Unraveling the Mystery of George W. Dempsey, son of Seaton Y. Dempsey and Clementine Gowing (Part 3)

George W. DEMPSEY, son of Seaton Y. DEMPSEY and Clementine M. GOWING, was born in Amherst County, Virginia, about 1831. He moved to Fayette County about 1855 before West Virginia became a state. After the 1870 census, George disappeared or died without records. He was discussed in Unraveling the Mystery of George W. Dempsey, son of Seaton Y. Dempsey and Clementine Gowing (part 1).

I hadn’t thought to investigate the whereabouts of George W. DEMPSEY, my 2nd great-granduncle until I discovered a group of DNA matches who descend from Mollie Lee DEMPSTER (1880-1950). Her story was told in Unraveling the Mystery of George W. Dempsey, son of Seaton Y. Dempsey and Clementine Gowing (part 2).

Mollie’s father was Wesley G. DEMPSTER, a man who appeared in Scott County, Virginia, shortly before the 1880 census. He likely died between 23 November 1886 and 15 December 1887. A death record was not found.

Mollie married at the age of 16 and had a family of nine children born between 1898 and 1917. Six of these children have descendants who’ve had their DNA tested. Descendants of the other three may have tested. They haven’t been found on the match lists of the tests I have access to.

Can DNA unravel the mystery of George W. Dempsey’s disappearance?

It’s complicated! I’ve been learning about DNA since the end of May 2016 when my brother turned his AncestryDNA test over to me. It has been a slow, uphill climb learning to work with the DNA results. I know this post may be hard to follow, I hope I haven’t made it too complicated. I’m assuming my readers have a basic understanding of autosomal DNA.

AncestryDNA

This is an example of one of my notes on Ancestry for a match:
[C8] 1C (Lois) Fred Rothwell DEMPSEY and Myrtle Hazel ROOP.
In brackets is the cluster number (from the first time I clustered my matches) followed by the level of cousinship. In parenthesis is the name of the child of the most recent common ancestors (MRCA) that the match descends from followed by the MRCA.

My private but searchable family tree is attached to the DNA tests I manage. Confirmed matches are connected in this tree. The tree is also used to work out unknown matches.

As I have few maternal matches and my mother has tested, all maternal matches are starred. This allows me to use all 24 colors for custom groups for my paternal matches. I created custom groups for each of my paternal 4th great-grandparent couples. The four blue colors were used a bit differently than the green, pink, and yellow as there is a brick wall at the 3rd great-grandparent level for my William A. W. DEMPSEY. He is not from the same line as Seaton Y. DEMPSEY.

16 custom color groups for the paternal 4th great-grandparent couples

Ancestral Quest’s Color Coding feature made it easy to work out the custom color groups on Ancestry.

My paternal grandfather’s pedigree.
My paternal grandmother’s pedigree.

Paternal first cousins share the DEMPSEY-ROOP couple with me and are given each of the 16 custom groups (4 shades of the 4 colors). Second cousins who share DEMPSEY-INGRAM receive 8 custom groups (4 shades of blue and of green). Third cousins who share INGRAM-DEMPSEY receive 4 custom groups (4 shades of green). This is one way to visually cluster matches.

Note: The same system can be used for both maternal and paternal matches. In this case, the 5th generation (3rd great-grandparents) is used instead of the 6th generation (4th great-grandparents) as seen in my example.

This is my top match in the group of matches who descend from Mollie on Ancestry. The top shared matches (ICW = in common with) with Match 1 are two of my first cousins with whom I share grandparents Fred R. DEMPSEY and Myrtle H. ROOP. The next two ICW matches are both 1C1R but not from the same generation. This is confirmed by the colored groups. The match with only blue and green is a 1C1R through my paternal grandfather’s parents.

AncestryDNA

I have guest or collaborator access to a few of my DEMPSEY cousins’ AncestryDNA. They have given me permission to use their tests as examples along with their first names or initials. In the image above, the two cousins with trees are the 1C1R (E.D.) and 1C (Laura) in the table below.

