Yearning for “Home”

Y2020Over the years I’ve often thought of what constitutes “home” to me. You’d think I might have reached a conclusion after travel, living in two countries and two states, but I still waver. Without a doubt I’m an Aussie, I love the wide open skies and the vivid colours, the changing shades of the sea and the wildlife. Although I’ve spent many years of my life in Brisbane it just doesn’t speak to me as “home” though it feels familiar. Similarly, returning to Darwin seems “normal” yet also isn’t home even though I miss those wild Wet Season storms, the thunder and lightning and the flurry of dragonflies to herald the Dry Season.

When I first lived in Papua New Guinea I was homesick for Brisbane, yet within a year PNG had become home, and when we left over 8 years later, I was then homesick for the sights, sounds and smells of PNG. These days whenever I’m away I’m ready for home after a few weeks. So perhaps home geographically is simply Australia and more specifically wherever Mr Cassmob, the cat, and our collection of books and “stuff” reside. My vast gratitude is embedded in Australia and my family.

“LA’s fine but it ain’t home, New York’s home but it ain’t mine no more”. Neil Diamond, singer songwriter.

Home and Ancestors

All of which leads me to wonder did my ancestors yearn for the homes of their birth? Their birthplaces were so different from where they settled in Queensland. Did they miss the cooler weather, the soft rain of Ireland, the hedges and fields of England, the busy-ness of Scottish cities or the wildness of the countryside, the closeness of the Bavarian village or the communities they’d known all their lives?

Did they mourn the absence of family even towards the end of their own lives and as death neared did they think sadly of their homelands? This immigrant song by Queensland singer Graeme Connors evokes some of my thoughts: Sicilian Born.

And he never talked about going home
And he told me once the reason why.
He said, “Home’s not where you’re born,
Home is where a man’s prepared to die….

But ultimately:

….And to my surprise when I came home I found his place had sold
I called the other neighbours to find out where he’s gone
They say, “He packed up and just went back to wherever he came from”

Join my ancestors on the journey from their home places to their new homes in Queensland.

George Kunkel and Mary O’Brien emigrated in the 1850s and came to Ipswich, Queensland (you can see an image below of Ipswich 20 years later). George came from the Bavarian village of Dorfprozelten, and Mary from the townland of Ballykelly in the parish of Broadford, County Clare, Ireland.

fass postcard
A postcard for Das Goldenes Fass, owned for 200 years by the Happ then Kunkel families. Dorfprozelten, Bavaria
View from the O’Brien land at Ballykelly, Broadford, Co Clare, Ireland. © P Cass 2010
m ck from a distance
A view of the old Kunkel property late 1980s. Fifteen Mile, Murphys Creek, Qld © P Cass 2010

Catherine McCorkindale, who married Denis Kunkel, emigrated from Glasgow and lived at Kelvin  Grove, Brisbane.


Annie Sim McCorkindale emigrated from Glasgow with her family in 1910 but had grown up on Backrow farmhouse, Bothkennar parish, Stirlingshire, Scotland. Annie’s husband, Duncan, had died four years before the family emigrated. Photos © P Cass 2010

Backrow farmhouse, Bothkennar, Stirlingshire, Scotland. © P Cass 2010

Stephen Gillespie Melvin, whom we’ve heard a bit about in this series, grew up in Leith, the port for Edinburgh in Scotland. Although the buildings look quite grand, his family, like most of the others lived in small “apartments” within the building.  At time the area was quite rough and ready, a sailor’s place. Now it is well on the way to gentrification. Stephen arrived with his son Lawrence in Ipswich, Queensland in 1877. His young wife had died in quarantine in Moreton Bay.

The Shore, Leith. © P Cass 2019
Ipswich c1870.




William Partridge and his wife-to-be Hannah Kent arrived in Ipswich in 1855 and 1854, respectively. The town was much more basic than the above image depicts.

William came from Coleford, Gloucestershire (though born in London). Hannah emigrated from Sandon in Hertfordshire with her parents and brothers. Quite a marked change of housing, environment and facilities.

Denis Gavin and his wife Eleanor Murphy arrived in Queensland in 1855 and his work took them out past Dalby to a sheep station where he worked as a bullock drover. He was from Kildare, Ellen from Wicklow and they married in Dublin and lived in the Liberties. A more extreme change of environment would be hard to imagine.

Images below: Dalby 1868 when the Gavins lived there, and a bullock team and drover. References: (Dalby) (Bullock team)

Peter (Mc)Sherry and his wife Mary Callaghan were from Gorey and nearby Courtown in County Wexford. They arrived in Rockhampton in 1884 and were soon heading west to Longreach. What a contrast!

