Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey of Galway

Letter K: Eleventh of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey, my Irish great, great grandmother, came to mind recently as I watched a documentary about Ireland’s historic 1916 Easter Rising against British rule — which celebrates its centennial this month.

Egg and fowl market, Galway, Ireland. The chatting women shown here remind me of my great, great grandmother Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey, who emigrated from Galway, according to her obituary, and never lost her love of Ireland, poetry and huge family gatherings. By: National Library of Ireland on The Commons

I perked up when the narrator mentioned that Galway and Wexford were among the few locations, besides Dublin, with strong simultaneous risings for Ireland’s independence.

Why? Because my ancestor Katherine hailed from County Galway and her husband William Patrick Dempsey was from County Wexford.

Poetry and pride from Galway

Geographical areas often develop and pass down traditions through their populations — social legacies that persist long after the original inhabitants are gone.

If this excerpt from Katherine’s Jan. 1923 obituary is any indication  — written after her death (at age 94, says the obit) in Baltimore City, Baltimore Co., Md. — her native Galway appears to have been one of those places that engendered a proud sense of Irish culture and heritage.

In spite of her age, Mrs. Dempsey was extremely active and took a great joy in life. A native of Galway, Ireland, she never forgot the old land. She knew the history of Ireland as few people in this city knew it and she spoke and wrote Gaelic [sic.]. She used to take up Gaelic [sic.] poems and translate them without the least effort to her children and grandchildren. She was immensely fond of poetry, and she could quote passages from hundreds of poems.

At the time of her death, says the obituary, Katherine had 82 surviving direct descendants: six children (four sons and two daughters), 42 grandchildren and 34 great grandchildren — and a family gathering would fill the house.

Ten of her grandsons saw service in the World War, several of them officers. Her record in that respect is probably unique. When Mrs. Dempsey, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren held a reunion, an ordinary house was packed and jammed. She had one of these reunions a short time before her death, at which most of the members of the family were present.

A formidable widow

If her age in the obituary is accurate, my great, great grandmother Katherine (Gormely) Dempsey lived more than two decades after the death of her husband William Patrick Dempsey in 1900. She  must have been a formidable widow to successfully nurture a sense of cohesion and interconnection among several generations of the huge Dempsey family.

Several cousins in our Dempsey Cousins Family Research Team say William Patrick was a big man and we get our stature from his side, since many of us are taller than average.

But I suspect that Katherine’s side contributed mightily to our story-telling abilities, our drive  to learn more about our Dempsey ancestors, and our desire to collaborate and create a virtual family reunion like the one that filled her house to bursting all those years ago.

Up next: Library research leads. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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8 thoughts on “Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey of Galway”

  1. Katherine leaps off the page at us…what a formidable woman indeed. She had an incredible memory obviously, too…fancy remembering all that poetry.

    Great story!!

  2. What a lovely legacy to leave. I hope the family continued to have that cohesion after her death. It seems that many families drift apart after the death of the grandparent or parents.
    Finding Eliza

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, Kristin. The family and its branches have endeavored to stay in touch, and some of Katherine’s descendants — my Dempsey cousins — have recently combined our research efforts to learn more about our mutual great, great grandparents.

  3. Molly, you bring Katherine to life, and that is a wonderful thing, as the breadth of her legacy increases as does yours in such writing. Thank you for showing the interrelationship of lands, language, and people. Genealogy is story.

    1. Appreciate your comment, Nancy. Place evokes so much about a person and forms part of the legacy they leave to descendants. Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Thank you, Trisha. She is one ancestor, among many, I would have loved to meet! Good luck with the A to Z challenge.

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