DNA matches descending from 6 of Mollie’s 9 children were found to match 6 tests I have access to. E.D. (1C1R) is my father’s paternal first cousin. She is a generation closer to Seaton and Clementine than myself, my brother, my first cousin Danny, and my second cousins, Laura and Sheila. The second cousins are E.D.’s nieces through two of her siblings. If they had been her children I would not have used them as they would carry the same DNA and would only duplicate the results. All of the cousins have their DNA uploaded to Gedmatch or MyHeritage except for Sheila.

Shared Clustering Tool

My brother’s and my AncestryDNA tests were clustered using Jonathan Brecher’s Shared Clustering Tool. Clustering has given me a relatively good idea of where in the family tree a match or group of matches fit in.

Jonathan’s method uses all matches and shared matches (ICW) down to 6-8 cMs on Ancestry to form clusters that point to a shared ancestor. A cluster represents a DNA segment shared by the clustered matches. Even though Ancestry does not offer a chromosome browser, the segments can be ascertained (guessed) by comparing to matches who’ve transferred their AncestryDNA to FTDNA, MyHeritage, or Gedmatch.

The data needed for clustering was downloaded from Ancestry using the Shared Clustering Tool. I’ve been manually adding new matches since Jonathan disabled downloading of data from Ancestry in May 2020. Soon after this, Ancestry sent cease and desist orders to many third-party tools.

Early this month, I subscribed to DNAGedcom for $5/month to get an up-to-date list of matches and of ICW matches from Ancestry using the DNAGedcom Client. The ICW match list can be used to generate clusters using the Shared Clustering Tool.

Screenshot of part of a cluster report generated by Shared Clustering Tool. Clusters have a blue outline and may overlap. The green highlights in this clip were added later.
Genealogical DNA Analysis Tool (GDAT)

Becky Mason Walker’s Genealogical DNA Analysis Tool (GDAT) is the repository I use to manage my DNA tests.

The database is stored locally on my computer and has no connection to the internet. I can import all DNA matches from the different testing companies, do triangulation and in common with (ICW) comparisons, map the chromosomes of common ancestors, mark the most recent common ancestors (MRCA), add Ahnentafels of the matches, and do analysis work that helps with the family tree research. With all information in one place, the tool provides easier-to-see patterns and clues to solve the genetic genealogy questions.

The Barron-Dempster matches who descend from Mollie were found to be in clusters [C54], [C29], [C30], and [C8]. All notes on Ancestry have been imported into GDAT. Since my notes begin with the cluster number, I can sort matches to view a list of only the relatives (matches) in a particular cluster.

Screenshot of GDAT Relative List sorted to show only [C54] matches with privatized names.
Cluster [C54] is large with over 400 matches ranging from 229 cMs down to 7 cMs. The identified relatives have the following MRCA: Dempsey-Ingram, Dempsey-Gowing, Going-Potter, and Crisp-Lucy. These are parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents of Mary M. DEMPSEY, daughter of Seaton Y. DEMPSEY and Clementine M. GOWING. The cluster appears to be pointing to the GOWING branch but the many matches that are still unknown will help to “walk the segment back” to the shared distant ancestor.

Of these over 400 matches, nine were found on sites with chromosome browsers. None of these have a confirmed MRCA but they share DNA on the same segment (different lengths) on chromosome 9. This segment is also shared with E.D., Danny, and Laura seen in the DNA comparison table (above, in the Ancestry section). The red segments (below) are Danny, his sister, and my Dad’s Lazarus kit. They share my paternal grandfather (PGF) and paternal grandmother’s (PGM) lines, i.e. DEMPSEY-ROOP. The blue segments are people who share only my PGM’s line, i.e. DEMPSEY-INGRAM, and include Laura and E.D.

Screenshot of GDAT Chromosome Browser information with privatized names.

