Tag Archives: William Patrick Dempsey

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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Blacksmiths: The heart of the Irish community

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

Through clues from my Dempsey cousins and a bit of research, I learned that our Irish great, great grandfather William Patrick Dempsey — a blacksmith who lived in Baltimore, Maryland during and after the U.S. Civil War — came from County Wexford, where blacksmiths played a prominent role in the 1798 Irish Rebellion/ Éirí Amach.

image
December 2015: Traditional blacksmith’s tools at the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum in Madison County, N.Y. In the days before motorized vehicles, the shops of blacksmiths like our ancestor William Patrick Dempsey were important gathering places, and the blacksmith was highly respected by the community he served. Photo by Molly Charboneau

But what about the everyday life of an Irish blacksmith? I wondered. What might that tell us about our ancestor’s experience?

So back I went on the research trail, and was delighted to discover a wonderful book by author Eamon Doyle titled Tales of the Anvil – The Forges and Blacksmiths of Wexford (2008).

Author Doyle has painstakingly amassed a wealth of historical detail on blacksmiths from his home county — using sources from 1798 tradition through 20th century records — and describes how, centuries ago, using fire to turn metal into useful implements led to a belief that smiths possessed supernatural powers.

Though this view waned in modern times, Ireland’s blacksmiths in particular remained highly regarded in both city and town because their work — from rimming cart wheels and shoeing horses to fashioning tools and household implements — was so essential to the day-to-day flow of the economy.

Their role put blacksmiths at the heart of the communities they served, explains Doyle:

The forge and the blacksmith shop became one of the few fixed establishments in every parish and remained so through all the changes in Irish society, in peace, war, oppression and hardship. It was a place at which people gathered when danger threatened and where one could look for information when rumour stalked the land. The forge became a familiar and beloved part of life in every area, long before churches, parish halls and school buildings became established in the mid-nineteenth century. Along with the importance of the forge in local communities came a respect for the blacksmith himself.

Baltimore City blacksmith

I wonder if it was any different for our “William the blacksmith” as he plied his trade in Baltimore City, Baltimore Co., Md. from the mid to late 1800s? He had emigrated from Ireland years before — but if he learned ironwork from his father back home, he would likely have  carried its traditions with him.

William’s obituary says he was “a well-known blacksmith” — and probably also highly respected in a city where travel was mainly by horse and horse-drawn vehicle during his working life. So it’s easy to envision Irish ex pats gathering around his forge to share news, swap stories and talk politics.

In short, much food for thought as we Dempsey cousins continue tracking the lives of our mutual ancestors — William Patrick and Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey.

Ireland’s forges and blacksmiths

One last word on Tales of the Anvil. In addition to providing a wonderful narrative history of County Wexford’s blacksmiths, Doyle includes photos and a county-wide map of many active and closed forges.

He has also compiled a list of blacksmiths from a variety of sources, and on the list are Willie Dempsey of Blackwater and Michael Dempsey of Ballinastraw  — linking our Dempsey surname to the trade.

Of course, much more research is needed to connect our great, great grandfather “William the blacksmith” to his roots and birth location in County Wexford — let alone to definitively link him to blacksmiths back home.

Nevertheless, Doyle deserves our gratitude for providing valuable background information and context for us Dempsey cousins as we move forward with our family history search.

Coming on April 5: Our Dempsey cousins team makes some discoveries. Right after the next April 4 post: Elizabeths in my family tree. Hope to see you then!

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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The rebellious blacksmiths of County Wexford

Third in a series on the Demspey Cousins Family Research Team.

Within the Dempsey Cousins Family Research Team, our Irish-born great, great grandfather William Patrick Dempsey is affectionately known as “William the blacksmith” — a trade-based nickname that cousin Barb suggested to distinguish him from his son and other same-name descendants.

Wexford Pikeman of 1798. Blacksmiths in County Wexford — birthplace of my gggrandfather, blacksmith William Patrick Dempsey — forged pikes of freedom equipped with hooks to catch the reins of British cavalry and unseat the riders during the 1798 Irish Rebellion/Éirí Amach. By: National Library of Ireland on The Commons

William’s obituary in the Baltimore Sun (shared by cousin John) said he was from County Wexford — where he may have learned the highly regarded blacksmith trade from his father.

