Tag Archives: William Patrick Dempsey

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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1992: Building a Baltimore Baedeker

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

In 1992, I decided to take a genealogy road trip to  Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Maryland to visit the homes and neighborhoods where my Irish and Welsh ancestors, the Dempseys and the Owens, had lived during 1800s and early 1900s.

https://www.loc.gov/item/2009575802/
Civil War-era map of Washington and Baltimore vicinities.(1861). Click here to enlarge.  In 1992, while living in Washington, D.C., I decided to make a road trip to Baltimore, Md., to see my Welsh-Irish ancestors’ homes and  neighborhoods. Image: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

I lived nearby in Washington, D.C., then, but planned to move back to New York City soon, so the time seemed right to visit the home city of the Welsh-Irish ancestors I knew so little about.

Road trip reconnaissance

I was excited about giving substance to the addresses I had collected for my Dempsey and Owen ancestors — and was tempted to rush off to Baltimore right away.

But any successful road trip takes planning, so I sat down to draw up a one-day itinerary of every ancestral location I wanted to visit — building a sort of Baltimore Baedeker that would serve as my guide for the journey of discovery.

New Cathedral Cemetery

Their obituaries said my great grandmother Elizabeth C. (Dempsey) Owen and her mother Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey were buried in Baltimore’s New Cathedral Cemetery. So I called the cemetery to see if their staff could provide the burial location.

“Yes, we have records for them,” said the woman at the cemetery office. “They are in a family plot in Section SS. It belonged to Clinton Webb.” She promised to send a map of the cemetery, then read me all the names and burial dates.

That’s when I learned that a host of other Dempsey-Owen family members were laid to rest with my ancestors around one central stone — gathered together for eternity as they had been in life.

My direct ancestors are highlighted in the table below, and I have added relationships for reference. But where was my great, great grandfather William P. Dempsey? I wondered.

New Cathedral Cemetery – Dempsey-Owen Graves – Sect. SS, Lot 212 
Burial Date Name Relationship
2 April 1907 Clinton Webb Husband of Mary A. (Dempsey) Webb
15 Dec. 1909 Francis Owen Son of  Frank H. & Elizabeth (Dempsey) Owen
24 Aug. 1916 Lillian Irene Dempsey Grand-daughter of Katherine (Gormley) and William P. Dempsey.
11 May 1917 John T. Dempsey Relationship not known.
23 Apr. 1918 Dorothy Owen Daughter of Frank H. & Elizabeth (Dempsey) Owen
28 July 1922 Elizabeth Owen My great grandmother (nee Dempsey); wife of Frank H. Owen
5 Jan 1923 Katherine Dempsey My Irish gg grandmother (nee Gormley); wife of William P. Dempsey
25 May 1935 Mary A. Webb Daughter of Katherine (Gormley) and Wm. Dempsey; wife of Clinton Webb
28 July 1949 Frank H. Owen My Welsh great grandfather; husband of Elizabeth C. Dempsey

St. Martin Church

In 1923, a high mass of requiem was celebrated for my great, great grandmother Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey at the Roman Catholic St. Martin Church, 31 North Fulton Avenue in Baltimore, according to her obituary.

Might the church office have details about her participation in the congregation? Or information about where her husband, William P. Dempsey, was buried? I definitely wanted to stop there — so the church was the next phone call on my list.

To be continued. Please stop back.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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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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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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Dempsey cousins’ discoveries

Letter D: Fourth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge, and last in a series of five posts about the Dempsey Cousins Family Research Team.

Cousins on my Dempsey line reached out after seeing a post on Molly’s Canopy about our great, great grandparents William Patrick and Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey.

We decided to form the Dempsey Cousins Family Research Team to work together on researching our mutual ancestors — and soon we had our first team breakthroughs.

Holy Cross Section of Woodlawn Cemetery in Baltimore, Md. (2015). By: Barb/Dempsey Cousins Family Research Team
Final resting place of our ancestor William Patrick Dempsey, Holy Cross Section of Woodlawn Cemetery, Baltimore, Md. (2015). Our Dempsey Cousins team has experienced the power of collaboration — discovering more new information  and clues together about our shared ancestors than any of us might have found alone. Photo by Barb/Dempsey Cousins Family Research Team

William’s first wife

From his oldest children’s birthplaces in the U.S. Census, we believe that William went from Ireland to Canada and then to the U.S.

There is also a clue in an un-sourced family tree (from my dad’s cousin) that our great, great grandmother Katherine was his second wife.

William eventually ended up in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Md. So cousin John called a researcher he knew at the Maryland Historical Society for transcriptions of the death certificates of William’s Canadian-born children. He came away with the name of their mother: Catherine McCarty — the first wife of William Patrick Dempsey!

A Canadian clue

The name of William’s first wife led cousin Barb to our next clue. Searching online, she found a compilation of records from St. Francis Xavier Church, 66 Church St., Brockville, Ontario, Canada with an entry showing a William Dempsey and a Catherine McCarty as baptismal sponsors.

Baptisms 1843
Anthony Flood b 2/3/1843
John Flood and Ellen McCann
Sponsors: William Dempsey and Catherine McCarty

At a seminar on finding Irish roots, Barb said she learned that, “All baptismal records use the maiden name of mothers and sponsors.” So if the compiler’s transcription is accurate, this is a promising clue that could link our William to his first wife — and to a location in Canada.

Final resting place

Meanwhile, I began looking into our great, great grandfather William’s burial location in Baltimore — given as Holy Cross Cemetery on his death certificate.

A list of Catholic Archdiocesan Closed Cemeteries that I found online said Holy Cross was “sold to the City of Baltimore in 1969,” and those buried there were transferred to  a “Holy Cross Section” of Woodlawn Cemetery — but without individual markers.

A call to the cemetery office confirmed that they had an interment record with the correct date of death to be our William Dempsey.

Cousin Barb and her husband graciously agreed to visit the cemetery and came away with copies of what records the office had — along with several precious photos of our great, great grandfather William Patrick Dempsey’s final resting place.

The power of collaboration

After just a few months, our Dempsey Cousins team has experienced the power of collaboration — discovering more new information and promising leads together than any of us might have found alone.

Now we are up to eleven Dempsey Cousins in the team to help continue the search! If you are a descendant of blacksmith William Patrick Dempsey of Baltimore and either of his wives, and you would like to join us, please get in touch.

Up next: Elizabeths in my family tree. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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