Imagining my ancestor’s last day in Dorfprozelten

This story was first published on my Family History Across the Seas blog, as Writing Family History – Overcoming Roadblocks.

The biggest roadblock in writing my Kunkel-O’Brien family history in 2003 was trying to give my readers a flavour of the ancestral home village in Bavaria. I struggled with this stumbling block for weeks, but during a day’s creative writing class at the NT Writers’ Centre a lateral approach came to me. Instead of being absolutely factual, I invented a story about George Kunkel’s final day at home in Dorfprozelten before emigrating, within an imaginary emotional context. I didn’t pretend the story of that day was anything but total creative licence, but it provided me with the vehicle to give my family an evocative impression of the village, and its social structure based on the information I had about the village. The accompanying photographs illustrated the specific places mentioned.  I was delighted when the village’s local historian complimented me on this part of my history.

I thought I might include this story here as quite a number of people are interested in Dorfprozelten. Some of the landmarks and features had been mentioned previously in the family history I was writing. You can also see some of these images on my previous post.

As background you also need to know that George Kunkel became a pork butcher in Australia, his brother was a master butcher, and the family had owned one of the inns in the village for centuries:

©Pauleen Cass 2003 “Walk with him on his last day at home in Dorfprozelten.

The early light of dawn is filtering through the shutters to the rhythm of the church bells, which mark the hours and are part of the fabric of the village. The crisp white sheets and the comfort of the eiderdown make it tempting to stay in bed a little longer. So much lies ahead today, it’s best to get up and about, and not think too long. Other family members are slowly stirring, dress quickly – lederhosen, heavy boots, and the walking stick for the hills. Quietly shutting the heavy inn door, and walking down the worn stone steps – how many ancestors and visitors have come the same way. The smell of the bakery is permeating the morning air. “I’ll miss waking up to that when I’m at sea.”

His walk this morning will be a pilgrimage to all the places he wants to keep in his heart for the long decades ahead. The Nepomuk is gazing quietly over the village from his place on the bridge. ‘How many times have I stood here with Karl and looked out at the floods or thrown stones into the water. Remember when the tree wound up in the window there.’

Eva Kaüflein waves to me as I’m walking up the Hauptstrasse. She’s already airing the linen, getting all their belongings in order. She and her husband Vincent will leave soon for Australia and perhaps we’ll all meet up when they get there. Frau Krebs is feeding the chickens in the yard of the Krone, getting ahead of the day’s work, before her guests are up and about. “Funny how some people always visit their inn and others stick to ours, still we all do good business.”

A quick visit to the old Marian chapel to pay my respects and pray for safety on the voyage and that of my mother and family left at home. It’s hard on the old people, Frau Nebauer still frets for her son and daughter-in law. She’s only had a few letters and worries that they might be finding it too difficult in that strange country. So much sadness when the young ones opt for adventure or the chance for a better life.

Around the corner, the smithy is stoking up the fire for the day’s work. “That smithy’s been there for centuries, I suppose it will still be here when I’m long gone too, just like our inn. Thank goodness it’s still too quiet for the old men to gather and chat, I don’t want to have them watching me, judging me.”

The river comes into view again and it’s time to take the path to the forest. A quick prayer at the shrine and it’s up the steep hills to the cover of the trees. The boars are snuffling in the distance but they won’t bother me today. Finally I reach my favourite spot where I can see the whole village spread out before me. The river is clear and smooth now but later the barges will track invisible paths through it, and one of them will carry me on the long journey far away. Flags flap in the breeze outside the bargemen’s houses telling all their friends they’re home and good for a chat, a smoke and a stein.

The vineyard looms over the village like a priest lecturing his flock from the pulpit, and the labourers move up and down the vines, pruning. There’s a rhythmic calm to their movement. It’s strange how it’s this experience that’s given the men a chance to try a new life in Australia, after all the news that they want to start a wine industry there. Dry wine for a dry country.