St Michael’s church Gorey where the couple were married. Right: Courtown Harbour where Mary came from. Photos: P Cass 2016.

Left: Rockhampton c1887

Right: Longreach c1907-1908

I can’t help wondering if they felt “short-changed” at the new life they’d chosen. Did they miss their homeland and such different scenery?

Do you think your families were happy with their migration decision and were happy, or reconciled, to their new home?






21 thoughts on “Yearning for “Home”

  1. We visited the street in a Aberdeen where my mother’s great grandparents lived. It was so bleak. They lost several children living there. After arriving in in South Australia all children survived. The only trouble is the man of the family was extremely unreliable. Seems to be a thing in my family except for my lovely husband.

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  2. I think they were mostly reconciled to their migration decision. My 3rd great grandfather Philip Chauncy wrote that he had no regrets and that he was consoled by the fact that his family intended to emigrate too (and that intention was indeed mostly fulfilled). My mother has expressed regret at being uprooted from Germany and being brought to Australia when she was a child – she understood the reasons but did not see 3 of her 4 grandparents, her aunt, and other relatives again.


    1. It’s good that you have that evidence that your ancestor was satisfied with his decision. Your mother had a tough time of it with the horrors of war and so much of life being unsettled….children have little agency in those sorts of decisions.

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  3. I often wonder about how much my own immigrant ancestors missed their homelands, mostly the fairly mild cool England compared with the heat and cold of the western US dessert and mountains where they settled and I was born and raised. I know that for my great-grandmother it was sometimes a difficult transition, especially back in the days without the blessings of central heating and air conditioning that we enjoy today, and also never having the chance to return to visit with her own mother during her mother’s lifetime.


    1. Thanks for visiting Marcy. They had to make such difficult choices. Never seeing family again would have been so sad. Totally agree with you about the weather too.


  4. I really enjoyed this post! Having emigrated myself and love the places I have lived in England, and again in Ireland, to me ‘home is where the heart is’ holds true. I grew up in Donegal and lived there full time until I was 12 and intermittently for a further 5 years while I was at boarding school. So that is a small fraction of my life, and I have no family there, yet it will always be ‘home’.

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  5. Another lovely thought-provoking post, Pauleen . I still regard Poulton’- le – Fylde in Lancashire as my ancestral home ; but we left there with my father’s job when I was 13 and it took me a long time to settle, mainly because my school was so different and life there not as enjoyable. When we moved to Edinburgh nearly 60 years ago, I soon came to love Scotland and always call myself British, not English. But at the end of the day Home is where you are with your loved ones. I know that many emigrants named their new homes after their birthplace. My husband’s ancestor Samuel Donaldson in the 18th century owned property on the Shore at. Leith.

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    1. I think school changes can have a big effect when we’re young Susan making it hard to settle…not that I know having stayed in one house until I married. I confess I love Scotland. It’s funny to think that ancestors may have known each other.

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    1. It is fabulous but it’s also a long haul. I think we’re bred to it thanks to the long sea voyages of our ancestors. You’d love it though…way better than Spain 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  6. It’s simple. Home is where the heart is.
    I feel at home in certain places like ancestral towns and villages, places I have previously lived homes of living families but I am like you .Home is with Mr GeniAus and Paddy the dog with all our geneastuff and treasures.

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  7. One of my German immigrant gg grandfathers yearned for home and went back to Germany in his late 70s for one last visit. And my Italian-American great grandfather had a brother who never took to the U.S. and returned home to live. Like you, I find home ephemeral — as I have had several since childhood. But NYC is my home of choice, where I live now and have lived longest. It pains me that we are the C19 epicenter, but with resilience we will weather this crisis as we have done with other crises before.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your family’s experience. I guess the travel back to their birthplace wasn’t as extreme from America, or as expensive. Sending you best wishes for health and safety through the torrid times of Covid, Molly.

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  8. I can think of two of my immigrant ancestors who may have been yearning for home, or at least loved ones, as they may not have had a chance to say proper goodbyes.
    My 2x ggm Margaret was forbidden to see her love William and so they eloped to Canada.
    My 2x ggf George was expecting to meet up with his siblings already in Australia. He and his small family missed the boat and had no money to wait around for another sailing but could get passage to Canada.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Glad to help add another chore to your “to do” list. 🙂 One thing you can do is put an alert on google for the places you’re interested in as there may be postcards available.

      Liked by 1 person

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