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.
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)
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?
Then 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.
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.
1 Samuel Morey 1770-1852. See FindAGrave.com memorial no. 114242804.
2 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.
3 Familysearch.org lists ten applications on file with the GSMD linking Samuel Morey to Mayflower passenger Richard Warren.
4 As per the Tawas Herald, Iosco County, Michigan, April 16, 1915, page 1, column 6.
5 As per the published Morey and Waterbury genealogies mentioned above.
23 thoughts on “Chasing Grandma”
Another excellent insightful article. As a student of critical thinking I was elated to note you argued both sides of the hypothesis. Sadly, critical thinking skills seem to be rarely taught in schools and colleges.
Thanks Dan. My biggest concern in any form of research (and especially when it comes to genealogy) is the temptation to “write in the facts to fit the narrative.” It’s funny, I don’t mind words in like “probable” or “possible” but to arrive at the truth of any lineage it’s just gotta be plain old “irrefutable.” Poor Grandma!
Dan, thanks for “getting me.” Always good to see your comments, sir!
What service did you get the DNA hint from? My wife needs to be tested and I have not decided who to test with
Whichever DNA testing service you choose, another good service to be aware of is Gedmatch. It allows users to submit DNA results for comparison regardless of the testing company used, widening your pool of possible matches. Good luck!
Thanks for weighing in on this Thomas. You bring up a great resource to assist with the search!
Ancestry has the largest amount of DNA testers and usually gives you the highest number of matches. I’ve tested relatives with Ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA, 23andMe, and Living DNA. Although it’s frustrating that Ancestry doesn’t offer a chromosome browser, you can upload her results to GedMatch and use theirs (and as a bonus you might help solve a Doe case!).
A delight to pull up Vita Brevis and find an article about my ancestors! Lucinda Morey Merrill Waterbury was my great-great-grandmother–and namesake. Mary Freeman Morey, wife of Samuel, named her daughter for a sister–Lucinda Freeman Morey, wife of Samuel’s brother Peter. This family (chain-?) migrated from eastern New York State to central New York before the 1820 Census. Some, including my branch of the family, continued later to Allegany County. Grandma Lucinda’s first Waterbury son was named Ephraim. And yes, my birth card from a great aunt mentions the Mayflower line.
So. Much. Fun! Thank you, Jeff.
I’m very pleased to meet you Lucinda – my “almost very possible” cousin!
There are a lot of good DNA services out there with each offering something a little different from the other. I used Ancestry’s and “the computation” they have for finding possible genetic ties called “Thru-lines.”
While the DNA itself doesn’t lie, the assumptions made by Ancestry’s associated mega-computer (and Thru-lines) about implied relationships between one’s DNA and various family trees is speculative, and like anything else in your genealogical armory, it’s only a tool.
I really appreciate you asking me this question. I wish I could offer you a better or more definitive answer. I will say that I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with whichever company your wife tests through.
Half the fun is in the journey!
Best wishes for much success.
As you imply, Jeff, we need to remember that DNA is only the beginning: a pointer about where to look. As your story shows, we still need to “chase down the papers” and use whatever other tools we can apply.
My family has come closer to resolving part of the mystery of my 5th ggf, the so-called “Wm Stratton of Windsor” who abruptly appeared in the records in 1704 when he married my 5th ggm Abigail Moore in CT. The only records we have of him are in the town records: the birth of two sons, then his death in 1709, with few details, but much later speculation. Probate records for both William and for Abigail (who never remarried) do not provide any additional info.
We are descended from the first son, Seraiah, making my brother a direct male line descendant from William1. The second son was named William, making us wonder who Seraiah was named after: there is no one in Abigail’s family or contacts by that name or anything similar. In fact, I used that unusual name as a way to track down possible collatoral lines. One such search led to the discovery that this branch of the family had not migrated west, but south and a generation later west, solving several mysteries (except what the heck happened to Calvin… but that’s another story.)
My brother’s yDNA is most closely related to Middle Eastern clades, but we got NO matches from either FTDNA or Gedmatch on the y77 test, and we could not afford the more advanced yDNA tests.
So my first task was to try to ensure that there was not an unknown break in that line so we wouldn’t be trying to follow a dead-end. William1’s origins remain unknown, in spite of a great deal of wishful speculation. I tracked down every William Stratton I could find, and established that none could be ours (all of them had families and histories of their own). Because of the timeframe, he is not derived from any of the Strattons of NJ, LI, etc. Research challenging because I swear that every other male Stratton was named William (which could be said of many England-derived families of that time).
To that end, I began leaving inquiries for everyone doing research on any part of this line. Years passed, and I continued to work on other aspects of our genealogy. Then seemingly out of the blue, I got a message that jolted me: a family with a number of direct male descendents from the OTHER son of William1 and Abigail! The yDNA data they had was consistent with the info we have for my brother. They thoughtfully included details about their more extensive data, which is enough (given the rarity of this clade even among middle easterners) to make a reasonable assumption that they are our cousins. They also included further information about the genetic and migration history of the clade that ties in with other aspects of our genetic history.
