A to Z 2020 blog reading and thoughts

A to Z reflection

This year there were 418 bloggers who participated in the April A to Z Challenge – a more manageable number than in some previous years. I liked that they were categorised too, which probably limits which blogs you’re likely to read when time is short, but conversely lets you maximise the benefits. I’ve included my list of blogs I read intensively through the challenge – there’s great content in there.

This was my 5th year participating in the A to Z: you can see the links to previous years at the end of this post in case you’ve got cabin fever and need something more to read.


I like to comment on posts, even if I do a batch at a time (eg on Sundays when no posts are scheduled). These are the things I like, or find frustrating when reading a blog:

  • A “like” button or similar if you don’t have anything profound to add or are short for time.
  • Posts which require completion of a form on each occasion you comment can be frustrating, take more time and can be a deterrent to commenting (hence the added benefit of a like button)
  • Responses to comments are always welcome – otherwise it’s a bit like talking to yourself
  • Many genealogy bloggers were very generous with their time in commenting at different times throughout the challenge or even on each post.
  • A useful tip for those following Australian genealogy/history bloggers is the Facebook group called Australian History Bloggers Fan Group…a one-stop shop for finding interesting blogs.
  • I like that wordpress.com keeps my blogs spam free and I only have to be careful the first time someone comments to confirm they’re genuine. Sometimes it does get it wrong, but luckily one of those bloggers contacted me through Messenger to give me a heads-up.
  • Try to get your images lined up before you start – always assuming you have your challenge program worked out in advance. This can save a lot of time and angst.

Blogs I followed through the Challenge

Genealogy/Family History

Anne’s Family History

Earlier Years

Family History Fun

Finding Eliza

Genealogy Challenges



Molly’s Canopy

The Curry Apple Orchard


Diary of a Dublin Housewife

Best Bookish Blog

The Local Tourists

My previous A to Z challenges

2019 – Snapshot memories of my early married life in Papua New Guinea

2016 – How to pursue an interest in family history or genealogy

2013 – Travels through Australia’s North and Aussie-isms (colloquialisms)

2012 – A genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue


Wonderful Weddings

W2020This year is a big wedding anniversary for us, so of course it’s one of my big ticket gratitude items for 2020. Why not celebrate by sharing some wedding photos of my ancestors’ weddings? Some have been scattered through previous posts, some may not have been published at all. For my first generation of immigrant ancestors I don’t have wedding photos, maybe because they were too expensive to purchase, simply not a priority, or photography wasn’t available or common at the time.

I especially like wedding photos  for the reason that they offer insight into a special day and because younger people are dressed in their finest, they can be easier to date. The older generation may be more pragmatic and simply wear their normal “best”. My families have quite a track record for marital longevity. My earlier post, L is for Love and the Law, included some details but this is going to be largely a photo journal. Why not join me on this marital journey through the years.

Marital longevity table

My Ancestral Wedding Journey

There are no (known) photos of George Kunkel and Mary O’Brien‘s wedding in Ipswich, Queensland in 1857. However this photograph from a great-niece’s photo album is just beautiful. This couple are my great-great grandparents, and immigrant ancestors.

George and Mary Kunkel

We have another photo of George and Mary celebrating their granddaughter, Julia’s wedding at the family’s home at the Fifteen Mile near Murphy’s Creek. It would have been a happy time but also poignant as Julia’s parents had died in 1901.

Copy of ogorman wedding edited2

A Kunkel wedding at the Fifteen Mile. George and Mary are the elderly couple sitting either side of the flower girls.

George and Mary’s eldest child, George Michael Kunkel married Julia Gavin in the Catholic church at Dalby. They were the first generation of the family born in Australia and I suspect they met while working at Jondaryan station. They were my great grandparents on the Kunkel-Gavin lines. Sadly, George Michael and Julia would die very young within six weeks of each other in 1901. Also sadly, I have no photographs at all of Julia’s parents. I am not 100% sure this photo is of George and Julia but my rationale is as follows:

The photograph is included in an album alongside Mary and George Kunkel; the style of hair and dress is typical of the era when they were married; and the woman bears a strong resemblance to Julia Beatrice, their daughter, of whom we have identified photos. I suggest that this might be a photograph taken on their wedding day, 17 August 1879. Note the flowers on the woman’s lapel. In those days women did not typically wear a wedding dress but bought a new “best” dress.

george & julia possibly

George and Julia’s eldest son, Denis Kunkel married Scottish immigrant, Kit McCorkindale in 1922 at the Ithaca Presbyterian church in Brisbane. You can read their wedding story here.

