If at first you don’t succeed….a Kunkel mystery

This photo was discovered being used as a backing to another picture. It’s not in great shape and with some Photoshop skills I could probably improve it…however that’s not my strength.

What I do know is that my grandfather, Denis Kunkel, is in the centre of the photo with an older man’s hand on his shoulder. Another man, front left, looks very like my father so I can only assume (yes, I know) that he’s a Kunkel relative. I have a hypothesis on the young woman beside him but….

It’s very likely that the photograph was taken on the Darling Downs in Queensland where Kunkel and Gavin relatives lived. However, I don’t have a clue who the people are, or why they’re gathered. Is it an extended family group, or perhaps a society of some sort?

I keep hoping someone will recognise one of their relatives in the photo and let me know. “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again“. Please let me know if you even think one of them might be someone you know.

 

Mystery photo includes Denis Kunkel: are the other people Gavin family members?

NATURE’S GLORY and DRAMA           

My 2020 Gratitude vision board has several pictures of the beauty of nature and especially flowers, which I love. I’m very grateful for the magnificent scenery where we live. When we lived in the Northern Territory I loved being out on the open road with vast spaces to the horizon. The grandeur of the Wet Season skies and the drama of the thunder and lightning.

It’s easy to forget that nature has two sides of the same coin – beauty and grandeur and the fierce threat of more dramatic weather events like this season’s devastating fires in Australia, or floods, or fire, or drought. It’s hardly surprising that one of our national poets, Dorothea Mackellar, captured this so well.

I love a sunburnt country

A land of sweeping plains

Of rugged mountain ranges

Of drought and flooding rains

I love her jewel sea

Her beauty and her terror

The wide brown land for me

DSC_0099

There were no roads cutting a swathe through the country, no X marks the spot in the sky. The early pioneers relied on learning their environment and following cuts in the trees along the way…their lives depended on their success.

ANCESTORS and NATURE

I often wonder how our immigrant ancestors coped with the vast differences from their homeland, what Mackellar refers to as “The love of field and coppice, Of green and shaded lanes, Of ordered woods and gardens, Is running in your veins”.

Bullock dray 1898 QSAIt seems inevitable they must have found the upside-down seasons, the severe heat (in those dresses!), the weather extremes and the sheer open spaces to be fierce, or perhaps even frightening. How did they learn to navigate their way through native bush with no formed roads?  My 2xgreat grandfather, Denis Gavin had to navigate his way to the market with the wool clip when driving drays from Binbian Downs near the Condamine soon after he arrived in Queensland. Or the Bavarian immigrants sent to the bush to be shepherds on isolated stations (think ranches). No longer part of a small village community to be alone or with two or three others….it drove some to take their own lives.

Did they learn to love the country as they learned to grown crops and plant orchards under such different conditions? My Kunkel ancestors called their property Valley View. Vastly different from Mary O’Brien Kunkel’s view in County Clare, or George Kunkel’s view in Dorfprozelten. Did they look out at the sunrise and learn to love the grey of the gum trees, the laugh of the kookaburra and enjoy seeing other indigenous wildlife, birds, and bush. They were certainly wise to select land adjoining a then-well-flowing creek so it would take time before the perils of drought would affect them.

Valley view home Kunkel

And what of my (Mc)Sherry great-grandparents fresh off the ship from Ireland and off to work constructing railway lines in the heat of Queensland’s outback. It’s mind-boggling really and gives me a deep respect for what they did and gratitude for their hard work, courage and example.

NATURE’S FEROCITY

My ancestors may have eluded the fear of Famine but the ferocity of Australian weather must have sometimes tested their faith.

McSHARRY John drowned Morning Bulletin 8 Mar 1887

The Morning Bulletin, ROCKHAMPTON. (1887, March 8). Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved April 17, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article52067794

The family of James and Bridget (Mc)Sharry/Sherry  arrived with eight of their children in central Queensland in 1883 and paid a high price for their decision. Within only six years, three of the children had died, two from what might be called events of nature. Their daughter Margaret McSharry/Sherry died in Rockhampton in 1884, aged 12, of shock from burns. The newspapers are silent on what caused the burns but most likely a kitchen accident. Son John McSharry/Sherry, aged 19, attempted to cross the flooded Claude River in March 1887 while working as a labourer on/near Mantuan Downs station. As a young Irish-born lad it’s extremely unlikely he could swim so attempting this was rather foolish and he paid the price. The inquest gave me more complete details.

 

Floodwaters rise in the heart of Ipswich January 1887

Unidentified (1887). Floodwaters rise in the heart of Ipswich, January 1887. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

On 22 January 1887, the Queensland town of Ipswich was deluged by a severe flood. Some said it was the worst in European memory, others that it was only exceeded by the 1864 flood. At the time of the 1887 flood, my ancestor, Stephen Gillespie Melvin, had a confectionery store in Ipswich as well as various other business interests. Trove documents that “The (Bremer) River was in flood, and Melvin, who had been assisting to remove goods from a store (his?) which was surrounded by water, got into the vortex on the edge of the roaring current. Livermore swam out at great risk, took Melvin by the collar, and brought him back to the building in safety. The current was running very strong. Awarded a bronze medal.” Thomas Shadrach Livermore had saved Stephen’s life – and meant that I am here today, as my grandmother was born in 1888. Even though Stephen had been a merchant seaman in early years it’s highly likely he couldn’t swim at all.

