Margaret Colbert Dempsey: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, #4

Nearly 5 years ago, Amy Johnson Crow came up with the idea of writing about a different ancestor each week (hence “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” — see here and here.) The premise was to put together a story in words, images or videos (or some combination) about a different ancestor, so the stories you had about your family were captured.  And if you were a hard-core researcher, so much the better — it was a way to organize the “stuff” you had gathered about a family member and get it into a coherent format, perhaps even seeing where you might lack info.

Which brings me to this “52 Ancestors” post.  I realized as I wrote up this summary about my paternal grandmother that I actually know very little about her!  I saw her only a few times in my life, first of all, and most of what I know about her is either from records (census, vitals) I discovered or stories my dad told me.  And then I have to balance that with the fact that all of her children and grandchildren are still alive… how much is “too much” for a blog post?

So, what do I know of my paternal grandmother’s life?  

Her name was Margaret Aileen Colbert and she not only lived her entire life in San Francisco, California, but she lived her entire life in the same house, just off Army Street (now known as Cesar Chavez Street).  She was the third of 4 children born to William Cornelius Colbert and Ellen (aka Eileen) Houlihan, both formerly of Athea, Co. Limerick, Ireland.

Margaret was born on 19 January 1908; the name on her birth certificate is given as Eileen.[1]  She had two older sisters: Honora Marie, born in May 1902 in San Francisco, and Anita, born in September 1903 in San Francisco.  Margaret’s younger brother William C. Colbert (aka “Babe”) was born in June 1910.

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A copy of my grandmother’s birth certificate (see source citation below)

Margaret was just shy of 4 years old when her mother, Ellen (Houlihan) Colbert, died in San Francisco on 15 December 1911, of peritonitis due to a miscarriage.  Her father eventually remarried, circa 1922, to a woman named Harriet Maley, and in August 1923, Margaret’s half-sister Cornelia was born.

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Margaret (left) with a friend, ca. 1930

Margaret’s father died in October 1931, when Margaret was 23 years old.  Then, 18 months later, she married Cassius Patrick Dempsey.  I do not know how they met.  They married in Hollister, San Benito County, California – and I do not know why they married there instead of their hometown of San Francisco.

Throughout their marriage they lived in the house that my grandmother’s Uncle Jack Colbert built, which was also the house she grew up in.  My father was their eldest child, of three children.  A sister followed 6 years later, and a brother 11 years after that.  All of them grew up in the same house too.

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My Nana and Grandpa, ca. 1933

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Me with my grandparents, 1962

I was 8 months old when my parents and I moved to Florida from California; we lived in Florida for 5 years, where my siblings were born.  Then we moved to the D/FW area.  My grandparents came out to Florida for Christmas in 1963, when I was a toddler.  That was the only time we ever saw them for Christmas, not that I remember it!  We do have home movies, and photographs, however.

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My grandparents with my sister, Christmas 1963, in Florida

As for times I remember seeing my grandmother, I can count them on one hand, as we rarely made the long trip out to San Francisco, and they never visited us in Texas. 

The last time I ever saw my grandmother was when I visited my aunt (who is also my godmother) in San Jose over the Bicentennial Fourth of July.  My aunt and uncle were away for a short business trip, and my grandparents came down from San Francisco to stay with me and my younger cousins.

My grandmother died of heart failure on 30 October 1983, at the age of 75, when I was 22 years old.  She was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California.

 

 

[1] City and County of San Francisco, California, birth certificate local registered No. 370, Eileen [Margaret] Colbert (1908); Office of the County Clerk, San Francisco.

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