Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Brief observations of a family

In a day starting early with a council plumbing inspection my attention has been firmly on the future and it has been hard to turn my mind to thoughts of the past. Leafing through a booklet that I have to return tomorrow, several things caught my eye. The booklet is the family history of my friend whose grandparents were born in Marburg, Germany and migrated to Queensland in 1884. This friend told me excitedly a few months ago that she was going on a bus trip to the Gold Coast, a place where she had never been before in her eighty or so years. It struck me that in living the farming life in rural Queensland, her life mirrors what her grandparents would have expected for themselves if they hadn’t picked up their entire lives and moved to the other side of the world. She moved on her marriage from Gympie to Rosewood. They married in Germany and were in Queensland for their first anniversary.

Another thing I noticed was how few of the children born in Australia received much education. The first generation of boys got two or three years of school before they were expected to contribute fully to family income. Many started work at 12. The oldest son of Elizabeth and Johannes was born in Coorparoo in 1887. By the age of 11 he was working felling scrub and by 14, he had his own contract felling scrub at Tamborine Mountain. This wasn’t unusual for migrant families. I wonder if it was different from expectations for other families or if it was simply a function of socio-economic status? If you were poor whatever your ethnic background, your children worked early. Only if you were affluent could you afford to not use your children’s earning potential.

Most of Elizabeth and Johannes’ children married early and into non-German families. Only one generation after arrival alliances were cemented with the families Scott, Ferguson, Ansell, Thorogood, Nickols, Crump and Davies. Only two of the second generation married into German pioneer families, marrying the two sisters Kruger. Given that this family has more than 600 descendants in the area today, marriage into the wider community may have been a successful strategy.

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