Denis and Catherine Kunkel wedding

Their only child, Norman Kunkel married Joan, daughter of an Irish immigrant in Brisbane.

Joan and Norman Kunkel

Their only child, Ms Cassmob married Mr Cassmob in Brisbane and celebrated their wedding at the union building at the University of Queensland.

Peter and Pauleen wedding

My McSherry great-grandparents, Peter McSherry and Mary Callaghan, married in Gorey, Wexford and we have no (known) photographs of the event. However we’re lucky to have this photo from their 60th wedding anniversary celebrations.Peter and Mary mcsherry-family

I’ve never seen a photo of my McSherry-Melvin grandparents’ wedding and I don’t even know if one exists. This is a photo of each of them taken decades apart, Laura when she was a young woman (with a tiny waist) and my grandfather at work.

We also have no photograph of my Melvin ancestors’ wedding but this is one of Stephen Gillespie Melvin and his wife, Emily Partridge, in later life. Stephen was a Scottish immigrant and Emily was one of my pre-separation Queensland ancestors.

Stephen G and Emily Melvin

Stephen Gillespie Melvin and his wife Emily Partridge in later years.


Emily’s parents were William Partridge and Hannah Kent, both English immigrants to Queensland who arrived in the mid-1850s. They married in 1858 at Ipswich. Again, no photos sadly, but these are from 1909. Hannah’s was taken for the 50th anniversary of Separation and published in the newspapers. I suspect William’s was too, but he did in the middle of 1909. There are some suggestions in the records that lead me to think this couple may have been separated but I have found nothing conclusive.

Were your ancestors fortunate (or perhaps not) with their marital longevity?

Are you lucky enough to have photos of your earliest Australian immigrant ancestors?

I just have to share this wonderful photo I found on Trove of an early Queensland wedding at Stanthorpe in 1872 …nothing at all to do with my families. (Image by William Boag, out of copyright)

Stanthorpe wedding 1872


Travel genes

T2020Those who know me well, are familiar with my love and obsession of travel. As a child, I never really expected I’d have the opportunity to travel the world but I’ve been so fortunate.  I’m so very grateful to be able to see amazing places and learn a little about peoples’ lives in other countries.

Where did this travel gene come from? Firstly I think Aussies are often infected with this itchy-feet disease – perhaps it comes from all those hardy pioneers who travelled to the far side of the world. More recently, my mother had an interest in aircraft and travel from the war years, but again, never expected to be able to travel beyond our shores. My own interest was fostered by a neighbour who would send or bring me back treats from her overseas travels. And then there’s my great-grandfather Melvin. His ancestors, and hence mine, were merchant seamen for many years, sailing out of the port of Leith in Scotland. That urge to explore must have been carried down the DNA.  He has a double responsibility in my genes: the travel bug and the love/addiction to all things sweet from chocolate to cakes. After all, he was also a confectioner par excellence. Can I blame him for my ageing waist line?  I thought you couldn’t fatten thoroughbreds but it turns out I was wrong! But then again, I’m more mongrel than thoroughbred.

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends. Maya Angelou, American poet.

Ancestors and Travel

Aorangi maiden voyage The Sun 9 Feb 1925 p1

RIDES A GALE (1925, February 16). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), p. 1 (FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved April 22, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article222943347

My great-grandfather, Stephen Gillespie Melvin, was an inveterate traveller. He took sea voyages like I catch the Qantas “bus” – well I do in normal times. If all the news reports are indicative, he thought nothing of jumping on a coastal steamer between north Queensland and Sydney. He also made journeys to Britain where he no doubt saw his brother, John, while also making contacts for his confectionery import business as well as purchasing supplies.

I wonder if the most exciting voyage he undertook was on the Aorangi’s maiden voyage in 1925 from Southampton to Los Angeles and San Francisco via the Panama Canal. From there the ship sailed to Honolulu, Suva and thence New Zealand before arriving in Sydney.

Did he think it was a grand adventure to be on this voyage, or when the storms hit did it raise memories of the much-lauded Titanic, only 13 years earlier? After sailing regularly between Leith and Scandinavia across the North Sea, I’d expect he may have been fairly pragmatic to rough seas.

While I’m not that partial to taking sea voyages on cruise liners, when I’m on stormy seas I do like to be in the open with my nose into the wind. I’ve only taken two cruises and suspect that may be “it” for me, especially after all the coronavirus dramas on board, but I am willing to tolerate those tedious long haul flights in economy for the privilege of travelling the world. In fact, one of my “losses” in lock down or social isolation in this pandemic, is the disinclination to dream of future travel plans.

Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection. Lawrence Durrell, British writer.

