Tag Archives: United States

Doc Penfro, Wales and the O’Bray Family Name Part 2

In part one, (https://genealogyensemble.com/2023/01/06/doc-penfro-wales-and-the-obray-family-name-part-1/) I wrote about John Barnett O’Bray my third great-grandfather who was born in Rhosmarket and lived in Doc Penfo – The Welsh name for Pembroke Dock – and his family name, the spelling of which had changed so many times over the centuries.

Part two is about third great-grandad John’s life and work in Pembroke Dock.

The town of Milford was founded in 1793 a year after John Barnett O’Bray was born in 1792. He was apprenticed in 1805 at Milford as a shipwright boy.

Sir William Hamilton obtained an Act of Parliament in 1790 to establish the port at Milford. It takes its name from the natural harbour of Milford Haven, which was used for several hundred years as a staging point on sea journeys to Ireland and as a shelter by Vikings. (1)

By 1810, Third Great-Grandad earned 2 shillings a day, and when he was 21 years old in 1812, he became a shipwright and married Eleanor Allen, whose family were also shipwrights and lived in Pembroke Dock.

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. Such a tiny percentage of his salary for the lease compared to today!

Over 25 years, John and Eleanor had ten children. Their first child, William died at age four, Maria, was born in 1814, George in 1815, and John in 1818, and became a shipwright. Elizabeth was next in 1820, Thomas in 1821, Robert in 1824 who became a joiner’s apprentice, Samuel in 1828, and Eleanor in 1834. For some reason, although very common, partly because of the high mortality rate, the last child born in 1836 was named Thomas William however, he died at age eight in 1844.

Why would they name the youngest last child after his two siblings? Perhaps in memory of them especially after the first-born Thomas, left Wales for the other side of the world, so perhaps this would be a kind of memorial to both sons? Some family mysteries we will never know.

Five family members left Wales for various parts of the United States. I know that Thomas and Samuel were baptised as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – or Mormons. The other family members, Maria, George, and John did live and die in various parts of the USA and I believe they too, were baptised as Mormons. (2)

John Barnett my third Great Grandfather, suffered a grisly death at the age of 54 years.

An Unfortunate and Fatal AccidentCarmarthen 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 establishment authorities, 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.” (2)

I went to Pembroke Dock, West Wales In September 2019 to visit my dear friend, Michelle, who kindly drove me around the areas in West Wales, where she lives, in Aberdare. She took me to 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. (3)

Michelle also drove me 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!

It certainly was a strange experience standing in front of the well-maintained pretty house that my ancestors had once lived in with their many children.

14 Queen Street East – A typical terraced two-up (two bedrooms) and two-down (kitchen and sitting room) house.

According to the 1841 Census, only five of the children, now all in their teens, still lived there but a tight squeeze for seven people. However, I am sure they were happy to have such a pleasant home.

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



2. https://pembrokecastle.co.uk/

3. Carmarthen Journal Article


Richard Rose wrote a fascinating book called ‘Pembroke People’ and is described on the flyleaf, as probably the fullest account that was ever written about life in an early 19th-century community. Flipping through this wonderful book, that seems to be true. I found my Great-grandfather’s family listed there and other family members too.

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.

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


And you can read Samuel’s story here:  


Destination: Amerikka



Claire Lindell

Amidst the many tombstones in a shady corner of Edgewood Cemetery in Ashtabula, Ohio is a very simple thick slab of granite, about the size of one of those washboards our mothers and grandmothers used to hand wash items before washing machines were invented. Inscribed on this granite in very large letters, as simple as the stone itself is the word  “AITI”. which means mother in Finnish. It is the resting place of my great grandmother1, Susanna Karhu (Klemola) who had immigrated to the United States in 1896.


Susanna was born in Waara, Finland in 1854. In their home country in 1876 at the age of  twenty-two Sanna married Johan Karhu. Over time they raised a family of eight children.

In 1893 Johan seized the opportunity to immigrate to the United States. He left his family in Finland and made his way to Ashtabula, Ohio, a port city on Lake Erie, where he worked on the docks and lived in the area of Ashtabula Harbor. At that time the port was thriving with constant activity. Large flat boats and barges loaded with coal and iron ore were sailing up and down the Great Lakes. These were prosperous times. New immigrants were eager to earn a decent wage.

Once settled, Johan sent for his family. In 1896 Susanna ( Sanna), at the age of forty-two along with her three youngest children, Ida, Jaako, and Lisa set sail by way of Hanko, Finland.2. They boarded the S.S. Cunard ship ‘Lucania’ in Liverpool, England en route to America. Ellis Island was their port of destination in America arriving  there on the 30th of May 1896,  and continuing on  to Ohio.

Very little is known about Sanna. We do know that her two oldest children chose to remain  in Finland. It must have been heart wrenching to know that she would be leaving behind these children and  two of her babies’ graves.

She was a housewife and at the time of her death August 18th 1929. She was 75 years old and among the oldest of the Finnish residents of Ashtabula Harbor having lived there over 30 years. Johan died in 1948. Where he is buried is still a mystery?

GGR-Gram-GGR-Jake-Vic Karhu

Sanna, Ida Susanna, Johan, Jaako and Lisa. Photograph taken several years

after arriving in the United States. Ida, my grandmother appears to be about fifteen or sixteen.

GGR-GR Karhu 50thAn@ Laine Farm

In a photograph taken during a family gathering in 1919 Sanna and Johan

are surrounded by their children, grandchildren and great-grand children.



  1. 1. “Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images,FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X8PB-TC9 : 8 December 2014), Sanna Karhu, 18 Aug 1929; citing Ashtabula, Ashtabula, Ohio, reference fn 50528; FHL microfilm 1,991,908.
  2. 2. Finnish Institute of Migration