 

 

Annie Kunkel spoke of a fierce storm that occurred while she was a schoolgirl at Murphy’s Creek[i]:

 

Hailstorm murphys creek 1915 Telegraph

Hail storm (1915, December 11). The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), p. 7. Retrieved April 17, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article177194730

I’ll never forget the time of the big hailstorm. Oh it was terrific, it was our break up picnic, there’d been a drought I think….Terrific storm came, we were alright in the morning. Oh, we were all huddled in that old school and this terrible storm, and I think the windows were smashing round us and everything and the poor horses were over in this paddock. I can remember seeing them. There wasn’t much in the way of shelter from trees or anything. It was something to remember. And then this terrific flood came down. You know that old railway bridge over from the school, that old wooden railway bridge, it might have been replaced since, but it was pretty high. But Les Handley walked that with a raging flood underneath it to go home round through the paddocks to tell his mother that they were alright. It had been shocking, shocking. The railway man had to come to shovel the hail away from the doors of the hotel and some of the houses before people could get in.

 

Annie had a remarkable memory and whenever I’ve checked what she’s told me it’s been proven to be accurate. The Daily Standard described four feet of ice at Murphy’s Creek railway station from this storm.

 

Murphys Creek drought Bne Courier 24 Apr 1877 p3

Telegraphic. (1877, April 24). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 3. Retrieved April 17, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1363085

George and Mary Kunkel had been half-way through paying off their land selection when a drought hit. They must have been so grateful to have had the Fifteen Mile Creek as a boundary to their property. As with Australia more broadly periods of drought followed by heavy storms and flooding, or cyclones in the north, seem to be almost inevitable.

 

Almost all of my ancestors had property affected by fires but not attributable to nature but rather to the hazards of open fires or the flammability of the buildings. The bush fire (below) which raged through the Murphys Creek area occurred after George Kunkel had died but his widow and sons and family were still living in the area.

Bushfire M Ck Dec 1918 p5 DDG

BIG BUSH FIRE. (1918, December 6). Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1881 – 1922), p. 5. Retrieved April 17, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article176354338

With my McSherry families living in Central and North Queensland there’s no doubt they’d have experience the wrath of a cyclone or two in their lifetimes. Unfortunately, I can’t find a news story that mentions them. However, when I was a youngster holidaying at Magnetic Island off Townsville we were caught in Category 4 Cyclone Agnes as it roared through the area at 89 mph or 143kph. Dad always said that the gauge at Garbutt had snapped with the force of the wind, so perhaps the speed reached was even higher.  I wrote about the experience here.

There’s little doubt that our Aussie ancestors had to be resilient when encountering nature.

What natural events did your ancestors experience in their lifetimes? Did it have a long-term effect on their well-being or their economic survival?

 

Cyclone Agnes TSV Central Qld Herald 1956

WINDS REACH 89 MILES AN HOUR TOWNSVILLE STRUCK BY CORE OF CYCLONE (1956, March 8). The Central Queensland Herald (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1930 – 1956), p. 6. Retrieved April 17, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article79261437

 

 

[i] Conversation with Cameron McKee, Murphy’s Creek local historian, c1984.

Gratitude for Gifts

Gifts may seem a very materialistic focus for our gratitude, but are they really? What we’re thanking the giver for, is their time and thoughtfulness in choosing something they think we’ll like or need. Quite often a gift may have an ordinary cash value, but an extraordinary emotional value simply because the person has found something that truly speaks to you. So for every gift you receive, gratitude is the appropriate response.

My favourite childhood (and later!) gifts were books, some of which are still on my shelves with the gift-giver’s note inside. A birthday or Christmas just wasn’t “up to snuff” without one, so this quote made me smile.

I do give books as gifts sometimes, when people would rather have one than a new Ferrari. Dean Koontz, American author. (no contest, surely?!)

book gift021

This book was a gift from my great-aunt. I’d bet I’d finished it before my January birthday.

As a child, many of of us were taught to write thank you notes on receipt of a gift. This matter of etiquette seems to have largely gone out of fashion – though I have one friend who unfailingly writes a formal and polite card of thanks. Instead we now telephone or email our thanks.

I’m very simple when it comes to gifts, so the best ones that I’ve received have love as their main intention. I appreciate everything. Adriana Lima, Brazilian model.

Ancestors and gifts

 

If you’re really lucky your ancestors lived in a place where the local newspaper was gossipy and the correspondent sought out the details of events, or knew the people well. Those stories can give you wonderful insights into your families’ lives. You may know local names from post office directories, electoral rolls, census enumerations (not in Oz) or land maps but you are unlikely to have any true sense of the people’s closeness or the extent of their friendship. News stories can help reveal these links of FANs. And they’re a wonderful source of information for those undertaking One Place Studies. Australian researchers are so very fortunate to have Trove, our free digitised source of newspapers, photos, diaries etc which let us tag, list and text-correct the digital stories. Very much a focus for our gratitude as it’s revealed so many hidden stories which had been lost in the pre-digital era.

Wedding gifts

Plant Savage Wedding DDG 30 Jan 1912

WEDDING. (1912, January 30). Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1881 – 1922), p. 8. Retrieved April 8, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18319416

Ada Savage married James William Plant of nearby Geham at the Murphy’s Creek Presbyterian church on 17 January 1912. The festivities were extensively reported but so were the list of gifts. I love that even the children gave their own gifts and I’m curious who did the shopping and where. Did they travel on the train up to Toowoomba to search out special gifts? Who would have thought that Kunkel would be mis-reported as Hunkel. The Ganzers were Dorfprozelten connections of my 2xgreat grandfather, George Kunkel and the Tomkys children’s widowed mother married James Kunkel. After many years looking at Murphy’s Creek I can recognise many of the names mentioned in the news story, and their role in the community.

