Tag Archives: Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey

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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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.

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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