Down the quick path to the church, a well trodden path to get to Mass quickly when you’ve left it a little late from a morning walk. The children are running and jostling on their way to school. “It’s not all that long since Herr Kraus lectured us in our numbers, his cane swishing to our chanting”. “That’s one smell I don’t miss, the smell of the horses and cattle mixing with the fire in the classroom. The old barn is pretty with its Fachwerk but it certainly smells!”

Walk by the cemetery, to place a few wildflowers from the hill on Father’s grave. Mother was here last night and the lamp is still burning and her flowers are fresh. I need to say goodbye to my departed family too.  I’ll miss being able to come and say a quiet hello. So many generations, and my little sisters, all lying here, faithfully tended by those still living.

Just enough time for a quiet walk along the river. I’ll see the length of this great river in the days ahead, but there’ll be no time for reflection then. It’s so peaceful along here in the shade of the trees. There’s some hustle and bustle on the barges now so I’d best hurry. Herr Brand is in the yard of the Goldener Stern, watching the action, and missing the lure of the sea.

Only time for a passing prayer at the crucifix shrine, hurrying to get home as the Angelus rings out. My brother Jacob is busy with the lunch guests and we only have time for a quick goodbye. He’s taught me everything he knows about meat and cooking, so I’ll have useful skills in my new life. Mother hands me a parcel of lebkuchen, rye bread, cheese and sausage for the voyage, hugs me quickly, and turns away with tears in her eyes.

I have to leave quickly or it will be too hard. Dashing down the path I cast a glance back. Mother is watching silently from the upstairs windows framed by flowerboxes.

Gute Fahrt aus Dorfprozelten, Georg.

Safe travelling from Dorfprozelten.

Good voyage, George.

 

Note: Photos of Dorfprozelten can be found on my Flickr page under the category “Dorfprozelten am Main”http://www.flickr.com/photos/cassmob/sets/72157600185994835/

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What news of the Dorfprozelten emigrants?

My goal from searching the online German newspapers was, optimistically, to find more about my George Kunkel, but also to try to clarify the emigration of Franz Ignaz Zöller and his family, and potentially also his brother, Franz Joseph Xaver Zöller.

In the way of things these are the very questions which remain unanswered after all the trawling through papers.

However what I found most interesting of all was how much before the start of the voyage, the families left Dorfprozelten. Most of the late 1854/early 1855 emigrants travelled on two ships, the Peru and the Commodore Perry, with a few side-shunted onto the Boomerang.

I don’t intend to go into those voyages here but you can learn more either from Jenny Paterson’s excellent articles[i] or my presentation to the 2003 Congress[ii] which focused on those who settled in Moreton Bay. In terms of specific Dorfprozelten families in Australia, you can refer to the articles I submitted to the QFHS Q150 project about those who arrived in Queensland pre-Separation in 1859 (available as a book or on CD)[iii].

Search locally or by the nearest train station

Searching the newspapers for Stadtprozelten (the larger village just a couple of kilometres up the road) as well as Dorfprozelten was helpful as their departure notices often referred to that village. The train also left from there and if I’ve deciphered the abbreviations correctly the notices also say exactly when the emigrants were leaving from the Stadtprozelten station. The trains also carried emigrants from other nearby villages like Oberaltenbuch, some of whose families were tied in with the Dorfprozelten people by marriage or friendship. You can imagine the pall of sadness which would have filled the atmosphere with so many leaving at once.

26 Oct 1854 Hock Ganzer Kauflein 2_crop WA

Würzburger Abendblatt 26 October 1854; Vincenz Käuflein and wife, Clara Günzer from Dorfprozelten and Joh Hock from Breitenbrunn leave on 28 October. They would travel on the Commodore Perry, leaving in January 1855.

In many cases I’ve been able to find the notices published in the Aschaffenburger Zeitung (AZ) which notified the creditors that someone was about to leave. For some reason these seem to have been concentrated in that paper while the date and time of departure were advertised in the Würzburger Abendblatt.

Timelines

The single most noticeable factor about the newspaper articles is the early departure of the emigrants from their home town. I had imagined they would leave much closer to the sailing date of their ship but in fact most left months earlier than that.

