Sunday, November 23, 2014

Is DNA On The Menu?

A standard Cracker Barrel interior decorated with discarded ancestors.
Will I find mine there?


The ninety-minute drive to Battle Creek, Michigan, on 2 August 2014, was hardly a chore after waiting impatiently for ninety-five days for this meeting to even become a reality. I just needed to walk away with a sample of DNA that would confirm or refute the possibility of Clarence L. Ryder being my mother's missing father. As I stopped at a gas station for morning coffee in Union, Michigan, I posted to my Facebook time line: "Getting a coffee refill on the way to meet a stranger for a hopeful DNA donation to solve a difficult genealogical problem."

I snickered a little to myself. Those who had been reading my blog still had not even been informed that my mother was missing a father, let alone that I was hot on his trail with DNA. It was like sneaking in a little "spoiler alert," and I was the only one in on the private joke.

But it was a difficult genealogical problem. And it was a hopeful mission. There was no guarantee that I would be getting what I was heading to Battle Creek for, even though I had a 23andMe autosomal DNA kit at my side. I was also armed with charts, graphs, photographs of my grandmother in 1946, and my laptop. Beyond being "willing to meet with me" as stated over three months previously, there was nothing further clarified about this meeting other than the time and the location. Other than that piece of information, I had further asked for photos of Clarence, and Rick Denney replied he would ask his sister for some.

I arrived at the appointed Cracker Barrel restaurant thirty minutes early. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a morning person, and those who watch my Facebook account for postings of new blog entries knows they go up usually between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. in the morning: my normal bedtime. So although being ready and on the road at 8 a.m. seems like no small feat for most people, it was so for me. But I was not going to be regarded as a slacker and keep anyone waiting. It was a warm, clear, brilliantly sunny day, and I took a seat on a bench in front of the restaurant with my clumsy black overly-stuffed computer bag.

I refrained from sitting in one of the ubiquitous Cracker Barrel rockers in front of the building. I tend to release voluminous amounts of nervous energy whilst seated. Whether it be twitching my foot or bouncing my leg, I generally drive those around me batty with my herky-jerky rhythmic movements. I love rocking chairs, but I figured if I wanted to maximize my charm to gain a DNA sample, being the imbecile rocking at a frantic pace in front of the restaurant when I met potential cousins and genetic donors was not in my best interest.

Thirty minutes of waiting was profoundly worse than the ninety-five days that preceded it. What if Rick declines to take a test? Do I beg? Should I have brought my mother so she could pull the "I just want to know who my father is before I die" schtick to generate guilt-driven positive action? If he is unsure, do I leave him with a test kit, knowing I may just be throwing $100 into the trash if he chooses not to use it? And why are we meeting at a restaurant anyway? The test kit clearly states, "Do not eat, drink, smoke, chew gum, brush your teeth, or use mouthwash for at least 30 minutes prior to providing your sample." Will I need to start a stopwatch immediately after the waitress takes our plates away?

It then suddenly occurred to me that I had seen one singular picture of Rick Denney. Would I even recognize the person I should be looking for? I figured he had also seen pictures of me via Facebook, and I was likely the only person waiting outside a Cracker Barrel restaurant with a computer bag, so I was probably not a difficult target to spot.

Ten o'clock came and went, and I had to refrain from texting frantically at 10:01 a.m. confirming that the meeting was still taking place. But what I did spot as I was eagerly scanning the parking lot was an older woman approaching me carrying a small, flat bag; the kind you would get at a Hallmark store after purchasing a birthday card. Also a perfect size for carrying photos! She asked me if I was the person interested in Clarence Ryder, and I knew immediately this was Rick's sister, Mary, the fourth-born Denney child and fourteen years his senior. Whereas Rick was born long after his uncle Clarence Ryder had died, Mary was ten years old when she lost her uncle.

Mary (Denney) Erskine was an incredible joy to talk to, and all my fretting about being turned away empty-handed washed away from every core of my being. Admittedly, the selfish part of me was ecstatic to have another Denny sibling at breakfast, because if Rick had misgivings about spitting in a plastic tube, I could just turn my pouty lip and puppy dog eyes to Mary and ask her to do it. Things were definitely looking up!

Rick arrived shortly thereafter with his wife, and I immediately knew that the three months of waiting, as well as the short terse responses, had nothing to do with the man as a person. His law enforcement background certainly made him wary, but frankly I'd expect anyone to be a bit disarmed by a request for DNA. But as the four of us chatted outside the restaurant, I knew immediately these were people I'd be very happy to call my cousins.

Once inside the restaurant, it occurred to me how appropriate the setting was for this meeting. On the walls were large exquisitely framed nineteenth-century charcoal portraits of properly dressed men and severe looking women; nameless ancestors discarded and purchased by an antiques dealer in Tennessee to grace the walls of Cracker Barrel restaurants all over the country. Down from those walls peered men and women with no names looking at a man who was searching for the same.

I unrolled my long, unwieldy relationship chart to explain to the table how my mother was intertwined with the Ryders and the Daughertys, and explained the mathematics of the DNA connections. I still shook with the nervous adrenalin rush I was experiencing, even though things were going exceedingly well. I shared photos of my grandmother, while Mary shared photos of the Ryders and Moslanders. Several times the waitress was sent away because we had not gotten to reviewing the menu for food options, but once breakfast was served we all lapsed into familiar chatter as if we were all cousins acquainted from birth.

In addition to amazing photographs (many of which you have already seen on this site in my discussion of Clarence Ryder and his parents), Rick and Mary brought first hand biographical accounts of the lives of their grandmother, Jessie (Moslander) Ryder, and of their mother, Isabell (Ryder) Denney, written by the both of them during their lifetimes. I was shocked at Mary's recollection of Clarence Ryder's death. Although only ten years old at the time, her account mirrored exactly the newspaper recollections of the event in 1951. Family photographs and memorabilia? First-person biographical narratives? Accurate oral family lore? Good God, I certainly hoped this was my family!

After a couple hours of jabbering, we all left the restaurant. Rick Denney asked for the 23andMe DNA kit, stepped aside, and filled it with saliva swimming with precious cheek cells holding the answers I had been so desperately seeking. In addition to his DNA, he also paid for my breakfast. Yes, yes, I really did want these people to be my cousins!

I returned home and quickly shot off an email to Rick thanking him for all he had done for me that morning. His response this time was prompt:

"We enjoyed meeting you also, Mike, and it would be nice if Uncle Clarence was your grandfather. If nothing else, you have new friends in Battle Creek."