Using the same process as above, I found:

  • [C29] includes about 200 matches. Only two in the cluster have chromosome data and share a segment on Chr. 6. An MRCA has not been found for either. The segment triangulates with a known 4C1R (George W.) Seaton Y. DEMPSEY and Clementine M. GOWING as well as E.D. Danny did not receive this segment but his sister (who did not test with Ancestry) is one of the matches who triangulate with the [C29] matches.
  • [C30] has about 100 matches. MRCAs in the cluster include Ingram-Dempsey(1), Dempsey-Gowing(20), Gowing-Crisp(3), Going-Potter(1), and Crisp-Lucy(4). The cluster is associated with a segment on Chr. 2 shared with E.D., Danny’s sister, and Laura.
  • [C8] has about 120 matches. This is E.D., Danny, and Laura’s cluster. They correlate with many other clusters but this is their main cluster. MRCAs in the cluster include Dempsey-Wood, Wood-Honaker, Wood-McGraw which suggest the cluster is coming from the PGF (blue) side. The two Barron-Dempster matches (Match 2 and 5, father and daughter) associated with this cluster share at two segments with several of us. One of these segments may have a distant connection to the blue side.

My brother received very little DNA shared with the Barron-Dempster matches – only a 12 cMs segment with Match 1 and 9 cMs of the same segment with Match 1a (child of 1).

Shared Clustering

Clusters fluctuate as new matches are added. Since my test was clustered in September 2019 many new matches have been added. I ran a new cluster report this week including all new matches and ICW matches since 2019 with 20 cMs or greater. In most cases, the matches in the original clusters have remained the same, i.e. are still clustering with the same matches. The new heatmap shows the two [C8] matches are now clustering with a [C29] and a [C30] match, on the edge of the larger [C29] cluster and correlating with a cluster made up of [C54] matches.

To give a clearer picture of the clusters, here is a screenshot of my E.D.’s heatmap. It was generated using the data of her top 333 matches with 50 cMs or higher. All of the Barron-Dempster matches (highlighted in green) over 50 cMs are found in this heatmap of clusters 4 through 8.

Screenshot of part of a report generated by Jonathan Brecher’s Shared Clustering Tool
  • Clusters 4 & 5 have descendants of Mary M. DEMPSEY, d/o Seaton
  • Cluster 6 has descendants of William S., George W., Martha Ann, and Julia DEMPSEY, all children of Seaton
  • Cluster 7 has a descendant of Geneva DEMPSEY, d/o Seaton
  • Cluster 8 has only Barron-Dempster descendants
  • The Barron-Dempster matches correlate only with clusters 4 through 8. They don’t correlate with clusters 1-3 or 9-33 (not seen in this close-up of the heatmap). The correlation can be seen by the red outside of the cluster boxes.
  • Of the 35 matches shown above, 6 are mystery matches, 8 are Barron-Dempster matches, and the rest are descendants of Seaton Y. DEMPSEY and Clementine M. GOWING through six of their eight children. The two missing children are sons who served in the Civil War, died during or soon after the war, never married, and had no known descendants. The mystery matches, like the Barron-Dempster matches, correlate only with clusters 4 through 8 and are likely descendants of Seaton and Clementine through one of their children.
What Are the Odds?

I used the What Are the Odds? tool on DNA Painter to chart Mollie’s family tree down to her descendants who are matches. This is not the real purpose of the tool.

What Are the Odds? by DNA Painter

The matches, descendants of Mollie, are shaded green. I used my E.D.’s shared cMs amounts for all matches. The numbers in parenthesis are the range of cMs shared between the match and the other tests I have access to. The bottom row represents the line that I share with my cousins and is used for comparison: my great-great-grandmother Mary M. DEMPSEY, my great-grandmother Laura Belle INGRAM, my grandfather Fred R. DEMPSEY and his brother Earl S. DEMPSEY, my father’s generation represented by E.D. (1C1R), and my generation (with my cousins and brother).

What Are the Odds? by DNA Painter

The WATO tool is used to check the probability that the amount of cM shared corresponds to the relationship in the tree. As I had already used it to chart the tree of the Barron-Dempster matches, I tried doing the reverse of what is intended with the tool. I used it to determine if the amount of cM shared by E.D. with the matches would place her in the correct position in our family tree.

  • Hypothesis 2: E.D. is the child of Hypothesis 1 and grandchild of Laura Belle INGRAM scored 9 (About 3 times more likely than the next hypothesis
    This is the most likely hypothesis.)
  • Hypothesis 3: E.D. is the child of Hypothesis 2 and grandchild of Hypothesis 1 scored 3 (About 3 times more likely than the next hypothesis)
  • Hypothesis 1: E.D. is the child of Laura Belle INGRAM and grandchild of Mary M. DEMPSEY scored 1 (Possible but not significantly more likely than the other hypotheses.)

