Religion on two German-Immigrant Ships

CFH-Widget-Germans-P-Cass-6-8-20209-NFHMThis week I gave a presentation for National Family History Month hosted by Caloundra Family History Society Inc.

The title was “They weren’t all Lutheran: the story of some Bavarian emigrants to Australia“.

You might wonder why I chose this title and the reason is quite simple. When I first started researching back in 1986 I was assuredly told by the German genealogy guru of the day that no Bavarians and no Catholics had immigrated to the Australian colonies in the 1850s and 1860s….until I provided a certificate verifying my own family’s religious history.

Robert Dunne bookSomehow, over the years, “German” had become synonymous with “Lutheran”. Perhaps because the German Catholics were incorporated into what was essentially an Irish church, marrying spouses from other nationalities in favour of their religion. Even though they sometimes had difficulty in the early days being able to participate fully because of language difficulties, they mostly maintained their Catholic religion. In 1868, a petition was sent to Bishop Quinn of Brisbane by some German Catholics on the Darling Downs who objected to not being able to be understood by their priest, Fr Dunne. I can only assume this mainly focused on confession and general advice as the Mass would have been said in Latin as it was in Bavaria. Among the names I’ve identified four people with Dorfprozelten origins or connections: Cecilia Dümig, Andreas Diflo (from Fechenbach but with a Dorfp wife), Josef Zöller, and Carl Wörner. (Endnote 95, page 272)

Belatedly, I looked at the religious breakdown shown on the NSW Board Lists for the assisted German immigrants on the Commodore Perry and the Peru. While the Board classified them as Church of England (CE), Protestant or Roman Catholic, this is probably more representative of a local view than the official religion for the CE and Protestant.

The breakdown is enlightening and confirms my hypothesis that they certainly weren’t all Lutheran, and many were in fact Catholic. The assisted Germans on the Commodore Perry were 40% Roman Catholic while on the Peru they represented 47%. It must be remembered that this data is for the assisted immigrants only, the single people were recruited directly and only appear on the Hamburg Shipping Lists not the Board Lists.

Commodore Perry Religion

Peru religion

Whether this religious trend is typical of all the vinedresser immigrants would require a complete analysis of the Board Lists for all these voyages. Suffice to say, that on these indications we can be confident in saying “They weren’t all Lutheran“.

Some tips on German research are included on my other blog



SRNSW: Persons on Bounty ships to Sydney, Newcastle Moreton Bay, 1848-66, NSW Archives Kit, CGS 5317, Microfilms 2463, 2469, 2471

Commodore Perry arrived Sydney 26 April 1855

Peru arrived Sydney 23 May 1855

Robert Dunne 1830-1917 Archbishop of Brisbane. Byrne, Neil J, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane 1991.







Dorfprozelten Facebook page

Last week I started a Facebook Group for all the descendants of the Dorfprozelten Diaspora -all those emigrants who left Dorfprozelten to head to new lands.

The key focus will likely be on the descendants of those who came to Australia but other emigrants’ descendants are also welcome to join as are current Dorfprozelten residents.

It’s a closed group but just ask to join and you will be welcome. When you sign up why not add which family you’re connected with so others know. Which reminds me I need to do the same and also invite all the Kunkel descendants.

We’ve already got some photos and documents shared with the group. Great to see!

This is the link

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.


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


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:

The Empire, Sydney, 9 March 1855, page 4. Trove article:

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.


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.

German Immigration 1855: The Empire, Sydney, 9 March 1855.

[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] (Sydney Morning Herald, 24 May 1855)

Researching the Dorfprozelten emigrants

I think it’s always worthwhile to look at other emigrants from your ancestor’s area: even if you find nothing about him/her specifically, the bigger picture will inform your story.

There were at least 62 emigrants from Dorfprozelten, men, women and children, who opted to make Australia their emigration destination of choice. Many were families because of the assisted migration conditions for the vinedressers. The size of their families certainly would have determined why many only made the voyage after the scheme was expanded to include assistance for families with children (see Jenny Paterson’s excellent articles). You can see who they were on my new page here.

One of the shrines around the village.

One of the shrines around the village.

When researching the Dorfprozelten emigrants I always have my copy of the local history Dorfprozelten am Main, Teil II by Georg Veh, readily to hand (not to mention my German dictionary!). It’s densely packed with information on the village’s families and baptisms, marriages and deaths. There are also sections on the known emigrants and, my pleasure, the owners of the guest houses.

In terms of the book’s data for the Australian emigrants, some of this was provided by me in the early days of my research into this group, not long before the book went to press, and as such was incomplete.

Over the intervening years, more research, greater knowledge, and correspondence with the author has generated further clarity on these emigrants to Australia. As always any publication represents knowledge at a particular point in time which is why it’s wise to check all possible sources and whether anything further has been published. (I’ve also made some great contacts through my blogs as well, so do check the comments if your family comes from Dorfprozelten and look at that link on my other family history blog).

On the exit from Dorfprozelten towards Miltenberg.

On the exit from Dorfprozelten towards Miltenberg.

One of the joys of the online newspaper articles is that they clarify some of the marriage information, or lack thereof, on these couples from the local history. Although they were recorded as married on arrival, the newspaper bulletins clearly indicate they were still single. Thus it’s likely some couples were married along the way, either in Hamburg, or a town or city en route. (Again see Jenny Paterson’s articles on the furore over the early vinedressers married on board ship).

Similarly the families were often blended families, with one or other spouse having been married and widowed previously. This becomes more apparent when a listed child shows parents with different names eg Genofeva Kirchgessner with Michael Krebs’ family or Anna Maria Seus with Franz Michael Zöller’s family.