But as I settled in to review my findings, I was troubled by two things. Firstly, although possibly a superficial worry, I saw no family resemblance whatsoever with Clarence Ryder to my mother. I had always seen the strong resemblance that my mother shared with her mother, Helen (Timmons) Miller Strukel, so I was not expecting a lot in that department. But I saw nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Secondly, as I read the narratives written by Clarence's mother and sister, I was worried about something far more troubling than the lack of a subjective resemblance. I had known that Clarence Ryder had returned from the war in 1944, upon which he immediately divorced his second wife Thelma, in Plymouth, Indiana. I knew also that he had remarried in Battle Creek, Michigan, in May 1947, where he remained until his death in 1951. To have been my mother's father and to fit my hypothesis, he would have had to have remained in Plymouth or the surrounding area when my mother was conceived in the early Spring of 1946.

The life story penned by Isabell (Ryder) Denney made it obvious that the Denneys had left Plymouth, Indiana, for Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1943, and their parents, Leslie and Jessie (Moslander) Ryder had followed shortly thereafter. Sister Mamie was also already residing there. If Clarence Ryder left the Army and divorced his wife in 1944, what would have enticed him to stay in Plymouth, Indiana, until 1946 if his entire family had already moved northward?

And it was only after this wonderfully productive visit with the Denney siblings that I found a copy of the 1945 Battle Creek city directory indicating Leslie, Jessie, and Clarence Ryder all resided at 416 North Wood Street. 1945. He was in Battle Creek by 1945.

I was crushed.

But my mother still had DNA in common with both an Ilgenfritz and a Moslander, both ancestors of Jessie; and her diverse genetic heritage more closely fit this Ryder-Moslander ancestry. And really, none of the other genetic candidates fit all that well in many other areas. Perhaps Clarence Ryder maintained some of his Indiana contacts, or worked in Plymouth or Elkhart before settling down with his third wife in 1947 in Battle Creek. Perhaps he lived somewhat nomadically between Indiana and Michigan from 1944 to 1947, although he maintained a Battle Creek address with his recently relocated parents. The whole family had maintained enough ties to Plymouth to be forever interred there.

But there were now serious doubts.

And all I could do was wait.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Progress Stalled (...or Begging For DNA)

Mamie Bell (Ryder) Langs Gibson (1912-2006) and her sister,
Isabell Helen (Ryder) Denney (1915-1997),
Battle Creek, Michigan, 1993

Clarence L. Ryder had to be the man I was looking for. Circumstantial evidence certainly made it seem so, and frankly the brief biographies I had put together of the other five candidates just did not fit what I knew genetically or historically. Three of the other five were already married, two may have still been in the service at my mother's conception, four were children or grandchildren of immigrants whereas my mother's genetic background seemed more diverse to account for such heritage. None of them could be placed in a reasonable geographical place or time to intersect with my grandmother's world. The others all failed on one or more levels.

But Clarence Ryder was long gone from this world, having died exactly sixty-three years to the day before I found out via DNA testing that my mother's father was not the man everyone thought him to be. His secrets - and his DNA - had been buried deep underground for many, many decades. And the only possible half-sibling my mother could have had by Clarence, Ralph Duane Ryder had died seventy-six years previously at the tender age of seven years. It was time to look further afield.

Whereas Clarence Ryder's life had been cut short by heart disease, his two younger sisters, Mamie and Isabell, lived long, productive, happy lives surrounded by the love of their large, close-knit families. Families who were very much alive and harboring DNA that I could use to prove my case.

As discussed previously in this blog, I call autosomal DNA testing and its subsequent matching "a numbers game." And it is very much so when you are seeking the identity of an unknown man. The larger the amount of shared DNA, the more predictable the relationship, and the more conclusive the evidence when identifying an unknown person. If Clarence Ryder lived, his tested DNA would match my mother by 50%. If Ralph Duane Ryder had lived, he would have shared approximately 25% of his DNA in kind with my mother, just like her half-siblings Ted and Dianne did who shared the same mother with Carol. Had Mamie or Isabell lived to donate their DNA to my research, they too would have shared 25% of their DNA with my mother, as aunts and uncles do. These are all large, predictable, and conclusive numbers that would have confirmed Clarence Ryder as my mother's father.

But the rule of the game now was to find the closest living relative through Clarence that was still very much alive, and those would be my mother's presumed first cousins. Although the DNA numbers have now dropped to 12.5% similarity, they are still very, very large numbers that would conclusively identify Clarence Ryder as the man I was seeking.

And there were plenty of first cousins to choose from.

Mamie Bell Ryder had married at the age of sixteen to Albert William Langs, a man not even four months her senior. They met and courted briefly in Battle Creek, Michigan, and he followed her to Plymouth, Indiana, and married her in 1929. Her first child, a baby boy, died shortly after his birth. But she was blessed with two more children, Norma in 1933, and Bill in 1936. Divorced from their father when the children were young, Mamie remarried Lyle Gibson in 1945 who proved to be a loving provider to his stepchildren. Lyle died in 1989, but Mamie outlived him by many years, dying shortly after her ninety-fourth birthday.

Isabell Helen Ryder met Lloyd Denney when she was sixteen and working with her parents at the lunch counter in Sidney, Indiana, and they started dating in November 1931. One month shy of her eighteenth birthday, they married on 16 September 1933. Isabell later wrote a narrative of her life, and she cherished her role as a wife and a mother, having eight children, five boys and three girls, between 1934 and 1955. Although all eight children grew up to have large loving families of their own, two of them had passed away before I came into the picture looking (begging) for someone to spit.


The Denney Children in 2007
Rick, Dave, Karen, Junior, Mary, Jack, and Steve


Armed with the names of eight individuals who could potentially help me resolve the dilemma of my missing grandfather's identity, I went to my familiar place in the hunt for the living: Facebook.

Although I found a few of the clan on the social networking site, I reached out to only one: Rick Denney, the youngest of Isabel's children. I can't tell you why I chose him particularly. Maybe because he looked so friendly and handsome, smiling in a picture surrounded by his equally attractive, happily grinning family. Maybe because I thought it might be easier to explain the science of DNA to a retired law enforcement official in his fifties than to a Michigan housewife in her eighties. Regardless of the reasons, on 29 April 2014, Rick got the now finely crafted "May I please have your DNA?" letter that had been honed over the last couple months of use. This is who I am... these are my credentials... my mother is missing a father... this is her story... this is who I have tested so far... this is how DNA testing works... this is why I think it is Clarence Ryder... this is why I need you... please, please, please can you spit in a tube for me? It was all pretty standard fare by now.

I waited nineteen agonizing days for a response.

For those who have read the entire blog up to the present, you know what I am going to say next.