So before we Dempsey cousins got down to the serious genealogical business of specifically tracing William’s roots in Ireland, I decided to do some background research on the history of County Wexford and its blacksmiths.

I first learned that County Wexford in southeast Ireland saw incursions by Vikings, invasion by Normans, and later occupation by British forces — each met with a fighting spirit by the Irish population.

Then I discovered that County Wexford’s blacksmiths played a crucial role in the heroic 1798 Irish Rebellion/ Éirí Amach against British rule — an uprising inspired by the earlier American and French revolutions and a landmark on the road to Ireland’s independence.

The Battle of Vinegar Hill/ Chnoc Fíodh na gCaor — the last, great battle of the rebellion, which is still re-enacted today —  took place in County Wexford’s town of Enniscorthy and pitted the fighting Irish against British occupation forces, with about 20,000 on each side.

Lacking firearms, the Irish combatants brandished pikes of freedom equipped with hooks to catch the reins of British cavalry and unseat the riders. Those metal pike tops were forged by Wexford’s blacksmiths.

Well, how about that!

Of course, my great, great grandfather William Patrick Dempsey wasn’t born until about 1828, so his father was probably just a child at the time of rebellion. But that doesn’t rule out involvement by more distant direct or side line Dempsey ancestors, nor the pride with which older generations likely shared this rich local history.

When “William the blacksmith” was taught by the forge, he may have also heard stories about the heroic blacksmiths of County Wexford and throughout Ireland — as immortalized in this verse from a song about blacksmith Páid O’’Donoghue of County Meath:

But Ninety-Eight’’s dark season came and Irish hearts were sore; The pitch-cap and triangle the patient folk outwore;
The blacksmith thought of Ireland and found he’’d work to do: “I’’ll forge some steel for freedom,” said Páid O’’Donoghue.1

What more did I learn about County Wexford’s blacksmiths? Stay tuned for the next post.

To be continued.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Footnotes

  1. From the song Páid O’’Donoghue by Patrick Archer.

County Wexford and the Vikings

Second in a series on the Dempsey Cousins Family Research Team.

Not long after Dempsey descendants Barb, John and I agreed to form a cousins team — to research our mutual gggrandparents William Patrick and Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey — John generously shared a document that was totally new to me.

By: Skellig2008
County Wexford, Ireland. News that my gggrandfather William Patrick Dempsey hailed from County Wexford — from an obituary shared by a Dempsey cousin — raises the possibility of Viking heritage. Photo by: Skellig2008

From the 3 May 1900 issue of the Baltimore Sun, it was a small, one-column obituary of our great, great grandfather William Dempsey.

Just eighteen brief newspaper lines (transcribed below) summed up our ancestor’s life — but what a masterpiece it was and what a lasting gift to his descendants.

WILLIAM DEMPSEY

Mr. William Dempsey, a well-known blacksmith died yesterday at his home, 1602 East Chase street, of paralysis. He was born in County Wexford, Ireland, 62 years ago and came to this country when about 12 years of age. For several years he resided in Troy, N.Y., and then moved to Harford county, Maryland and afterward to Cecil county. For many years he had resided in this city [Baltimore, Md.]. He is survived by 10 children — Mrs. Thomas Byrnes, Mrs. Charles Conway, Mrs. Clinton Webb, Mrs. Ernest Kratz, Mrs. Frank Owens [sic.] and John, James, William, Peter and Lieut. Thomas F. Dempsey, of the Northern police district; 32 grandchilden and 5 great-grandchildren. He was a member of St. Paul’s Catholic Church.

The anonymous writer (who seems to have interviewed a detail-oriented informant) names William’s surviving children, totals up his grand and great-grand children, and lists several places where our ancestor once lived — laying out a virtual road map for us Dempsey cousins to follow as we reconstruct William’s travels from his arrival in North America to his final home in Baltimore City.

But what really jumped out at me was the news that William Dempsey was “born in County Wexford, Ireland” — for this was the first time I learned my great, great grandfather’s county of origin. A breakthrough indeed! And all thanks to our Dempsey cousins collaboration.

Vikings in the vicinity

Looking up County Wexford to get some background information led me to the next revelation — we Dempsey descendants might have Viking heritage!

