1993: Dempsey-Owen discoveries in Baltimore

Fourth in a March 2017 series about my Irish (Dempsey) and Welsh (Owen) ancestors in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Maryland.

In January 1993 I finally headed to Baltimore — the hometown of my paternal Irish (Dempsey) and Welsh (Owen) ancestors. I hoped to make some new discoveries during the trip, but never imagined how quickly they would come!

Dempsey-Owen family plot in Baltimore’s New Cathedral Cemetery (1993).  I discovered the family stone at the center of this photo was not purchased until 1968 — through burials began in 1907 — and wondered why. Photo by Molly Chaboneau

My travel partner, a college classmate, recommended we begin at New Cathedral Cemetery, where my ancestors are buried. I wanted to pay my respects and photograph their stone, so I readily agreed.

New Cathedral Cemetery

As we drove to the entrance on Old Frederick Road, I was surprised by the immensity of the urban burial ground.

Most of my ancestors were laid to rest in smaller cemeteries, but New Cathedral’s grounds ranged over hill and dale — the cemetery’s road map resembling a small-town street plan!

My inquiries at the office yielded two unexpected details:

  •  Katherine Negri, one of my grandmother’s sisters, arranged for my great grandfather Frank H. Owen’s 1949 burial. (Aunt Kate lived in New York City then, so this was singular news.)
  • Even more surprising, the Dempsey-Owen stone was not placed on the plot until 1963.

“1963? Are you sure?” I asked. The family burials took place between 1907 and 1949 . Why wait so long?

“That’s what it says here,” replied the woman at the desk. “The stone came from Seubott Memorials in 1963 . They’re over on Frederick Avenue.” I added the address to my itinerary.

Visiting the ancestors

We drove into the grounds, turned left over a stream, then right to Section SS, where Plot 212 was a short walk from the road.

Standing before their central stone — with Dempsey on one side and Owen on the other — I felt a warm connection to these ancestors who I once barely new. I silently thanked them for leaving the archival trail that had led me to their final resting place.

Departing New Cathedral with a newfound sense of my Welsh-Irish heritage, I wondered what more I would learn about my paternal grandmother’s family on this genealogy journey.

More stops, more surprises

Dempsey-Owen family plot in Baltimore’s New Cathedral Cemetery (circa 1940). At right, my great grandfather Frank H. Owen (husband of Elizabeth C. Dempsey) visiting the family grave site before it had a central stone. Scan by Molly Charboneau

Our next stop was C.M. Seubott Memorials to see what they could tell me about the 1963 purchase of the Dempsey-Owen stone.

Memorial companies are often good sources of family history information, and Seubott was no exception.

“Yes, the stone was purchased on May 15, 1963, and delivered to the cemetery on May 23,” a staff member confirmed. “Paid for by Charlotte Wilson, 520 South 8th Street, Springfield, Illinois.”

Really? Another surprise.

Aunt Charlotte (maiden name Owen) was another of my grandmother’s sisters. I made a note to call my Dad when I got home to see what he knew about this mystery. Then we headed to our next stop — St. Martin Roman Catholic Church.

To be continued. Please stop back.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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A to Z Challenge 2017: Theme Reveal

When the annual A to Z Challenge begins on April 1, 2017, Molly’s Canopy will participate for the second time in the month-long blogging marathon. My theme this year is Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood — where my genealogy journey began.

Last year I blogged about Ancestor’s A to Z, sharing stories of forebears on distant branches of my family tree and how I discovered them.

This year, I’m going back to my childhood to explore how my interest in family, ancestors and heritage took root — rolling out my own story from A to Z at one letter per day (minus a few Sundays) throughout April.

  • My inspiration: Genealogy bloggers who wrote about their own lives during last year’s challenge.
  • The rationale: We spend so much time searching for our ancestors and telling their stories that we forget to tell our own. As family historians we owe it to posterity to include ourselves in the mix.

Leaving an ancestral diary

Have you ever wished your ancestors had left letters or a diary — some tangible record in their own voice? I know I have, and I don’t want to be guilty of the same omission. So I intend to tell part of my own story during this year’s #AtoZChallenge.

My plan is to blog about life at Whispering Chimneys, the upstate New York farm where I lived until age seven with my parents, my maternal grandparents and my two younger brothers. Along the way, I’ll examine how my formative years incubated my heritage quest.

  • Time: The early 1950s.
  • Setting: An 1850’s farmhouse on Route 20 in Albany County.
  • Backdrop: Ten agricultural acres crisscrossed by streams and surrounded by working farms.
  • Players: Me; my immediate and extended family; and neighbors, friends, classmates and visitors who lived in a world beyond the end of our long dirt driveway.

Please take a seat and get comfortable. On April 1 the curtain rises on Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood. See you then!

