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. 


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