7.8.17

Can DNA prove or disprove a famous potential relative?

 Everyone has 64 great-great-great grandparents, 32 men and 32 women (in theory, of course some people could have the same men or women in different lines). This is about the point for most amateur genealogists to keep family lines in order without some sort of reference. Maybe you met a great-grandparent in your life time? This would be the great-grandparents of your great grandparents. I've seen a photo of my grandmother (my kids' great-grandmother) with her great-grandmother. I actually have a picture of my daughter and my grandmother holding the photo. Amazing the things that can be preserved.

But with those 64 connections, virtually everyone who does research on their family will eventually get stuck. On my maternal grand father's line, my great-great grandmother was Susan Dorr. Or maybe Susan Darr? I'm certain from bible and Barber collections that she married Calvin King and that lineage to me is well documented. Who were Susan Dorr's parents? I've found many online ancestry lines that show that her father was Thomas Wilson Dorr, a Rhode Island governor who led the Dorr Rebellion. (I talked a bit about this here.) But history shows Thomas Dorr never married. Online biographies are available but writings from that time do not discuss his relationships with women (if he had any). I'd done some research and pieced together that Susan Dorr had a brother "John Darr" who lived in Ivoryton, CT and eventually moved out to Ohio. I've corresponded with members of that line.

There was some confusion as to Dorr's parents - mostly because the man I thought to be her father, George Clark Dorr was buried as "George D. Clarke".

I'd settled this as a historical inaccuracy until I found this in the Norwich Bulletin:



So after ordering my DNA kid from ancestry.com and receiving the results I gave it a try. I'd look up "Havens" and "Dorr" and "Darr" among the matches, as well I'd look up "Dorr" and "Allen" (Thomas W. Dorr's mother's maiden name) to look for matches.

I'd have a bit of help as well that the "Havens" and "Dorr" were from the same time where my grandfather lived his entire life, the very small town of Old Lyme, Connecticut, with a few very recognizable lines (Beebe, Champion, Lee, Lay) which would also show some sort of connection with the "George Dorr" line. I'm related to Beebe, Lee and Lay lines but at over 10 generations back where DNA would not prove useful. I also was aware of the problems with DNA related ancestry research. I was happy to find that every relative I've found online who took a DNA test, was indeed at or near the top of my list of matching results. But as the DNA matches less, the relationship is more speculative.

The first record I checked as a big clue. A potential "5-8th Cousin" named "N.G." had a line with Beebe and Havens. The Havens in the family was from neighboring Waterford, CT.  "N.G" had a well researched line and with ancestry.com showing matching surnames, I could determine that there was no other line where I would be related to this person in an obvious way in another line and other lines were in fact from other places geographically that were not linked to my family.

Again, the next record I looked up had a "Havens" and sure enough, Lyme/Old Lyme Connecticut. Same time frame. This record, however, also had a "King" (although one I'm aware of and have not linked closely to my family line) in the same branch as "Havens", so this result could not be ruled out as well. For what it was worth, the second record and first record did not share a DNA match.

Many of my next few searches of matches on Havens showed no useful results until I got to an account called "1_tinaL". This well-researched listing actually linked me directly through a family tree to Edward Havens (thought to be the grandfather of Phebe Havens, the wife of George Dorr (known through Barber record)). The only problem with this was that Phebe's great-grandmother was a Beebe, meaning the relation could be there. However, this would be 8th cousins at this point which would be just at the end of what ancestry.com provides with DNA relationship potential matches.

Research went the same until I found an account which shared the same link to Susan Dorr through Calvin King. The DNA match was correct for the distance of the relation and the King line she'd produced was a known line (I actually sent her some information I had on the line which she may not). So things were rounding into place. Before discounting, though, I did get the surnames of Thomas Dorr (Dorr, Allen, Cunningham and Crawford - all Massachusetts/Rhode Island lineages, which would differ from the King/Beebe/Dorr/Haven lines which were Connecticut/Long Island NY).