Der heilige Nepomuk

Hidden examples of blended families can also occur. For example, it now seems clear that the eldest children travelling with Franz (Ignaz) Zöller and his wife Catherine Beutel, were actually the children of Ignaz’s brother, Franz Joseph Xaver (FJX) Zöller and his wife Catherine Günzer. Catherine Zöller nee Günzer had died before the family emigrated and I had suspected that FJX had also died hence why Ignaz had been able to bring the children with him. I have now had it confirmed that there is no record of FJX dying in Dorfprozelten so perhaps FJX made the voyage separately (he wasn’t eligible to the subsidy because he was widowed). It seems highly likely that Ignaz brought his brother’s children with him and received the subsidy for them, made simpler by the fact that the parents had the same names.

Another potential hazard is that the married women’s names were reported to the Board in the German way, not stating the father’s surname, only the mother’s. This led to some confusion over maiden names until an excavation of the local history book revealed the correct information. It doesn’t happen in every case but it did in some –enough to cause potential errors.

Next post: What insights did the newspapers reveal?

As always I am indebted to Georg Veh for his assistance with Dorfprozelten information.

Researching German emigrants

Australians with German ancestry are blessed with five great resources for their research. They are:

The Kopittke shipping lists of Hamburg emigrants to Australia, and related indexes (including unassisted emigrants who were usually single and often contracted to work for an employer, or follow-on family members)

Jenny Paterson’s excellent articles on the German vinedressers, in the Burwood and District Family History society’s magazine, Ances-Tree. Jenny warns that some of the unassisted emigrants appear to have slipped through the Hamburg documentation nets.

Colonial government Board Immigrant Lists and related indexes for New South Wales, the colony which was sponsoring the big push for German and other European, vinedressers.  These include more information than the Agents Immigrant Lists which are available online.

Victorian immigration records for unassisted immigrants to the colony and thence forward emigration to other colonies or overseas. I often use these in combination with the NSW records to tease out differences, find anomalies, and pursue further research.

Trove, the Australian online central access point for digitised newspapers and photographs (try people or ship’s names) as well as books or magazine articles. It may also provide clues to where your ancestors were working in those first couple of years in the colony.

Australian Parish records and state-based BDM records and indexes are also invaluable in determining location and the emigrant’s place of origin. (Do use wildcards if they’re available as the German names get mangled!)  Unfortunately since the vinedressers were sponsored as families, and many of them were close to the end of the child-bearing years, this is more likely to be useful for the teenagers who arrived or the children born after arrival. I’m a huge fan of parish records because they’ve broken down brick walls for me a number of times. (Don’t forget to send a donation or ask the cost if you request this information). Some of the earlier ones are available on microfilm through the NSW ARK kits.

More recently we have another resource which can add invaluable information on our ancestor’s emigration from their home village, the digitisation of some old German newspapers which can be accessed through Google Books. You do however, have to have a good idea of where your ancestor came from for these to be useful otherwise it’s very much a needle in a haystack. Last year I wrote about the challenges of these searches and there’s no easy, reliable or comprehensive gateway into them. It all makes you appreciate Trove all the more <smile>!

These are the links to my earlier posts: here and here. You might also be interested in this more general post about finding your German ancestors.

Over the past few days I’ve been back in the depths of these digitised German newspapers, hunting for more information on the emigration of “my” Germans from Dorfprozelten on the River Main in Bavaria. Rather like searching through microfilms this task requires determination, good eyesight/glasses, and patience….lots of patience! As I find articles I tag them in Diigo, clip them to Evernote then copy and paste the screen into Photoshop. Finding them is the challenge however.

Start out by searching for your ancestor’s village. Remember too that the search does not like it if you use only part of the word eg Australien may work but Australie won’t.Wurzburger Abendblatt front cover

Initially I found through an advanced Google book search, that the Würzburger Abendblatt newspaper, Volume 14, produced the most results if I searched for “Dorfprozelten”, specifically in relation to 1854, the year of the big migration. Strangely however if you just enter “Würzburger Abendblatt” in your Google book search it provides you with limited options. If you change your search to “Würzburger Abendblatt-Volume 14”, however, you will find that this one suddenly appears as an option. From there you can make good guesses about what volume you require for years before or after 1854 eg Volume 12 or 20. Don’t ask me why this is so, but it does seem to get around the glitch.

Once you have loaded the relevant page in the volume, you can then enter a different search term in the box on the left hand side. Try a range of lateral options: name, village name, nearest town or railway station, or a term like “auswanderer”. Strangely the bold topic headers (eg Termin-Kalender) within the paper are often not productive, yet a sub-heading  (eg Stadt und Kreis) may be. It really is a case of try, try again. I’ve often got a “no word” response yet later found that same word within another successful search.  Perseverance is key.

If all else fails, and you know roughly when your emigrants left home, scroll through the pages looking for those headers and then scrutinise each entry carefully. It’s just like reading a microfilm only online with a coffee beside you.

Emigrants were required to notify their creditors of their forthcoming departure so all debts could be settled, and in some cases, possessions were sold. As with our legal notices it seems likely that the information was published in more than one paper, so as well as the Würzburger Abendblatt (WA) some notices were also found in the Aschaffenburger Zeitung (AZ). Jenny Paterson has indicated that people from the Unterfranken area of Bavaria, and also those across the River Main in Baden, usually advertised in the Main- und Tauberbote but unfortunately that has not been digitised and as far as I can tell is unavailable in Australia.

Is it worth your while to go to this much trouble? I guess it depends on your urge to know more, but I’ve found some interesting things.

Check in for the next post which will talk about the specifics of these Dorfprozelten emigrants and then what I found about them in the newspapers.

You may find my earlier post about immigration resources helpful.