all the men!” Now, why, when they were all railway workers would they sing something like that –sarcasm or wishful thinking, a bit like “when I win the Lotto.” I don’t know why I never asked Dad but it has certainly stuck in my mind across the years.

When we’d go on Guide camps we’d travel in the tray back of a large truck with all the gear, tents etc and again have a sing-along. In retrospect it’s astonishing to think we were allowed to travel like that but I suppose there were a lot fewer cars on the roads.

Our first car, Goroka, PNG -typical car-sales strategy!

We got our own first car after we’d been married a year. It was a little Datsun 1200 station wagon which enabled us to take day-trips in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea –not that there were many roads. On one drive up to Daulo Pass we encountered a group of warriors with spears and arrows off for a payback encounter (ie fight with another clan over some real or perceived injury). You might imagine we did not look right or left as we drove past, but were very delighted and relieved when they jogged past us chanting and didn’t look at us!

Inishail Kirk Session -Poor’s Funds

As mentioned in my previous post, I’ve recently been transcribing the copies of some pages I got on the Inishail Kirk Session records when I was in Scotland late last year.

In this post I’ll focus on what I found while trying to learn more about my 3xgreatgrandfather’s pauper status in 1851. The Kirk Session Records which focused on the Poor’s Funds are enlightening. It appears that mostly the meetings which dealt with the payments to the poor were held twice yearly at a time announced from the pulpit. Funds were collected throughout the intervening period and were supplemented by payment of banns for weddings and use of the mort cloth at funerals.

What is interesting is to see how long some people needed to claim poor relief. It was also enlightening to see just how tough things were for them. In May 1840 there is a record of the interviews in which people applied for support. For me the saddest one was probably the 34 year-old man who had seven children in his family, all under 11 years of age. He had been in “deplorable health” for more than two years as testified by a medical certificate: not long afterwards he applied for a Certificate of Poverty. The tragedy behind that story and the impact on his family is heart-breaking.

Just as tragic were the elderly whose family could not support them because of commitments to their own families: the 85 year-old man who was so severely handicapped by asthma that he “had been unable to earn a peck of meal” for three years and been confined to bed throughout the winter & spring;  a 67 year-old woman who the records state “appears very helpless” or the man who had supported a brother and sister after his father’s death: both of his siblings had been “of infirm mind” since birth. Truly tragic stories!

While it is clear some of them had been allowed to live in their cottages rent-free, sometimes for many years, there are others which refer to the increased rentals as “so exhorbitant” suggesting a move by the landlords to increase rents – a social change of the time. It is apparent from the context of the reports that it was expected there would be a quid pro quo for this parish support: many mention leaving any “subject” (belongings) they owned to the poor on their death.

There were two levels of support for the poor: one by cash and one by donation, which I assume was a payment in kind. I need to do more reading around this topic to understand it better.

Among those who received payment in kind for some years, were my 3xgreat grandfather and his wife, Duncan & Ann McCorquodale. He first appears in the records in 1841 under his name only, then in 1844 both names are mentioned in receipt of donations. This continues until March 1847. The next time Duncan appears is in December 1848, and it is his name listed. I knew his wife was not there in the 1851 census but this lets me narrow down the time of her death to an 18 month period: 1847-48. I can find no reference to him beyond 1850 though the census is clear he was still alive in 1851 and in receipt of an allowance. By 1861 a Donald McCorquodale is living in the same small place, but there is no evidence to suggest they’re directly related. As each six-monthly Poor’s Fund report is tabled by the Kirk Session it becomes evident when people die, or move to a different part of the parish –all excellent information for family history.

Another interesting report occurs in December 1844 when the Kirk Session appeals to the Heritors (broadly speaking the local landowners) for additional funds as the “state of the Poor is so urgent & distressing”. It seems logical to assume that this was because of the failure of the potato crop –the same Potato Famine which played havoc in Ireland also had an impact in the Highlands.

These documents are only available at The National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh and are reference CH2/968/1.

Inishail Kirk Sessions -Scandal & Delinquency

I’ve recently been transcribing the copies of some pages I got on the Inishail Kirk Session records when I was in Scotland late last year. My focus was on trying to dig out a little more on my earliest ancestor in that area, Duncan McCorquodale. I had searched the fencible lists in the Argyll Archives at Lochgilphead without success so decided to switch my focus on whether there was anything in the records regarding his status as a pauper at the time of the 1851 census.

The Kirk Session Records include, inter alia, reports on Delinquency -all the ones I saw were illegitimacies; and Scandal -where there might have been an actual or perceived misbehaviour/breach of church rulings and the Poor’s Funds, which I’ll post on separately.

I was lucky in all these areas. I knew one of his daughters had had two illegitimate children & I found the brief report on one of these pregnancies: all dealt with fairly quickly and without a great deal of fuss, except for the £2 fine payable by the acknowledged father. On the down side it didn’t add much to what I’d already found out in the parish baptismal records.