Looking at the names on the Thomas Dorr side, it became pretty clear that none of those known lines in the Thomas Dorr genealogy were linked to me. Allen would come up frequently but research never traced it to the Massachusetts or Rhode Island areas (although, interestingly, the Allen family was related distantly through marriage to other Old Lyme families. I was able to conclude from this that Susan Dorr was likely the child of George Dorr and Phebe Havens (or least, so to say, she was not related to Thomas W. Dorr.

In a way it was sad to have fairly conclusive evidence eliminating that strange mystery I'd seen in so many family trees online. The Norwich Bulletin obituary's source is unknown. "Governor George Darr" (interestingly sort of a hybrid of both "stories") will remain an unsolved for now. But if there is accuracy in DNA, it's likely I'm not related to Thomas W. Dorr. 


28.6.17

Why do we suffer?

The most spiritual moment in my life happened in church. But it's not what you think. It was in the church were I was baptized (as an adult), not the church were I was married or went to funeral masses.



There was a guest clergy delivering a sermon in the summer. A long sermon. A rambling sermon. He spoke about everything. Politics. Living. Christ. Honestly, it was hard to follow; it was all over the place. But then, deep into the sermon he paused. "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

Like I said. He was all over the place. Somehow he'd worked his way to one of the most important questions we have in our faith.

Again he said "Why do bad things happen to good people? How can this be true if there is a God?"

A long pause.

"Because we are human. It is our human condition to suffer," he retorted, as if summoning a dash of Buddhism. "We suffer because our bodies are weak. Our minds are weak. We seek the Lord to strengthen us. But we are still human. And our human form is neither unbreakable or permanent."

Neither unbreakable or permanent.

And how many people have struggled with this question: Why do bad things happen? Surely, if there is a God and we lead a life in the model of his Son, then bad shouldn't happen to us. Or happen to us less? Or at least there is some great reward at the end.

Many church scholars or clergy will point to Job and his trials as an example of how to deal with bad or why bad things do happen. That the pain we suffer on earth brings us closer to our God. Or even that it is symbolic of the pain which Jesus suffered at the end of his human life.

But this part of the sermon really struck with me. We are human. We think we have freewill, but we don't always. We think we are indestructible and will live forever when we are young. But we won't. It's part of our human condition. And it is not a reason to doubt faith. It's just being human. Part of being human is suffering. We are built to survive, first, then enrich, then enrich others.

A friend of mine passed away today. He was a father, husband, coach and Christian. He was the father of two children, one, like my son, with an autism diagnosis. His daughter, an accomplished young athlete had many accomplishments that made him proud. But the every day victories for his son made him just as proud. He'd had a brush with heart problems a few years ago that almost ended his life. His human body was saved and God allowed him more time on earth, even if it was a few more years, to see his wife, children and family and friends. He laughed and lived and saw his children go closer to their adulthood... a few more years of precious times.

And I'm sure if he had his choice he'd take the suffering and challenges of life, parenting, struggling and sorrows instead of the eternal bliss of a Christian afterlife which he earned, at least now. But what made him human was spent. There was no more life to live.

I can't help but to think of a Buddhist cop out that all relationships, even that of a spouse or parent, is finite and to take joy in the times you have. I'm too human to go there right now. I'd rather be this way, flawed, built by God in flaw. But if we suffer too much by our own thoughts and sadness, our bodies become prisons and our lives go by unlived. We must take from Buddhism that everything on earth is finite, because we are finite - and appreciate the good. We should suffer, but we can suffer less with faith, hope, love and in my friend's case, humor. A lot of it.

There is no good answer as to why good things happen to bad people. None. No scripture. No philosophy of removing ourselves from our own humanity. And that bad things do happen to good people does not mean there isn't a God to believe in or that there is even a heavenly reason or justification to it. It's just us being human.

I'd rather be this. Flawed. Human. Finite, but able to love, hope and keep faith. We will all suffer in life, because we are human and that is unavoidable. But we can strive to enjoy this life and our flaws and accept it.