I hate waiting.

But there has to be a time where one exercises patience. I wasn't exactly asking to borrow a cup of sugar or a couple eggs, so to go willy-nilly throwing out DNA requests to all the Denneys or Langs I could find would seem to be a bit over-the-top. Even if only one of them went all paranoid and crazy thinking I was gathering his DNA for nefarious purposes, he could end all chances of a successful connection between possible cousins. I had to give my first request a chance to sink in, to be digested. And that meant I had to be patient and persistent, but not pestering. I am not good at that either. But I waited.

I hate waiting.

On 18 May 2014, I finally got my response:

"I talked with a couple of my older siblings, and we would be willing to meet with you. And we do have a photo of our uncle Clarence. And your information seems to be accurate."

That's it.

Okay, so it wasn't exactly a lengthy response to my very detailed previous email. And it wasn't exactly welcoming me with open arms and enthusiastically offering me assistance in my mother's plight to find her father. And there wasn't exactly a promise to spit into a tube... just a willingness to meet. At least he used appropriate sentence structure and excellent spelling skills. It could have been worse.

But it really could have been a whole lot better.

I responded with metered enthusiasm the following day. I gushed with thanks for responding to my odd request. I offered to drive to the Battle Creek, Michigan, area at anytime he chose me to do so. I offered the enticement that as a professional researcher I would actively pursue the Ryder genealogy and share all my findings with him if Clarence turned out to be my grandfather. But I also jokingly nudged that results may take two months to acquire, so the sooner we do this, the better.

That was met with a month-long silence.

On 19 June 2014, I sent a follow up email detailing how terribly busy I had been in the last month with researching and lecturing, and that I was finally home and eager to meet. 

See what I did there? I deflected the blame for the month of silence onto myself. I'm brilliant.

I also gave him some tidbits of interest into his Ryder-Moslander genealogy hoping to entice him into learning more about his lineage. Of course, I only tossed out a few really interesting, yet vague, nuggets of information so that he might be eager to question me for more. Again, sheer brilliance.

And one more nugget I had for him that also made it all that more important for me. I had found yet another match in the DNA database to my mother. A match who descended from Abraham Moslander (born c1735), who also happened to be an ancestor of Jessie (Moslander) Ryder. The argument for Clarence Ryder being my grandfather was almost a done deal. But I needed Rick's DNA to prove it.

Upon review, I ended this email with entirely too many exclamation points:

"It's just so very important for both me and my mother at this time. So I am eager to meet with you, and I do sincerely hope that you or your siblings are willing to take the DNA test for me. Just let me know when I can head up your way! I am eager to solve this mystery, and I am eager to see what Clarence looked like! Thanks again for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you!"

Two days later:

"I am just returning from a vacation to Florida. I will get with my family and try to set up a date."

The man was certainly not big on lengthy responses.

I responded the following day with more exclamations.

"Sounds great! I am looking forward to it!

Two weeks of nothingness followed. Two weeks of waiting. Two weeks of wondering if I should start trying to contact other Denneys or Langs. But he had already stated he had talked to other family members. Would this look like I was "going over his head" if I were to contact his siblings? Was he stalling because he was suspicious of my motives? Or perhaps it just didn't hold as much urgency to him as it did to me. Two weeks of deciding how to proceed, and I get:

"Hi Mike, I was wondering if you could tell me your grandmother's first name."

Jesus H. Christ On A Popsicle Stick... what the hell did THAT have to do with anything?!?!? Was he looking for love letters written by my grandmother to the man who impregnated her sixty-seven years ago? Was he hoping a name might ring a bell of truth before agreeing to donate his saliva to my research, when I already outlined to him that whatever relationship my grandmother had with Clarence may have been no more than a single night?

But of course, my immediate response was dripping with sincere apologies for being so irresponsible as to leave out such important details as my grandmother's name when asking for such a large favor from him. I directed him to my blog address so that he could read about my grandmother and her life, and the sequence of events that led me to his email Inbox. When that failed to incite a response, nine days later I laid out the whole story for him anyway via email so as to not bother him with the task of reading my blog. I then outlined the research path that led me to Clarence Ryder, and I even included graphs and family trees to illustrate it all.

Nothing.

Three months had passed since my initial email, and I was no closer to proving Clarence Ryder was or was not my mother's father. I took a chance. Figuring that the Denney siblings were all kept in the loop by youngest brother Rick, I did not want to upset any chances that still remained for testing Rick by contacting another Denney. So I sent an email to Bill Langs on 24 July 2014. Having learned from my mistake with Ken Ryder who had a Facebook account he never used, I also sent a copy of the same email to Bill's daughter, Julie, on the same day. I could tell that Julie was a frequent Facebook poster, and it seemed likely that she would alert her father to something as important as this if he did not check his account regularly. Both read the emails. Neither responded. Having thrown patience out the window long before, I sent follow-up messages quickly: one to Bill on 28 July 2014, and another to Julie on 31 July 2014. Both were read immediately by both individuals. Again, neither responded.

On 1 August 2014, having exhausted all means of patience, pleasantry and persistence, and after nearly a month of no response from Rick, and entering into our fourth month of very intermittent correspondence, I did what any good, self-respecting, upstanding genetic genealogist dripping with integrity would do.

I lied.

"Rick. I will be in the Kalamazoo-Battle Creek area this weekend. Do you have time to meet?"

Although, yes, I do know people in Kalamazoo, and, yes, I could very well have gone to visit them on that weekend had I called and asked them, the reality was, no, I really had no plans that weekend. Frankly it was time to push the envelope. The challenge had been made. I am going to be there. Yes or no. You will meet with me or you will not. There's only one of two ways for this to go now. I took a deep breath. Held it. And  I hit "Reply."

Less than seven hours later:

"How about tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. at the Cracker Barrel on Beckley Road just off I-94 at the Capital Avenue exit in Battle Creek?"

Score.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Clarence Ryder

Richard Buck and Clarence Ryder, c1910
The only two Ryder men who could be my
missing grandfather.
 
My mother was conceived sometime in late March or early April, 1946. At that time, my grandmother, Helen Marie (Timmons) Miller was a mother of three children under the age of eight years, and unhappily married to a philandering husband. Concurrently that spring, she met the man who would show her love and affirm her worth. That man was Frank Louis Strukel. Just days after relinquishing for adoption a daughter she so desperately believed and wanted to be Frank's, born in December 1946, Helen and Frank were married.

