Category Archives: Owen

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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New Year’s Eve 1937: My grandparents in Times Square

I hold a special place in my heart for my ancestors who have spent some time in New York City — my chosen home town — either as residents or visitors. So imagine my delight to discover that my paternal grandparents spent New Year’s Eve 1937 amid throngs of revelers in Times Square.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2006677804/
Times Square north at night. (1934) My paternal grandparents, Molly and Ray Charboneau, were among the throngs of revelers who gathered here on New Year’s Eve 1937. Photo: Library of Congress

This bit of family news came from entries in the diary of my paternal grandmother — Mary (Owen) Charboneau — describing her 1937-38 holiday trip to New York City with my grandfather Ray.

Throughout the year, my paternal grandparents lived way upstate in sparsely populated Otter Lake, Oneida County, New York.

They operated the Otter Lake Hotel, which bustled with tourists during the warmer months. My grandfather also drove the local school bus during the school year to help make ends meet.

But when winter arrived in the Adirondack foothills, and schools were on break, Ray and Molly (as she was known) had a chance to get away — which is just what they did 79 years ago this week.

A 1937 holiday journey

According to my grandmother’s diary, she and my grandfather left Otter Lake for New York City on 29 Dec. 1937 — which meant they arrived in the city just one week after the Lincoln Tunnel opened to traffic.

Dec. 29, 1937: Left Otter lake for N.Y. Drove to Utica and then took train. Nice weather. No snow. Arrived N.Y. 6:30 pm.

They likely stayed with my grandmother’s sister, Katherine (Owen) Negri — known in our family as Aunt Kate. She always rolled out the welcome mat for relatives, according to various family members who had stayed at her West 78th Street apartment.

I’m sure Aunt Kate, a long-time Manhattan resident, advised my grandparents on what sights to see — because my grandmother cataloged a busy itinerary.

Dec. 30, 1937: Went to Radio City & Music Hall. Very beautiful. N.B.C. very interesting. I like New York.

Dec. 31, 1937: Down-town to see the stores in N.Y. Times Square at night to see Old Year out. What a mob! Never again.

I had to laugh at her mixed review of the huge metropolis, because New York City is exactly that way — much to love and a sparkling jewel at holiday time, but be prepared for the crowds!

A museum, a show and dinner with friends

Nevertheless, my grandparents continued undaunted through two more days of touring  — jamming as much as they could into their brief time in the city before returning to their routines back home.

Jan. 2, 1938: Took in Museum of Natural History. Show at Lowe’s State Theatre. Went to Ed and Kay Unser’s for dinner. Nice time. Rainy.

Jan. 3, 1938: Home again. Very tired, but had a grand time. Hope we can go again soon.

Jan. 4, 1938: School again. Very open winter so far.

In the end, my grandmother gave New York City a good review. And why not? The city undoubtedly gave her great stories to share with friends and family back home — and with the hotel delivery people she liked to sit and chat with over a cup of tea during the long, snowy winter afternoons.

Happy New Year to you and yours from Molly’s Canopy!

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Wolverines and Uncle Sid

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

When I jogged my dad’s memory about our mutual ancestors, he sometimes came out with a story that would point to a new research direction. That’s how I heard about the wolverines and Uncle Sid — and found an entirely new group of collateral relatives.

https://www.loc.gov/item/2010715253/
Two wolverines (1890). My dad’s childhood memory of an Uncle Sid from Salamanca, who told a story about wolverines, led to the discovery of a whole new group of collateral relatives. Image: Library of Congress

Dad and I were talking about his grandmother Eva (Bull) Charboneau and her visits to the Otter Lake Hotel in Forestport, Oneida, N.Y.

My dad grew up at the hotel, which was owned and operated by my paternal Charboneau grandparents.

We had already discovered that Eva was the daughter of our Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull, who spent his final years in Salamanca, Cattaraugus County, N.Y.  So Dad was trying to remember any connections to this from his childhood.

“Well, there was this one guy who everyone used to call Uncle Sid ,” Dad said. “He was kind of a strange fellow. He would visit the hotel in the summer, but never took a room. Always slept in his car. And he kept talking about ‘wolverines, wolverines’ and what a problem they were in Salamanca.”

Mondee, Tuesdee, Wolvereeens

Dad picked up a Baltimore accent from his mother Mary Frances (Owen) Charboneau and pronounced the days of the week Mondee, Tuesdee, and so on — so when he said “wolvereeens” I cracked up laughing.