Mary Elizabeth Gavin farewell gift

SOCIAL. (1917, April 10). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 9. Retrieved April 8, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20163205

 

Farewell gifts

This is a delightful story of recognition for long public service by my great-grandmother’s mother and father. Typical of the times Mr Gavin responded on behalf of his wife. This was not their only service as five of their sons went to World War I, and one, James Gavin, was killed at Fromelles.

Enlistment gifts

It was common for the young men, enlisting in World War I from their home district, to be given a gift by one of the community organisations.  Typical gifts were wallets, watches, brushes, or small monetary gifts. Reading these with the knowledge of hindsight, it’s sad to think how many of these men never returned. Perhaps the wallet found with James Gavin’s body was the one given to him at Pechey. The first news story needs to be read with a fair degree of caution as the details seem to be inaccurate in terms of the names.

Jack Gavin, below, was not a member of my Gavin family but his family and mine kept “tripping over” each other on the Downs – it took a while to untangle the threads. Jack was also killed in action.

Gavin boys WWI

PRESENTATIONS. (1915, September 13). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 8. Retrieved April 8, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20059598

 

Jack Gavin

Our Volunteers. (1915, September 15). Western Star and Roma Advertiser (Toowoomba, Qld. : 1875 – 1948), p. 3. Retrieved April 8, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article98166240

Have you used reports of events or gifts presented to extend your family history research?

Do you perhaps have a special gift that’s been handed down through the family?

Have you left notes on special gifts or items for your descendants, so they know their origin and why they are special to you? Or are  you like me and have it on your “to do” list?

Quotes from https://www.brainyquote.com/

 

Genea-learning and touring

We’re not long home from a week of genealogy indulgence…what’s not to like about genie-adventures? Especially when they take you on a road trip!

First up was two days at the Unlock the Past Roadshow in Brisbane with Scottish/Irish guru Chris Paton, German expert, Dirk Weissleder and local speakers. Learning new strategies and sources for research is always fun and even better when you get to catch up with genimates. The Roadshow is heading to other cities too, so you might want to consider booking.

270px-Qld_region_map_2

Image from Wikipedia.

From Brisbane we ventured west towards Toowoomba and the Darling Downs. We were no sooner on the Darren Lockyer Way[i] when my spirits soared with the wide open vistas of the Lockyer Valley and the sense of moving away from the urban coastal belt. Don’t get me wrong – we love where we live near the coast, but this trip made me realise how much I’ve missed being away from the open spaces we used to enjoy in the Northern Territory.

We made our way up the Range via the obligatory ancestral route through Murphy’s Creek and a wander through the cemetery saying g’day to my Kunkel 2xgreat-grandparents and great-grandfather.

20170810_112159

The renovated Kunkel grave at Murphy’s Creek.

However, on this trip we also made time to lunch at Spring Bluff Railway Station. Of course we’ve known forever that it’s there, but there always seemed to be other priorities. I imagine it’s busy on the weekends but it was tranquil on a lovely mid-week Spring-like day. With the burst of warm weather, the flowers are coming into bloom early.

On Friday, I toddled off to the Catholic Diocesan Archives in Toowoomba where I’d made an appointment. I’ve rattled on many times about the benefits of checking parish registers for additional information…it’s amazing how much you can discover.

Lockyer and Toowoomba

This Google map could be called “Ancestral Pathways” as it lists so many towns and settlements where my family lived, worked and died.

Golf (or surf) widows are a common phenomenon, but for a few days Mr Cassmob got another large dose of being a genealogy widower. His Aussie ancestry is all from Victoria so there was nothing specific for him to follow up. However, he’s had lots of practice with my meanderings and this just one more. We tried to balance some of the genea-obsessiveness with touring options we haven’t taken up before. Our wander through the Japanese Garden at the University of Southern Queensland was a delight! Some of the trees were already in blossom, azaleas were starting to peek out and the landscaping is beautiful – definitely on the agenda to see it again a different season.

20170811_141000

Japanese Gardens at USQ.

Saturday was spent at the Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society. I love that it’s aptly located adjacent to the enormous Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery (search burials here). The Society launched its third volume of Our Backyard, containing stories of those buried in the cemetery. Most are submitted by family members but some have been researched by society members. My submissions for Kunkel and Gavin family members, plus a few Germans, are in Volume 1. The Society has some great publications if you have Darling Downs ancestry. They are also very good at catering for their remote members.

After the book launch, and morning tea, we were treated to a very thought-provoking presentation by Queensland local and family historian, Janice Cooper. Janice encouraged us to think about scrutinising our sources and their merits, as well as seeking the content and analysing them for our conclusions. Very much worth listening to and something I’ll be revisiting.

A speedy AGM was followed by lunch. I was the post-lunch speaker and presented on The Marriage of Family and Local History as applied to Murphy’s Creek and using a variety of sources, of which it’s impossible to cover the whole spectrum. Like most marriages there might be offspring – and a One Place Study is one of them. I found it interesting to talk to a group familiar with the township and my mention of the former publican, Mr Bloom, certainly grabbed one member’s attention. My thanks to the society for giving me this opportunity.

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After our few days in Toowoomba we’d decided to stay out of town for the next couple of nights and booked a delightful cottage adjacent to the Ravensbourne National Park. It was chilly at night but we were cosy inside with a gas fire and it was a pleasure to wake up to the sound of kookaburras and honeyeaters in the grevilleas beside the deck.

