The Dwen Family

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It has proven quite difficult to trace the ancestry of Elizabeth Dwen Beaton O'Leary. The first problem here has always been her maiden name. We have very few sources for information about her family. Until recently those were her obituary and two 19th century biographies of her son, Matthew Beaton. These sources disagree on her maiden name--her obituary says "Wren" and the Matthew Beaton biographies say "Duane" (pronounced "Dwen" or "Dewin"). Recently, I have found records of Matthew Dwen, Elizabeth's father, in Baltimore and those agree that his name was spelled "Dwen." These are the earliest records found so far. 

Elizabeth's father was Matthew Dwen, a native of Athy, County Kildare, Ireland. Elizabeth's mother was Ann Caton Dwen, a native of Baltimore, Maryland. They were married in Baltimore where Elizabeth was born, lived for a time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then moved to Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa. Matthew Dwen died on February 18, 1846 either in Iowa or Galena. Ann Caton Dwen survived her husband until 1857 when she died in Galena at the age of 56. Elizabeth's obituary mentions that her mother spent the winter of 1851-52 in a cabin near Fort Snelling with Elizabeth and the three Beaton children. The Dwens had three children, Elizabeth, Mrs. Catherine Ryan Young who died before Elizabeth, and Mrs. Mary Molloy, who was living in Chicago at the time of Elizabeth's death.

Recently, I have obtained additional information about this family. The first piece of information was the marriage record of Elizabeth. This is the official record maintained by Jo Daviess County, Illinois, and preserved in the Illinois State Archives. The record is of the marriage of Daniel Beton and Elizabeth Swann on November 5, 1844. At first glance this is the wrong record. But other evidence has pretty much confirmed that "Daniel Beton" is "Donald Beaton" and that "Elizabeth Swann" is "Elizabeth Dwen."

Matthew Dwen died on February 18, 1846, the same day as his grandson and namesake, Matthew Beaton, was born. On March 6, 1846, an Estate Notice of "Mathew Owen" by Edward Keogh and Daniel Beaton appeared in a Galena newspaper. "Mathew Owen" is almost certainly Matthew Dwen. There may be a modern transcription error in the newspaper listing. I don't know who Edward Keogh is.

By 1850, Matthew Dwen had died leaving Ann a widow. Elizabeth had married Donald (or Daniel) Beaton and was living in Fort Snelling, Minnesota Territory according to the 1850 census. There is no record of Ann Caton Dwen in Minnesota. However, I may have found her in the 1850 census for Galena, Illinois. There is a listing for an Ann C. Dwin, age 41, born in Maryland. The modern index for this entry lists her as Ann C. Devin, but the actual handwritten entry looks like Dwin to me. The age is about 10 years too young, but that may be explained by the likelihood that she didn't supply the information to the census taker, The head of household is the "Rev. Dennis Dunn (R.C.)," age 26, a "Minister of the Gospel," born in Ireland. Also living in the same household is John Kane, age 13, born in Ireland. If Ann C. Dwin is Ann Caton Dwen, then it appears that she was working as a priest's housekeeper in 1850.

Also, if Ann Dwin is Ann Dwen, then none of her three children were living with her in 1850. I may have found Mary. There is a Mary Duane, age 16, born in Pennsylvania, in the 1850 Galena census. Elizabeth's obituary mentions that the Dwen family lived in Pittsburgh for a while and Mary may have been born there. Mary Duane is living with John Coghen, age 32, born in Pennsylvania; Annie M. Coghen, age 30, born in Germany; Henry M. Coghen, age 6, born in Pennsylvania; and Ann G. Coghen, age 1, born in Illinois. I have not yet found an entry that could match Catherine Duane Ryan Young in the 1850 census.

The 1860 census for Galena lists Elizabeth O'Leary, age 33, living with Thomas O'Leary, age 42; Catherine Leary, age 68, and Anna Beaton, age 9, a "child of former husband." Neither Matthew nor Catherine Beaton were living with her. Matthew Beaton, age 14, a "store porter," was living with Davies M. Spratt, age 34, a merchant; Eliza Spratt, age 26, and Harry Spratt, age 2. Matthew Beaton's biography mentions that the owner of the "St. Louis Store" when he first began to work there was "Porter & Spratt." Catherine Beaton, age 12, was living with John Maloy, age 23; Mary Maloy, age 22; and Clara Maloy, age 6 months. There is a note in the census list that Catherine Beaton is a "Niece." 

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This page last modified on Monday, November 26, 2007

Main Beaton Page

Clan Donald History

Beaton Origins



MacPherson's Farewell

Big Finley Beaton

The Beaton Family

Donald or Daniel Beaton

The Dwen Family

Fort Snelling: 1851-52

Aunt Clara's letters

Elizabeth Maguire's obituary

Elizabeth O'Leary's obituary

Matthew Beaton's biographies

Matthew Beaton, 50 Years in Business

Aunt Annie

Burke's Bethune of Balfour

Burke's Graham of Fintry