A Delinquency report on the illegitimate birth of another McCorquodale girl from the northern side of Loch Awe involved various members of my own McCorquodale branch and their families. In the course of this very extensive Kirk Session Report various family connections were mentioned but so were many other residents from both sides of Loch Awe. So even though any given report on illegitimacy might not involve one’s own ancestry, the reports can be a gold-mine of information about other people from the area including their occupations, residences, places of employment. Sometimes people placed the timing of an event in terms of another event eg Mrs Walker late of Annat’s Roup (auction of belongings) or Angus Sinclair’s late at Barcheanvoir’s death, pinpointing years of death for people completely unrelated to the case in point.

The issue of Scandal was also something of a gold mine: the Session focused on a report of inappropriate behaviour by Sarah McCorquodale and a man from across Loch Awe who was visiting at Cladich.

Extract from the Inishail Kirk Session Records CH2/968/1 The National Archives of Scotland

What did I learn?

1. That my 3x great grandfather lived in a “small house” at Drimuirk near Cladich –I had known where he lived from the census but the repeated reference to his small house highlights that it must have been tiny even by the standards of the day.

2. That on the evening under discussion, the McCorquodale family had an Irish pedlar staying with them – having recently seen the surviving footprint of the house, it defies the imagination that three or more adults and one child could live there, let alone have a “visitor” staying there

3. There was a reference to my 3x great grandmother being present at the time, as well as Sarah’s small daughter

4. That my 2 great-grandfather was apparently also present at the Cladich Inn on the night in question

5. That people moved readily back & forward across the Loch for work or socialising, making me feel much more comfortable about the fact that Duncan & Ann’s first children were born on the north side & the last few on the southside. The Kirk Session ultimately exonerated Sarah McCorquodale and the man in question of wrong doing but advised them to be more circumspect in their behaviour in future.

About this point in my reading I thought of how my Scottish McCorkindale grandmother had a habit of watching the activities in the street from behind her curtains –shades of her family’s history in the Highlands perhaps?

These documents are only available at The National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh and are reference CH2/968/1.


Treasure Trove – McCorkindale pipers

Yesterday I spent hours trawling through Trove again as much has been updated since I last spent a lot of time there. I decided to hunt for my grandmother’s brother(s) who were excellent bagpipe players. I’d found a couple of articles the old-fashioned way by winding through hours of microfilm but Trove turned up much more.

Peter McCorkindale later Pipe-Major Brisbane Caledonian Society

Peter McCorkindale and his older brother Duncan emigrated from Glasgow, Scotland to Sydney in 1900 on board the Ormuz (first found on Findmypast). The family story goes that they were sent away to stop them from marrying cousins -something that didn’t work at all, because they married in Australia! Unbeknown to me, they already had relations in Australia -an uncle who had lived in England for some years before emigrating. I really only found this out by searching for more information on Duncan’s wife, Ida McCorquodale. (yes, different spellings, same family!)

But back to Trove. What I found was the diverse involvement of these brothers in bagpiping events in quite diverse places. In 1906 Duncan & Peter are found competing in the Goulburn Highland gathering in NSW where they took out the 1st (Duncan) and 2nd (Peter) prizes in pibrochs, Marches (1st -Duncan & 3rd -Peter); strathspeys and reels (1st-Duncan).

By the mid-1920s Duncan has moved to Canberra where he was Supervisor of the Joiner’s Section at the Kingston Power House during the construction and establishment of our national capital. Images of him are on the National Archives of Australia webpages ( A3560, 587). During his few years there he was obviously an early participant in the Canberra Burns Club when he judged the piping events at the first Highland Gathering there on 21 February 1925. (Found on Trove from Federal Capital Pioneer  February 1925 page 5). He was again judge of the piping events in 1927 (The Canberra Times 3 March 1927, page 3). A year later he was killed in a tragic car accident in Sydney (clipping from my grandmother’s files & also at Trove from The Advertiser 23 November 1928 page 15).

Meanwhile Peter had moved to Queensland on the arrival of his mother and other siblings as well as his wife-to-be. He once again was competing in various local events in Queensland. In 1914 and 1915 he competed in the Dalby Caledonian Society events with some success but many years ago I found a reference to a 1917 performance at Dalby when he won 6 firsts in piping and dance and 3 second places. He plainly was not as good a dancer as piper but his rivals must have resoundingly wished him back in Glasgow (available through Trove but the scan has given poor results due to the print -I need to go back in and correct them). Mr R Kennedy seems to have been his biggest rival throughout this time. (The Brisbane Courier 28 May 1914, 4 June 1915, 9 June 1917).

Peter was featured on the wireless (radio, to the youngsters among us) programme for 5 January 1927, playing a range of bagpipe melodies. (Cairns Post 5 January 1927, page 4).