Did your ancestors like to travel and is this something that’s been passed down to you?

Header image : Aorangi,  State Library of South Australia

Photograph from the Arbon-Le Maistre Collection of ships, mostly from the 20th century. No known copyright restrictions



Serendipity, Skills and Talents

S2020Serendipity (that magic conjunction of different thoughts and outcomes) has been a gift for which I’m very grateful. How else to explain my start in family history? I had been visiting a historical-themed event in William St, Brisbane with our youngest daughter when we came across a tent promoting the Genealogical Society of Queensland. On a whim I decided to join up – I think mainly because I was curious about the origin of my Germanic surname. And there, in that moment of serendipity, commenced a thirty-year love affair with discovering the stories of my ancestors. It’s kept me sane in difficult times and has always presented a challenge or two along the way. Even within this journey there are moments of serendipity where one person’s snippet of information marries up with another and a whole new discovery is made. A whole circle of friendship around the world has come from this journey, as has the opportunity to connect with cousins and family I’d known nothing about previously. What’s not to love?

Serendipity is the stardust sprinkling our research.

P McSherry Longreach brass bandSerendipity is one of the chief joys of our wonderful Trove. Now we can discover family stories that we’d have had no chance of knowing. Previously our newspaper searches, via microfilm, were targeted at the big-ticket events in our families’ lives: births, engagements, marriages, deaths, funerals, obituaries. Suddenly hidden pockets of our ancestors’ lives came out of obscurity. Today I want to share with you some of the skills or talents of my ancestors that I’ve uncovered. Thinking about this topic has made me realise how little we know even about quite recent ancestors like grandparents. I know with mine, they were “elderly” when I knew them (ie about my age now). Even though one set were neighbours, I realise how little I am aware of their hobbies or special things they liked to do. Perhaps I was just being a self-centred child/teenager, or perhaps after decades of working hard they just didn’t have the energy for hobbies.

The concept of serendipity often crops up in research. Serendipity is the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things that were not being sought. I believe that all researchers can be serendipitous. Akira Suzuki, Japanese scientist.

Serendipity, skills and talents

Are you already tired of hearing about my 2xgreat grandfather, George Mathias Kunkel? We’ve learned that he made wine, was a skilled pork butcher and grew export-quality oranges. But really, how much of that is personal? You’ve read in this series that I interviewed his granddaughter Annie and the stories she’d shared. Imagine how surprised I was when transcribing her oral history interview with Cameron McKee to learn something entirely new about George.

He was a clever man and he could take a pocket knife and carve a thing. We had a pen handle carved from a bone. It was a perfect thing with a folded hand on the end of it like that on the end of it.[i]

It’s a small thing but I was thrilled to discover it. My imagination takes me on a journey to think he may have learned this while on the sea voyage to Australia – or even if he’d been a crew member. Maybe one day another round of digitisation will reveal all.

Cameron asked Annie about their parties and who would provide the music:

Tom Kunkel …. they were up north on the cane farms but the crushing would be finished and they could come down for Christmas. The oldest, Bernard…Tom’s oldest brother, Bernard Kunkel, he played the accordion. Mr Chapman (a local from the earliest days pioneering Murphy’s Creek) played the violin generally.

Annie also mentioned that Tom Kunkelhad a terrific memory and he had an amazing store of good clean jokes, humorous things that happened in his life”. Even recounting this she was chuckling at the memories.

Another of the Kunkels (but which, and where is that note?) was also reputed to tell stories and give poetry sessions at various functions.

Partridge William colonial timbers Qlder 17 Dec 1870 p12

Newspaper reports of Agricultural Exhibitions (sometimes called Shows in Queensland) can often provide insights into an ancestor’s talents, skills or interests. This can be helpful for the women in our ancestry as the displays usually included “women’s work”.

I was quite tickled to find this story about William Partridge which evoked memories of a ruler I had at school, made up from different timbers:

Mr. Partridge’s colonial woods were exhibited in a handsome glass case (quite likely also made by him, as he was a carpenter). They were forty-five in number, and represented nearly all the woods of Queensland, and were most tastefully arranged and varnished. One piece of scrub vine particularly attracted our attention; it is twisted, and forms a pretty fancy stand for the table.[ii]

Stephen Melvin often garnered attention for his shop displays or entries in an Agricultural Exhibition:

Of preserves there were but few, mostly well gotten up in small glass tumblers with metal capsules, and looking quite tempting. The successful exhibitors were Mrs. J. Scott, J. A. Jackes, and Sophia Spressar and 8. G. Melvin.[iii]

Mr. Melvin had a very enticing display of confectionery- about the best ever seen here-and there was no lack of purchasers of his toothsome compounds[iv].