Hypothesis 2 with a score of 9 is the most likely and puts E.D. in the right place in our family tree and shows that it is possible that Mollie was the grandchild of Seaton and Clementine.

How does Mollie fit into my family tree?

Genetic genealogy uses DNA testing along with traditional genealogy. Using all of the tools mentioned above as well as genealogy research, I have come to a conclusion on how Mollie fits into my family tree.

The cluster heatmap above shows the Barron-Dempster matches are relatives of my 1C1R E.D. and share the same ancestry as the DEMPSEY-GOWING matches. The same is true for the other tests I used in this example: my brother, Danny, Laura, Sheila, and myself. The WATO tool also backs up this assumption.

If the matches who descend from Mollie Lee DEMPSTER fit into the DEMPSEY-GOWING family group, could Wesley G. DEMPSTER be an alias for a son or nephew of Seaton Y. DEMPSEY and Clementine M. GOWING?

I don’t think the relationship was a nephew as:

  1. Seaton’s brother Wilson M. DEMPSEY was found in the 1840 census with two persons in his household: himself and his wife. No children from the marriage that took place in 1839 and no children born before this marriage.
  2. Seaton’s brother Isham Coleman DEMPSEY married in 1827 in Rockbridge County, Virginia, and removed to Ross County, Ohio, by 1830. He emigrated from Ohio to Missouri in 1854.
  3. Seaton’s brother Wesley G. DEMPSEY was likely with Seaton in 1830, wasn’t found in 1840, was single in 1850, married in 1856, and died in 1890. “W. G. Dempsey left surviving him no children nor the descendants of a child, no father, no mother, no brother, no sister” per a chancery case.
  4. Seaton’s sisters Louisa J. (md. 1840) and Eliza (md. 1843) were 18 or younger and it is not likely that one of them was the mother.
  5. As the clusters are pointing to the GOWING-CRISP branch of the DEMPSEY-GOWING family group, the matches are likely related through the GOWING side, i.e. other possibilities are the two sisters of Clementine GOWING.
  6. Clementine’s sister Emmeline GOWING married William Dison LAWHORNE in 1828 and in 1840 the only male child in their household has been identified and cannot be Wesley.
  7. Clementine’s sister Martha C. “Martissa” GOWING married Wyatt F. LILLY in 1833 and in 1840 the three male children have been identified and none can be Wesley.

I believe from about 1880 George W. DEMPSEY, the only living son of Seaton Y. DEMPSEY and Clementine M. GOWING, used the alias Wesley G. DEMPSTER, and was the father of Mollie.

Consequently, Mollie Lee DEMPSTER would have been a half-sibling to George’s three children. Her descendants would share on average the same amount of DNA as the descendants of all of Seaton and Clementine’s other children. The amount shared with any of George’s descendants would not be greater as the common ancestral couple would be Seaton and Clementine. Early on in my analysis, I had not considered this and thought George’s descendants should have higher amounts of DNA which is not the case.

What else can I do to solve this mystery?

I haven’t exhausted the DNA tools to prove the possibility of Wesley G. DEMPSTER’s being the same person as George W. DEMPSEY. I’m just at a standstill as none of the Barron-Dempster matches are on any of the sites with chromosome browsers. Being able to compare the DNA segments would help to confirm I am on the right track or not.

I’ve sent messages to all of the matches. First, a short teaser asking if they were interested in figuring out who Mollie’s father was. Then messages to the same persons with the link to my second post in this series. I even mentioned the offer to upload their raw DNA file to MyHeritage and get FREE access to all DNA features. I’ve received no replies to date and none of the tests are showing up on MyHeritage. I’d hoped my messages were read even though no replies have been received.

I was only given access to E.D.’s AncestryDNA test last week. Maybe once I begin working more with her match list I will begin to make connections with people who are interested in solving the mystery.

Have I completely confused you? Have I piqued your interest in some of the tools I’m using for DNA analysis? Do you have a similar DNA mystery you are trying to solve?

