Two ancestors who have a political past relevant today.

As a genealogist, it's always interesting to come across names in the past that are famous. Through the Trowbridge line, my 40th great-grandfather is Charlemagne. Of course, nearly everyone in the US of European descent is. I was always jealous of my grandmother's sister when I found that she had married directly into Thomas Jefferson's family.

Two of my (probably) great-great-great-great grandparents, one each on my mother and father's sides of the family have very relevant histories associated with them: Thomas Wilson Dorr and John Savage Reed.

Dorr, a Rhode Island governor, was, perhaps, the illegitimate father of my grandfather's great-grandmother, Susan Dorr. The history is complex in this branch as Susan Dorr was raised with brothers all having the "Dorr" last name but their father in many texts as a George Clarke Dorr (who's grave states his name as George Dorr Clarke). Fortunately this is a grave near where I live so further research could be possible. I'd always concluded that trees that listed Thomas Dorr as Susan's father were flawed until reading an old obituary last month from the Norwich Bulletin which listed Governor Dorr as her father. I'm not exactly sure what happened and I would expect the answer is still out there in time, but this should not diminish from the life of Thomas Dorr.

Dorr believed in universal male suffrage while a lawyer in Providence. Before he was governor, only white males who owned land of a certain value could vote. Dorr wanted to make all white landowners able to vote (most of Dorr's works show he had a more universal view toward voting but only felt that this was the first step in allowing all white males to vote). Dorr was elected governor but over thrown which led to the Dorr Rebellion and Dorr's imprisonment. Dorr died a few years after his release.

On my mother's side, John Savage Reed was the lawyer who defended the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith. Reed, a self-taught upstate New York, defended Smith for free stating the religious freedom, regardless of the religion, was a staple of US law. Reed, himself not a member of the Church of Later Day Saints, got Smith acquitted and had a son who would move out to Utah and become one of the first governors of the state.

Two very different stories of men who believed in liberty which was denied at the time to all.

More on Dorr and the Dorr Rebellion.

More on John Savage Reed

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