This left little to no room for my mother's biological father to have had any significant relationship with Helen. Perhaps it was a one-night stand. Perhaps Eldon was off on one of his extra-marital flings, and the kids were staying with their grandparents, and Helen met a handsome stranger who helped her forget about a life in which she felt trapped. Perhaps it was a man she saw more than once, but immediately paled in significance when Frank Strukel entered her life.

But what it meant to me was that it was unlikely I would find this man in any sort of paper trail or closely interwoven into Helen's life. He likely did not live next door or down the street from the Millers. He likely did not work in the same vicinity. He was probably a random encounter and a brief fling, so finding a meaningful, solid connection to Helen would be difficult, if not outright impossible. And although DNA analysis had led me to a list of men of whom one was likely to be my maternal grandfather, none of them lived that close to my grandmother in 1946. Although all were within a twenty to sixty mile radius of Elkhart, Indiana, none of them were lurking around the corner.

But this hunt for my grandfather had taken on the dimensions of a crime drama. Who had the motive? Who had the means? Who had the opportunity? I had narrowed my search to six possible men, but I still had to put them into Helen's world. I had to figure out whose life would have intersected with hers in the most believable way, and who had the freedom and opportunity to make that meeting happen.

Clarence Ryder seemed to meet those criteria.

We have already discussed Gideon Ryder's often-married son, Eugene Joseph Ryder, as he was the progenitor of the Ryder descendants whose DNA had taken me this far in my journey. But Eugene's brother, Leslie Ryder, eleven years his junior, couldn't have been more different than his brother.


Leslie Ryder (1886-1960) and his wife,
Jessie Moslander Ryder (1889-1978)


Born in Beattie, Marshall County, Kansas, Leslie Ryder was still young when his parents returned to rural Dowagiac, Cass County, Michigan. He did not have a childhood marred by constant wandering as did his elder brother Eugene, but instead had the mundane and stable existence of a farming and working family in southwestern Michigan. Like most boys of his time, he obtained an eight-grade education, and like his brother began working as a moulder in the many iron foundries and factories in the area.

Leslie's wife-to-be, Jessie Mamie Moslander, had a far rougher time growing up. Her parents, Joab Moslander and Savilla Helen Guntle, had married in Elkhart County, Indiana, in 1881, but the marriage was a rocky one. In 1888, while living just northwest of Plymouth, Marshall County, Indiana, Joab had attempted to get his wife declared insane and committed to a hospital. She was not. A year later, and perhaps in an attempt at a fresh start, the Moslanders moved to a home eight miles from Dowagiac in Cass County, Michigan. It was here that Jessie was born in 1889. But in the spring of 1894, her parents separated. Her mother, Savilla, pregnant with her fourth child, stayed in Cass County, Michigan, with her eldest daughter, Emma. Her father took the two middle children, Ida and Jessie, and moved to the farm owned by his parents near Plymouth, Indiana. Thereafter, Ida and Jessie, often found homes with their father during moves to Payne, Ohio; and to Coleman and Gaylord, Michigan; or went back and forth to Plymouth, Indiana, to live with their grandparents. By the time she was fifteen years old and after several homes in three different states, the whole family finally reassembled and settled on a farm outside Plymouth, Indiana.

Once her family was resettled in Indiana, they learned of the whereabouts of her older sister, Emma, long since separated from the family by their parents' divorce. Emma had married Samuel Buck in Dowagiac in 1899, and after Jessie turned sixteen, she moved to Dowagiac to live with her. Only having a sixth-grade education, Jessie had been working out as a domestic since her early teen years, and she continued to do so in Dowagiac. It was here that she met Leslie Ryder in November 1905 after he took her home from church. They were marred in the Methodist Church in Dowagiac on 10 November 1906. Leslie went to work for the Round Oak stove factory to learn his trade as a moulder.

Their first child, a son, was born on 16 July 1907, in Dowagiac, Michigan. They named him Clarence L. Ryder.


Clarence L. Ryder, 1907
Dowagiac, Michigan


A daughter, Mamie Bell, was born to them in Dowagiac in 1912. In the spring of 1914, the young family moved to Battle Creek, Michigan, and as Jessie wrote later, it was "the first place we ever had of our own, and we thought it was wonderful, for it was the first place we lived that had electric lights, and running water, and furnace, and bathroom, and all the conveniences." They welcomed their third child, Isabell Helen, while living in this home in 1915. After spending just over a year in another bungalow in Battle Creek, Michigan, the family moved to a home in Level Park which was a small community just northwest of Battle Creek. The move occurred in September 1918, and on their first day in their new home, Leslie Ryder, was stricken with the flu. Thousands of Michiganders would die of influenza the following month, and it was feared that Leslie would be one of them, but as Jessie remembered "the Lord spared his life." Their last daughter, Doris Catherine, was born here in 1920.


Clarence L. Ryder, c1912


Clarence Ryder grew up in this God-fearing, loving family, spending his childhood in and around Battle Creek, Michigan. In 1927, shortly after his twentieth birthday, Clarence married Mildred DeMond, eighteen, in Battle Creek, Michigan. Per Clarence's sister, Isabell, "Mildred ... lived up by the fire station on Cliff Street. She was an only girl. She had two brothers, was nice, but spoilt and expected more than my brother could give her." She filed for divorce in January 1930, five months pregnant with their only child. Ralph Duane Ryder was born in Battle Creek on 30 May 1930, and his parents divorce was official on 28 November 1930.

But Clarence Ryder had already left town before his divorce was completed.

It was the Great Depression, and work was scarce. Leslie Ryder was unable to maintain a residence in Level Park while supporting his wife and children on inconsistent work. They rented out their home and the entire family moved to Plymouth, Indiana, in 1930, to live in a home owned by Jessie's father, Joab Moslander. Both Leslie and Clarence were able to find work at the Argos Foundry nearby. The following year, Leslie sold the house in Level Park, Michigan, and put the money into a hotel and lunch room in Sidney, Indiana, forty-five miles southeast of Plymouth, that had been purchased by his father-in-law. The work maintaining the business was hard, and often many weeks passed where no money was made from the enterprise. Twelve-year-old daughter, Doris, developed a sinus infection the following fall that progressed to spinal meningitis. She died 27 October 1932. The grief for Jessie was overwhelming, and she did not have the energy to continue the grueling work at the lunch room. They sold their part of the business and moved to a ten-acre patch of land in Plymouth, Indiana.

By 1940, Leslie and Jessie (Moslander) Ryder had moved into town on Pierce Street. They would live at a number of addresses while in Plymouth, Indiana. Their son, Clarence, remained single after his brief first marriage, lived at home with his parents, working as a grinder operator at the local feed mill.