© 2021, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Unraveling the Mystery of George W. Dempsey, son of Seaton Y. Dempsey and Clementine Gowing (part 2)

The life of George W. DEMPSEY was discussed in my post, George W. Dempsey, son of Seaton Y. Dempsey and Clementine Gowing (part 1).

A Brief Review

George W. DEMPSEY was born about 1831 in Amherst County, Virginia, and lived in Fayette County, Virginia (before the state of West Virginia was formed), from about 1855 when his father moved the family there until sometime after the 1870 census. George did not die on 16 November 1879 as many online family trees indicate. He was not found on the 1880 census as George W. DEMPSEY. His 13 years old daughter Polina was found in Amherst County, his oldest son Andrew remained in Fayette County, and his son Robert (found in later years) is unaccounted for in 1880. If he was still living, where was George in 1880?

Mollie Lee DEMPSTER (1880-1950)

The mystery of George W. DEMPSEY’s disappearance was not a question I was looking into. I hadn’t thought to investigate the whereabouts of my 2nd great-granduncle until I discovered a group of DNA matches with an unusual surname in their trees that was similar to DEMPSEY.

Using my DNA tools, I found a group of matches associated with several clusters that point to my GOWING-CRISP family group AND/OR those branches further back. Landon S. GOWING and Sally CRISP were the parents of Clementine M. GOWING, mother of George W. DEMPSEY.

The matches have a common ancestor named Mollie Lee DEMPSTER (1880-1950). By comparing the ICW (in common with) matches and working out their trees, I was able to find 14 matches that descend from Mollie through seven of her children: 2 grandchildren, 7 great-grandchildren, 4 2xgreat-grandchildren, and 1 3xgreat-grandchild. [23 Feb 2021 Update: Number of matches and their relationship to Mollie adjusted after charting the matches.]

I built a documented tree for Mollie adding all records found on Ancestry as well as FamilySearch. A little over a week ago, I discovered an interesting article written in 1893.1 For the most part, it confirms much of the information I found and even gives a bit more insight into the man who was Mollie’s father.

A Little Waif – Mollie’s Story

“A Litte Waif” part 1 of 4. Image courtesy of Chronicling America, database, on the Library of Congress website.

About fifteen years ago a man by the name of ___ Dempster, with his young wife, moved into the neighborhood of Rye Cove, Scott county, Va. Dempster was a man of perhaps forty, while his wife was several years younger. They were both handsome and intelligent, and Dempster possessed an education which placed him above the average. After a time a daughter was born in the newly established household, who was the joy and pride of her fond parents.

Mollie’s parents’ names were unknown when I searched the 1880 census for persons with the DEMPSTER surname. Only one couple was found in the southwestern part of Virginia.

1880 U.S. Federal Census, Virginia, Scott, Taylor, household of Wesley Demster with wife Mary J. (Ancestry.com)

In 1880 the possible parents of Mollie Lee DEMPSTER were living in Taylor District, Scott County, Virginia. Wesley DEMSTER (sic) doesn’t appear to have an occupation as the field indicates At home.  His wife Mary was keeping house. Both were born in Virginia as were their parents. Wesley was 50 years old, nearly a decade older than noted in the article. The columns for Cannot Read and Cannot Write are not marked and therefore both were literate confirming the statement in the article that Mr. DEMPSTER was an educated man.2

Mollie’s 1880 birth record was located by browsing the Virginia birth registers for Scott County, Virginia, on FamilySearch. She was born on 11 July 1880 – after the census was enumerated. The informant on the register of the county is listed as a friend named Wm P. GOOD. He was the head of the household listed just above the DEMPSTER couple on the 1880 census. The parents of Mollie L. were Wesley G. DEMPSTER and Mary J. DEMPSTER.3

“A Litte Waif” part 2 of 4. Image courtesy of Chronicling America, database, on the Library of Congress website.

Near the Dempsters lived at that time Mr. W. W. Taylor, now of this place. About the time of the birth of the little girl to the Dempsters a girl baby was born to Mr. and Mrs. Taylor. The children grew up together, and there was quite an attachment formed between the two families.