Touring the area, we visited the Woolshed at Jondaryan as it was decades since we’d last been there. I’d known for some time that some of my relatives had worked there but we met up with the historian to see if he had any new information – strangely that included the letter I’d sent him with Kunkel and Gavin details many years ago <smile>. I’ve brought away some print-outs so that I can send him further information on some of my other interests eg Stephen and Mark Gavin. The station ledgers have been preserved for long periods of time, especially in the earlier times, largely because the property was in the same hands for a long time. You can check out the list of names in Mr Eggleston’s book or write to him at the Woolshed if you think your ancestor worked there. Don’t forget to provide him with some details of your family to add to his database.

Jondaryan was an enormous property back in its day and you can read some of its history on the website. Merino sheep were its forte and my great-grandfather George Michael Kunkel worked as a lamber for a few months in 1875, paid £1 a week. Lambs were valuable assets and hence the role of the lamber was important -he had to watch over them to protect them from animal marauders, help the ewes if there were difficulties with birthing and generally ensure the lambs well-being.

The Woolshed has some wonderful old buildings, not least being the woolshed itself which is the largest oldest still operating anywhere in the world. However, I was most interested in the shepherd’s hut since this is the type of accommodation inhabited by some of the early Dorfprozelten immigrants during their first employment contracts.

Along with sightseeing we enjoyed a yummy lunch at the Woolshed’s cafe: meals with bush tucker ingredients. We’ve also flagged Jondaryan as somewhere it would be good to camp – but perhaps not at a busy time. Nearby, the little Anglican church, St Anne’s, is simple yet beautiful so of course I had to buy the book on its history.

An error in navigation took us back to Murphy’s Creek which was fine as we wanted to check out the Fifteen Mile again. It was interesting to see that the old Kunkel property seems to be being expanded and now I’m dying of curiosity to know what’s happening and if it’s changed hands again.

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The old Horrocks’ barn – in a state of collapse, and the brick chimney of the house behind.

I also took a current photo of the old Horrocks’ barn, which appeared in my slideshow for the presentation. It is now “on its last legs” so I was pleased to take some photos while I could. As always the nearby cows looked on suspiciously, as they’ve done on every occasion when I’ve driven there.

All in all, a wonderful short holiday: learning + genealogy + genimates, balanced with touring on the Downs and chill-out time with Mr Cassmob.

[i] Named after a popular footballer who shares his surname with the region. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/rugby-league-legend-darren-lockyer-honoured-with-a-stretch-of-road/news-story/dee213cd3bb5c255d5430b3e6405a9e4

52 weeks of Genealogy Records: Internal Migration

libraryShauna Hicks has initiated a new 52 week series of prompts, Genealogy Records. We’re only into Week 3 but there have already been some interesting topics: Military Medals, Internal Migration and Probate.

Over the past few years I’ve done several 52 week series: Personal Genealogy and History (2011), Abundant Genealogy (2012) and my own Beyond the Internet (2012). I’m currently signed up for Angler’s Rest’s Book of Me 15 month series as well, with which I’m very much behind. Combined with various A to Z April posts and other daily or monthly posts I’m reluctant to get involved in more as it starts to feel like I’ve got a tiger by the tail.

However Shauna’s topic is a great opportunity to personalise my own stories to her theme so I will probably join in from time to time where the topic is relevant to my own history.  I have such a migration mania that I couldn’t possibly not participate in her second topic, Internal Migration. Whenever I get on the topic of migration it turns into a long yarn, so grab a coffee and a comfy chair, and read on for a while.

THE McSHARRY/McSHERRY FAMILIES

With so many railway people in my family tree, it’s inevitable that they’d be a peripatetic lot. Some moved across vast distances, others only relatively short postings when in their early years.

Image from Office online.

Image from Office online.

My greatest internal migrants would be the Sherry family who arrived in Rockhampton, Queensland, from Ireland where they also worked on the railway: the Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford Railway line judging on their progressive movement through those counties. On arrival, the patriarch James Sherry, changed most of the family’s name to McSharry. Oral history suggests this may have been to piggy-back on the fame of James McSharry from the railway construction firm, O’Rourke and McSharry.  Who knows whether this is fact or fiction. I suppose it’s also possible that the two families may have been connected but that’s an exploration I’ve yet to undertake.  Whatever the reality it has certainly caused immense confusion when trying to unravel what happened to my own family over the years, especially the mystery of what happened to my James McSharry.

The McSharry family moved from Rockhampton where they arrived, to Maryborough (why?) for a number of years, then back to Rockhampton where wife/widow, Bridget McSharry, settled and ran a boarding house until her death in 1900.

The adult children of this family moved around Queensland in response to work. Early family events revealed at least some of these through death certificates, police staff files, Post Office Directories, electoral rolls, and marriage records.

The eldest son of the family, Peter Sherry, arrived with his family a year after the rest of the Sherry family. Strangely he changed his name to McSherry rather than McSharry. Within weeks of arriving in Rockhampton he had been recruited to Queensland Government Railways and so began his migration around the state. The family spent a long time in Longreach, then moved on to Hughenden and Townsville before being transferred to Rockhampton where they put down roots.

Tracing this family’s internal migration has been greatly facilitated by Trove as it has revealed stories that would otherwise never have been known. I have a full copy of Peter’s railway staff record which tells the bare bones of his positions and postings over the years: a great base for knowing where they migrated internally.

Obviously the children of this family moved with Peter and Mary McSherry in their childhood, but even in their adulthood, the migrations continued. My grandfather James, worked in Hughenden then later Townsville before moving to Brisbane so his children could obtain jobs, or so the oral history goes. Given the move occurred in 1942, mid-war, in the thick of the Brisbane Line concept, I have to wonder whether it was because he was needed to build the railway carriages further from risk of Japanese invasion.

Once again my sources are: railway staff files, Trove, oral history.