But shortly after the United States entered World War II, Clarence Ryder did two things: he married his second wife, Thelma; and he decided to do his part for the war effort. On 14 August 1942, at the age of thirty-five, Clarence enlisted into the United States Army. It was not long before he was sent overseas, leaving his new bride behind in Plymouth, Indiana.


PFC Clarence L. Ryder


Clarence was assigned to the 262nd Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company, Ant-Aircraft Artillery, and spent his time overseas in North Africa and Italy. The men of the 262nd were tasked with repairing and maintaining anti-aircraft weaponry, and served with the Seventh Army in Sicily in July and August 1943, and for the Fifth Army thereafter. They usually did their work about twenty miles behind the front lines, and Clarence was involved with the campaigns in Naples-Foggia from September 1943 to January 1944, followed by Rome-Arno from January 1944 to September 1944. He returned home thereafter and was honorably discharged on 22 November 1944.

Sadly, Clarence returned home to Plymouth, Indiana, to find that the new bride he had left behind had taken up with another man in his absence. They immediately divorced.

With the economy improved, Leslie Ryder no longer needed to rely on the financial help of his Moslander in-laws. The entire extended Ryder family moved back to Battle Creek, Michigan, where Clarence Ryder remarried on 31 May 1947 to Grace Elmira (Funk) Curtis, a divorced mother of three pre-teen girls.


Clarence L. Ryder, c1945


Clarence and Grace moved to Level Park, Michigan, and Clarence found work as a custodian at the Wolverine Tower (built as the 18-story Central National Bank in 1931, it is now known as the Battle Creek Tower Building.) Their marriage did not last long.

On the night of 1 February 1951, Clarence and Grace (Funk) Ryder were driving home from his parents' home where they had enjoyed dinner together. Suddenly feeling ill, Clarence stopped the car on South Kendall Street in Battle Creek at the Michigan Central Railroad crossing. Grace motioned frantically toward two soldiers nearby, and Clarence was rushed to Percy Jones Army Hospital. He was dead of a heart attack before they arrived. He was forty-three years old.

My mother was only four. If Clarence Ryder was my mother's unknown father, he died an even younger man than Frank Strukel. We apparently were not going to escape genetic heart disease.

So what made Clarence Ryder a tempting candidate? Beyond mathematically fitting the genetic match calculated with the other Ryders previously tested, Clarence was the only one that lived in Indiana. The remaining candidates lived in the area of Niles and Dowagiac, Michigan. And even though Plymouth, Indiana, was slightly more distant than the Michigan destinations, there was a reason for Helen to have spent time there.

Helen (Timmons) Miller had a favorite aunt that resided in Plymouth. She also had cousins there. Her grandfather had moved there in 1902 (see Hoosier Daddy?: Helen, Part I: Beginnings), and some of the family had maintained residence there. Her father's sister, Kitty Ann Timmons, had married George Gary Brown, in 1894, and he and his wife move to Plymouth to help Helen's grandfather, Enos Moore Timmons, in the feed mill business in Plymouth, Indiana, until his death in 1913. But after that George and Kitty (Timmons) Brown remained in Plymouth, Indiana, where George worked as a farmer, drayman, and then as a truck driver. They raised one son, Paul Robert Brown, my grandmother's first cousin, who was ten years her senior.

But interestingly, both families - the Leslie Ryders and the George Browns - moved about frequently whilst in Plymouth, living in rented homes, but both always in the central southwest part of town. At any given time, the Browns and Ryders lived just a few blocks apart. At one time, they lived merely a dozen houses away from each other. How easy would it be for Helen to take a trip to Plymouth to visit her paternal relatives, leaving her children in the care of her parents, and meet Clarence Ryder?

Additionally, the bulk of the other genetic candidates were married. And although it goes without saying that a concurrent marriage does not inhibit procreation, being single certainly gives the suspect more opportunity than he would have being married. Clarence had divorced in 1944 while in Plymouth, and he did not remarry until 1947 when he returned to Battle Creek. My mother was conceived in the spring of 1946.

Lastly, we go back to genetics. Again, I will mention the "ancestry composition" patterns set forth by 23andMe. And again, I will tell you that you just cannot put a lot of stock into them. I will let my friend Judy Russell explain to you why at "The Legal Genealogist" from this past May at Admixture: not soup yet | The Legal Genealogist. But, although the composition percentages indicated that my mother was almost exclusively of European descent, she had a little bit of every part of Europe peppered into her. She even has a 0.6% sliver of East Asian/Native American ancestry per 23andMe. And if were to give any of this credence, Clarence Ryder would fit the bill to pass on that hodgepodge of genetic ethnicities to my mother. 

Whereas the other Ryder/Daugherty candidates had spouses of either first- or second-generation European backgrounds, Jessie Moslander was definitely an American mutt. She had a mix of predominantly Dutch and German and English ancestry, but it was almost entirely colonial. There was even chatter in online forums that her Moslander great-grandfather married a woman of Native American descent. And to seal the argument, Jessie Moslander's great-great-great-grandfather was Han Georg Ilgenfritz (1718-1810), who was also the ancestor of a person in the 23andMe database with whom my mother shared the tiniest bit of DNA.

This man, Clarence L. Ryder, had to be my mother's father. It all just fit too nicely.

But getting a DNA sample would be difficult. Clarence's only son, Ralph Duane Ryder, born to his first wife after their separation in 1930, had died at the age of seven years in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Clarence Ryder had no more children that I could test as potential half-siblings to my mother. Clarence's two sisters, Mamie Bell (Ryder) Langs Gibson and Isabell Helen (Ryder) Denney, had died in 2006 and 1997, respectively. But Mamie had two surviving children, and Isabell six, living primarily in the Battle Creek, Michigan, area. If Clarence was the man I was looking for, these eight individuals would be my mother's first cousins, and as such would share approximately 12.5% of their DNA in common with my mother. They would be the closest living relatives I could test, but they would still provide conclusive evidence.

I set out to get me some Denney or Langs DNA.

It would not be easy.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Ryder Candidates

Eugene Joseph Ryder (1875-1946)

We have learned a little bit about Rollie Joseph Ryder's mother, Bertha Daugherty, but what about his father, Eugene Joseph Ryder? He lived as much a nomadic life with a slew of spouses as that of his first wife.