Mrs. Dempster died when her child was about four years old. Soon a step-mother was brought in over the child. At the age of eight years her father died, and, in the meantime Mr. Taylor’s little girl had died.

Again, browsing the registers of Scott County for deaths, I found Mollie’s mother Mary J. died of consumption on 12 January 1883 when Mollie was 2 and a half years old. Wesley reported the death and gave the name of her mother as Virginia LARKEY. No father was named. Mary J. was 30 years 2 months and 13 days old on the day of her death placing her birth on 30 October 1852. Ditto marks were made in the field for the place of birth indicating she was born in Scott County.4 I was unable to trace her before the 1880 census.

Over a year and a half later, on 23 September 1884, Wesly DEMSTER (sic), widowed, age 50, born in Nelson County, Virginia, married Polly CAMBELL, age 35, born in North Carolina. The parents of the groom were Wilson and Mary; the father of the bride was Wyat CAMBELL.5

The death records of two of the TAYLOR children were located. On 10 September 1885 Emoline TAYLOR age 5 years 1 month 10 days died of Diptheria.6 On 30 July 1887 Nancy E. TAYLOR age 11 months died of Flux.7 Both girls were daughters of William W. and Mary TAYLOR. Emoline would have been the child born about the same time as Mollie.

If Wesley died when Mollie was about 8 years old, Mr. and Mrs. TAYLOR likely asked the stepmother to turn her over to them after the death of their second daughter in 1887. On the 1900 census, Mrs. TAYLOR is listed as the mother of 7, 2 living. The two living children were the sons who were still at home.8

Per the article, Wesley died about 1888. No death record was found in Scott County for the years between 1885 to 1890. I was, however, able to narrow the range of the date of death.

Wesley G. DEMPSTER gave a deposition in a chancery cause on 23 November 1886 in Estilville. He traveled 14 miles to give evidence on behalf of the complainant, W. P. GOOD, owner of a lumber mill near Natural Tunnel. The case file is 287 images. I found it yesterday and only had time to skim through it. I found mention of Wesley DEMPSTER who was “clerking in the store & measuring lumber in the yard” and kept the books for Mr. GOOD. At the time of the deposition, DEMPSTER had quit working for Mr. GOOD.9

“A Litte Waif” part 3 of 4. Image courtesy of Chronicling America, database, on the Library of Congress website.

After the death of Dempster Mr. and Mrs. Taylor went to his second wife and asked that the little girl be turned over to them to raise, which was done. Shortly after this Dempster’s second wife went deranged, and is now an inmate of an insane asylum.

Mr. and Mrs. Taylor have, since taking charge of the little girl, cared for her just as if she was their own. She is now a bright, intelligent girl of thirteen, and is very fond of her foster parents.

The information about the step-mother being an inmate of an insane asylum confirmed the 1900 census listing found for a widowed lady named Polly DEMPSTER, an inmate in the Southwestern State Hospital.10 The article, written in 1893 pre-dates the census.

Two cases were found in the Library of Virginia’s Chancery Records mentioning Polly CAMPBELL aka Polly DEMPSTER. A judgment dated 16 May 1906 in the cause of Southwestern State Hospital vs B.J. Broadwater committee of Polly DEMPSTER awarded payment of nearly $5,000 to the hospital for the period 15 September 1887 to 29 March 1905. The case was not closed until 1912. The date range for the payment due to the hospital would suggest that Polly may have been an inmate since 15 September 1887. This would have been two months after the youngest TAYLOR girl died.11

I had not located a 1910 census listing for Polly prior to this find. With the knowledge that she may still be living, I searched again in the location of the hospital. Polly age 72 and widowed was in the hospital and therefore still living on 15 April 1910.12 She was indexed as “Polly Dunfota”

“A Litte Waif” part 4 of 4. Image courtesy of Chronicling America, database, on the Library of Congress website.

Dempster, during his residence in Scott county, was very particular to never tell where he came from, and when approached on this subject always evaded an answer; nor was he ever heard to mention the name of a relative; so that now the little girl’s identity, so far as kinship goes, is entirely lost.

Dempster is described as having been a large, stoutly-built man, weighing over 200 pounds.