THE KUNKEL FAMILY

George and Mary Kunkel, of whom you’ve all heard often, settled in Ipswich after their marriage there in 1857. While there George worked in a number of occupations: servant (pre-marriage), pork butcher and boarding house keeper. To all extents and purposes he was there all the time, after all there were children being born at regular intervals.

Cobb & Co coach from National Library Australia, out of copyright.

Cobb & Co coach from National Library Australia, out of copyright.

It was a court report, that enlightened me differently. While the family was settled, George was also working on the Tooloom goldfields in northern NSW as a butcher. Further reading on Trove revealed that there were regular coaches between Tooloom and Ipswich so plainly he could get home fairly often, perhaps to restock his supplies.

Recently I posted how he’d had a financial setback and this may have prompted their move westward, reportedly working on the railway, or perhaps again supplying meat. The next precise confirmation of where they lived was at Highfields, via the school admission registers and through church baptisms and birth certificates.

A Queensland railway camp, possibly Fountain's Camp at Murphy's Creek.

A Queensland railway camp, possibly Fountain’s Camp at Murphy’s Creek.

A few years later and the family would move a short distance to the Fifteen Mile between Highfields and Murphys Creek where they would take up farming and settle. George supplemented the farm income by working for the railway as a labourer.

Kunkel descendants, many of them railway workers, also moved around south-east Queensland and west as far as Roma with postings as the railway was constructed. One family branch moved to Mackay in northern Queensland and set down roots cane farming.

Records: court reports, school admission records, baptisms and birth certificates, railway staff files, land selection records.

THE GAVIN FAMILY

The Gavins were short-migration people. Denis came from Kildare in Ireland and his wife, Ellen, from Wicklow. They married in Dublin before they emigrated though it’s not known when they each made that internal move.

Bullock dray loaded with wool, Qld 1898. Image from Qld State Archives, out of copyright.

Bullock dray loaded with wool, Qld 1898. Image from Qld State Archives, out of copyright.

On arrival Denis went to Binbian Downs station (per his obituary) as a carrier, then to Dalby, Toowoomba and Crows Nest. Although the distances are short by Australian standards he would have covered a lot of ground carrying wool on the bullock dray from Binbian Downs which is out near Wallumbilla.

Like the other Gavan/Gavin families with whom they interweave, but are unrelated, they remained on the Darling Downs.

Records: Convict records (the Galway Gavins), birth certificates, employment records, death certificates, re-marriage certificates, obituaries, maps, Trove.

THE KENT, PARTRIDGE AND McCORKINDALE FAMILIES

These families were my stay-at-homes. The Kents and Partridges both went straight to Ipswich on arrival as far as I can tell. There they remained until their deaths, though descendants moved around the state.

Highland Gathering Acton Flats: Duncan McCorkindale was a judge of the dancers. National Archives of Australia: A3560, 2882

Highland Gathering Acton Flats: Duncan McCorkindale was a judge of the dancers. National Archives of Australia: A3560, 2882

The McCorkindale exodus from Glasgow commenced with Peter and Duncan’s arrival in Sydney in 1900. Well actually I eventually discovered it commenced with an uncle’s arrival quite a bit earlier. After the death of their father, their mother (Annie Sim McCorkindale) emigrated with the rest of the family excluding one stay-put son, Thomas Sim McCorkindale who’d moved to London. Close analysis of the shipping lists showed that other family members had arrived as well.

Once settled in Brisbane on arrival, Peter joined them, and the family remained there except for country excursions to decimate the opposite in bagpipe and Highland Dance competitions. Duncan McCorkindale moved between Sydney and Canberra where he was part of the teams that built the nation’s capital, and their Caledonian Society.

Records: Trove, shipping lists, BDM certificates, church registers.

 THE MELVIN FAMILY

Stephen Gillespie Melvin’s family was tied to the sea, with generations of merchant seamen. No surprise then that they were born to be migrants, both internal and international.

After the death of his wife, Janet, soon after arrival SGM settled in Ipswich, Queensland where he promptly established a well-regarded confectionery shop. He must have gadded around a bit though because his land portfolio was scattered around the south east of Queensland. But it was his foray into mining that brought him undone, resulting in insolvency and a little jaunt to jail.

Not long after being released from jail, the family moved to Charters Towers which was then experiencing a gold boom. No doubt escaping his notoriety would have been on his mind as well, though the coverage of the trial was so extensive that it would have been known in Charters Towers as well.

Around the time of his second wife’s Emily’s death, SGM started acquiring businesses and land in Sydney and thus the younger members of his family set down their roots in New South Wales. Meanwhile he continued his migrations on a temporary basis, as he travelled back and forth to the UK for business. One such migration became permanent however when he died in London.

Records: BDM certificates, church registers, shipping records, Trove, court reports, gaol records, insolvency records, wills.

THE O’BRIEN WIDDUP FAMILY

I know from my Irish research that the emigrants were keen to follow their own destiny even at the expense of family connections, but the internal migration of Bridget O’Brien (later Widdup) is one that puzzles me.

Bridget (O'Brien) Widdup's grave in the Urana cemetery.

Bridget (O’Brien) Widdup’s grave in the Urana cemetery.

If Bridget was in Ipswich with her sister Mary after their long emigration journey, why did she decide to move south to the Albury area, and to Urana? This has always mystified me, since I knew from her death certificate that she’d spent one year in Queensland.

The possibilities seem to be:

  • She didn’t like the Queensland environment or climate
  • Friends were moving interstate
  • She had met her future husband, John Widdup, on the ship as the story goes so she moved to be with him.
  • Her employer in Queensland relocated and offered her a position elsewhere.

It’s the Whys of family history research that keep us on our toes.