MELVIN Laura Nth Qld Reg 5 June 1899 p27

Aunty Mary's tiny doll

This tiny doll is in an “egg” about 3inches long.

At the annual exhibition of the Towers Pastoral, Agricultural and Mining Association, my grandmother, Laura Melvin, then a young girl of 11, was highly commended for her doll with handmade sailor dress and cap.[v] Making doll’s clothes was a love she shared with my aunt who maintained her interest throughout her life and had a wide collection of dolls whose faces she’d “made up” and the outfits she’d sewed. I’m not a fan of decorated dolls but I do like this tiny one that came to me from Aunty Mary – can you imagine the patience that the clothes took to crochet?

My mother did some crocheting and embroidery but she preferred sewing and other crafts like decoupage and flower KUNKEL Joan recipe prize WWarranging. Her attention to detail was precise and every seam (clothes or decoupage) had to be perfectly aligned and matched. She later turned her skills to home handywoman activities like painting and wallpapering. I have plenty of patience for family history, but none at all for DIY.

I was intrigued to find that mum had won a prize when her recipe was published in the Australian Women’s Weekly – thanks Trove![vi]

Without Trove, our family would never have known that Peter McSherry played brass instruments and taught the Longreach band. Similarly, some of the Partridge family also played instruments – yet another skill or talent that hasn’t reached me, sadly.

I’ll leave you with this story of a massive cake made by Melvin and Sons in Charters Towers in 1919…most likely by the sons, since Stephen Melvin had relocated to Sydney by then. Sadly, the text is hard to read but there’s no doubt it was a whopper! Just imagine – six tiers of which the bottom tier was 15 inches in height, and weighed 420lbs. The whole cake was decorated with icing and flags (presumably a patriotic note after the war).  Mr Melvin (which?) claimed it as a record for Queensland having only been surpassed nation-wide by Sargent’s of Sydney. Interested residents were invited to see the cake within the shop because it was too large for the window.

MELVIN record cake 13 Dec 1919 p4 Nth Miner

Absurd quantities of eggs and fruit went into this super cake.


Also true: In reality, serendipity accounts for one percent of the blessings we receive in life, work and love. The other 99 percent is due to our efforts. Peter McWilliams, American Writer.

Have you made intriguing discoveries thanks to Trove or other digitised newspapers?

Did you inherit your ancestors’ skills or talents or have they passed you by?


Quotes from brainyquotes.com

[i] Oral history interview Annie Kunkel with local historian Cameron McKee c1984.

[ii] Mr. Partridge’s colonial woods were exhibited in a handsome glass case. They were forty-five in number, and represented nearly all the wood* of Queensland, and were most taste fully arranged and varnished. One piece of scrub vme particularly attracted our attention ; it is twisted, and forms a pretty fan<y stand f r the table.

[iii] The Ipswich Show. (1882, December 16). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), p. 856. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19788354

[iv] IPSWICH. (1882, December 25). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), p. 5. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3409131

[v] TOWERS. PASTORAL, AGRICULTURAL, AND MINING ASSOCIATION. (1899, June 5). The North Queensland Register (Townsville, Qld. : 1892 – 1905), p. 27. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article84407477

[vi] Prize recipes (1952, June 18). The Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), p. 38. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51595521

Of Reading and Religion

R2020Reading for me is like food and water – an essential experience in life, and one I can’t imagine being without. I’m so grateful to my dad for sharing his love of reading with me. Not because we shared books but because I saw his example of reading being a pleasure even though, in retrospect, I suspect he was somewhat dyslexic. Similarly, I love seeing my grandson being immersed in a book and not lifting his eyes when the end is in sight.

My mother was never much of a reader which is strange because she liked to write some poetry and little children’s stories. To her, reading was a waste of time away from tasks and hobbies, unless it was reading something religious. Dad combined both by bringing me bible story comics when I was sick.

Religion is a hot button topic for many people and a source of great contention for many people. These days I’m sitting on the barbed wire fence on the topic even though (or because) I was firmly embedded in the Catholic religion when growing up.

Pauleen newspapers 1980s (2)

Weekend reading in the pre-digital era.