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1992: Baltimore road trip itinerary

Third in a March 2017 series about my Irish (Dempsey) and Welsh (Owen) ancestors in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Maryland.

To prepare for a 1993 Baltimore road trip in search of my Dempsey and Owen ancestors, I compiled a list of family landmarks and addresses from my research. Then I called ahead for hours and directions to the ones I wanted to visit.

http://www.geocities.ws/parrothead_21228/BaltoCatholic.html
St. Martin Church in West Baltimore, Maryland. My Dempsey and Owen ancestors worshiped at this church, which had a parish of 7,300 families in 1920. Photo: Baltimore’s Catholic Churches

On my first call to the caretaker of Baltimore’s huge New Cathedral Cemetery, I was surprised to learn that a number of collateral relatives were interred with my direct ancestors. Soon a cemetery map arrived by mail with a route traced in red to my Dempsey-Owen ancestors’ final resting place.

St. Martin Church

So I was hopeful about my second call to St. Martin Roman Catholic Church in West Baltimore, located at 31 N. Fulton Ave. at West Fayette Street — a parish of 7,300 families in 1920 when my Irish ancestors worshiped there.

A High Mass of Requiem was celebrated at the church on 5 January 1923 for my Irish immigrant great-great grandmother Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey. Her wake took place down the block at 1954 West Fayette Street, her last home.

A year earlier, my great grandmother Elizabeth C. (Dempsey) Owen, one of Katherine’s daughters, was buried from the church on 28 July 1922 after a wake at her 1519 West Franklin St. residence.

St. Martin was still open and holding services when I called in 1992. The chancery staff confirmed they had some birth, marriage and death records that I could look at — so I added the church to my road trip itinerary.

Nearby family homes

Next, I made a list of family houses where I wanted to stop — in addition to the last homes of Katherine and Elizabeth.

  • 2 Webster Alley – The 1880 home of Katherine and William P. Dempsey and family.
  • 1602 E. Chase St. — Where Katherine lived in 1900 with daughter Mary and son-in-law Clinton Webb.
  • 3018 Roseland Place (Walbrook) — Where Katherine lived in 1923 with daughter Margaret and son-in-law William Waidner.
  • 428 Govane Ave. – The 1900 home of Elizabeth and Frank H. Owen.
  • 424 Striker St. – Elizabeth and Frank’s home in 1920.

Research materials for the trip

Finally, I packed the research materials I wanted to bring with me.

  • Updated family group sheets for the Dempseys and Owens.
  • Copies of obituaries to refer to on the trip.
  • A map of Baltimore with family landmarks and addresses marked, along with a penciled-in route for the day.
  • A camera to photograph the landmarks and family homes.

A travel partner

By early 1993, I was ready to head to Baltimore and by chance  a travel partner volunteered to go with me — a classmate from a course I was taking to prepare for graduate school.

He’d had been wanting to go to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and was familiar with the city. I liked the idea of a driver who knew his way around, and dinner at the harbor would be a great ending to the research day. So I showed him the map and itinerary, and we set a January date for the trip.

To be continued. Please stop back.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1992: Building a Baltimore Baedeker

Second in a March 2017 series about my Irish (Dempsey) and Welsh (Owen) ancestors in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Maryland.

In 1992, I decided to take a genealogy road trip to  Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Maryland to visit the homes and neighborhoods where my Irish and Welsh ancestors, the Dempseys and the Owens, had lived during 1800s and early 1900s.

https://www.loc.gov/item/2009575802/
Civil War-era map of Washington and Baltimore vicinities.(1861). Click here to enlarge.  In 1992, while living in Washington, D.C., I decided to make a road trip to Baltimore, Md., to see my Welsh-Irish ancestors’ homes and  neighborhoods. Image: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

I lived nearby in Washington, D.C., then, but planned to move back to New York City soon, so the time seemed right to visit the home city of the Welsh-Irish ancestors I knew so little about.

Road trip reconnaissance

I was excited about giving substance to the addresses I had collected for my Dempsey and Owen ancestors — and was tempted to rush off to Baltimore right away.

But any successful road trip takes planning, so I sat down to draw up a one-day itinerary of every ancestral location I wanted to visit — building a sort of Baltimore Baedeker that would serve as my guide for the journey of discovery.

New Cathedral Cemetery

Their obituaries said my great grandmother Elizabeth C. (Dempsey) Owen and her mother Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey were buried in Baltimore’s New Cathedral Cemetery. So I called the cemetery to see if their staff could provide the burial location.

“Yes, we have records for them,” said the woman at the cemetery office. “They are in a family plot in Section SS. It belonged to Clinton Webb.” She promised to send a map of the cemetery, then read me all the names and burial dates.

