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Katharina Elisabetha BILL
1842-1905

Katharina Elisabetha was the younger of two girls who survived in the family of Johann Konrad Bill, a weaver in Nieder-Weisel, and Elisabetha Haub, a daughter of Konrad Haub; a younger sister died at the age of 5. Katharina Elisabetha was usually known as Katharina. She was born on 19th July 1842, and she had two brothers, Konrad Philipp and Jakob.

Concerned about the breakdown of family values in the village, the father decided to take the girls out to Victoria to give them the chance of a more positive future. He left Jakob with his wife and, with Anna Elisabetha, Katharina and Konrad, began the 20,000 km journey to Melbourne in October 1856. In Liverpool, they took passages on "Sunshine" as part of the largest group of emigrants from their village ever to sail for Australia. Johann Konrad kept his family together by registering the elder daughter as his wife and dropping the ages of the younger ones to below the upper limit of 12 (even though Konrad was 17). Their enjoyment of the sea voyage was unfortunately marred by the death from food poisoning of one of the villagers.

"Sunshine" reached her destination on 29th January 1857 and most of her 196 passengers made for Ballarat. Father and son became "diggers" and the two girls domestics. Anna Elisabetha quickly found a life partner; she was married in mid-1858 to a migrant from Germany, Friederich Hahn. The couple settled in Ballarat and the sisters were able to stay in touch. Katharina married in March 1861; her groom was Oswald Tode, son of Andreas Tode and Margaret Moas of Germany. Oswald and Katharina settled in Ballarat too, where Oswald continued working as a miner. In 1862 Katharina presented him with a son whom they named Frederick Oswald. A year later, a daughter made it a pigeon pair; she was sponsored by Katharina's sister Anne Elisabetha, taking her name. Soon after, Friederich Hahn decided that he would go back to Germany. His village was not far from Nieder-Weisel, and Katharina no doubt envied her sister the opportunity of showing her parents their Australian-born grandchildren. Their father had returned to Germany after the two girls found husbands.

Oswald and Katharina also left Ballarat, but only for the nearby settlement at Bungaree. Konrad had married an Irish lass and gone mining at Chiltern but they came back to Bungaree after the birth of a son in 1870. Katharina had another son, Theodor Andreas, in January 1871 and her sister-in-law had twin boys six months later but she died in childbirth. Katharina would have offered to help Konrad care for his baby sons, as she had no other children herself, having lost her younger son in 1883 when he was twelve. By this time, they had returned to Ballarat East, where her husband died in 1890; he was only 57.

Their older son Frederick married in 1886 but he went farming in the Wimmera and Katharina did not see very much of her grandchildren. Her life came to an end late in 1905 in Bungaree.

Katharina's brother died several months after her death. Frederick died in Minyip in 1906, and his widow died a year later, leaving six children.
 

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