For 50 years references to Mark Twain have included the notation that there are no living descendants of Twain. Today this assumption is being challenged by Susan Bailey, author of “The Twain Shall Meet.”
Mark Twain had one daughter who outlived him, Clara Clemens. Clara married concert pianist and symphony conductor Ossip Gabrilowitsch. Clara and Ossip had one child, Nina Gabrilowitsch (Mark Twain’s granddaughter).
When Nina died in 1966 it was accepted that the Mark Twain line had ceased with no living descendants.
Susan Bailey’s earliest memory is of living in Europe and at age 3 being brought to the United States to live with her father and a woman she was told to call “Mother” in Florida. Later she learned that the woman who she knew as “mother” was not her biological mother. She started a quest to determine who her real mother was.
Along the way Bailey’s genealogical search crossed paths with professional genealogist Deborah Gosslin. She shared her story and memories with Gosslin and the possibility came out that Susan Bailey could be the great-granddaughter of Samuel L. Clemens, Mark Twain.
A number of incidents Bailey remembered coincide with what is known of Mark Twain’s daughter Clara Clemens Gabrilowitsch and her daughter, Nina Gabrilowitsch. Bailey remembers meeting a lady who introduced herself as “Aunt Nina” in Florida and took her out of school for an afternoon of movies. After relocating with a family relative to Michigan, she recalls meeting an older lady, identified as “Aunt Clara,” who took her shopping and to attend the Detroit Symphony (Ossip Gabrilowitsch was conductor of the Detroit Symphony prior to his death).
Bailey and Gosselin have written a book detailing the search for Bailey’s mother. This begins with Bailey’s memory and family story, then presents the best documented account of Nina Gabrilowitsch’s life written to date.
Henry Sweets, Mark Twain Museum director, remarked, “The book presents very compelling evidence to support her conclusion that she is Mark Twain’s great-granddaughter.”
Bailey has conducted DNA testing but is faced with the reality that reliable sources of DNA from neither Nina nor Clara Gabrilowitsch have surfaced. However, ties to the Gabrilowitsch family, the Bailey family, and the family of Mark Twain’s wife, Olivia Langdon, have been positive.
These lead Susan Bailey to conclude that she is the daughter of Nina Gabrilowitsch and hence, Mark Twain’s great-granddaughter.
Bailey will give a presentation at Parker Auditorium of the Roland Fine Arts Center of Hannibal-LaGrange University on Thursday, July 23, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door.
For more information, people should contact Henry Sweets, Mark Twain Museum executive director, at email@example.com or 573-221-9010, extension 405.