1 Oct 54 Schreck Krebs Seus Diflo_AZ crop

Aschaffenburger Zeitung 1 October 1854. They were leaving on 2 October and would not sail until January 1855.

For example, the Peru was scheduled to sail from Hamburg around 16th December[iv] though it apparently left on 17 January[v]. The newspaper notices indicate that the Dorfprozelten people who travelled on this ship actually left by train between 6 September and 10 October 1854. They didn’t arrive in Sydney until 23 May 1855 so they had been on the move for at least eight months! Small wonder they were in poor condition when they arrived in Australia.

The Commodore Perry and Boomerang travellers didn’t fare much better. They left home by train between 2 October and 28 October and their ship left Liverpool on 11 January, and with a stop in Launceston, they arrived in Sydney on 26 April 1855. An overall journey of six months minimum. The Boomerang passengers (including Carl Diflo and family, and Joseph Zöller and family) were in much the same position.

Each time I read of the German emigrants I am struck by the difference in how the Irish and British migrants were treated by comparison. Irrespective of the rules and regulations, it is evident they were not protected as well or treated as well in their overall journey.

Achaffenburger Zeitung 1 September 1854: Aloys Joseph Neubeck.

Achaffenburger Zeitung 1 September 1854: Aloys Joseph Neubeck.

Saying “I Do”

It’s apparent from the advertisements that some of the emigrants who were married by the time of arrival in Australia, were still single on departure. As they needed to be married in order to gain government assistance, it’s likely they married en route, either in their port of departure or in one of the cities along the way.

7 Oct 1854 Bilz Zoller Diflo crop WA_edited-1

Würzburger Abendblatt 7 October 1854 lists Käuflein, Löhr, Bilz, Kuhn, Krebs, Zöller and Seus. Andreas Diflo and Juliana Löhr are shown as married by the time they reach Australia. As are Ludovica Seus and Carl Wörner.

Couples who fall into this category are: Eugen Nebauer and Caroline Umscheid; Clara Rosina Günzer and Johann Hock; Andrew Diflo and Juliana Löhr; Carl Wörner and Ludovica Seus. Others who married fellow emigrants soon after arrival were Georg Günzer and Hildagard Hock; and Franz Joseph Dümig and Cecilia Füller.

Australia or Elsewhere

In some cases the newspaper advertisement mentions the person was emigrating to Australia, in other cases nothing is mentioned. For a small group who left in 1861 including Eleanore Löhr, Anna Maria Umscheid, Franz Joseph Dümig (later Dimmock) and Cäcelie Füller (Cecilia later married Dümig), their notified destination was Brazil. What happened that they changed their minds and ended up in Australia? I found this change of destination particularly poignant in the case of Dümig and Füller because of their tragic story in Australia.

Dorf 40 Lohr Dumig Brazil crop KBKA

The Brazilian Exodus, yet Dümig and Löhr came to Australia. Königlich-bayerisches Kreis-Amtsblatt

Did those who were also listed in the same advertisement still go on to Brazil? Did Johann Philip Brand, his wife Sabina and children Alexander and Rosalia settle in Brazil or did they also re-route their emigration, perhaps to the USA.  Was this the same man whose notice was in the paper in 1854? Did he change his mind but follow up later on when the children were older?

Hamburg or elsewhere

It may seem self-evident to note that if the ships on which the emigrants travelled did not leave from Hamburg, their names won’t appear on the Hamburg shipping lists (also available via LDS microfilms). Thus some of the Dorfprozelten people are listed on the Kopittke indexes while others aren’t. The latter group are mainly those who left Liverpool on the Boomerang or the Commodore Perry. Those who were assisted by government subsidy will appear on the immigration records at the Australian end, but the single, unassisted, emigrants who sailed from another port won’t appear at either end of the migration experience. Perhaps this is why I can’t find my Georg Kunkel? And perhaps also Franz Joseph Xaver Zöller and daughter Mary Rosalie?

This is where the newspapers are invaluable as they provide lists of names of single people who may have come to Australia (examples include Salome Seus and Gabriel Seus). These single emigrants may be related to others in the assisted emigrant category.