That’s when I learned that a host of other Dempsey-Owen family members were laid to rest with my ancestors around one central stone — gathered together for eternity as they had been in life.

My direct ancestors are highlighted in the table below, and I have added relationships for reference. But where was my great, great grandfather William P. Dempsey? I wondered.

New Cathedral Cemetery – Dempsey-Owen Graves – Sect. SS, Lot 212 
Burial Date Name Relationship
2 April 1907 Clinton Webb Husband of Mary A. (Dempsey) Webb
15 Dec. 1909 Francis Owen Son of  Frank H. & Elizabeth (Dempsey) Owen
24 Aug. 1916 Lillian Irene Dempsey Grand-daughter of Katherine (Gormley) and William P. Dempsey.
11 May 1917 John T. Dempsey Relationship not known.
23 Apr. 1918 Dorothy Owen Daughter of Frank H. & Elizabeth (Dempsey) Owen
28 July 1922 Elizabeth Owen My great grandmother (nee Dempsey); wife of Frank H. Owen
5 Jan 1923 Katherine Dempsey My Irish gg grandmother (nee Gormley); wife of William P. Dempsey
25 May 1935 Mary A. Webb Daughter of Katherine (Gormley) and Wm. Dempsey; wife of Clinton Webb
28 July 1949 Frank H. Owen My Welsh great grandfather; husband of Elizabeth C. Dempsey

St. Martin Church

In 1923, a high mass of requiem was celebrated for my great, great grandmother Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey at the Roman Catholic St. Martin Church, 31 North Fulton Avenue in Baltimore, according to her obituary.

Might the church office have details about her participation in the congregation? Or information about where her husband, William P. Dempsey, was buried? I definitely wanted to stop there — so the church was the next phone call on my list.

To be continued. Please stop back.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Seeking my Dempsey-Owen heritage

First in a March 2017 series about my Irish (Dempsey) and Welsh (Owen) ancestors in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Maryland.

March is here and with it the annual series about my Irish (Dempsey) ancestors in time for St. Patrick’s Day. This year, I will include a bit about my Welsh (Owen) ancestors, too.

Celtic shamrock pattern. NARA cenus research on my Dempsey and Owen ancestors prompted a genealogy road trip to Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Md., to find out more. By: Internet Archive Book Images

The last few years I have written about my Dempsey ancestors in Civil War Baltimore, my great, great grandparents Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey and William Patrick Dempsey the blacksmith and speculated on possible Viking heritage — because William hailed from County Wexford.

Meanwhile, the Dempsey Cousins Family Research Team is now up to 17 descendants, We have made some valuable discoveries together and continue to stay in touch — sharing stories and family history finds as they come our way.

So this year, I thought I would write about how I got started researching my Dempsey and  Owen ancestors — which ultimately led to these wonderful cousin connections. And also what I have learned about my Irish-American great grandmother Elizabeth C. Dempsey and her Welsh husband Francis Hugh Owen — also called Frank and, in his later years, Pop.

The research journey begins

This particular genealogy journey began in the early 1990s, when I lived and worked for several years in Washington, D.C. — home of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Although I had previously dabbled in family history research, I hadn’t pursued it in a concerted way before moving to D.C. But all that changed when I discovered the baptismal record of a Charbonneau ancestor while vacationing in Montreal — and a friend told me I could find even more genealogy records at NARA.

Seriously? Just a Metro ride away? That’s when I began spending my free evenings and Saturdays at the National Archives!

Armed with two binders — a blue one for my Dad’s side and a red one for my Mom’s side — I poured through the federal census returns looking for any and every ancestor.

What great way to get started! Nearly every NARA visit yielded a new discovery — details I frequently shared with my parents and siblings. So the research strengthened family connections, too — much as it has with my Dempsey cousins.

My mystery ancestors

Pretty soon, my research binders were bursting and my new discoveries less frequent — so I turned to analyzing what I had found. Of particular interest were my Dempsey and Owen ancestors, who were somewhat of a mystery to me.

My paternal grandmother Mary Frances Owen was born 22 March 1889 in Baltimore. The oldest child of Elizabeth C. Dempsey and Frank Owen, she was also a grand-daughter of William Patrick and Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey.

She met my grandfather William Ray Charbonneau in New York’s Adirondack region while working as a nanny for a Baltimore family that summered there.

When they married, she became an “away” descendant, geographically removed from her large Dempsey-Owen family in Baltimore — so I learned little about these ancestors when I was growing up.

A Baltimore road trip? Why not!

However, my NARA research began to provide details about my Welsh-Irish heritage and piqued my interest in finding out more. I only lived about an hour from Baltimore — why not plan a genealogy road trip to visit the houses and neighborhoods where my Dempsey and Owen ancestors once lived?

To be continued. Please stop back!

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Growing family trees one leaf (and road trip) at a time