Ancestors and Reading

Maryborough Chronicle 17 Oct 1878

Nord Australischer Glaubenseifer. (1878, October 17). Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser (Qld. : 1860 – 1947), p. 3. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article148529577

I wonder whether reading was important to any of my ancestors. I can’t imagine not being able to read as many of my early Irish ancestors couldn’t. It seems likely George Kunkel could have read at least the news because he was a regular signatory to government petitions, yet would he have had any German literature available to him? Did he subscribe to the German language newspaper, Die Nord Australische Zeitung, which was published in Australia or could he not afford it? Luckily at least some articles found their way into the local English newspapers. Did family members perhaps send him a book or two? Was there a German-language lending library anywhere or did he bring a couple of books with him when he emigrated? So many questions and so few answers. The reality is probably that all of my immigrant ancestors were so busy working long hours to establish themselves that the hobby and pleasure of reading just didn’t fit into their day.

I think, too, that they cultivated the power of memory more than perhaps we do. Dad could rattle off verses of poetry, whereas that was a skill beyond me. Did they learn them at school and never forget?

We never stop reading, although every book comes to an end, just as we never stop living, although death is certain. Roberto Bolano, Chilean writer

Ancestors and Religion

Sandon church and pub

Sandon Church of England where my Kent ancestors worshipped,  and the old Six Bells public house © Pauleen Cass 1992

Mostly religion is much more clear-cut for my ancestors: they fitted neatly into mainly two categories. The Irish were Roman Catholics and the Scots were Church of Scotland or later Presbyterian. A couple wavered between Baptist, Methodist and Church of England. Ironically, my maternal, Catholic, branch includes as many non-Catholics as Catholics, while my non-Catholic paternal side has just as much representation of Catholics.

True religion is real living; living with all one’s soul, with all one’s goodness and righteousness. Albert Einstein, German physicist.

Kilmorich Parish Church.

Kilmorich Parish Church at Cairndow where my McCorkindale ancestors worshipped. My great-grandmother Isabella’s grave is on the right side of the path.

The truly sad thing is how religion could divide families. My father was a non-Catholic and I am appalled now to think how much he was humbugged, including by me, to come to the Catholic church with us and how his entire home environment was filled with Catholic iconography. On his death bed he told me he wasn’t religious but he had faith. Amen! My grandfather refused to attend his daughter’s wedding in the Methodist church in Brisbane, Dad’s cousins reportedly would not attend his wedding in the Catholic church or act as groomsmen. My paternal grandfather, from a long line of Catholics, lost contact with most of his siblings after he left the church so that while I have myriad second cousins on that line I knew nothing about them until, by coincidence, one was in my class at high school and recognised my surname. Similarly visits by my grandmother’s Presbyterian siblings and children generated angst if I jumped the fence (literally and figuratively) to go and see them. I’m so grateful that second cousins on both my Catholic and Presbyterian lines have reached out over the years and we’ve regenerated the links and friendships that were lost. If all that reads very cynically you can see why I sit on that barbed wire fence today.

Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair. G.K. Chesterton, British writer.

Ancestors, Religion and Community

New and Old Catholic church Murphys Creek DDG 15 June 1895 p5 and 6

FUNCTION AT MURPHY’S CREEK. (1895, June 15). Darling Downs Gazette (Qld. : 1881 – 1922), p. 5. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article171383494

In those very early days of pioneering settlement, families played a huge role in bringing churches to their communities. Similarly, the clergy of all denominations rode long miles across the colony to visit their parishioners, sometimes marrying couples and baptising their children at the same time. Oftentimes, the members of all churches contributed to funds for the building of another church…they were all in it together to develop their communities.

Lists of donations to church building were published in the newspapers and while I was lucky enough to find some pre-digitisation, Trove has certainly made it so much easier to find them and get a sense of where they fitted in the community’s financial structure.

Community gatherings celebrated the opening of churches and of course the women were pivotal in organising and feeding people at these events.


The old decommissioned church from Murphys Creek now on a rural block at Upper Laidley. Photo copyright P Cass 2011.

I was surprised how often I’ve blogged about religion over the past 10 years but you can find any by entering “religion” in the search bar on the top right of the page. Perhaps the most relevant is another post here or religion in Papua New Guinea here.

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator. Mahatma Gandhi, Indian leader.

 Religion played a pivotal role in my life for many years and reading has been a constant thread thoughout my life.

Was religion an important part of your ancestors’ lives?

And for the family historians who love to unearth an epitaph for their ancestors – an amusing, ironic quote:

Reading the epitaphs, our only salvation lies in resurrecting the dead and burying the living. Paul Eldridge, American educator.





Q2020One of the things I’m inordinately and illogically proud of is that I am a true maroon Queenslander. All but one of my immigrant ancestors arrived in Queensland and remained here, being part of the communities that built up the colony and then the state.

