Wednesday, 12 September 2007


Most days I manage to read and write while Blithe Boy is napping. Some days, this doesn’t happen. Days like today, I am trying to write with Blithe Girl and Merry Girl squabbling like chickens in the background and Blithe Boy rampaging around the house seeking targets for destruction. The squabbling pauses only for pleas for adult intervention, which are usually preceded by elaborate explanations of wrongdoing on the part of the other. How do people actually manage to work at home? I read one account of a father who worked at home only by having a plate glass soundproof door between the children and he. Such a door inspires envy.

On the subject of closed doors, sometimes research pathways that look the most exciting can be the most frustrating. This morning I picked up from my friend the family history book she mentioned. This is the history of the family that moved from Marburg, Germany to Queensland in 1884. Like many family histories, it is very light on historical detail sticking mostly to brief biography. Details are what I need. Who were these people? Why did they leave? What was their journey like? What did they think when they arrived in Queensland? Few family histories have access to these personal recollections. I wonder if diaries were the preserve of the affluent migrant. Or did families not recognise the value of diaries and family papers for the future. Did diaries and photos languish in someone’s shed until they were eaten by mice and disintegrated with age?

What I can tell you is that Johannes was born in Marburg in September 1858. On 18 May 1884, at the age of 26 he married the 23 year-old Elisabeth. By October of that year, they had embarked for Queensland on a ship sailing from London. Their voyage must have been a honeymoon of sorts, if packing up your entire life and moving to the other side of the world can be counted as such. The Waroonga made a record voyage to Moreton Bay arriving on 15th December. The voyage started at Gravesend and proceeded via Cape St. Vincent, Gibraltar, Malta, Port Said, the Suez Canal, Aden, Batavia, the Lombok Straits, Thursday Island, Cape Restoration, Cooktown, Townsville, Bowen, Mackay, Port Alma, Cape Moreton finally anchoring at the Brisbane Bar. Such a voyage sounds exotic and very desirable in the midst of my household chaos.

The ship carried 30 first class passengers, 460 migrants, mails to the 31st October and 2000 tons of cargo. She had fine weather and favourable winds all through her passage. The voyage was judged “prosperous and enjoyable.” Good health was enjoyed with only four deaths (all children) and one birth. Cargo included a black bear from Java for the Brisbane Botanic Gardens.

Johannes and Elizabeth produced seven sons and three daughters in Australia. Johannes was a labourer, then a farmer. Elizabeth died in 1927 aged 66 and Johannes in 1934 at the age of 76. They are both buried in Toowong Cemetery in Brisbane. 600 plus people in South East Queensland trace their ancestry to these two.

Not a lot of information of the kind that I seek, but it is on bones such as these that I must hang my story. And now I must go – Blithe Boy is eating his sisters’ game.

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