As discussed in part 1, on 23 May 1862, during the Civil War, George W. DEMPSEY was arrested by Lt. Col. Henry W. BRAZEE of the 9th Virginia Volunteers. He said he had done nothing to cause the arrest. The record concerning the arrest gave this physical description of George: age 31 years, 5 feet 9 1/2 inches, light complexion, dark hair, blue eyes, and long sprouts (whiskers).13

There was no mention of George W. DEMPSEY’s weight or build in the description and no mention of Mr. DEMPSTER’s height, complexion, hair, or eyes in the article.

Mollie’s Story continues after 1893

When I began researching Mollie Lee DEMPSTER, I found an extract of her 1896 marriage record with W. W. TAYLOR and Mary E. TAYLOR as her parents.14 Mollie was single and only 16 years old. Her parents’ surname did not match hers suggesting they may not have been her parents. The record can only be viewed at a family history library or a FamilySearch affiliated library.

Even though I was not able to access the marriage record, I found a short mention of the marriage in The Post in a series called “Looking Backward 50 Years Ago Today In The Post.” It confirms that Robert P. BARRON and Miss Mollie DEMPSTER were united in the holy bonds of matrimony at the home of W. W. TAYLOR in 1896.15

Although the relationship of the TAYLORs to the bride and groom is not mentioned in the clipping, it is now known that Mollie was taken in and raised by them.

Wesley G. DEMPSTER

As seen in the chancery records found, Wesley’s death can be narrowed down to between 23 November 1886 and 15 December 1887.

The name Wesley G. DEMPSTER sent off warning bells as my third great-grandfather Seaton Y. DEMPSEY, father of George W. DEMPSEY, had a brother names Wesley G. DEMPSEY (1808-1890). Wesley G. DEMPSTER  and Wesley G. DEMPSEY were not one and the same person as both were found in the 1880 census in different places. Wesley DEMPSTER age 50 was in Scott County and Wesley DEMPSEY age 71 was in Rockbridge County.

There is no trace of Wesley G. DEMPSTER before he shows up in the Scott County records. He should not be confused with Wesley DEMPSTER (1833-1913) born in New York and died in Chicago, Illinois. Some trees on Ancestry have the death of this man in Chicago attached to Mollie’s father, Wesley G. DEMPSTER.

Who were Wilson and Mary DEMPSTER, the couple named as the parents of Wesley G. DEMPSTER when he married in 1884? No person named Wilson DEMPSTER of the age to be the father of Wesley born between 1830-1834 was found in the census including in Nelson County, Virginia, where Wesley was supposedly born per the 1884 marriage record.

However, Wilson M. DEMPSEY is a familiar name in the DEMPSEY family history. He was the brother of Seaton Y. DEMPSEY and Wesley G. DEMPSEY. Wilson was married twice, in 1839 and abt. 1848, both marriages being later than the estimated birth of Wesley G. DEMPSTER.

The article notes Wesley’s evasion of any questions about his family or where he came from. Is it a coincidence that the first names of two of Seaton’s brothers were the names used in records found for Wesley G. DEMPSTER? Is it possible the name he gave on his marriage record for his father was not his father’s and only a name he gave to cover up his true identity?

The story that came to life in “The Little Waif” was not known when I wrote about George W. DEMPSEY, the person of interest in my first post. The article was only found while I was writing about Mollie Lee DEMPSTER, my second person of interest. The newspaper article supports the information found for Mollie and her parents, both biological and foster.

Part 3 will cover the DNA tools I used to analyze the DNA matches and a conclusion/theory of where Mollie fits into my family tree. It would be incredible if I could refute the 128 years old claim: now the little girl’s identity, so far as kinship goes, is entirely lost.

