Is This Woman Mark Twain’s Descendant?

A South Carolina woman’s search for her family history has led her to conclude that she is, in fact, a descendant of Mark Twain, USA Today reports.

Susan Bailey, who learned that she was adopted in her 20s, has spent the intervening half century trying to determine who her real mother was. According to Bailey, her search has led her to conclude that her mother was Nina Clemens Gabrilowitsch, a troubled and alcoholic woman who also happened to be Mark Twain’s only granddaughter.

While Twain scholars may contest the claims, arguing that Gabrilowitsch had no children, at least one genealogist says she is 90 percent convinced that Bailey is Mark Twain’s great-granddaughter. Professional Genealogist Deb Gosselin began working with Bailey while researching her own connection to Mark Twain. While investigating Gabriloitsch in 2008, Gosselin discovered photos at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Harford, Conn. that Bailey says show her father. The images belonged to Twain’s granddaughter.

Bailey asserts that Gabrilowitsch went to Europe to give birth at the urging of her mother, Clara Clemens, who was Twain’s daughter, with the intent of giving up the child. Gosselin cites a very sudden trip the family is known to have taken to Europe in 1936, pointing out that for Twain’s granddaughter to have a child out of wedlock would have been a major scandal. Clara Clemens was also very protective of her father’s reputation. Recalling a woman she was told to call “Aunt Clara” as a child, Bailey now believes that she was in fact speaking to her grandmother.

Mark Twain, one of the most celebrated authors in American literature, was born Samuel Clemens

Gosselin and Bailey authored and released a book, The Twain Shall Meet, about Gabriloitsch, who died in 1966. Found in a Hollywood hotel, a coroner concluded she took her life in an alcohol and drug overdose. Little information was available about the woman, who was cut out of her Mother’s will, despite the fact that Twain’s estate had already largely been squandered.

While Bailey has taken DNA tests through FamilyTree.com and Ancestry.com, testing of a closer living relative of Twain’s would be necessary for conclusive proof, a process that Bailey is hesitant to request due to its invasive nature. According to a report in Greenville Online though, the genetic testing has so far produced over 30 matches to Twain’s family, as well as 30 matches to the Langdons, Twain’s wife’s family. Verifying her connection from a birth certificate is largely out of the question: Bailey doesn’t know where in Europe she was born, or what name would have been used. Cindy Lovell, the executive director of the Twain House, who recently traveled to Greenville to meet Bailey, says the claims are plausible enough to warrant seeking the evidence.

Bailey’s claims aren’t the only bit of the famed author’s history to be in the news lately. As The Inquisitr has previously reported, a list of recommended books by Mark Twain has recently surfaced as well.

[Images via USA Today and Salon]