Tag Archives: Charlotte (Owen) Wilson

1993: Dempsey-Owen neighborhoods & a Baltimore mystery solved

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

Despite a dwindling parish, Baltimore’s stately St. Martin Church was still open when I traveled there with a friend in 1993. A high mass of requiem had been celebrated there for some of my ancestors, so I was pleased to finally visit the church and review their records.

January 1993: Webster Lane, Baltimore, Maryland. My Irish great, great grandparents Katherine (Gormley) and William Patrick Dempsey, a blacksmith, lived with their family at 2 Webster Alley (renamed Webster Lane) from 1870 to 1886. Photo: Molly Charboneau

In the chancery, Sister Eleanor showed me church registers that confirmed the death and funeral dates for my great grandmother Elizabeth (Dempsey) Owen in 1922 and my great-great grandmother Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey in 1923.

When I asked the sister why their cause-of-death columns were blank, and she studied the registers for a moment.

“That depended on how thorough the record keeper was,” she replied. “Some filled in the column, some didn’t.”

Alas, there was no parish record for my great-great grandfather William P. Demspey, the blacksmith.

Church tour and the monsignor

After I finished making notes, the nun led us into the church.

Surveying the vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows and elevated altar, I could easily imagine the packed Sunday services my Welsh-Irish ancestors attended — their pew likely crowded with family worshiping together.

On our way out, Sister Eleanor pointed to a bronze portrait on the wall. “Well, there he is,” she announced.

“Who?” I asked.

“Monsignor O’Donovan,” she replied. “He’s the pastor who left the information off your ancestors’ records.”

We all laughed, and I was reminded of my dad’s sense of humor –a legacy from my grandmother Mary Frances (Owen) Charboneau.

Stops at family homes

My Baltimore trip wrapped up with stops at the onetime homes of my Dempsey and Owen ancestors. Some we couldn’t find because street addresses and routes had changed. Elizabeth’s last home, where her wake was held, had been torn down for a new highway.

January 1993: 1954 W. Fayette Street in Baltimore, Maryland. My great-great grandmother Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey’s last residence and likely site of a huge family reunion shortly before she died. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Yet we found the two locations I most wanted to see.

  • 1954 W. Fayette Street. Described in Katherine’s obituary as her last residence, this may have been where a huge Dempsey family reunion was held shortly before she died.
  • Webster Alley (renamed Webster Lane). Where Katherine, William and their children lived from 1870–1889 and the likely location of his blacksmith shop.

The Webster Alley house no longer stands, replaced by newer dwellings. Katherine’s last residence was modernized with a stone facade and awnings.

But both were situated where I expected, in solid, working-class neighborhoods that once housed a tremendous influx of Irish, Welsh and other immigrants — and later welcomed a northward migration of African Americans seeking a better life.

Baltimore mystery solved

Which brings me back to the mystery of the 1963 Dempsey-Owen stone. When I returned from Baltimore, I called my dad to tell him about it.

“Do you know why there was no stone for so long?” I asked.

“Oh, sure,” Dad replied. “The family was arguing for years over who would pay for it.”

He said most of the Dempseys and Owens were supporting big families and couldn’t afford to buy the costly monument. Yet they clearly wanted a memorial for their departed loved ones — why else discuss it over and over?

Finally, almost sixty years after the first burial, one of grandmother’s sisters resolved the family dilemma. Charlotte (Owen) Wilson — then 70, married and childless — stepped up in 1963 and purchased the Dempsey-Owen stone.

Discovering Aunt Charlotte’s generosity and love of family was the perfect ending to my Baltimore genealogy road trip.

Up Next: Please join me daily in April for the 2017 A to Z Blogging Challenge. My theme this year is “Whispering Chimneys:  An Altamont childhood”…where my genealogy journey began.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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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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