Eugene Joseph Ryder was born 24 March 1875, in Indiana. Sources are unclear where in the state he was born, although one reference indicates Nashville, Brown County, which would be significantly south of where his parents had been living previously. He was the second son of Gideon Ryder and his wife, Isabel Sammons. The father, Gideon, was Canadian-born of New York parents, and his Ryder/Rider lineage stretched back to seventeenth-century Massachusetts. He grew up in a typical eighteenth-century farm family in Keeler, Van Buren County, Michigan, but like his descendants who came after, developed a strong penchant for wanderlust. Gideon may have left Keeler, Michigan, as a young man and spent time in the area of Dowagiac, Cass County, Michigan, as some of his cousins were already here in the 1870s. He likely met and married Isabella Sammons in the early 1870s in Dowagiac, as her family had settled there years before, and it is where she grew to womanhood. But they did not stay there long. Gideon and Isabella's first two children, including Eugene, were born in Indiana in 1873 and 1875, but they had returned to Michigan by the birth of their third in 1877. From there, the family removed to Marshall County, Kansas, where for a time Gideon was a laborer in the town of Beattie. After leaving Kansas, and a brief stay in Nebraska, the family returned to Isabella's home of rural Dowagiac, Cass County, Michigan, where they spent the remainder of their lives.

Son Eugene Joseph Ryder grew up a part of this transient lifestyle, and it was one he embraced and continued until his death. Much like the Daughertys he bounced between many towns and cities in southwestern Michigan working as a moulder. As discussed in a previous blog entry, he first married in 1898 in his home town of Dowagiac, Michigan, to Bertha Daugherty, by whom he had his first son, Rollie, the year after. They separated when Rollie was just an infant, and their divorce was finalized in November 1901. Bertha remarried two days after her divorce was official, and apparently Eugene too had already taken up cohabitation with the woman who would be his second wife. She was his first cousin, Gertrude Belle Carothers. Although Belle gave birth to Gene's second son and only other child, Lyle Joseph Ryder, in 1903, they were not officially married until 9 September 1911, in St. Joseph, Berrien County, Michigan. They moved to rural Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Michigan, near his brother, Leslie Ryder, whose children had fond childhood memories of Uncle Gene and Aunt Belle and cousin Lyle.

But much like his first wife, Bertha Daugherty, Gene never found long-term marital bliss. He and Belle divorced in Battle Creek in 1915, after which Belle remarried and took her son Lyle Joseph Ryder to Rock Island, Illinois. Gene Ryder remarried Viola Stoner in 1915 in Kalamazoo, and divorced her by 1917 when he married Mary Hammer. They divorced in 1922, and he married Mabel Van Tassel in 1930, whom he divorced in 1932. At Gene's death in Kalamazoo in 1946, he was survived by his last wife, Nellie. With or without a wife, Eugene Joseph Ryder, lived wherever he could find work as a moulder. Most of the time he worked in the vicinity of Kalamazoo, Dowagiac, and Battle Creek, Michigan; but he occasionally spent time in the northern part of the state in Traverse City and Cadillac, Michigan.

But since I now had enough preliminary evidence that my mother shared DNA in common with Eugene Joseph Ryder or his first wife, Bertha Daugherty, I had to take a closer look at both their extended families. For my mother to be Kenneth Ryder's second cousin as described previously, one of Eugene's or Bertha's siblings had to be one of my mother's paternal grandparents.

But also recall that mathematically, my mother and Ken Ryder could also be a half-first cousins, once removed, so we have to look closely at Ken Ryder's half-uncle, Lyle Joseph Ryder.


Children and Grandchildren of Gideon and Isabel (Sammons) Ryder
Viable candidates for my mother's father are outlined in blue, click on
the image to enlarge.


Thankfully, although Gideon Ryder and Isabel Sammons were the parents of six children, they were not blessed with a slew of grandchildren for me to assess. And of course, only their grandsons were candidates for my mother's father. Of Gideon and Isabel's children, one son never married. Another son died young. And yet another son fathered only two girls. The only two grandsons who could be my mother's father were Clarence L. Ryder, son of Leslie and Jessie (Moslander) Ryder; or Richard Eugene Buck, son of Robert William and Katherine Emily (Ryder) Buck.

To be Ken Ryder's half-first cousin, once removed, my mother's unknown father would have to be a son of Lyle Joseph Ryder. But Lyle had only two girls who died shortly after birth. So we could eliminate that possibility.

If my mother's DNA was "Ryder DNA" and not "Daugherty DNA" I had only two men who could have been her father. Of these two, Richard Eugene Buck, grew up in and around Kalamazoo, Michigan, and married there in 1930 to Florence Helen Austin. And surprisingly for this family, he remained married to her until her death in 1982. Richard died in 1989. They had no children, and their entire married lives were spent in the Kalamazoo area. It takes about an hour to drive to Kalamazoo, Michigan, so it is reasonably close, but not terribly so. Would a married man in Kalamazoo be in the Elkhart, Indiana, area to meet my grandmother in 1946? 

It was possible. 

Richard Buck's parents were divorced when he was only an infant, and his father, Robert William Buck, spent many years in the state of Wyoming. But he had moved back to the area by 1930, and he settled in Mishawaka, Indiana, where he lived until his death in 1960. Could Richard Eugene Buck have had a secret tryst with my grandmother upon a visit to his father in 1946? 

It was possible. 

And at this stage of the game, I was quite aware that ANYTHING was possible.

But Clarence L. Ryder was a much, much, much better candidate.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

And The Nominees Are...

The Expanding Ryder Family Tree and 23andMe
Matches to my mother, Carol Sue Crumet

When Kenneth Eugene Ryder's DNA results became available to me on 28 April 2014, that same surge of excitement and dread overcame me. Of course, knowing that the Robinson match was a big ZERO the month before, I had anticipated at least SOMETHING in my favor on the Ryder test. But remember, the DNA segments that my mother matched with Brian Ryder and Briana Rieman were all different. There was a possibility that I was dealing with multiple common ancestors, and Ken Ryder's results might just yield another small match that held little real identifying assistance. Additionally, even though Briana Rieman was one generation further away from a presumed common ancestor, she carried more DNA in common with my mother than Brian Ryder. I had no idea what I was going to find when I clicked on his results.

The bottom line: Mother Nature is not predictable. Autosomal DNA matching is a numbers game, but it's also a bit of a crap shoot. I knew theoretically Ken Ryder's numbers should be higher than Brian's and Briana's. I just needed it to be high enough to be significant.

And it was.

It was with a sense of dizzying euphoria that I read the results. Ken Ryder and my mother, Carol Crumet, shared twelve identical segments of DNA on ten different chromosomes, for a total of 4.26% similarity between them. So if you thought an anonymous match at 2.10% made me ecstatic (see Hoosier Daddy?: Dabbling in DNA), these results had me walking on clouds and doing happy dances and fist pumps and every clich├ęd body movement associated with success. And since an unbearable part of the whole DNA process is waiting, I had spent a great deal of time piecing together the extended family in anticipation of these results.