That’s probably why the story stuck with me — and I’m glad it did. Because eventually my research trail led to an actual Uncle Sid.

He turned out to be Sidney Banton, a store owner from Salamanca and husband of Jessie (Bull) Banton, one of my great grandmother Eva’s younger sisters.

My great, great grandparents Arthur and Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — who moved many times during their life together — relocated in their later years from Moose River Settlement in the Adirondack foothills to Salamanca in Western New York

Eva stayed behind after marrying my great grandfather Will Charboneau in the North Country. But her sister Jessie went along with their parents to Salamanca — where she met her husband Sidney.

Which makes Uncle Sid my great grand uncle in-law — and all because of a long-ago story that he told about wolverines.

Do you have any oddball stories that might link you to ancestors or collateral relatives? See if you can pick them apart, then follow the clues — they just might lead you to family.

Up next: Xavier and military cartography. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Undergarments and Aunt Kate

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

My dad was always ready with a story about one family member or another — that’s how I learned about undergarments and Aunt Kate.

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My paternal grandmother’s sister Katherine (Owen) Negri. Aunt Kate’s career was fitting and selling women’s undergarments. I met her as a child when she visited during a business trip. Family photo courtesy of Jane (Owen) Dukovic

Her full name was Katherine (Owen) Negri. She was one of my paternal grandmother’s larger-than-life Welsh-Irish sisters from Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Md. — and I actually met her a couple of times when I was growing up.

“She came to visit us at the farm once,” Dad said. “Her voice was so loud that she scared you every time she talked.” I was a toddler at the time, so I don’t really recall that visit.

But she came to see us another time — after we moved near Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y., and she was living in New York City — and that’s the visit I remember.

Aunt Kate was tall and fashionable in a tailored dress — deep green, if I recall correctly — and I was mesmerized by her tiny folding umbrella. We always carried the big umbrellas with the hooked handle, so I stared and stared at her little umbrella hanging from the doorknob.

“Are you trying to figure out how it works?” She asked, startling me from my reverie. And before I could answer, she popped it open to full size — amazing!

Kate Martin’s career

I always wondered how she came to call. When I asked Dad he said it was because Aunt Kate’s career was selling women’s undergarments, and she was in our area on a business trip.

“She traveled from one department store to another doing fittings. She’d put an ad in the paper the week before, with her photo and everything, to announce she was coming,” he explained. “She used the name Kate Martin for business, so if somebody telephoned and asked for that name, she’d know it was a business call.”

When I moved to New York City after college, one of my paternal relatives told me, “You’re just like Kate.”

I laughed at that. But maybe there is something to it. Because soon enough I had a career and an assertive city personality to go with it. And now when it rains, I reach into my bag and take out a little folding umbrella — just like the one Aunt Kate astonished me with all those years ago.

Up next: Vincenzo Del Negro witnesses a wedding. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Quotes: Letting ancestors speak

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

Quotes from relatives and ancestors enrich a family history story more fully that mere description. Letting our ancestors and relatives speak for themselves — through something they said or something they wrote — truly enlivens a family narrative.

Modern rendition of the letter Q. Quotes from ancestors, relatives or contemporaries can add depth to family history narratives and enliven events that shaped ancestors’ lives. By: Tibor Hegewisch

The voice and personality of my paternal grandmother Mary Frances (Owen) Charboneau made its way into A holiday gift: My grandmother’s voice through entries from her diary.

Because she died when I was very young, I barely knew her. But inheriting my grandmother’s diary allowed me to get acquainted with her — and to let her tell parts of her own story through quotes from her journal.

My maternal grandmother’s younger sister — my mom’s Aunt Margaret (Stoutner) Rothbell — told me the story about my grandparents’ secret meetings as they waited for the chance to elope. Aunt Margaret was an eyewitness to that family drama, so I quoted her rendition in A Valentine’s Day love story: My grandmother elopes.

Then there are my Uncle Fred’s letters (he was one of my dad’s brothers) written to my paternal grandmother during World War II — expressing in his own words a longing for home during the holidays.

Quotes from contemporaries can also animate a family history story. Such as the reactions of friends and co-workers in “You’re going where?” when I told them I was headed to a U.S. Civil War reenactment. Or the initial communications from my Dempsey cousins in Shamrocks and Shared Heritage.

Do you have quotable ancestors, relatives or friends? Have you interviewed any of them? Inherited letters or other writings? Bringing them onstage can add depth to your narratives and enliven the events that shaped your ancestors lives.

Up next: Research, repositories and relaxation. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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