This has not solved the question of specifically where William1 came from, nor who his parents might have been. But it establishes something about the identity of that line for us. And it suggests another place we can begin looking: the Caribbean. If I win the lottery and live long enough….
Apologize for the length of this post. I started it as a response to the weekly question and found myself doing a bit too much analysis, so moved to my notekeeper… where there are other notes to refer to and things just tend to grow. But maybe there is something here that might help someone else not give up. In addition to being persistent and patient, sometimes genealogy requires us to be too stubborn to stop looking.
I always enjoy an article from you, a fellow Californian. You have to enjoy research as much as I do.
Thanks Lana/Helen! Yes, some will say that I’m a bit crazy about attempting to researching too much or going down too many rabbit holes… I would say that they literally don’t know what they are missing. (Wink!)
You are correct. Dna does not lie. But, paper and legal records can lie. 1. My grandmother Jemmie, was listed as a boy in one of the census records. 2. The myth in my family was my great grandmother was Native American. As they say most times there is some truth in every myth, or lie. My great grandmother was Not Native American because she and I share the same mtDna, U3a1b, and that is NOT a Native American Haplogroup. The truth in that myth is that after she died, my great grandfather did marry a woman with some NA heritage and she just happened to have the same surname as my great grandmother which led to the confusion. 3. My mother had 4 children when she was married, and as proven by dna, 3 of those children were not products of her husband, although his name was on all of their birth certificates. So, those legal records were all bogus. So, legal records can lie. I am 80 years old……
Oh yes, Caith, those written records do lie. Your story here is incredible. What a project to keep all of those folks sorted out. Kudos to you for this!
Jeff, Pleased to “meet” you! Hope you & yours are well? This is a childless household as well, run by a rescued Belgian Malinois named Hannah! (grin) We’re hopefully cousins?1 I’d like that, I like the way you think & write! I also have Mayflower ancestry, 18 of my ancestors were aboard the ship. I remember the names of 10 of them, I say remember because my research was done decades ago & also because I fell last July & broke my left hip, having fallen 5 years before breaking my right hip, so now I’m confined to a wheelchair w/limited mobility. My Files & Ahnentafel are stored in a closer that I can’t access. Anyway the 6 certain names are Mary Chilton Winslow, Samuel Eaton, John Howland, Elizabeth Tilley Howland, Richard Warren & Gov. William Bradford. The 4 iffy ones are John Alden, William Brewster, Priscilla Mullins & Myles Standish. I’ve never been much of joiner, so have never pursued any of these to join the Mayflower Society. The only Society I’d think of joining is Royal Bastards because of my perverse nature! (grin) I’ve plenty of descendants of the English Royal line, both legit. & Illegit. Good luck in your continued search!!! Be well, Jack MacDonald-Hilton, now from Worcester, MA, raised in Danvers, MA (which has it’s own history), proud descebdant of Capt. Amos Hilton, originally from Manchrster, MA, Founder/Settler of Yarmouth, NS, Canada.
Nice to meet you too, Jack.
And if your household is run by a Belgian Malinois, then you come very highly recommended! I appreciate our common Mayflower ancestry. It’s fun stuff, or, at least I think so. Like you, I’d love to be a member of the “Royal Bastards,” but I’ve seen the documentation that goes into proving one out and I may just have to settle for wishful thinking – besides, I may enjoy meeting my new Mayflower kin all the more!
One of you best recent posts, Jeff. Great, concise example of analysis and, as always, the personal. emotional facet of research that we all experience and about which you write so well.
As your comment comes from a mind as astute and fine as yours is sir, I am truly humbled. Thank-you for your kind words!
Beautifully done, Jeff. Capturing the tension between personal feelings about your search and the intellectual rigor of genealogical proof.
I would like to interject my own research which has led me to find many family connections thru Church records, while extremely hard to find and rarely digitized, a known Church affiliation for a family may allow you to find family connections including maiden names, where dismissed to and where admitted from. While DNA maybe the gold standard there are times when only surviving Church records or history of a local Church may yield results. Good luck with your quest. I commend you for basically arguing the pros and cons to the same evidence
Regarding the possibility of an unknown Morey daughter; do you know how Mary Freeman died? Could it have been in childbirth? Could an infant daughter have been farmed out/adopted by a nursing mother to care for her? Reviewing the graphic listing his children the birth dates indicate she was due for another pregnancy/birth.
Just a thought.
Always love reading about your research, Jeff. One point I have to make is that you are NOT a snob for wanting to find that Mayflower link. There are over 10 million of us in the U.S. and we are related through every ethnicity. Being related to a passenger on the Mayflower is exciting, but no more exciting that any other interesting story we learn from all our ancestors. I hope you find that link!
The person who said DNA doesn’t lie, is right. I will admit I skimmed by most of the letters but it’s vitally important for people to know that ancestors hints can have absolutely nothing to do with DNA, but everything to do with people who share your DNA but do genealogy sloppily. Not saying your line was necessarily done wrong but I can tell you with 100% certainty I have many many lines that are done wrong, giving me bogus possible relatives.
Always check it yourself, don’t trust ancestor hints unless they have sources that confirm & make sense.