Chasing Grandma

Melinda (Adams) (Nestle) Dewey—also known as Grandma Dewey. Image courtesy of Gerald Sandoval.

The other day, I was confronted by an unexpected “hint” in my online family tree based on a DNA match. It outlined genetic ties between myself, an individual I had never heard of before named Samuel Morey, and the descendants of two of his children, Joseph Morey and Lucinda (Morey) Waterbury.1 It also alleged a possible additional Morey daughter, who was possibly the mother of my great-great-great grandmother Melinda (Adams) (Nestle) Dewey.2 I was immediately intrigued—I’ve been researching “Grandma Melinda” for years, but chasing her ancestry had always led me to a brick wall.

I must have stared at this hint for hours. Did I really want to go down that rabbit hole again? But looking more closely at Samuel Morey, I realized that he might just be the guy who could provide me with a Mayflower line for my mother. (Okay, I know that might make me seem like a snob, but I’ve been looking for one for years.) It appears that Samuel Morey has a well-documented ancestry to Mayflower passenger Richard Warren. 3 I decided that the best thing I could do was to mull through the facts, and come up with some genealogical arguments both for and against my relationship with Samuel Morey and his ties to the Mayflower.

The Facts

Grave of Melinda Dewey. Image courtesy of Eugene Myers memorial no. 91952292

Melinda Jeanette (Adams) (Nestle) Dewey was born on February 24, sometime between 1816-1825 in New York, and died on April 12, 1915, in East Tawas, Iosco County, Michigan. Her birth year of 1816 is inferred based on her death certificate, which lists her age as ninety-nine, but the birth year listed on her gravestone is 1821. She is also referred to as “Janet Melinda” on her death certificate, but the addition of Janet may be a correction of an omission of her middle name. Newspaper articles refer to her as “Melinda Jeanette Adams” and state that she was from Jefferson County, New York. 4 The certificate names her father as Thomas Adams, born in New York. The name of her mother is listed as unknown. She is credited with having fifteen children between her two husbands. A few interesting points:

  • Melinda (Adams)(Nestle) Dewey named one of her daughters Lucy Melinda Nestle (my great-great-grandmother)
  • Melinda Adams’s daughter Lucy Melinda (Nestle) Lee named her own daughter Lucy Lavina Lee.
  • A small amount of DNA may link her to descendants of Samuel Morey.

Samuel Morey (1770-1852) married Mary Freeman (1775-1813). Their lives are detailed in Grace and Edwin Waterbury’s 1930 work Jonathan Waterbury genealogy: ancestry and some of the descendants of Jonathan Waterbury of Nassau, New York (1766-1825), and in Moses Conant Warren’s 1890 work A genealogy of one branch of the Morey family 1631-1890. They had, among other children:

  • Joseph Morey (with whose descendants a genetic link to me has been implied)
  • Lucinda (Morey) Waterbury (1800-1879) (a genetic link also has been implied)
  • Melinda (Morey) Campbell (1804-1886)
  • Lavinia (Morey) Adams (1797-1884)

Screenshot of family tree showing Morey relationships and DNA hint

A Case For the Connection

Looking at this set of facts, the names Lucinda, Melinda, and Lavinia struck me as significant. Granted, they’re relatively common nineteenth-century names, but it seems like more than a coincidence that the names of Samuel Morey’s daughters were repeated through the generations by great-great-great grandmother Melinda and her progeny—especially considering that Melinda named her daughter “Lucy Melinda,” and that Lucy Melinda then named her own daughter “Lucy Lavina.” Lucy and Lucinda were certainly used interchangeably during that era, as were Lavinia and Lavina. Was Melinda honoring her mother and her mother’s sisters with her choice of names, or was my wishful thinking playing tricks on me?

