In October 1855, a man by the name of Johann Leonhard Hambrecht travelled from his home village of Kupferzell – in Germany’s Baden-Württemberg – to Öhringen. It wasn’t a long journey, the distance covered around 30km. Here he made an application to emigrate to the ‘new world’ and was granted passage as a full-fare paying passenger on a ship to Australia.

Johann’s application was made very shortly after that of a woman called Louise Friederike Ruckweid. Louise came from Ottmarsheim, forty kilometres from Kupferzell, and made her application in Marbach some time in September. Like Johann, Louise applied to emigrate as a full-fare paying passenger.

Neither Johann nor Louise appear on any passenger lists from ships that departed from Hamburg, if indeed that was the port from which they departed – it is as likely they travelled, as many emigrating Southern Germans did, to La Havre in France, and sailed from there. Furthermore, there is nothing to say, concretely, that Johann and Louise travelled on the same ship. Their dates of application, however, make it highly likely that they did and if this was the case, it was also then highly likely they met en route from Germany to Australia.

At some point around 1856-57, Johann Leonhard and Louise Friederike arrived in Queensland, possibly via Sydney, possibly via Brisbane. Records that were probably lost in floods that occurred in Queensland in the 1800s could account for there being scant detail of when, how and from where Johann and Louisa actually arrived in Australia.  Whether or not their relationship started before they got on the ship (the distance between their villages makes it possible but unlikely) on the ship, or just after they disembarked, Louise and Johann were married in Brisbane soon after arriving in Australia. And very soon after marrying, their first son, Wilhelm was born in 1857.

Johann Leonhard was the first German immigrant with the surname Hambrecht to arrive in Australia and he was my Great Great Great Grandfather. Nearly 150 years after he left what is now Baden-Wüttermberg, Germany’s south-western state and travelled to Australia, through various twists and turns, I am living but two hours away, in the neighbouring state of Bavaria. And today SG and I crossed the state border and went to visit the birth place and original home town of my ancestor who took himself and his family name* to Australia.

So, Kupferzell. It’s really, really small. Less than 6,000 people (so, a fifth the size of Weiden’s centre). Johann may well have been one of ten, 150 years ago. We drove through the entire village, unwittingly, while looking for a park, and SG had to turn the car around, just past the sign letting us know we were leaving Kupferzell. There isn’t much to see, really; a few sweet buildings, a Catholic church, an Evangelische church (of which Johann was a member) and evidence of a quiet village that seems to be quite fond of gardening. But it was rather special – really special – to walk through the village that, all those years ago, Johann left.  We did find the house of the last Hambrecht living in Kupferzell, an elderly man who is a distant relative, but decided against calling in unannounced. But who knows, maybe I’ll write him a letter.

The Catholic church

The Lutheran church

The tiny village’s first and second World War memorials.

*The name Hambrecht was changed in the late 1920s, by my Great Grandmother, due to anti-German sentiment post World War I.

All my information comes from my Pa, who has been tirelessly researching this part of our family’s history for years.