© 2021, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. “A Litte Waif,” The Big Stone Gap post [Vol. 1, No. 24] (Big Stone Gap, Wise County, Virginia), 18 May 1893, p. 3, col. 3; image copy Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88061179/1893-05-18/ed-1/seq-1/ : accessed 11 February 2021). 
  2. 1880 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Tenth Census of the United States, 1880 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication T9, 1,454 rolls, Roll: 1389; Virginia, Scott County, Taylor, Enumeration District 076, page 245A, Lines 24-25, HH #208-208, Wesley Dempster. The official enumeration day of the 1880 census was 1 June 1880. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 6 February 2021). 
  3. “Virginia Births and Christenings, 1584-1917,” (browse-only images), FamilySearch, GS Film Number: 2046967, Digital Folder Number: 004254526, image 191, line 155, Mollie L. Depster (sic) birth entry, (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C9YG-5VSX?i=190 : accessed 19 January 2021). 
  4. “Death registers, 1853-1906 (Virginia),” (browse-only images), FamilySearch, Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics citing microfilm of the original records at the Virginia State Library at Richmond, Virginia, Collection Record 1853-1912, Film 2048584, DGS 4225408, image 121 of 687, line 14, entry of death Mary J. Dempster. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DWT7-T8C?i=120&cat=780106 : accessed 11 February 2021). 
  5. “Virginia, Select Marriages, 1785-1940,” (index only), Ancestry.com, citing FamilySearch collection only available through FHL, FHL Film Number: 337187, Reference ID: 337187. Wesly Demster, male, widowed, age 50, born abt. 1834 in Nelson VA, father Wilson, Mother Mary, married 23 Sep 1884 in Scott VA, Polly Cambell, female, age 35, born abt. 1849 in NC, father Wyat Cambell. 
  6. “Death registers, 1853-1906 (Virginia),” Film 2048584, DGS 4225408, image 137 of 687, line 99, entry of death Emoline Taylor. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DWT7-YSB?i=136&cat=780106 : accessed 11 February 2021). 
  7. Ibid., Film 2048584, DGS 4225408, image 148 of 687, line 110, entry of death Nancy E. Taylor. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DWT7-TNB?i=147&cat=780106 : accessed 11 February 2021). 
  8. 1900 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication T623, 1854 rolls, FHL microfilm: 1241732, Virginia, Wise County, Richmond, Enumeration District 127, Page 2A, HH #19-20, line 1-4, William W. Taylor. The official enumeration day of the 1900 census was 1 June 1900. (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 February 2021). 
  9. Scott County (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1816-1942, (Digital images available for the years 1816-1912. Indexed information and originals available through 1942), Local Government Records Collection, Scott Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. W P Good v. S M Winchester, 1897-046. (https://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/case_detail.asp?CFN=169-1897-046 : accessed 20 February 2021). 
  10. 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Virginia, Smyth, Marion, Enumeration District 145, Page 2A, line 17, Polly Dempster, patient. (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 February 2021). 
  11. Scott County (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1816-1942, Southwestern State Hospital v. COMT OF Polly Dempster ETC, 1912-043. (https://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/case_detail.asp?CFN=169-1912-043 : accessed 20 February 2021). 
  12. 1910 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., NARA microfilm publication T624, 1,178 rolls, Roll: T624_1649, FHL microfilm: 1375662, Virginia, Smyth, Marion, Enumeration District 80, Page 5A, line 23, Polly Dempster. The official enumeration day of the 1910 census was 15 April 1910. (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 February 2021). 
  13. “United States Union Provost Marshal Files of Individual Civilians, 1861-1866,” images, FamilySearch, citing NARA microfilm publication M345 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), Dej-Den > image 856-858 of 1785. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939X-XF9K-8P?cc=1834304&wc=M6Y2-LP8%3A162217301 : 22 May 2014). 
  14. “Virginia, Select Marriages, 1785-1940,” FHL Film Number: 34394, Reference ID: p 63 cn 112. Mellie L. Dempster, female, single, white, age 16, born 1880 in Natural Tunnel (Scott County VA), father W.W. Taylor, mother Mary E. Taylor, married 28 Sep 1896 in Big Stone Gap (Wise County VA), Robert P. Barton, male, single, white, age 28, born 1868 in Turkey (Lee County VA), father Wm. N. G. Barron, mother Louisa J. Barron. 
  15. “Looking Backward 50 Years Ago Today In The Post”, The Post (Big Stone Gap, Virginia), 24 Oct 1946, p. 10, col. 4; image copy, Newspaper.com (http://newspaper.com : accessed 11 February 2021), Historical Newspapers from 1700s to 2000s by Ancestry.com