18 March 1861Dorf 15 Umscheid Fuller KBKA_crop-1

Cecilia Füller and Anna Rosina Umscheid came to Australia rather than Brazil. Füller married Dümig soon after arriving in Australia. This advertisement provides age, occupation, parents’ names, and place of origin. Königlich-bayerisches Kreis-Amtsblatt 18 March 1861.

The additional benefit from the newspaper notices is that with the 1860s emigrants, the papers also state the emigrant’s age, sometimes their occupation, and also their parents’ names, especially invaluable if you have no other way of determining it, or linking them to the person you’ve found in Australia.

Home town

In most cases the news notices indicate the person’s “place” however this can be deceptive as it sometimes appears to be where the person was then living and working. For example Michael Joseph Diflo is from Dorfprozelten, yet that is not a “name of the area” and with two other Diflos (Andrew and Carl Diflo) emigrating from Fechenbach that would be where I’d be looking for his birth. Michael Joseph Diflo appears in the papers and on the Kopittke indexes yet I have not found him on the unassisted passengers to Victoria or New South Wales, or in the death indexes. What happened to him I wonder?

1 Oct 54 Schreck Krebs Seus Diflo_AZ crop

Occupations

In some case the emigrant’s occupation is listed and that differs from what they state on their arrival to Australia. Hardly surprising since they had been recruited for their experience with the wine industry. In fact many had probably had some experience of this working as day labourers in Bavaria.  The single people fared less well I think, because they were more often recruited to work as shepherds on the vast and distant areas of Queensland. It must have been tremendously confronting after life in a village and it certainly took its toll on some of the men and their families, the Dümig family being the most noticeable.

The Empire, Sydney, 9 March 1855, page 4. Trove article: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60175726

The Empire, Sydney, 9 March 1855, page 4. Trove article: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60175726

Other News Items

And then there were those who appeared to be in the news generally and this is where I found Ignaz Zöller. Unfortunately with my German skills on life-support this will take some time to translate.

Würzburger Abendblatt 12 Nov 1852: Ignaz Zöller.

Würzburger Abendblatt 12 Nov 1852: Ignaz Zöller.

Or my discovery of my Kunkel ancestor’s liquidation issues for the Fass Guesthouse, which I wrote about last year.

Conclusion

Using the digitised newspapers in time-consuming and often tedious. More importantly it’s also unpredictable. Lateral searching is critical and enthusiastic researchers may benefit from reading the paper, page by page, as with a microfilm. Given the print is in Fraktur type you might also find this webpage a helpful guide. Ultimately you’ll recognise the format of your ancestor’s name, making it easier to find that needle in the haystack.

While the Australian colonies were generally happy to have the hard-working Germans as immigrants (at least until World War I), it can’t always be said that the migration experience was a happy one for the immigrants themselves, as their stories attest. Although they have left a strong legacy in Australia, I often wonder whether the first generation wished they’d stayed at home.

German Immigration 1855: The Empire, Sydney, 9 March 1855. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60175726

German Immigration 1855: The Empire, Sydney, 9 March 1855. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60175726


[i] Burwood and District Family History Group‘s magazine, Ances-Tree includes invaluable articles by Jenny Paterson on the background of the Vinedresser Immigration Scheme to the colony of NSW, which then also included Moreton Bay (Queensland). I strongly recommend that anyone with an interest in the vinedresser immigrants seek out these publications at their nearest reference or family history library. (click on the link to see all their articles.)

[ii] They weren’t all Lutherans – A case study of a small group of German Catholics who emigrated to Australia from Dorfprozelten, Bavaria. Cass, P. Published in the Proceedings of the 11th Australasian Congress on Genealogy & Heraldry, Darwin, 2006.

[iii] Queensland Founding Families, Queensland Family History Society CD. This is available in both CD and book. It includes a large number of stories submitted by P Cass on the Dorfprozelten Germans in Queensland pre-Separation in 1859.

[v] http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12969657 (Sydney Morning Herald, 24 May 1855)