McCorkindale pipers-I assume Peter is the one in the middle and the others are either brothers, or friends/colleagues. Jam Session in Brisbane.

By the 1930s Peter was heading towards his sixties, and was then Pipe Major for the Brisbane Caledonian Society and his name appears more regularly in the newspaper searches:

1. An Easter party for the children of the Engineers, Tunnelers, Signals & Railways Units Association of the AIF (The Courier Mail 6 April 1936)

2. A visit with the band to Rosemount Hospital to entertain the Digger (soldiers) patients with bagpipes, marching and national dancing  (The Courier-Mail 2 May 1939)

3. Led the Band at the Annual Ball for the Brisbane Caledonian Society and Burns Club (The Courier-Mail 26 August 1939)

4. A concert for the Manly-Lota sub-branch of the Returned Soldiers’ League (The Courier-Mail, 18 Sept 1939); a concert to aid the Queensland Bush Children’s Health Scheme (The Courier-Mail 17 Nov 1939); a Christmas concert for the Presbyterian Home for Aged Men (The Courier-Mail 12 Dec 1939); supporting the Wynnum ambulance centre (The Courier-Mail 10 Feb 1940 page 9)

5. Concerts to support the War effort at Wynnum and Bardon (The Courier-Mail 8 May 1940, page 14 and 9 Sept 1940, page 10)

In 1941 the Brisbane Caledonian Society Band received its third win at the 69th gathering of the Warwick Caledonian Society. Was Peter still Pipe Major? We don’t know but he did win “Best dressed bandsman” – a bit of a come-down perhaps from his glory days. (The Courier-Mail 27 Dec 1941 page 7)

No doubt there are other references in the papers to his piping expertise but the OCR isn’t always perfect and some of these may require more inventive searching. Strangely enough, despite Duncan & Peter’s piping successes, my father always said that their brother Malcolm was the better player but he was more nervous in performances.

When Peter died in 1945, the Brisbane Caledonian Society & Burns Club band members were invited to attend and wear full dress. It would have been quite spectacular I think, and very moving.

I hope I’ve given you some sense of how these Scottish immigrants contributed to their new communities and just how many family history “pearls” are contained within the Trove treasure box. The photos here came from my father’s cousin many years ago.

Lost in Trove -Qld pics in Australian Women’s Weekly

Some weeks ago I mentioned not being able to find my wedding photo in the AWWs which have been digitised under Trove despite using a range of relevant search terms.

Today I went searching under the publication date and learnt something new – the AWW obviously published different “Social Pages” for each State and of course when you’re searching you are really only getting the information from the copies held/obtained by the National Library.

I’m guessing many of those came from NSW or Victoria. Mystery explained but it does mean that family historians will say “oh well, they’re not in there” when they possibly were! It’s logical enough when you think about it, but it certainly hadn’t occurred to me previously that these would be state-specific.

It would be worthwhile exploring whether the local State library holds microfilm copies of the AWW which might be state-specific if you’re looking for one particular photo.

Please don’t think this is a criticism of Trove -I think it’s pure gold -but it’s not infallible, something that needs to be kept in mind.

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 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 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
  2. Geniaus
  3. Judy Webster, Queensland Genealogy at
  4. My Family History Research at
  5. Carole’s Canvas:
  6. The Family Curator at
  7. Irish Family History at
  8. Family History Research at

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:
  2. Clare County Library at

Storms lightning & thunder

Darwin is on easy street at present compared to much of the country’s weather but we did have a wild night last night. The sky flashed for over 8 hours with continuous sheet lightning -it was like being in a semaphore zone. The thunder rumbled and growled for hours and periodic bouts of torrential tropical rain crashed on the roof. Dramatic!

Murphy’s Creek sadness

Today the tiny village of Murphy’s Creek is cut off from the rest of the world having been hammered by a flash flood yesterday in which homes were swept away and people lost their lives and others are still missing. In such a small community these losses will be immense.  We’re hearing about the other towns large and small but less from Murphy’s Creek because of its isolation by the flood. Hopefully with time it will eventually regroup and recover from this enormous “hit”.

Most people would not even know Murphy’s Creek is tucked away at the foot of the range though it was pivotal in building the railway line west in the 1860s. It is also the home of my ancestors so I’ve done research on it and I feel so saddened by their losses even though I am not directly affected.  

All we can do is hold the battlers in our thoughts and prayers…and give money to the flood appeal. I don’t fly the patriotic banner much but the average Aussie’s willingness to contribute financial support to those worse off in a crisis is commendable to say the least. The courage shown by Emergency Services personnel both old and young (I’ve seen images of helpers aged from mid-teens to mid-70s) is inspirational.

Meanwhile the rest of the State and Brisbane is bracing for more flooding. It’s all very tragic.