Tag Archives: Shipwright

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.

Land Of My Fathers…

Well, the land of my Grandfathers and Greats that is, all the way back to the 1400s.

My maternal Gramps was an O’Bray born, like all his forebears, in West Wales. Pembroke Dock, to be exact.  Welsh is still spoken widely in West Wales and the Welsh name for this area is Doc Penfro, it was originally named Paterchurch and was a small fishing village. Pembroke Dock Town expanded rapidly following the construction of the Royal Navy Dockyard in 1814.

There is some speculation about the original name of my fourth great-grandfather, John Barnett O’Bray born in 1792. About this time, the family name was Aubrey but in that century it changed to O’Bray and/or O’Brey. Our ancestors in the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City, Utah, spell it without the apostrophe – OBray whereas my Grandfather spells it O’Bray.

This September 2019 I went to Pembroke Dock, West Wales and visited Pembroke Castle where the Tudor Dynasty started with the birth of King Henry VII. Next door to the castle entrance was a shop called ‘The Hall of Names’ with a database of most names in the world and, for a price, they will research and print out the name, and its origins. [1]

They looked up the name Aubrey for me, and all the variations which are characteristic of Norman. Old and Middle English lack definite spelling rules, and then Norman French was added to the linguistic stew, with finally, medieval scribes who wrote names as they sounded, so no wonder I have such a problem. So, I am still none the wiser as to why the change – this is MY brick wall! [1]

I also went to 14 Queen Street East, where third great-grandfather John Barnett O’Bray lived in 1841 with his family. The street and number 14, one of a row of houses, are still there but have probably changed a great deal since!

14 Queen Street Pembroke Dock.jpg 2

14 Queen Street Pembroke Dock

In the year 1841, our O’Bray/O’Brey family is mentioned in a book called “Pembroke People” by Richard Rose under ‘shipwrights’ but even in this short piece in the book, there are three different spellings of his name!

The heading reads that he was “John Barnett O’Bray or OBrey” A further note in the book mentions a William Aubrey buried at St. Mary’s on 27th September 1817 aged four and the author assumes “He was probably another child of this family” If so, why was he called Aubrey and the rest of the family O’Bray/Obrey? Right at the end yet another mystery as the author states that when John Barnett O’Bray was buried, also in the register was ‘An Elizabeth Oberry. Buried on 11th April 1841 aged 93.

John Barnett O’Bray was apprenticed in 1805 at Milford as a shipwright boy. He was earning 2 shillings a day in 1810 and when he was 21 years old in 1812 he became a shipwright and married Eleanor Allen, who’s family also appear as shipwrights in the book.

Their ten children, aged from two years to the eldest aged 25 years include in order of birth, William who died at age four, Maria, born in 1814, George 1815, John 1818, Elizabeth 1820, *Thomas 1821, Robert 1824, *Samuel 1828, Eleanor 1834 and Thomas 1836, who died at age eight.

** Thomas Lorenzo and Samuel William, were baptised into the Church of Latter-Day Saints – the Mormons –  and left West Wales to trek across the plains in 1851 to Salt Lake City, Utah. Two other family members, Maria and George also became Mormon and went to Utah later.

In 1823, John Barnett O’Bray took a 60-year lease of one of the Club Houses recently built in the High Street at a rent of One Pound, Ten Shillings a year. His years’ wages in 1828 were 87 pounds, 19 shillings and one penny.

John Barnett my third Great Grandfather suffered a grisly death.

An Unfortunate and Fatal Accident
Carmarthen Journal Article – 19 Dec 1845

“An Unfortunate and Fatal Accident – An efficient and industrious shipwright, named John Obrey, belonging to Her Majesty’s Dock Yard at Pembroke, fell from a considerable height into one of the building slips and was killed on Thursday last. To mark the esteem in which he was held by the authorities of that establishment the Chapel bell of the Arsenal was tolled during the funeral.

It appears a plank forming one of the stages around the ship’s side had not sufficient hold of the support on which it rested, and the weight tilting it up, he was precipitated into the slip, and falling on his head, his skull so fractured that his brains actually protruded. His wife will, no doubt, have a pension, though the amount must necessarily be small.” [3]

Through research, I believe that John Barnett was also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (The Mormons), but died before he was baptised.

SOURCES

1. https://pembrokecastle.co.uk/eat-shop-discover/hall-of-names

Richard Rose wrote a fascinating book called ‘Pembroke People’ and is described on the flyleaf, as probably the fullest account was ever written about life in an early 19th-century community. Flipping through this wonderful book, that seems to be true. Every possible trade in shipbuilding, mariner,  and associated trades were listed, from accountants to wine and spirit merchants even including the local prostitutes and illegitimate children! And yes, I did look to see if any of my family were listed there, but none were. [2]

[3] Carmarthen Journal Article

“My Family History” which includes Thomas and Samuels’ stories can be read here:

https://wordpress.com/post/genealogyensemble.com/610

And you can read Samuel’s story here:   https://genealogyensemble.com/2016/08/17/mormon-history/