Records: Death certificates, oral history, Trove

So there you have it…the peripatetic wanderings of my families over the years. It has always seemed to me that having made the long journey to Australia, rather than the comparatively short hop across the Atlantic, they were not daunted by further moves if they satisfied their occupation or life goals.

Trove Tuesday: The hazards of well-sinking

TOOWOOMBA. (1866, July 7). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), p. 8. Retrieved September 25, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20308490

I’d venture that well-sinking isn’t something most of us think too much about these days. In the pioneering days ensuring that your farm had sufficient water was critical to survival.  With no piped water for humans or stock, buying a block near running water like a creek (but not too close because of floods), was often a key consideration. Alternatively you might have to build a dam or a well.  Trove stories reveal that accidents to well-sinkers were frequent and often fatal.

Thanks to the indexes of the Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society many years ago I found the story of the death of young Peter Conroy which I mentioned recently in my MI post. Of course these days it’s easier to find the same story via Trove. The newspapers in those days tended to graphic prose with all the gory details so I read how Peter’s brains were hanging out and his bones broken when the jumper they were using faulted.

Stephen Gavin was able to get his leg into the bucket so that he could be pulled up to the surface when help arrived. Peter died of his injuries but Stephen survived though his health was affected.

I suspect that Stephen Gavin was Peter’s relation, possibly his cousin, nephew or brother-in-law. My working hypothesis is that Peter is the brother or nephew of Annie Gavin nee Conroy, with whom he’s buried.[i]

Importantly, the newspaper story, and a nearly illegible inscription on the grave shared with the Gavin family, are the only traces of his death. Peter’s burial does not appear in the Drayton cemetery burial registers which commence later than his death, nor can I find his death indexed in the Qld BDMs. Without the work of TDDFHS, and later Trove, this man’s life in Australia would have gone completely unremarked.

Peter Conroy is not the only man to lose his life in this way and a quick search of Trove brings up other fatalities from well-sinking.

CORONER’S INQUEST. (1859, February 28). Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918), p. 3. Retrieved September 25, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article87987337


[i] I told the story of this gravestone in the TDDFHS publication Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery, Our Backyard, 2009, page 85.

Beyond the Internet: Week 18 Benevolent Asylums

This is Week 18 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. This week the topic is Benevolent Asylums. I’m going to talk primarily about the situation in Queensland as this is where my research has taken me. If you have used these records in other locations, please do share your story with a link to this page. In the case of Queensland the benevolent asylum was situated on Stradbroke Island in Moreton Bay (off Brisbane), in some ways an idyllic location.

Dunwich Benevolent Asylum c1890s State Library Qld Image picqld-2003-01-28-16-43 Copyright expired.

So what was the benevolent asylum? To quote from Queensland State Archives (QSA), “the function of Dunwich Benevolent Asylum as defined by the “Benevolent Asylum Wards Act of 1861” was to provide for poor people who because of age, accident, infirmity or otherwise, were unable to care for themselves”.[i] This particular asylum was open from 1865 to 1946 when the inmates were transferred to Eventide at Sandgate.

While this definition applies to Queensland’s benevolent asylum, circumstances were probably similar in other states. On the face of it, this makes the asylum sound very much like a UK workhouse. My own feeling is that it was less oppressive than the British equivalent with a more tolerant approach to its inmates. Perhaps there was an acceptance that having come half way round the world, the elderly and infirm may not have had anyone to fall back on for support. Nevertheless the bureaucratic process generated lots of information as they decided whether someone was truly eligible or was perhaps malingering, or more pertinently, if they had any family member who could take them in. For this reason it’s not surprising to find that family members may be “forgotten” when it came time to apply for admission. If you visit QSA, you will have the opportunity to check the card indexes and review admission books, letters, registers of discharges or deaths: in short lots of biographical information to round out your family history.

Trove once again enlightens us with photos, and other sources, regarding Dunwich Benevolent Asylum. I was also pleased to find a thesis on the asylum which is available online here.

My experience with the records have been limited as none of my direct family entered the asylum. However I have followed up another Gavin family which had several members admitted over the years. What I’ve found is that the information contained in the admission papers can be incredibly useful in rounding out what I know about the person, confirming hunches, and revealing marital and family separations. I’ll give you some examples of what I’ve learned from the records.

  1. Stephen Gavin #1, with his wife Honora, applied to be admitted to Dunwich Benevolent Asylum on 2 February 1889 when he became too frail to work and Honora was suffering from blindness. They had been living in western Queensland with a daughter and son-in-law who were no longer able to look after them. The couple died on Dunwich and were buried in an unmarked grave. Some 100 years laters a descendant and friend of mine, Carmel, erected gravestones in their memory. Stephen and Honora had survived the Great Potato Famine in Ireland and the drowning of their son early in their Queensland life.
  2. Carmel had also found that Honora had regular absences from Dunwich, presumably to visit with family.
  3. The Dunwich records helped me to confirm that an illegitimate child, registered as Stephen Telford, was indeed the son of Stephen Gavin junior (#2 and son of Mark Gavin) . The admission record also confirmed the children of Stephen Gavin and his wife/de facto Johanna even though their marriage is not registered in the civil indexes and provided information on their residences. This had been a “brick wall” ambiguity.
  4. It helped to confirm that Stephen’s (#2) father, Mark, was known as both Mark and Matthew -presumably to disguise Mark’s convict past. This too had been a “brick wall” ambiguity.

Stephen and Honora Gavin are the only migrants who I’ve found returning to Ireland then re-emigrating. For all that they were in an asylum, I’m pleased that their environment was so pleasant and they were well cared for. They would have been amazed by the successes of their descendants.

