the grumpy genealogist

There is a lesson here. Don't take on the Daughters of the American Revolution unless you have PROOF! Their researchers are tough old broads, and harassment won't help your case. Here's a story of a family association rejected three times because they can't prove descent or military service...

Wayne Witt Bates did not set out to take on the DAR. But he is not used to being challenged on his genealogy. A short list of his credentials: researcher for the Bates Family of Old Virginia (300 members and counting), coordinator of the Bates Family DNA project and, for 15 years, editor of the family newsletter, the Bates Booster.

“I am surprised DAR wants to fight me about the Bateses,” said Bates, 88, of Centreville, who has been researching his family tree since retiring as a Pentagon employee in 1974. “I know more than anyone wants to know."

The genealogical throwdown began in January, when a cousin in Nevada, Suzanne Witt Adrian, told Bates that the Daughters of the American Revolution had turned away her application to have one of their ancestors, Reuben Bates Sr., recognized for his Revolutionary War service.

Proving direct descent from someone who aided the Revolutionary War effort has been a prerequisite for joining DAR since it was founded in 1890 as a response to women being excluded from Sons of the American Revolution.

The organization, however, has strict standards when it comes to proof, with a preference for primary sources such as probate records, wills and census records. A DAR genealogist told Adrian, who is already a DAR member, that she didn’t prove she was descended from Reuben Bates or that he served in the war. She appealed to Wayne Bates for help. He submitted evidence to bolster their case, including DNA test results that, along with paper records, seemed to show conclusively that Adrian Bates descended from Reuben Bates Sr.

But in March, she learned DAR doesn’t accept DNA evidence, and the society turned back her application for a second time, saying she still hadn’t proved lineage or service to qualify Reuben Bates as a patriot. For Wayne Bates, this amounted to a declaration of war.

Bates, who resembles Colonel Sanders in giant square eyeglasses, began shooting off daily e-mails to DAR genealogists. He went on genealogy message boards and posted mini-screeds with titles such as “Current Rigid Methodology Renders DAR Immune to Logic” and “DAR credibility suffers.”

His lobbying campaign did not go over well at DAR’s downtown D.C. headquarters, at 1776 D St. NW. Stephen Nordholt, DAR’s administrator, warned Bates that if he didn’t stop bugging them, there would be “no further attention being given your matter — even if you are able to find new documentation that proves service of the individual in question.”

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"If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance." - George Bernard Shaw