2 – The Old Country

Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Kakoschke written in the old German Fraktur script

JFW Kakoschke

Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Kakoschke, or Jack, as he was later known, was born on the 4th of September 1851 in Eastern Europe, in what was then the Kingdom of Prussia. His birthplace was the hamlet of Rädnitz, a settlement on the north bank of the Oder River, a few miles east of the large town of Crossen. He was the second son of Johann Gottfried Georg Kakoschke and Johanne Dorothea (nee Redlich).

Rädnitz c1900

Regrettably, not too much is known about the family in “The Old Country”. It is known that Johann senior was a farmer and that he was born on the 4th of August 1817 near the town of Groß Blumberg, some 14 kms to the east of Rädnitz. His wife Johanne Redlich (Jack’s mother) was born on the 27th of March 1823 in the village of Briese, which is 17 kms east of Rädnitz. The family were Lutherans and were probably of an ethnic group known in Germany as Sorbs and in Australia as Wends.

Map showing the area surrounding the village of Rädnitz (c1850)

The region around Rädnitz has been a part of several different countries over the centuries. Nowadays it is part of Poland, roughly 35 kms to the east of the German/Polish border. Rädnitz is now known as Radnica, Groß Blumberg is called Brody, Briese is Brzezie and Crossen (an der Oder) is Krosno Odrzańskie. To give an idea of the size of the town of Rädnitz, in 1880 the population was 841 inhabitants living in 115 houses. It was part of the Standesamt (registry office) Kahmen in the Kirchspiel (Parish) of Rädnitz.

Jack’s father died at Groß Blumberg on March 6th, 1876 at the age of 59 years. Less than two years later Jack emigrated to Australia. His mother passed away at Groß Blumberg on the 15th of February 1897, a few days shy of her 74th birthday.

 Jack had an elder brother, Johann Gottfried, born 15 May 1850, and at least two younger brothers – Johann Georg Adolph Reinhold, born 12 January 1858, and Johann Ferdinand Herman, born 19 June 1861. His elder brother remained in Europe and has living descendants in Germany. Jack’s two younger brother’s followed in his footsteps and emigrated to Australia. Ferdinand Herman, with Jack’s financial assistance, emigrated in 1880 and Georg Adolph in 1889. (More on their fortunes in a later chapter.)

Rädnitz and vicinity in the 21st century

No doubt some of the farmland depicted in the map was worked by Jack and his ancestors. The land may well have belonged to the family for quite some years. Although several attempts to find any written records of Johann senior and his family, in both German or Polish archives, have thus far proved almost fruitless, it is known that a Michel Kakoschky was living in Groß Blumberg in 1718, when King Friedrich Wilhelm I had a census taken. Coincidentally, there was also a Michel Redlich living in Groß Blumberg in 1718. There’s a possibility they were ancestors.

Kokoska of Kamionka

Stepping further back in time, it seems likely that the Kakoschke trail leads to the east of Groß Blumberg. In documents written in Latin dating from the 1600’s, there are references to the name Kokoska mentioned in the parish records of Kamionka in Lubartów county, which is situated in eastern Poland. Thanks to the modern-day advent of genetic genealogy testing, it appears that a little further back in time still, the trail leads to Przasnysz county in north-eastern Poland. The tests show that the Kakoschke Y-DNA (paternal) line and that of a U.S. man of Polish origin share a common male forefather approximately 25 generations ago ~ roughly 700-800 years. In this particular county lies a village named Kaki-Mroczki, said to be the ancestral home of a noble Masovian line named Kakowski. It’s not certain that in antiquity the Kakoschke line merges with the Kakowski line, but it’s possible. However this is not meant to imply that Kakoschke is originally a Polish name. In fact, the closest genetic relatives in modern populations are found in Belarus, Lithuania and Russia. (When one considers the history and shifting borders of Europe over the centuries, the whole concept of “nationality” becomes somewhat vague.)

Genetic tests also reveal that the haplogroup of the paternal Kakoschke lineage is R1a1a, meaning that around 12,000 years ago the paternal ancestor probably lived near the Black Sea.

Emigration Record 1878

Back to slightly more recent times, and just about the only official family record found so far in German Archives – that of Jack’s departure from Hamburg on the 25th of February 1878. It’s worthy of note that the clerk at the emigration office spelled his surname as Kakoschki. The record is quite brief, but does also give his age as being 27, his place of origin Rädnitz, Crossen Oder and occupation of Landarbeiter (literally “Land worker” i.e. Farmer).

A significant number of German settlers (free settlers – not convicts) emigrated to South Australia from 1838 onwards. See German Settlement in Australia


Continued in Part 3 – Beginning a New Life in South Australia

Return to Part 1 – Kakoschke Australia

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