Tag Archives: Pembroke Dock

Doc Penfro, Wales and the O’Bray Family Name Part 1

Pembroke Dock (Welsh name Doc Penfro) is a town and community in Pembrokeshire, South West Wales on the River Cleddau.

Originally named “Paterchurch”, a small fishing village, Pembroke Dock town expanded rapidly following the construction of the Royal Navy Dockyard in 1814. The Cleddau Bridge links Pembroke Dock with Nyland. (1)

John Barnett OBrey or Obray my 3rd Great -Grandfather was born in Rhosmarket. in 1792. Rhosmarket or now Rosemarket is a parish in the county of Pembroke South Wales. In 1833 the parish contained 456 inhabitants; in the 1841 Welsh Census, John Barnett was a shipwright.

The spelling of the O’Bray name over the centuries has changed numerous times and because of this, trying to trace very early family members has been a headache. There is a landed gentry branch of the Aubrey family, and I have seen our tree added to them, more times than I care to remember. It seems that everyone would like to be associated with royalty or the lords and ladies – unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, we are not.

Awbrey is the earliest family name I have traced. That would be Jenkin Awbrey, born in 1410 in Abercynrig, Breconshire Wales. He was my 13th Great Grandfather.

The next generation was Hopkin born in 1448, William born in 1480 and Thomas born in 1588 but they spelt their name, Aubrey.

But William, my ninth Great Grandfather born in 1607, who, just to be difficult, reverted back to spelling it Awbrey.

John, born in 1678 spelt it Aubrey and by the time my fourth Great Grandfather arrived in 1760 once again, another name change to Obray. Which has lasted right up to the present day for our English relatives – with one small change, my Grandfather spelt it with an apostrophe O’Bray.

However, another mystery about John Barnett Obray cropped up. In Richard Rose’s magnificent book ‘Pembroke People he states

“I assume that William Aubrey, buried at St. Mary’s church on 27th September 1817 aged four years was probably another child of this family”

In addition to this, he also states that

“An Elizabeth Oberry was buried, according to St. Mary’s register on the 11th of April 1841 aged 93”

This was my fourth Great Grandmother, Elizabeth Barnett whom John Barnett Obray is named after. Another different spelling and name.

When John Barnett Obray, my 3rd Great grandfather and his wife, Elinor Allen married in 1812 his Marriage Lines recorded him as ‘John Obra’ yet, he was born Obray and died Obray.

I recently wrote to “Find My Past” to point out the error in their 1812 Marriage Lines, and they adjusted it to spell Obray. A small victory!

When I visited Salt Lake City, Utah, I went to the cemetery in the town of Paradise, located in the southern part of Cache County, Utah. I had researched and found that quite a few of the American O’Brays were buried, there. Once again, I noticed another change to the name they spelt it “OBray” no apostrophe, as my Grandfather O’Bray and his family spell it.

I can only surmise that over the centuries, the name became corrupted once spoken. I tried saying the name out loud…Awbrey, Aubrey, and O’Bray DO sound similar, especially if spoken in Welsh and with the addition of a Welsh accent.

To further add to the confusion, once I looked up the names I find that Obrey is an altered form of the French Aubry which in turn comes from the ancient Germanic personal name Alberic composed of the elements alb meaning elf and – ric powerful.

When compared to Aubrey it stated it is English from Middle English meaning a male personal name such as Albry Audry or Ayubrey. That in turn is a borrowing of Old French which in turn is a Middle English female personal name such as Albrey, Aubrey which in turn is from ancient Germanic!

French Canadian is also in there somewhere, but it all became so confusing…I gave up! Suffice it to say, the name contains some of the most ancient Old English, French and Germanic languages. No wonder there has been so much corruption and confusion spelling the name over the centuries! (2)

In part two, I shall be sharing the life of Elinor and John Barnett Obray.

Sources

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pembroke_Dock

(2) Source: Dictionary of American Family Names 2nd edition, 2022

(3) Pembroke People by Richard Rose

This book is a must for anyone researching ancestors who lived in Pembroke Dock, Wales.

