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
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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