Queen Victoria signed the Letters Patent to make Queensland a separate colony from New South Wales on 6 June 1859, the date which would become Queensland Day and on 10 December 1859, Governor Bowen read the proclamation of separation. Queensland has also played a key role in the foundation of the Australian Labor Party, from the time of the shearer’s strike at Barcaldine in 1891. Our unofficial national song, Waltzing Matilda, was composed just up the road near Winton by poet Banjo Paterson. To this day there are slight regional variations in the words and music.

Queenslander023 (2)

This is the ribbon I take to genealogy conferences.


I am grateful to all my ancestors who immigrated to Queensland and proud that I have eleven ancestors who were here pre-Separation: eight were immigrants and three had been born in the colony before December 1859. I’m going to focus on my direct line of ancestry rather than the whole family who came.


General Hewitt Dec 1854 MBC 30 Dec 1854

CHRISTMAS RACES. (1854, December 30). The Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane, Qld. : 1846 – 1861), p. 2. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3710495

Richard Kent and wife Mary Camp (3xgreat grandparents) and family including my 2xgreat-grandmother, Hannah Kent from Sandon, Hertfordshire arrived in Moreton Bay on the General Hewitt on 16 December 1854. Just imagine their shock arriving in the heat of a Queensland Summer. English.

Denis Gavin and wife Ellen Murphy (2xgreat) with daughter Mary. My great-grandmother Julia was born in 1859. Denis and Ellen arrived at Moreton Bay on the Fortune on 8 December 1855. Denis came from County Kildare and Ellen from County Wicklow but they married in Dublin and emigrated from there. Irish


 George Mathias Kunkel, one of that well-known immigrant breed, the swimmer…after thirty plus years I still don’t know how he got here. George came from the village of Dorfprozelten in Bavaria and he married Mary O’Brien in Ipswich Queensland in 1857. Bavarian. George and Mary’s son, George Michael Kunkel, my great-grandfather, was born in Ipswich in 1858.


Map of Queensland at the date of separation, A.D. 1859[1], s.n.>, 1859 CLICK to see it enlarged.

Mary O’Brien from County Clare, Ireland arrived in Moreton Bay, I now believe, on the Florentia on 25 April 1853. Oral history records that she emigrated with her sister Bridget and was six months at sea. She was only 16. Irish.

William Partridge from Coleford, Gloucestershire arrived on the Fortune on 8 December 1855 – the same voyage as the Gavins. William married Hannah Kent in Ipswich. English.


Stephen Gillespie Melvin emigrated on the Woodlark from Leith near Edinburgh, Scotland in 1877, and married Emily Partridge, daughter of William and Hannah. Scottish. His mother, Margaret Gillespie/Gilhespy also later emigrated. (born Northumberland) English.

James Sherry (aka McShArry) and wife Bridget Furlong arrived at Rockhampton on the Melpomene on 20 January 1883 with their large family. Bridget came from Kings County (Offaly) but James’s origin is a mystery. Irish.

James and Bridget’s eldest son, Peter Sherry (later McShErry) and his wife Mary Callaghan arrived in Rockhampton with their two small children, including my grandfather James, on the Almora on 5 May 1884. Peter was born in Tullamore, Co Offaly and Mary came from Courtown, Wexford. Irish.


My widowed great-grandmother Annie Sim McCorkindale arrived on the Perthshire with her adult family on 24 June 1910. My grandmother, Kit, was part of the family migration. Scottish.


I’m also proud of my immigrant ancestors that they moved beyond the coastal strip into the less developed areas of the colony/state, building railway lines and growing communities. You can read about their voyages of internal migration in this post. Over the decades they lived in Rockhampton, Boguntungan, Longreach and Winton in the central west; Townsville, Hughenden and Charters Towers in the North; Maryborough, Ipswich and Brisbane in the east; and Toowoomba, Highfields, Dalby, Condamine and Murphys Creek on/near the Darling Downs.

At a time when the topic of immigration can be contentious and bring out the worst in people’s attitudes, I’m very grateful for what my own immigrant ancestors have brought to this state and country.

Where did your immigrant ancestors arrive?



The Price of Peace

P2020It may be that, on a daily basis, I take our country’s peace for granted rather than give thanks for it. Yes, it has things that could be done better or differently, but overall we are indeed the Lucky Country when it comes to peace. Yes, I am aware that our Indigenous Australians paid a high price when the country was settled and since. However, many people have come to our shores to find peace and safety, escaping persecution or wars. I certainly don’t subscribe to the “if you don’t love it, leave” philosophy. I often wonder whether people with those bumper stickers would immediately leave their spouses/partners the minute they had a disagreement. So, yes, I give thanks that we live on an island continent far from many of the world’s trouble spots.

bottle tree plaqueBWcrop

The memorial plaque for James Thomas Paterson on Roma’s bottletree planting in honour of its World War I Diggers

Since we became a nation in 1901, and even before, our people have been involved in wars, largely to support the Empire of which we were a part. Many of our people paid a high price: loss of life, incapacity and physical handicaps, loss of family members, post-traumatic stress, domestic violence, loss of human potential. As so many were lost on foreign battlefields with little chance that family members would ever be able to visit their graves (where they even exist), the role of war memorials has played a huge role as a locus of bereavement and recognition of service. Is there a town in the country where one can’t be found? I suspect not.