Samuel William OBray, Mormon, Pioneer Polygamist

Panting with the effort the young man hurried through the night. Under one arm he carried his bundle of belongings and in his other arm, his three year old son Thomas. Samuel OBray  had left Bootle, Liverpool in great haste and was headed to the Liverpool Docks with his precious bundles to board the Ellen Maria (1) sailing soon for New Orleans USA for a new life in America.

Samuel was a shipwright. He joined the Church of Latter Day Saints (or Mormons) on the 6th February, 1846, before his first marriage to Margret Harris in November 1846 in Pembroke Dock, Wales. Samuel and Margret had two sons, Thomas and John. Margret had never agreed with his religious beliefs so unbeknownst to her, Samuel had booked passage for himself and his eldest son, Thomas to New Orleans Louisiana later, to join the rest of the ‘Mormon Saints’ in Utah or Zion as they called it. Samuel left behind him, his wife Margret and their youngest son John.

The ship was due to leave port on 29th January 1851 but had been anchored in the River Mersey for two days due to storms until it was deemed safe enough to set sail. Whilst on board, Samuel had befriended other Mormon Saints on the ship, particularly a family named Bainbridge. They were a family of six. Three sons and three daughters. Eleanor was the second daughter and she and Samuel struck up a friendship.

According to the ‘Biography of Samuel William OBray and Eleanor Bainbridge OBray’ (2) there are two versions of what happened  when Margret realised what Samuel had done.

In the first family legend, she reported it to the authorities who headed to the Docks and searched the ship but could not discover Thomas. During the search of the ship Samuel had persuaded the Bainbridge family to claim Thomas as their own. Whilst the authorities were looking for a small boy Thomas had been dressed as a little girl and integrated into the Bainbridge family.

In the second version Samuel was able to steal the oldest boy from his mother and took him on board the ship Ellen Maria just prior to its departure. The boy had red hair and Samuel was able to place him with a family of red-headed children so that when the police came aboard they could not find him. The boys name was Thomas William, age three.

Poor Margret never did find her son. Was she on the dock when the ship sailed from Liverpool on the 2nd February 1851? If so, how must she have felt as she watched the ship sail away? It can only be imagined.

Upon arrival in New Orleans, The OBray and Bainbridge families were not able financially to continue their journey to Utah so they stayed and worked until they were able to continue. Whilst in New Orleans Samuel and Eleanor married and their first child, Ellen Jane was born. (3) They went on to have eight more children and Samuel took a third plural wife, but there were no children from this union. However, according to his obituary  (4) as it appeared in “The Journal” 11 June 1910:

 His descendants number about 176, as follows: 10 children 87 grandchildren 75 great-grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren”

Samuel William OBray was my second great grand uncle.

The ship Ellen Maria prepares to sail from Liverpool, England, for America on February 1, 1851. At the time, over 50,000 Latter-day Saints lived in the British Isles. Emigration was possible as the result of the Perpetual Emigrating Fund, which loaned money to impoverished Latter-day Saints on the promise they would repay the loan so others could emigrate. Thousands of converts emigrated to join the Saints in America.
The ship Ellen Maria prepares to sail from Liverpool, England, for America on February 1, 1851. At the time, over 50,000 Latter-day Saints lived in the British Isles. Emigration was possible as the result of the Perpetual Emigrating Fund, which loaned money to impoverished Latter-day Saints on the promise they would repay the loan so others could emigrate. Thousands of converts emigrated to join the Saints in America.

samuel William O'Bray and Eleanor Bainbridge

Samuel OBray and Eleanor Bainbridge OBray

Sources

1 https://mormonmigration.lib.byu.edu/mii/passenger/44709

2 http://welshmormon.byu.edu/Resource_Info.aspx?id=2592

3  ‘The New World having Become Attractive To Thomas Sharratt, he came to America and Settled” Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia Vol. 3 p 514

4 http://welshmormon.byu.edu/Resource_Info.aspx?id=789

http://www.lagunaniguelfhc.org/embarkation-of-the-saints-liverpool-1851/