And for those unfamiliar with autosomal DNA testing, the reason I call it a numbers game is that the larger the amount of shared DNA between two people, the more definitive the relationship between them. Of course, this is a simplistic approach, as there are many variables that can affect the numbers, but it generally holds true. If you share 50% of your DNA in kind with another person, that person can only be your parent, your child, or your full sibling. The theoretic amount of DNA you should share with known relatives is indicated in the chart below, which has been referenced elsewhere in this blog.


Cousin Tree (With Genetic Kinship)
(fro, Wikimedia Commons, Author:Dimario, 2010)

But keep in mind that the above listed percentages are theoretical. These numbers exist if every one of us got exactly half the genetic material of all the ancestors that came before us. And that's just not how it happens. As chromosomes tear apart and recombine, so does all the genetic material passed down through generations. And over time, we may not carry ANY genetic material from a possible ancestor six or eight generations before us because of the randomness in which pieces of DNA are inherited. But although the numbers are theoretical, they have a tremendous predictive value. As more and more people have their DNA tested, and statistics are calculated on known matches, it can be seen that close relatives do not differ terribly far from those theoretical value.

For example, figures generated from 23andMe's Relative Finder show that although first cousins should theoretically share 12.5% of their DNA in common, real-life findings show figures between 7.31% and 13.8%. Similarly, second cousins should be 3.125% similar, but values range from 2.85% and 5.04%. But the beauty of even the real-life values is that they are still distinctly separate from each other, and therefore, predictable.

Again, life is messy. Values can be altered by cousins who connect at different hereditary levels. A first cousin, once removed, should share 6.25% of their DNA, with a calculated range of 3.3% to 8.51%, and these numbers start overlapping values associated with other relationships, so one has to be wary in a situation like mine when you are comparing a known person to an unknown person. Also, family lines with cousin marriages concentrate DNA within lineages, and connections via half-siblings dilute findings by 50%. Nothing is simple.

And because I was now using Brian, Briana, and Ken, as markers to guide me to my grandfather, I first had to determine if those three knowns matched each other the way they were supposed to. Brian Ryder is Ken Ryder's great-nephew and theoretically he should match Ken at a level of 12.5%. He did so at 15.3%. Briana Rieman is Ken Ryder's great-great-niece, and she should match him at half that value, or 6.25%. She matched him at 9.45%. These real-life values, although higher than average, were comfortably within an expected range of shared relationship. So as long as every known person tested matched each other appropriately via genetics and via the genealogical paper trail, I could take a closer look at Ken Ryder's relationship with my mother.

Since Ken Ryder and my mother, Carol Crumet, were of the same generational age, the immediate conclusion would be that they were second cousins. With a theoretical genetic kinship of 3.125%, my mother's match with Ken at 4.26% would make this a comfortable estimate with no real overlap into other relationship categories.

We have already talked about Ken Ryder's grandmother, Bertha (Daugherty) Ryder Rieder Prestidge Merrifield. Having given birth to three children by three different men, we have some "halves" to contend with as well. And we haven't even begun to discuss Ken's grandfather Eugene Joseph Ryder's six wives, and the one other son born to him by his second. From the kinship table, we know that first cousins, once removed, carry 6.25% of their DNA in common. Half-first cousins, once removed, therefore share 3.125% in common, and these too have to be considered when coming up with candidates for my mother's father.

And although this sounds like an enormous breakthrough, remember that second cousins share the same great-grandparents. That still makes for a lot of second cousins. On my father's side alone, I have more than thirty second cousins (without knowing my maternal grandfather, I certainly can't count them on my mother's side!). In many situations, this would still be a daunting task to pick one man out of a list of dozens, but finally - finally - I had luck on my side.

In the previous post, I had mentioned that since we jumped back a generation from the "Ryder vs. Robinson" dilemma, we were now faced with a "Ryder vs. Scharich" question. And if my mother was a second cousin of Ken Ryder's, it meant I had to assess the descendants of his FOUR sets of great-grandparents ... because one of those sets of great-grandparents was also my mother's.


Kenneth Eugene Ryder's Family Tree


But as you can see from the chart above, I didn't know all eight of Ken Ryder's great-grandparents, since four of them were Germans who lived and died in Russia. But this unknown actually did me a huge favor, and cut my work in half. The bulk of Emily (Scharich) Ryder's extended family were ethnic Germans living in Russia. Although it was possible for unknown Scharich or Rappuhn relatives to have come to the United States and to have been my mother's paternal ancestors, it was unlikely. Northern Indiana was not a target place of immigration for Volga Germans, although there were settlements in relatively nearby Kalamazoo and Berrien Springs, Michigan. Also, although I put very little weight behind the "ethnic distributions" reported by the various DNA companies, my mother's "French/German" heritage as reported by 23andMe was only 19.1%. On the surface this made immediate paternal descent from ethnic Germans less likely.

But the biggest and most reliable reason for me to be able to eliminate Ken Ryder's Volga German great-grandparents from my equation is that he had many DNA matches in the 23andMe database with people sharing ancestors with classic Volga German surnames. None of Ken's German matches were matches with my mother.

So through some educated analysis and deduction, the question was no longer "Ryder vs. Scharich." It was "Ryder vs. Daugherty."

For Ken Ryder and my mother, Carol Crumet, to be second cousins they had to share ancestry with either Gideon Ryder and his wife, Isabel Sammons; or with John Henry Daugherty and his wife, Emma Augusta Jonas. In theory, I had already started my new family tree. I just needed to pick a couple and start filling in the generations in between!

And once I did the genetic mathematics and the preliminary research, there were only six men who could be my mother's father: two on the Ryder side, and four on the Daugherty side.

My search had been narrowed down to six men with the results of one test.

Six.

And one of the six was a perfect candidate.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Ryders, the Scharichs, and the Daughertys

Bertha (Daugherty) Ryder Rieder Prestidge Merrifield
1881-1918

With Paul Robinson's DNA test showing absolutely no similarity to my mother's DNA, the presumed shared segments of genetic material that my mother held in common with Brian Ryder and Briana Rieman must have come from the ancestors of Rollie Joseph Ryder, Jr. (1924-2006), and not his wife Nora Lee Robinson Ryder (1926-2011).