Maintaining peace can be as strenuous as winning a war. Margaret MacMillan, Canadian Historian.

Ancestors and the Price of Peace

It seems likely that most Australian families have members who volunteered to serve or were enlisted. Perhaps mine is somewhat unusual because with so many railwaymen in protected or essential service, branches of the family tree had little or no representation. It’s for this reason that I’ve been less inclined to engage with Anzac Day ceremonies because I feel like a fraud.

It wasn’t until I lived in Milne Bay in the early 1970s that the full sense of the war in Papua New Guinea became clearer to me despite previously reading books and poetry about it. I wrote about that here. Similarly touring the Western Front in Europe brought the loss to humanity overwhelmingly evident.


The memorial overlooks Milne Bay: a far more tranquil scene than 77 years ago.

Each year the Australian and New Zealand genealogy bloggers typically post a story about ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day. You can see some of mine by searching in the box in the top right.

The price of peace paid by my families include the deaths of James Paterson[i] (grandson of George and Mary Kunkel) and James Gavin[ii] (grandson of Denis and Ellen Gavin) during World War I. Hugh Moran[iii] was taken Prisoner of War in Italy and Germany during World War II for several years. William Rudolph (Robert) Kunkel was Missing in Action in the Korean War and his family never knew what happened beyond the firefight when he was captured.

It’s hard to imagine what their families went through both during the war and afterwards. Letters found in the service records can be heartbreaking.

Personal thoughts

medal3 cropMy paternal grandfather served in World War I, however I have no memory of him ever attending an Anzac Day service, although he was a member of the Returned Servicemen’s League/

As a child, I remember seeing men with war injuries (missing arms or legs), selling newspapers on the street corner. Or men hitting the bottle or drunk – drowning their memories no doubt.  We came to a better understanding of the Bombing of Darwin once we moved to the Northern Territory to live.  Or realising that my husband would have “won” the national service lottery for Vietnam if his official place of abode during university hadn’t been Papua New Guinea.

I remember Dad telling me that he couldn’t attend the Victory in the Pacific celebrations in Brisbane because he was on shift with the railways at the time. Or hearing a (very) little about his knowledge of the Battle of Brisbane.. the conflict between Australian servicemen and the Americans who were based here and thought to be “overpaid, oversexed and over here”. I’ve also realised I need to ask mum what she did on VP day.

VP Day Brisbane

Victory in the Pacific celebrations Brisbane from awm.gov.au. Out of copyright.

It’s also interesting to observe that the practice of having cadet corps in high schools seems to have largely disappeared over the decades. When I was at high school many schools, and I’d suggest all private schools, had their own army or air force cadets.

Those families with serving men and women across the decades will have quite a different experience from mine. It doesn’t change that I am very grateful indeed to live in a peaceful country,  thanks in part to the high price that has been paid.

You can read some of my past posts for Anzac Day or Remembrance Day by using the search bar on the top right of this blog, or the drop down categories box– something else to do in our covid-isolation?

What is your families’ tradition of military service and what price was paid to gain peace?

For some sources to use when searching for Australian Military History and service.

Australian War Memorial

Commonwealth War Graves Commission for deaths and places of burial or memorials.

National Archives of Australia: Attestation documents digitised for WWI service people and some for later conflicts.

Quote from https://www.brainyquote.com

[i] 05 April 1917 Age 28 VILLERS-BRETONNEUX MEMORIAL http://cwgc.org

[ii] 19 July 1916 Age 30 RUE-PETILLON MILITARY CEMETERY, FLEURBAIX I. K. 39.from http://cwgc.org

[iii] https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/DetailsReports/ItemDetail.aspx?Barcode=4850146&isAv=N

Ordinary People

O2020My ancestors were all what might be termed “ordinary people”, none achieved great heights of achievement other than to work hard, raise their children well and engage with their communities.

It’s not that I have the Australian distrust of “Tall Poppies“, simply that my research means that I’d be shocked if I’d found a field of poppies in my family tree. As you know I’ve been sharing quotes from the Brainy Quote website with most of my posts but today’s search was both disappointing and depressing, offering mainly dismissive concepts of any community’s grassroots people apart from only a couple I endorsed. Instead I’m going to indulge myself and add a quote from the Acknowledgments to my own family history, Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel Family.