If your research interests are in other states, can I suggest that you google the relevant state and the term “benevolent asylum”. Meanwhile Cora Web provides a convenient gateway to asylums and hospitals here.

New Gavin family blog

Long-term followers of my blog will have read many posts about the Gavin family, either searching for them in Ireland, their links to the convict Gavans, or the young men who went to World War I.

Thanks to my recent posts and last year’s Anzac Day post, a 3rd cousin has got in touch with me. She holds many photos of her branch of the Gavin family and we’re hoping we can sort out some blanks on photos we each have. She’s been inspired to start her own blog and has put up some wonderful photos of the young Gavin men in uniform and their parents. I’ve been thrilled to finally put faces to the names of these people I’ve known about and been researching for so long. Louise also has lots of family anecdotes so it will be interesting to learn more about the family through her stories rather than just through documents.

I’m really hoping I may yet be able to put names to some of the faces on  this Wordless Wednesday photo.

This is the link to the Gavin Coman blog. Why not pop over and have a look at the photos and say g’day to Louise.

Beyond the Internet Week 15: Battle, Battalion and other military histories

This is Week 15 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. This week’s topic is Battle and Battalion histories and military reference books.  I’d love it if you wanted to join in with your thoughts on this topic, especially if you live overseas and have a different set of records to tell us about. If possible please provide a link to your post on this page.

Book references on Battalion and Battle histories, or more general background history, can be illuminating not just for context about your ancestor’s military life, but may also provide specific information on him personally. I’ll include my bibliography of relevant histories below but no doubt others will have favourites to add.

Battle histories

Given my interest in the Battle of Fromelles, I have two excellent books on this in my library. Both provide a wealth of detail about the circumstances of Australia’s Darkest Day[i] and the military strategy, or lack of it, that around this battle. Both books also have innumerable references to my husband’s great uncle, Lt Col Walter Edmund Hutchison Cass, including information which we did not know previously. At the 2003 Australasian Genealogy and Heraldry Congress, Roger Kershaw and his colleague from The National Archives (UK) spoke first on Anzac Day. They showed a backpack with a bullet hole in it and other documents. At the time the service records of Australia’s regular army had not been digitised and the TNA people assumed he’d been killed at Gallipoli. After the talk I managed to catch up with them, and let them know how much was in the Fromelles book that I’d bought the previous day. His military history is spread across the Australian War Memorial (AWM), The National Archives UK and the National Archives of Australia, and entirely possible in other locations as well.

These histories are very useful to learn more about the background to my grandfather’s cousin’s death at the very start of the battle.

Battalion Histories

Battalion histories are likely to provide a bird’s eye view of their battalion’s significant battles. Some will be more comprehensive than others but it’s worth searching the National Library of Australia catalogue to see what they have, remembering you can get an inter-library loan for any of the books they hold to the nearest reference library. If you don’t live near a reference library and have a specific question, perhaps a page reference, then the Ask a Librarian service may be able to help.

Official Military History

The benchmark history for World War I is Bean’s history which is now digitised on the AWM site here.

Military histories with an ethnic background

As is well known, Australians of German descent were personae non grata during World War I, with legislation governing their movements or internment. Neighbours were sometimes happy to “dob” on a German-born or German descent neighbour even with no true evidence of their disloyalty. I read a number of these long ago in the NAA in Brisbane, and there was definitely a sense of envy around some issues eg he has a new piano so he must be selling guns.

Despite this, or perhaps because, I found that the descendants of my Dorfprozelten immigrants were quite likely to join up, and to gain award and medals: perhaps they had a point to prove. The involvement of the descendants was more likely where their parents or grandparents were a German/other combination rather than German/German. This applied to the Catholic Bavarians from Dorfprozelten but really I can’t make generalisations about descendants of Germans from other areas. I chose to write about the German Anzacs in my Remembrance Day blog post last year.

The impact on the men

Last but far from least, there are many books, both fiction and non-fiction, which deal with the consequences of the war. Not only did the men suffer in all sorts of ways, so did their wives, children and families. Patsy Adam-Smith’s “Anzacs” and Bill Gammage’s “The Broken Years” are classics, but you may want to search the catalogues and bookstores to see what else you can find.

With the help of the National Library, your local reference library and bookshops with good military history selections, you will be able to find some excellent reading for your family’s military history.

Selected Bibliography from my bookshelves

Don’t forget me cobber, the Battle of Fromelles 19/20 July 1916, an Inquiry, Corfield, R S. Corfield and Co, Victoria, 2000.

Fromelles, Lindsay, P. Hardie Grant Books, Prahran Victoria 2008

The Great War, Carlyon, L. Picador, Australia, 2007

Always Faithful, the History of the 49th Battalion, Cranston, F. Boolarong Publications, Brisbane, 1983.

The 61st Battalion, 1938-1945, The Queensland Cameron Highlanders’ War, Watt, J. Australian Military History Publications, Loftus, 2001.

Anzacs and Ireland, Kildea, J. UNSW Press, Sydney, 2007

German Anzacs and the First World War, Williams, J F. UNSW Press, Sydney 2003.

Queensland and Germany, Corkhill, A. Academia Publications 1992.

Australia and The “Kaiser’s War” 1914-1918, Moses, J. Broughton Press, 1993.

The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War, Gammage, Bill. Penguin, 1975.

The Anzacs, Adams-Smith, P. Thomas Nelson Australia 1981.

The Anzacs: Gallipoli To The Western Front, Pederson, P. Penguin Australia, 2007

Goodbye Cobber, God Bless You, Hamilton, J. Pan Macmillan 2004.

