Front DORRs and Back DORRs

(sepia-tone photograph of Maggie DORR, her daughter, Martha WESSLING, her infant granddaughter, Marguerite POHL and an elderly gentleman, "Uncle Eugene". Photo taken in Maggie DORR's back yard in Roxbury, MA.)

Momma treasured this photograph. She told me that it showed "four generations of our family", but could identify the "elderly gentleman" only as "Uncle Eugene".

"But, Eugene WHO?, I asked Miss Marge Marple, who was sitting in the parlor, enjoying a cup of tea and munching daintily on a garlic bagel.

"Permit me to examine this photograph." The Famous Genealogy Detective raised her lorgnette, and peered at the picture

"Your Momma was born in May of 1909. The baby in the photograph is holding her head quite straight. so I believe that the picture was probably taken in the early fall of 1909. The women in the picture are dressed in what appears to be lighter-weight garments, and Baby Marguerite is NOT bundled up as she more than likely would have been had it been later in the season. Thus, I believe that the picture was taken in the early fall of 1909."

Miss Marge graciously accepted my effusive thanks and asked what other information I had about these folks.

I related to Miss Marge that the terms "Uncle" and "Aunt" were not used lightly in this rather traditional German-American family. As a child, Momma was taught to call her mother's aunts "Mrs. Kelly" and "Mrs. Murphy". "Uncle" would not have been a term used unless the individual actually WAS "an uncle".

Miss Marge pondered a bit, and then remarked, "To qualify as 'Uncle', then, and the first of the four generations in the picture, the mysterious Eugene would have to have been Margaret DORR's 'real uncle', the brother (or brother-in-law) of one of her parents. What else do you know about her family?"

I knew that Maggie DORR's parents were Nicholas DORR and Maria Anna KRATZ, both born in Germany, and married at Holy Trinity Church in Boston in 1855. The only brother of Maria Anna's known to have emigrated was Andreas KRATZ. Nicholas DORR had two sisters known to have emigrated, neither of whom married a man named "Eugene".

Armed with this information, Miss Marge Marple went to work...

First she examined the Boston records in her personal files - NO "Eugene DORR" and NO "Eugene KRATZ". She did find several DORR families in the 1855 and 1865 State Census for Boston, but again, no "Eugene". The early records of Holy Trinity Church provided a smattering of "other DORRs", but, again, no "Eugene". The wills of Nicholas DORR and Andreas KRATZ gave no clue as to other relatives of their generation coming to the US.

By determined digging, Miss Marge was able to find several individuals in the SECOND and THIRD generations of the family who bore the given name "Eugene" - Margaret DORR's brother, Andrew named one of his sons "Eugene Henry", born 1887. However, Margaret DORR's sister, Catherine, married Melville Eugene MURPHY (1886, Holy Trinity Church)

"None of these could be the mysterious Uncle Eugene", Miss Marge announced. "He's MUCH too old, and besides, that would make the picture a "THREE Generation Picture"!

One fact that really set off my imagination was this: Nicholas DORR died in December, 1909, just months after this picture was taken. At the time of his death, he lived with his daughter, Maggie. Could "Uncle Eugene" have been a visiting relative, coming to pay his respects to the ailing Nicholas? Could "Uncle Eugene" have lived in a place other than Suffolk County, thus explaining the lack of vital records for a Eugene DORR or Eugene KRATZ in the Boston area? Is it even remotely possible that the man in the photo is, in reality, Nicholas DORR himself?

As Miss Marge quickly discovered, DORR is a rather common surname in Suffolk County records. However, census records show only a few DORRs who were born in Germany. She did find a "John DORR", whose 1855 Census entry (Ward 11) shows a family member who was born in "the West Indies". John DORR's naturalization records give "Sarlues, Prussia" as the place he was "from", and indicate that he lived for a while in Stoddard, NH. Perhaps John DORR's genealogical information will provide Miss Marge a clue as to the identity of "Uncle Eugene".

Someday, "Uncle Eugene" will have a "real surname" - THEN he can march into our Family History through "The Front DORR", rather than sneak in through "The Back DORR"!

(Miss Marge Marple thought you might be interested in the sources she's checked so far: US Census - MA - 1840 through 1900; MA State Census - Boston - 1855 and 1865; Boston City Directories - 1840 through 1900; MA Vital Records; Suffolk County Vital Records; church registers - Holy Trinity Church; property and probate records - Suffolk County; naturalization records - New England; ship arrivals - Port of Boston)


VISIT my GERMAN HERITAGE PAGE for more information about these folks.


Marge Reid--[email protected]

This page was created 29 January 1999.

copyright © 1999 - Margaret V Reid