Kunkel book cover cropThere are two ways to look at a family tree, as genealogy (the begets or begats of the Bible), or as the story of families living in a particular period of time and experiencing all the challenges of the period, influencing their family life and outcomes, just as they play their individual or family role on the greater stage of history. The names of the so-called “little people” are rarely recorded in the history books but they are the cannon fodder of wars, the workers who build a nation, and its railways, the families who make up its people.

So let me introduce you to my ancestors, those “Ordinary People” whose lives led progressively to my own.

Paternal line

Maternal line

You can see why this quote resonates with me and why I write this blog:

I want to keep telling stories of ordinary people. Margot Lee Shetterly, author

Do you descend from a line of “Ordinary People” or do you have “Tall Poppies” in your family forest?

Do you love telling the stories of your ancestors?

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


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.


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.


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.

Keepsakes or Heirlooms?

K2020As the generations pass away behind us, we inherit bits and bobs that were once owned by family members. We may also have gifts that we’ve kept over the years because a much loved relative has given them to us. Unless your family was well off I think of these items as keepsakes – they evoke the person who owned them or who gave them to you, and they often have little monetary value. For example, there are decorative items of my mother’s or grandmother’s that are not to my personal taste but that I may keep just because they take me back to childhood times.

For me, heirlooms invoke thoughts of expensive items bequeathed from generation to generation. At first thought I have few of these but perhaps I do even though they don’t have great financial value. The reality is, the further back we go to our immigrant ancestors, the fewer items we’re likely to have. Most came in on government assistance schemes, had little money, and brought little with them. While they died they may have left something to their families, but where those items ended up may be anyone’s guess.

Keep all special thoughts and memories for lifetimes to come. Share these keepsakes with others to inspire hope and build from the past, which can bridge to the future. Mattie Stepanek, author.


I have quite a few keepsakes from my paternal grandparents – one of the advantages of being the only child of an only child, I guess. Most have very little financial value but still I remember them from when they were in my grandparents’ house.

My grandmother’s silver mirror was among the silver items I used to polish for her regularly for a bit of pocket money. In due course it may become an heirloom as I’ve bequeathed it to my only granddaughter and talked to her about the history.


Spoons embossed with my great-grandmother’s initials; passed down to her daughter and then to me, and will ulitmately go to my daughters and grandchildren.

Perhaps more in the heirloom category, though not in value, are the silver spoons which came from my great grandmother. I assume they were part of her trousseau as they are engraved with the initials of her maiden name. I should really put out my small book on silver hallmarks and work out the date of manufacture.

I have little keepsakes from my maternal great-aunt Emily, who used to give me teacups for my birthday or Christmas or Easter. They remind me that she was like a grandmother to me when mum’s mother died young.


Tiny teacups from Aunty Emily.

Some things you touch, or even just see, and they take you back years to a time and place with a particular person.

Mr Cassmob also has some keepsakes from his grandparents eg an ivory cribbage board and some glass bowls.

cribbage board

I wonder which of our belongings and nick knacks, will be touchstones of memory for our own children.  


Among the emotional “treasures” I have are my paternal grandfather’s medals from World War I and the fob watch, very simple, which is engraved with his father’s date of death, Christmas Day 1901. I’d love to know whether it had been a gift on that day, or if he had it engraved himself in memory of his dad. Had I never researched the family history I’d have had no idea of the significance.

One of the heirlooms I’ve now got it my grandparents’ gramophone which holds so many memories of happy times listening to old music with them. Or my grandfather’s blanket box which I’m told he used for his belongings when being moved around by the railways. In my dreams it has a more distant history as it looks very like the trunks that the immigrants brought with them but that’s all it is, a dream.

Grandmas bible

This bible seems to have been a gift to my grandmother at the time of her departure from Scotland

And what of books with inscriptions from when grandparents may have won a school prize. What “value” do they have?

As I said before, items with little intrinsic value can be of significant emotional value just because of who they belonged to, and their relationship to you. I reflected on this some years ago with this post.
With the Marie Kondo movement to declutter your home and the reluctance of the “younger generation” to take on the work intensive silver and crystal, how do we prioritise what to keep or even whether we keep it at all?

I found this book, Downsizing with Family History in Mind by Devon Noel Lee and Andrew Lee, helpful in clarifying my thoughts on the keeping of keepsakes or heirlooms.

How do you handle your family’s “treasures” and decide what to keep?