Sepia Saturday 408: First in a series about my Welsh immigrant great grandfather Francis Hugh Owen, who married into the Irish Dempsey family in Baltimore, Maryland.
The past few years, I have blogged about my Irish Dempsey ancestors during March and the research breakthroughs of our cousins group on tracing our roots from North America back to Ireland — the perfect topic for St. Patrick’s Day.
So this year I’m turning the spotlight on a Dempsey in-law — my Welsh immigrant great grandfather Francis Hugh “Frank” Owen — because my Owen cousins have asked me to share more about him.
And what better day to begin than March 1 — St. David’s Day/Dydd Gŵyl Dewi — named for the patron saint of Wales.
An immigrant from North Wales
Alas, I have not yet done the concentrated research into Welsh records that would elicit Frank’s early story. However, family oral history –and a U.S. record I have found from his adult years in Baltimore, Md. — help narrow down his possible childhood home.
Frank was born on or about 18 Dec. 1863, according to his death certificate — for which his daughter Katherine (Owen) Negri was the informant. I say about because his age fluctuates in U.S. census returns throughout his adult years.
Owen family lore places his origins in Denbigh/Dinbych, Wales. And Frank’s enumeration in the 1940 U.S. Census of Baltimore City, Md., supports Denbigh as a possibility — giving “North Wales” as his birthplace. (Click to enlarge the map below and you will see Denbigh in North Wales, quadrant 39.)
Denbigh/Dinbych in brief
The Imperial Gazetter of England and Wales (1874) describes Denbigh as a lovely area that survived ancient sieges and conflicts to grow and develop into the nineteenth century:
The town occupies a steep acclivity, overhung by a castle-crowned rock, on an affluent of the river Clwyd…The town, as seen from some distance, looks very picturesque; and has been thought to resemble Stirling in Scotland.
It comprises one long main street, smaller diverging streets, and a spacious market-place; contains many elegant residences; and has undergone great modern improvement…
The town has a head post-office, two banking-offices, and several chief inns; is a seat of sessions, and a polling place; and publishes 3 weekly Welsh newspapers…A general country trade, and some manufactures of gloves and shoes, are carried on.
Why emigrate to the U.S.?
More research is needed to definitively identify Denbigh/Dinbych as Frank’s hometown — or Denbighshire, which surrounds it, as his home county.
Nevertheless, the description above provides a charming snapshot of North Wales around the time of Frank’s emigration to the U.S. in the late 1800s.
So the question arises: Why would my great grandfather Frank Owen leave such a seemingly idyllic setting?
More on this in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.
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