Death record of Melinda DeweyThen there was the question of the Adams surname. Samuel Morey’s daughter Lavinia married a man named Ephraim Adams.5 The name of my great-great-great grandmother’s father, as listed on her death certificate, is Thomas Adams. If it was indeed true that Melinda (Adams)(Nestle) Dewey’s mother was a Morey daughter, and if Samuel’s daughter Lavinia married “an Adams,” could it be that Lavinia (Morey) Adams was my great-great-grandmother’s mother, and that there was no “missing sister” at all? Could it be that the name “Thomas Adams” is simply a mistake? Ephraim and Lavinia (Morey) Adams did have a son named Thomas, so it’s theoretically possible that whoever filled out the record assumed incorrectly that her father shared a name with her brother. Could it be that my great-great-great grandmother Melinda’s father was actually Ephraim Adams? Or had a missing “possible” daughter of Samuel Morey’s married a man named Thomas Adams, perhaps a kinsman to Ephraim? And what about the DNA connecting me to Samuel’s daughter Lucinda and his son Joseph?

A Case Against the Connection

Let’s face it: I hate this part. I really want that Mayflower line, but with the facts below I may not be able to prove it. Given the conjecture that Melinda is a descendant of Samuel and Mary (Freeman) Morey, and as her maiden surname is Adams, it can only follow that she would have to be either the daughter of a previously unknown daughter of theirs, or the daughter of Ephraim and Lavinia (Morey) Adams. However:

  • Following the lines for the children of Samuel Morey, and after a review of both the Waterbury and the Morey genealogies, all their children seem to be accounted for.
  • I have yet to find a will for Samuel Morey that might name any other daughters.
  • Ephraim and Lavinia (Morey) Adams had six children, but Ephraim Adams’s will does not name any daughter named Melinda.
  • The three DNA connections I share with the descendants of the children of Samuel Morey are described as “2 samples of 12 cm across 1 segment” and “1 sample of 9 cm across 1 segment.” These are way too small to be able to conclusively verify a connection. A review of the key provided shows over thirty different possible familial relationships between me and any of the people who could connect me to Samuel Morey.
  • I share no other matches in common with any of these folks.

Even with some of the right indicators, I was getting nowhere fast. I had a story in my mind that made sense: my great-great-great grandmother Melinda is even the right age to have been a daughter in Ephraim’s household. “My” Melinda very well could have been named after Lavinia (Morey) Adams’s own sister Melinda, leading to a lineage of similarly-named women. It also makes sense that the “Morey girls” could have married the “Adams boys,” and that an unknown Morey girl and a Thomas Adams might have existed and married each other. And those itsy-bitsy scraps of DNA are certainly tantalizing. However, there are no other matches in common with those three genetic links—so all this conjecture seems to be leading me to a dead end.

Screenshot of Samuel Morey biographical sketch and list of children

Sometimes, it’s way too easy and way too tempting to write a story to fit the theory. Do I want to find mom that Mayflower connection? You bet I do. And do I think there might be something here to follow up on when it comes to Samuel Morey and Grandma Melinda? Honestly, yes. This DNA hint might be one of the best leads I’ve had in years. It actually feels like I’m getting close to the truth. Sadly though, barring further evidence, it looks like that elusive hint isn’t done with me quite yet. No doubt tomorrow, I'll still be chasing Grandma.



Samuel Morey 1770-1852. See memorial no. 114242804.

Melinda Adams first married Samuel Nestle at about fifteen years of age in Canada. He died March 15, 1860, at Wales St, Clair County, Michigan. She married, second, Benjamin H. Dewey, born in 1832 in New York. He died at St. Clair County, Michigan, on January 19, 1882. lists ten applications on file with the GSMD linking Samuel Morey to Mayflower passenger Richard Warren.

As per the Tawas Herald, Iosco County, Michigan, April 16, 1915, page 1, column 6.

As per the published Morey and Waterbury genealogies mentioned above.

Jeff Record

About Jeff Record

Jeff Record received a B.A. degree in Philosophy from Santa Clara University, and works as a teaching assistant with special needs children at a local school. He recently co-authored with Christopher C. Child, “William and Lydia (Swift) Young of Windham, Connecticut: A John Howland and Richard Warren Line,” for the Mayflower Descendant. Jeff enjoys helping his ancestors complete their unfinished business, and successfully petitioned the Secretary of the Army to overturn a 150 year old dishonorable Civil War discharge. A former Elder with the Mother Lode Colony of Mayflower Descendants in the State of California, Jeff and his wife currently live with their Golden Retriever near California’s Gold Country where he continues to explore, discover, and research family history.View all posts by Jeff Record