Tracing the journey of my diverse ancestry from coal mines to farmlands in Australia

Oct 22, 2023
An article I read explained, we are here because of our many ancestors. Source: Getty Images.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting a third cousin from my father’s side, for the very 1 st time. In fact, she is the first relative I have met that is from dad’s, father’s (my grandfather) side of the family. My dad was an only child and while his parents and my grandparents kept in touch, they separated early into their marriage and my father lived with his mother, my grandmother, while he was young until he joined the army at a very young age.

An article I read explained, we are here because of our many ancestors. We all have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great Grandparents, 16 great great grandparents, and on and on it goes. It really brings it home, that it is because of all these people, we exist in the here and now. My great grandparents were all immigrants, coming from England, Scotland, Ireland, Poland, and Germany, all arriving in the mid to late 1800s, giving me a very interesting and mixed heritage. They were all humble, common, hardworking folk. Coal miners, farm labourers, and domestics, none of them owning land themselves until arriving in Australia.

There were varying reasons for them making the hard decision (in some cases) to leave their beloved home country. Political, financial, and possibly persecution, lead them to pack up their meagre belongings, and their beloved family members and board the vessels that took them on that long, and often perilous, ocean voyage to the promise land of Australia.

Father’s Scottish/English ancestors settled in Ipswich Queensland. My great-grandfather and grandfather were both coal miners in the area until ill health, forced upon them from the harsh conditions in the coal mines of the past, hastened their retirement. My German and Irish ancestors on my father’s side, settled in the Toowoomba district and were mostly farmers or farmhands. The journey would have been a long one from Brisbane, but they were rewarded with fertile soil and glorious countryside. The heat, I would imagine would have been something they were not akin to, but they persevered and made this place their home.

I have many, many relatives in the Darling Downs/Toowoomba region, as families were big in those days, and have met a few 2nd and 3rd cousins, but my quest for knowledge continues. My mother’s German grandfather’s family arrived in Brisbane and made the long journey, in those pre-motorised vehicle days, along dirt roads, tracks, and ranges, to eventually settle in Prenzlau, a district near Marberg in the Lockyer Valley.

Descendants farmed in the district and in Glenore Grove, from the 1800s up until the 1980s, until interest in farming and pressure from large enterprises, made it unattractive and not viable for the younger generation to continue. ‘The Farm’ as we called it, was subdivided and sold off. I have so many fond memories of holidays and extended stays at ‘The Farm’ and still have cousins that reside in these districts, but of course, they no longer are farmers.

My mother’s Polish ancestors settled in the Bethania, and Beenleigh areas and were farmers and dairy
farmers. I have not had the privilege of meeting many of these hardy folk. However, there is a park, Noffke Farm Park’ named after mums, others, and descendants near the Logan Hospital.

Somehow, and I will probably never know how my grandparents met one another, and married, my parents came to be, and well the rest is history. I honour and respect these hard working, steadfast people I call my ancestors. They have instilled into my DNA, my love of family, and love for the land and nature and I will never take for granted the things these people gave up, to be brave enough to venture forth and settle here in Australia.

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