Bridget WIDDUP nee O’BRIEN from Ballykelly.

The Lockhart Review and Oaklands Advertiser Wednesday 22 May 1912, page 2

The Lockhart Review and Oaklands Advertiser Wednesday 22 May 1912, page 2

Today I’m going to focus on a family member, Bridget Widdup, from Urana in southern New South Wales. I made brief mention of Bridget in my introductory post, as she was my Mary O’Brien Kunkel’s sister.

I only came to know of Bridget through oral histories from Mary’s granddaughter, Anne Kunkel, and then distant cousins in Sydney. In this I was enormously lucky, as I was with Bridget’s and Mary’s longevity and their unusual married names. I was able to buy Bridget’s death certificate many years ago and it gave their place of origin as Broadford in County Clare. It also told me that Bridget had spent a year in Queensland confirming another point in the family’s oral history. Other research pinned their townland down to Ballykelly in the hills near Broadford, which belongs to Kilseily parish.

Over the years I’d visited the State Library of New South Wales and looked in newspapers for obituaries or death notices for Bridget, always looking for more clues. None provided anything additional to the other documentary information.

The Catholic Press, 20 June 1912, page 22

The Catholic Press, 20 June 1912, page 22

How fortunate then, that Trove is here to help us and with the on-going digitisation program, more and more newspaper articles are being revealed. It was one such which told me that Bridget had spent her Queensland year in Ipswich. In retrospect that should have been obvious but….You can read the serendipitous migration discovery which arose from that here. I am confident that the advertisement ties the two women together, and that Bridget must somehow have been on the Florentia.

Much of the family’s oral migration story fits together with that discovery. Unfortunately I have been singularly unsuccessful in tying them into the official documents despite trawling the archives. I can only assume that Mary’s advertisement was successful given that she knew her sister’s married name, and they apparently remained in touch.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 12 February 1859, page 1

The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 12 February 1859, page 1

We have no idea why Bridget left Queensland heading for New South Wales. Perhaps she had indeed met her future husband on board ship as I believe he was a sailor and have found a merchant seaman whose details fit. Perhaps her Queensland employer also had property in NSW. Perhaps she just didn’t like the hotter weather in Ipswich.

Whatever the reason, Bridget married her husband John Widdup, apparently in Albury, though repeated searching has been unsuccessful. They had nine children: Amelia, Louisa, John, Michael J, Walter Ireland, Alfred England, Martha, Bridget Ellen and Catherine Agnes.

Wagga Wagga Advertiser (NSW : 1875 - 1910), Thursday 22 August 1901, page 2

Wagga Wagga Advertiser (NSW : 1875 – 1910), Thursday 22 August 1901, page 2

One question, long in my mind, is why both Mary and Bridget each named a daughter Louisa as it’s not a traditional name in their families. One thought was it might have been the name of the ship they were on, but further research eliminated that possibility too.

The Widdup family lived and worked in Urana. Bridget helped establish the Catholic church there and oral history from Irish relatives recalled that she had Mass said in her house. Husband John was heavily involved with establishing the Urana school. He was also poundkeeper and after his early death (not registered) in 1876, Bridget became poundkeeper – another Trove discovery. In 1901 Bridget was accepted for the Old Age Pension, a little surprising given her land-holdings.

Riverine Herald (Echuca, Vic. : Moama, NSW : 1869 - 1954), Tuesday 21 March 1876, page 3

Riverine Herald (Echuca, Vic. : Moama, NSW : 1869 – 1954), Tuesday 21 March 1876, page 3

Photograph of Bridget's grave in the Urana Cemetery. Pauleen Cass c2002.

Photograph of Bridget’s grave in the Urana Cemetery. Pauleen Cass c2002.

Over the years Bridget purchased several plots of land in the Urana area, and seems to have taught herself some basic literacy as her signature is found on her husband’s probate documents.

Bridget and John are buried in separate areas of the Urana cemetery, reflecting their religious differences.

And yes, I’m waiting (im)patiently for an upcoming Trove release from the Wagga Wagga Express which tantalisingly says “Mrs. Bridget Widdup, a colonist of 55 years, who landed in…”. Will Trove pull the cat out of the bag again, and give me another pivotal clue?

I’d also dearly love to make contact with any of Bridget O’Brien Widdup’s descendants. I’s also love to see a photo of Bridget  – I have photos to share of her two closest sisters, Mary and Nora, and lots of the family story in Ireland as well.

Introducing the O’BRIEN family from Ballykelly, Broadford

mary obrienJust to set the scene with this new blog I’d like to introduce you to my East Clare ancestor, Mary O’BRIEN from the townland of Ballykelly, parish of Kilseily, town of Broadford.

You might think that finding “Mary O’Brien from County Clare” would pose a challenge to any researcher but I struck it lucky with a circular letter I posted out, back in 1987, to any relatives I could identify. You see where I was indeed fortunate was that Mary married a Bavarian man, George Mathias KUNKEL, which made name searching so much easier. I suspect I’d have been stymied if she’d married Michael Ryan, for example.