——–

[i] Fromelles. Lindsay, P, Hardie Grant Books, Prahran Victoria 2008, cover publicity.

K is captivated by Kathmandu, Kildare and Kavieng

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which). Today’s “K” post mixes long-ago family history with recent family history and travelogue.

K is for Kathmandu (Nepal)

Kathmandu © P Cass 1977

Kathmandu was on my husband’s bucket list long before the expression had been invented. When friends and colleagues from Port Moresby got a posting to Kathmandu to work at the airport, he was quick to take advantage of their offer of a visit….something we’d have been unlikely to do otherwise with a six year old and a four year old in tow. We tacked the detour onto the kids’ first trip to Europe and as the plane came into land amidst lightning and murky wet season weather, we were very pleased to know our friend was in charge of the airport’s electrical systems.

What a fascinating place Kathmandu was, not on the 1970s hippie trail, but as parents with small children. Our friends made it so much easier being able to have good accommodation, safe food and triply-distilled water. All of us were overwhelmed by our couple of days in New Delhi with its crowds, begging and understandable confrontational style. Our main regret is that jet lag and culture shock meant we didn’t have the energy to do a day trip to Agra and the Taj Mahal as we’d hoped.

Kathmandu craftsmen -tinsmiths or silversmiths (I can't recall) © P Cass 1977.

Life tough for the Nepali people but they seemed somehow more happy and less aggressive, and mostly we enjoyed Kathmandu. Leprosy and deformities were rife: confronting sights even for those accustomed to life in Papua New Guinea and not a first world country.

Pashupatinath Kathmandu © P Cass 1977

The sights and memories are many: the little cubbyholes in which people worked at tin or silver smithing, or sari-making; Durba Square; the toothache shrine, the nearby smell unbelievable; a man reading the newspaper to a crowd of men sitting on the steps; the sacred cows everywhere on the road; the  monks and faithful spinning the prayer wheels at Boudhanath or Swayambunath; monkeys in Pashupatinatheven seeing a cremation by the river there. Our friends encouraged us to let the children watch and they seemed quite mesmerised and not at all traumatised by it.

The Himalaya from the air: meringue mountains. © P Cass 1977

Our friend’s work took him to various outstations and we were able to travel with him in the truck to sightsee. I clearly remember driving through a village where the grain was laid out in the street to be threshed by the passing vehicles running over it. Far too often for my liking the vehicle was far too close to the precipitous edge of a road due the narrowness, not the driving.

We even managed a tourist flight to Mt Everest despite bad weather cancelling our first planned flight. Special memories of a truly unusual place and one we were privileged to visit.

K is for County Kildare (Ireland)

Ballymore Eustace Catholic Church, Co Kildare © P Cass 1992

My Denis Gavin, who you’ve heard about lately, says he was from Ballymore Eustace, County Kildare. Mind you he’s also stated on his second marriage certificate that he was born in Dublin. On his immigration record[i] he said that his parents were Denis and Mary Gavin, that his father was dead but his mother was in Kildare. You can see there’s some ambiguity here for family history research.

Nearly 20 years ago I tried to resolve this problem by visiting the parish church at Ballymore Eustace looking for his baptism circa 1834 (his age maths tends to be a bit arbitrary), but got no results. I thought I’d struck it lucky when I found a Denis Gavin listed on the Griffith Valuations and with a probate entry, but apparently not. That particular Denis Gavin was a single man with no family other than a sister to whom he left his estate. I keep checking the indexes (IrishGenealogy.ie or RootsIreland.ie) but to no avail.

Where does this leave me? All these years later I’m still uncertain as to whether Denis came from Co Kildare or Co Dublin or where his family had lived. I’m not quite willing to call it a brick wall but it is something of a commando-standard challenge. Perhaps I’m too close to it and can no longer see the genealogical woods for the family history forest.

K is for Kavieng (Papua New Guinea)

Legur Beach, Kavieng © P Cass 1973

Kavieng, New Ireland Province, is where my husband’s parents lived in the early 1970s.  I’ve talked about how we swapped our fresh veg for their fresh crayfish, a winning exchange in my book. We visited them for a long weekend (possibly Easter) and enjoyed being able to swim in the sea after a few years in the Highlands, though it was a long walk out over the crushed coral to get far enough into the water to swim. Neither of us has many memories of the place, other than that it was quite flat, with a lot of coconut plantations and we saw war-time wreckage and bomb craters as we flew in. Mr Cassmob’s comment when asked for inspiration: Em tasol – sori long lusim tingting (Pidgin for that’s all, sorry I can’t remember).

K is for Korea

McDonald's Corner at the start of the Kokoda Track © P Cass 1976.

My father’s cousin went missing in action in Korea, aged 22. His family were devastated and over the years continued to try to learn more about what happened to him. I told his storylast year in an Anzac Day blog post. If anyone reading this post is related to his friends on his final patrol I’d love to hear from you.

K is for Kokoda Track or Trail (Papua New Guinea)

The Kokoda Track/Trail[ii]was a pivotal battleground of World War II in PNG and is now something of a pilgrimage site for Australians. When we went to Papua New Guinea soon after being married, my husband took me for a drive out of Port Moresby to Sogeri, where he’d lived for a while, and McDonald’s Corner, the southern gateway to the Track. I found it quite sobering to stand at a place which had become famous in Australian folklore.

A to Z Challenge suggestions:

You might fancy a dip into Italy with Lady Reader’s Bookstuff or Someone has to say it on intellectual property rights for books or a heartfelt post by A Common Sea.


[i] NSW Board Immigrant’s Lists for Fortune 1855, microfilm 2469.

[ii] The terminology has been hotly debated. The Australian War Memorial explains it here.