Determination and DNA

D2020In this series I am thinking of the things that I value and I’m grateful for in my own life, then I’m trying to find examples within my family history. Are they direct inheritances, examples of ancestors or pure chance?


The difference between men is in energy, in the strong will, in the settled purpose and in the invincible determination. Vince Lombardi, American writer.

Determination or perseverance, part of our attitudes and behaviours, can be what helps us navigate our way through challenges that daily life presents…some small and some large.

When George Kunkel and his wife Mary O’Brien found that their land selection had been registered by another person, far more influential, in a different land registry they didn’t just roll over and forfeit all their hard work to date. They fought it through the system until they were granted the selection because their registration in Ipswich was timed earlier than the other person’s in Toowoomba. They must have been pretty scared thinking they’d lose their land, their home and their hard work. [This story was told in my published family history: Grassroots Queenslanders, the Kunkel family]. Determination.


m ck property in late 80s
The Kunkel’s Valley View farm in the late 1980s. Photo P Cass.

Duncan McCorkindale fought the rules that said he had to vaccinate my grandmother in 1888 because an earlier child of theirs had died soon after vaccination. Whether there was a correlation or not it’s easy to understand why he wasn’t willing to take that risk. The fine may not have been high for some but it was too much for a man with a large family so he went to jail for his principles. Determination.

As a young woman, Duncan’s wife, Annie Sim,  had defended her father and family when set upon by troublemakers in the middle of the night. She did not hide inside but pulled her father away from them and got him in the house. Determination.

Stephen Gillespie Melvin had a torrid time of it in the 1880swith bankruptcy, near drowning and a perjury conviction. While the community fought against the prison sentence, his wife Emily Partridge carried the familyand kept them going. After his sentence was overturned, the family moved to Charters Towers where they again set up a well recognised confectionery shop and tea rooms. After Emily’s death he moved to Sydney establishing a chocolate factory and confectionery importing business. Determination.

I’m grateful to all my ancestors for their perseverance and I only hope I’ve inherited a little of their determination.


Family is more than DNA, more than who we used to be, more than we can imagine we will become. Regina Brett, American journalist.

A strange thing to credit among one’s gratitudes? Well, not really because after all it’s what makes us the physical person who others see….tall, short, freckles or not, hair colour, skinny or plump, eye colour and so on. Maybe over time there’ll be proof as to whether our ancestors also passed down behaviour and attitude characteristics or if these are purely social conditioning.

Denis and Catherine Kunkel weddingI can thank my ancestors for my height as many were taller by far than was usual for the times. The first time I met a cluster of my Kunkel relations I sighed in recognition – I’d never been in a group of people who were all tall! My paternal grandmother, Catherine McCorkindale was taller than my grandfather and tall for her generation especially having been born and grown up in Glasgow. My maternal McSherry grandfather and his family were also tall. If photos of George Kunkel are indicative he was also tall. It’s surprising really since these ancestors were born between 1830-1890.

Can I also blame my weight gain on Stephen Melvin for bequeathing to me a love of all things sweet?

Definitely much to be grateful for each and every day.

What D words do you value from your ancestors’ lives?


Quotes are from


10 thoughts on “Determination and DNA

  1. Excellent post. Yes, determination — like that shown by us A-Z bloggers, keeping at it in a pandemic. I wonder if others will credit us decades in the future for the gumption it takes to sit down at the keyboard and carry on with our writing at such an insecure time.


  2. You sure had determined ancestors! I am usually shy and don’t like to upset the apple cart but when I or my family is wronged I am very determined… and loud!
    I seemed to have got the dna of everyone that had health issues. Dang it!


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