Anyway my circular letter found its way to one of George and Mary’s surviving grandchildren, Anne Kunkel. Anne was an absolute goldmine! Not only was she a grandchild but she had lived with George and Mary on their farm at the Fifteen Mile, near Murphys Creek, Queensland. She obviously knew her grandmother very well and she had so many stories to tell me about their lives, and also the relatives. Anne was that precious person, a reliable witness. All the bare-bones data I had from births, deaths and marriage indexes, which I might add were much more restricted in those days, were confirmed by Anne, with one exception: one child had been born Elizabeth but thereafter known as Louisa. What I did know from both the oral history and the certificates was that the O’Brien parents were Michael O’BRIEN and Catherine REDDAN.

The old kitchen area of the Kunkel farm at the Fifteen Mile.

The old kitchen area of the Kunkel farm at the Fifteen Mile.

The other precious thing Anne gave me was the gateway into the O’Brien ancestry. She could tell me Mary’s parents’ names, her siblings’ names, whether they emigrated and to where, as well as the women’s married names. You can imagine just how important all this was.

Anne told me that Mary emigrated with her sister Bridget O’BRIEN, that they’d been six months at sea and “had a job before ever they got here”.. You can read a recent post about how I may have found her emigration here.

Anne also knew that Bridget had married a man named John WIDDUP and lived in New South Wales.  I was lucky to have another unusual name to pursue and was able to order Bridget WIDDUP’s death certificate on which her son had provided Bridget’s place of birth as Broadford, Co Clare, even though he’d got her mother’s name incorrect. My Bavarian grandfather had only ever provided “County Clare” when asked that question for certificates.

Nora Garvey, photo from her great-granddaughter.

Nora Garvey, photo from her great-granddaughter.

And so the story unfolded. I was given the link to 4th cousins in Sydney, and thanks to work trips there I was able to meet with them. They held a treasure trove of family photographs, funeral cards and anecdotes. Their ancestor, Honora O’Brien, Mary’s sister, had remained in Ireland and married a man name John GARVEY from Ballydonaghan townland, Bodyke. During the 1886 evictions, Honora and John very nearly lost their home. Over the decades that followed a number of Honora’s children emigrated permanently or temporarily to the United States, but several also came to Sydney where their aunt Catherine was living.

Honora Garvey remained in Ireland throughout her long life. Her husband John pre-deceased her on 4 March 1888. Honora died, aged 76, on 12 January 1917 at Ballydonaghan townland and her son Denis was present at her death. She is buried in the old Bodyke cemetery, County Clare, and is remembered on the far side of the world in the stained glass windows of St Peter’s Church, Surry Hills. The windows were donated by her Australian-based family in her memory.

Catherine O’Brien, emigrated to Australia and married a man who was also from Broadford (Glenomera), Patrick HOGAN. The Hogan and Garvey families lived close to each other and maintained close family relationships over many decades, retaining knowledge of their kin in Ireland and America.

These stained glass windows in St Peter's Catholic Church, Surry Hills, Sydney commemorate the Garvey and Hogan parents' lives.

These beautiful stained glass windows in St Peter’s Catholic Church, Surry Hills, Sydney commemorate the Garvey (left) and Hogan (right) parents’ lives.

Meanwhile back in Ireland, sister Margaret O’Brien married William McNAMARA and settled in Killaderry townland in Broadford. Another sister, Ellen O’Brien, married Thomas KINNANE from Hurdleston townland (various spellings), Broadford. This couple, with children Tom, Michael and Mary, reportedly emigrated to New York. I haven’t spent much time trying to find this family but should add it to my research list.

One brother, John O’BRIEN, who was baptised in 1848, remains a mystery. Not only does he not feature in the oral history, I can find no trace of him beyond 1859/60 when he appears in the parish register as a witness to two baptisms. (The Broadford parish register is available on microfilm

The O'Brien land at Ballykelly.

The O’Brien land at Ballykelly.

Mary’s brother Thomas O’BRIEN remained in Ireland and inherited the family farm after his parents’ deaths. In due course it moved out of the family, a fact which can be traced through the Griffith Valuation Revisions. Thanks to the assistance of the local clergy I was put in touch with the man who owned it in 1992, and he generously showed me the land.

It’s easy to see just how important it is to get your message out there, and find a reliable person to share the oral history. And in case this all sounds too idyllic, let me tell you that my grandfather was George and Mary’s eldest grandchild and would have known them well. Although he lived next door to me all my life, I never heard any of this from him because he was disenfranchised from his family, and also I was probably caught up in my own pre-teen world.

The other significant aspect of the story is the importance of chain migration for the Irish, with one person in the family following another, as well as their determination to select which migration option best suited them.

If you would like to share your story here, please let me know. I promise not to harass everyone with requests.

The grave of George and Mary Kunkel at Murphys Creek, Qld

The grave of George and Mary Kunkel at Murphys Creek, Qld