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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1870: Laurent Charbonneau – from sawyer to farmer

Eighth and last in this series about my paternal Charbonneau and Zinsk ancestors in New York State’s Adirondack region during the 1800s.

The last few posts have outlined some of what I know about family of my great, great grandparents Laurent Charles and Ursula Angeline (Zinsk) Charbonneau — who lived in Hawkinsville, Oneida County, N.Y. from the mid-1850s. A brief look at Laurent’s occupational transition — from sawyer to farmer — seems like a good way to conclude this series.

Barn with rainbow. By 1870, my great, great grandfather had gone from laboring as a sawyer to working the 37-acre family farm he owned in Hawkinsville, Oneida County, N.Y. By: Mark Goebel

Laurent the lumberman

When my Quebecois immigrant great, great grandfather Laurent Charles Charbonneau, 33, was enumerated in the 1865 New York State census for Boonville, Oneida County, he was working as a sawyer — a common occupation with so many lumber mills operating in the forested Adirondack foothills.

He was married to my Swiss immigrant gg grandmother Ursula Angeline (Zinsk) Charbonneau, 30, and they had one son — my great grandfather Willard, 7.

Although they did not own land in 1865, they lived in a frame house and Laurent was working — so they were off to a respectable start after less than ten years of marriage.

Within a few years, their fortunes had improved. According to the Gazeteer and Business Directory of Oneida County for 1869, compiled and published by Hamilton Child, Laurent had become a farmer. Here is his listing, from page 159:

Charbonno, Lawrence, (Hawkinsville,) Lot 31, Farmer, 37.

At the start of the Business Directory there is a list of Explanations to Directory, which includes this important note:

Figures after the occupation of farmers, indicate the number of acres of land owned or leased by the parties.

A good sized farm

I was impressed to discover these details about my gg grandfather’s family farm. Whispering Chimneys, the farm where I spent my early childhood, covered 10 acres — which seemed pretty big to me at the time. The Business Directory indicates Laurent Charbonneau’s farm, at 37 acres, was nearly four times that size!

A year after the Business Directory was published, the 1870 U.S. census for Boonville, Oneida, N.Y., confirmed that Laurent was working as a farmer and indicated that he owned his land (rather than leased it) — making him the second agricultural ancestor I have documented.

Under the category “Value of Real Estate Owned,” the 1870 census reports the following about the Charbonneau family farm:

  • Ques. 8 – Value of Real Estate – $940 [about $16,500 today]
  • Ques. 9 – Value of Personal Estate – $265 [about $4,650 today]

Keeping up with the neighbors

Of course, Laurent may have continued sawing lumber on the side to bring in extra income — possibly during the fallow winter months. However, the value of the Charbonneau family’s land and personal property was in line with what most nearby families reported in the 1870 federal census — so my ancestors were doing as well as their neighbors.

These discoveries got me wondering: What were farming conditions like in Town of Boonville — which encompassed the Hawkinsville area where the Charbonneau farm was located? Were there maps of the area that might pinpoint the  farm’s location? And what was actually produced by my ancestors’ farm?

Which means I am off again on the research trail to see what else I can learn about my Charbonneau-Zinsk ancestors!

Meanwhile, St. Patrick’s Day is nearly here. Please stop back throughout March for posts about my Irish (Dempsey) and Welsh (Owen) ancestors in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Maryland.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Growing family trees one leaf at a time