Tag Archives: Katherine (Owen) Negri

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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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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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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