The Irish Times Irish Ancestors web page for County Wexford — listing Dempsey among the county’s common surnames — contains this brief history, which echoes similar versions I have found elsewhere:

The county takes its name from the principal town, which was founded by the Norsemen in the tenth century as “Waesfjord”.  A similar reference to Wexford Harbour, the large sheltered lagoon which is the reason for the town’s existence, is found in the Irish name. [Waesfjord translates as “inlet of the mud flats.”]

The Vikings made incursions into the Wexford area in the eighth and ninth centuries, but by the tenth century had abandoned their usual return trip to Scandinavia. Instead, they settled down in coastal Ireland and over the centuries mixed in with the general population.

So, possible Viking heritage! And all thanks to a clue in our great, great grandfather William Dempsey’s obituary.

Certifiably Viking

I found this prospect very exciting and perhaps went a bit overboard as I shared the news with family, friends and co-workers — and rushed out to buy a faux fur throw for my couch.

“Well, that would certainly explain your personality!” one of my friends quipped dryly.

But then I went to an Irish heritage workshop at a genealogy conference and discovered that the prospect of Viking heritage — though new to me — is old hat to long-time Irish family history researchers.

In fact, at the DNA table, one guy even boasted that so many people with his surname had tested positive for Viking DNA that, “My surname is certified Viking.”

Whereas I was merely behaving like a certifiable Viking — with no real proof. At least not yet.

So — after dressing as a Viking for Halloween and throwing a Viking-themed trim-a-tree party for the holidays — I finally calmed down, curled up under my new throw, and resumed research on the broad sweep of more recent history in County Wexford.

And that’s when I learned about the blacksmiths and the 1798 Irish Rebellion.

To be continued.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Shamrocks and shared heritage

First in a series on the Dempsey Cousins Family Research Team.

For St. Patrick’s Day last year I wrote the first of three posts about my Irish ancestors William Patrick and Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey and their lives in Baltimore, Md., during the U.S. Civil War — never imagining that it would lead to new discoveries, never mind new-found cousins.

So I was pleasantly surprised to open my inbox in October 2015 and find an email that began:

Your gggparents are also my gggparents, William and Katherine Dempsey of Baltimore. I and two other cousins are interested in any info or documents you have found regarding their home in Ireland, their emigration and Canadian life.

Shamrocks at the Irish Hunger Memorial in New York, N.Y. (2015) A blog series about my Irish ancestors, written for St. Patrick's Day 2015, has fortuitously led to online collaboration with other descendants of William Patrick and Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey -- third cousins who are also researching the family.  Photo by Molly Charboneau
Shamrocks at the Irish Hunger Memorial in New York, N.Y. (2015) A blog series about my Irish ancestors, written for St. Patrick’s Day 2015, has fortuitously led to online collaboration with other descendants of William Patrick and Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey — third cousins who are also researching the family. Photo by Molly Charboneau

New Dempsey cousins? How exciting!

The email was from  Barb, who is a descendent of James Joseph Dempsey — a son of William and Katherine and an older brother of my great grandmother Elizabeth (Dempsey) Owen.

And it gets better. Soon after I heard from Barb, a second email arrived from John, who is descended from Catherine (Dempsey) Kratz — youngest daughter of William and Katherine and a sister of my great grandmother Elizabeth (Dempsey) Owen.

Cousin collaboration

This was exciting, indeed! Every genealogist longs to find other family members who share their passion for family history research. Now — out of the blue — here were two cousins doing research similar to my own on our mutual Dempsey ancestors.

How much more could we find if we worked together? Probably more than if we each continued on alone.

So I proposed to Barb and John that we set up a listserv (where we could discuss research strategies and findings without cluttering up our inboxes) along with some shared folders (where we could place documents, photos, obituaries, timelines and the like for group members to see). They readily agreed.

In emails, John summed up our mutual enthusiasm for cousin collaboration:

It would be fun to share information and see if we can figure out the mystery of William’s early life in North America…If you can figure out a good way to have multiple contributor communication that works better than email that would be great. The Dempsey clan is growing by the day:)

Thus began the Dempsey Cousins Family Research Team. After much technical back and forth among Barb, John and I to be sure all of our online components worked, we opened for business in October 2015 and began adding other interested Dempsey cousins.

To date we are up to seven Dempsey cousins — descended from different children of our mutual gggrandparents William and Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey — and have already made some interesting discoveries together.

More on those in the next post.

To be continued.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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