Family Research Mysteries

Alex from Family Tree Frog Blog has invited us to a blog challenge to celebrate National Family History Month 2022. This is my first in the month’s series. You might think that after researching for 36 years, I’d have solved all mysteries for my families, written up all my notes and turned them into stories. Can you hear the laughter? Are we ever finished our family history? It seems not because no sooner do we find one answer than it exposes one (or more) questions. I thought it might be helpful to me, to set out my big mysteries still outstanding.

Mysteries Abound.


Lots of questions have been answered about my 2xgreat grandfather’s life BUT still I don’t know:

Why did he not take out naturalisation until 1902? Reference books indicate that while voting and land ownership required naturalisation, there are instances of people circumventing this. Was George one of them, given he definitely was on electoral rolls from the 1860s and owned land?

Was he avoiding the military service when he left Bavaria, as family oral history suggests?

His departure should have been in the local newspapers to notify his creditors, but while I’ve found notices for many of the other emigrants from his village, nary a one have I found for him.

How did he get to Australia? Did he come as crew on a ship, travel directly or perhaps via the USA?

Solution? I’m thinking I may need a Bavaria professional researcher to answer at least the first question, as my visit to the Wurzburg archives was unproductive due to my inadequate German.


Mary was George Kunkel’s wife. I have some oral history that told me she was 16 when she emigrated with her sister Bridget, and was six months at sea on an old sailing ship.  A Missing Friends notice and Bridget’s obituary both suggest that the ship was the Florentia. BUT, there is no Bridget O’Brien on the ship and no Mary O’Brien. There was another family of O’Briens with whom Mary and George maintained links but I have traced that family and they are not the travelling as part of that family.

Were they travelling under a passage certificate issued to someone else? Solving this would require trying to trace all the women who were on this old, and small, ship. Quite a challenge! So if your ancestors arrived in Moreton Bay on the Florentia in 1853, please get in touch. You can read my earlier blog posts here.

 Why did Bridget leave Queensland after only one year? Was it the weather, or did she have a job opportunity offered to her? It seems it would have been quite a challenge to leave her sister who’d emigrated with her.

Does anyone have a photograph of Bridget Widdup nee O’Brien from Urana, NSW? It would be interesting to compare hers with those of her sisters, Mary and Honora.

Did Mary indeed work for a ship’s captain in Brisbane, (per the oral history), before she moved to Ipswich?

Irish research poses many questions.


Slowly over the years I’ve solved key questions about this family’s life in Dublin prior to emigrating in 1855. I think I’ve also solved where Ellen was born in Co Wicklow and her parents’ names.

I have been unable to locate Denis’s place of birth or any parish records. On arrival he states his mother is living in Ballymore Eustace, Kildare and on other documents he also states he was born in Co Kildare. Where is his baptism hiding?


Frustratingly I have been unable to find a marriage entry for this couple or indeed baptisms for their earliest children. Later ones have been registered in the civil records.

Where did they marry? Were they and all earlier generations from Courtown, Co Wexford where they lived, or was it elsewhere?

Who were Anne’s parents? I have confirmation of David’s via a DNA match but nothing for Anne.

David’s first name isn’t typical among the Michaels, Patricks and James of Irish records which made me wonder if there might be links to Wales. Mum’s DNA results in the Ancestry Side View ethnicities reveal a chunk of Welsh ancestry which makes me wonder even more. Over the years I’ve searched the UK records to no avail. Time for another round, I think.


Furlong is typically a Wexford surname so is that where this Martin originated from before the couple turned up in Tullamore, Co Offaly?

The GAA champion with the same name, is in fact, a descendant of a different family If the information in a book about him is correct.


His wife was the daughter of Martin and Margaret (nee Stanton/Staunton) FURLONG but I have minimal information on her early years.

James remains my biggest and most frustrating brick wall and I feel I’m just too close to this mystery to see the bricks for the wall. You can read earlier posts here.

Where did he disappear to after arriving in 1883? Did he die a lonely death somewhere? Did he desert his family? Did he return to Ireland or emigrate elsewhere? Why wasn’t he the informant on his young children’s deaths in Queensland?

Was he simply piggy-backing on the reputation of the railway contractor James McSharry, or might they even have been kin?


A recent win in answering questions, came with finally discovering the location of Duncan’s grave in Glasgow. Despite searching at the Mitchell Library, I found it online on Family Search.

Do you have any/many research questions that remain unresolved?

Do you have any tips where I can take my research on these questions?

5 thoughts on “Family Research Mysteries

  1. Oh how I wish I could offer some pearls of wisdom to you Pauleen. But I will say “Yes” to engaging an overseas researcher having done that already this year. They can just get to stuff we can’t and having fresh eyes look at stuff is always very helpful. And yes I have lots of unsolved mysteries.


  2. Hi Pauline
    I contacted you a few months ago to say that my GG Grandmother and her sister travelled on the same voyage on the Florentia. On reading you blog in more detail I realised that she gave a statement for the investigation following the journey. Her name was Fanny/Frances Bransfield and her sister was Mary. I live in Bathurst NSW now and believe that Fanny and Mary were here around 1860 as Mary married here then. They originated from County Cork – Mitchelstown I believe. I am yet to travel to the NSW Archives to view the investigation documents but hope to do that soon!


  3. About Irish genealogy – I always believed that so many records were burned accidentally or for political/religious reasons that finding the origins of some Irish forbears was just a generalised “Brick Wall”. My 2nd GGM Eliza Frances Doyle/Dyel seems impossible to research with conflicting accounts of even her surname, let alone possible names and locations for her parents. I have never had DNA Matches which seemed to lead to her or her forbears despite some very off-piste research forays! Do you know of any accounts of approximately which and how many Irish records are missing from family history? I’m also sure that other members of her husband’s huge and rather famous-infamous family, the Kables, have hired people to chase up her history but I cannot find anything that convinces me as an authentic account. What’s your take on Irish research?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.