So now that I knew my DNA trail led upward through the family tree of Rollie Ryder Jr., it meant I could jump back one generation from him. If my hypothesis was correct, then the DNA that Brian and Briana shared with my mother came from one of Rollie Jr.'s parents, Rollie Joseph Ryder Sr., or his wife, Emilie "Emily" Scharich. So now the question was no longer "Robinson or Ryder?," it was "Scharich or Ryder?" But just exactly how much "Ryder/Scharich DNA" my mother carried in common with Rollie Jr.'s brother, Kenneth Eugene Ryder, was yet to be seen. I waited impatiently after 23andMe informed me on 8 April 2014 that his sample had reached the lab. 

That gave me some time to hop back a generation and do a little research on Rollie and Emily and the families they came from. 

Rollie Joseph Ryder was born 2 April 1899 in Dowagiac, Cass County, Michigan, the only child of Eugene Joseph Ryder and Bertha Daugherty. His parents had married in Dowagiac the year before; Gene was twenty-two years old, Bertha was sixteen. The marriage dissolved quickly, and Gene and Bertha separated before Rollie was even five months old. His mother, Bertha (Daugherty) Ryder, quickly remarried on 13 November 1901 in Benton Harbor, Berrien County, Michigan, to Charles Thomas Rieder - just two days after her divorce was finalized from her first husband in neighboring Cass County, Michigan.

Rollie was raised by his mother, and he likely had minimal contact with his estranged father, Gene Ryder, as neither of his parents could settle in one place with one spouse for any length of time. His mother Bertha (Daugherty) Ryder Rieder remained married to her second husband for over a decade, spending most of Rollie's youth in a number of rented homes in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where her husband Charles Rieder worked as a moulder for a number of local factories. Sometimes finding good work took them further afield, as Rollie spent a short time in Charlevoix County in northern Michigan, moving there by 1910 when his stepfather took a job in an iron foundry in the village of East Jordan.

Perhaps Bertha despaired of being distantly separated from her extended Daugherty family residing in southwest Michigan, or her maybe her marriage to Charles Rieder had soured for other reasons, but by 1914 she left her husband and returned to rural Cass County, Michigan, in company with her fifteen-year-old son Rollie Ryder, and her ten-year-old daughter, Catherine Rieder. At the age of thirty-two, she found herself pregnant again, and married the father, Francis Joseph Prestidge, a small land-owner who lived in rural Glenwood, Cass County, Michigan. By the time her daughter Mary Prestidge was born on 4 April 1915, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, she had been separated from her husband for nearly six month, having lived in marital bliss for a grand total of fifty-eight days.

Bertha's parents, John Henry Daugherty and Emma Augusta (Jonas) Daugherty, and her Daugherty siblings, were as nomadic as she was, always following work opportunities leading them all over southwestern Michigan and northern Indiana. They rarely stayed in one place for too long. But as the Great War raged overseas, and Bertha found herself alone again after three failed marriages and three children, she found support in her extended family who had all settled for a time in her old stomping grounds of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Bertha tried her hand at marriage one last time. On 7 May 1917, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, just three weeks after her son Rollie had married, thirty-five-year-old Bertha (Daugherty) Ryder Rieder Prestidge became the wife of Oscar S. Merrifield, a small neighborhood shopkeeper, and a man twenty-one years her senior. Together they moved to 314 East Patterson Street in Kalamazoo to run a boarding house.

She filed for divorce six months later. She officially secured her fourth divorce on 2 March 1918.

There would be no further chances to find a lasting, loving, successful marriage for Bertha. Still a resident of the Patterson Street address, she fell ill toward the end of September 1918. Although likely aware of the second wave of influenza that had just begun to show itself in the United States again that fall, she may have felt a false sense of security in the fact that no cases had been reported in Michigan during the month of September, 1918. But just two weeks into the month of October, Michigan state officials had reported over 11,000 cases of influenza, a figure that was likely under-reported. Bertha died in her home of lobar pneumonia secondary to influenza on 9 October 1918 at the age of thirty-six years.

She was buried two days later in Riverside Cemetery in Kalamazoo, and although she was outlived by four ex-husbands and three children all bearing different surnames, she was simply buried as "Bertha Daugherty."


Emilie "Emily" Scharich and Rollie Joseph Ryder,
on their wedding day, 17 April 1917,
Kalamazoo, Michigan.


Shortly before his mother's fourth marriage and right after his eighteenth birthday, Bertha's eldest son, Rollie Ryder married in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His bride was sixteen-year-old Emily Scharich.

Emily was an immigrant, the proper German spelling of her name being Emilie. She was born 23 November 1900 in Reinwald, Russia, the daughter of Jacob Scharich and Katharina Rappuhn. Both her her parents' surnames can be found in the early history of the Volga Germans. This area along the Volga River in Russia had been settled by ethnic Germans at the invitation of Catherine the Great in 1762, and they had been given special rights to farm Russian lands while maintaining their language and culture and religious traditions. Hundreds of thousands of autonomous Germans lived in this area, and Reinwald alone boasted a population of 5,000 people when Emilie was a child.

Saginaw, Michigan, originally a lumber town, had grown to a thriving industrial city at the beginning of the twentieth century. The Volga Germans began immigrating to Saginaw in 1902, not because of the booming urban environment, but primarily because of the growing sugar beet industry in the Saginaw Valley. But when eight-year-old Emilie Scharich and her eleven-year-old brother Jacob Scharich, arrived at the port of Philadelphia on 28 April 1909 and stepped off the S.S. Merion destined for Saginaw, it was not in the company of parents looking to pursue the American dream. They were orphans.

Emily's father, Jacob, had died when she was a toddler, and her mother had cared for the family in Reinwald until she too died in the fall of 1908. Jacob and Emilie accompanied the Peter and Ekaterina Simon family from Krasnojar on their trip to America. The Simons were joining their eldest son, Peter, who had gone to Saginaw, Michigan, the year before. Who cared for the children after their arrival is unclear. Although the Peter Simons family is enumerated in the 1910 census settled in Saginaw, the Scharich children are not in their household. Nonetheless, Jacob grew up and remained in Saginaw his entire life, and the siblings were joined by a married brother Gottfried Scharich a few years after their arrival.


Main Volga German Colonies in Russia
Reinwald and Krasnojar are circled
(from Wikimedia Commons via user:Chippy)


It is not known was brought young Emily Scharich to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to meet and marry Rollie Ryder, in 1917. Rollie Ryder, having grown up with a number of stepfathers, suffered an identity crisis of sorts as a young married man. He married under the surname of "Ritter," a commonly encountered misspelling of his first stepfather's last name "Rieder." One of the witnesses to his marriage was his mother, "Bertha Ritter," the name she often reverted to between marriages.


Rollie Joseph Ryder, Sr.


After Rollie married, and his mother had passed away, he and his young wife resided with his aunt and uncle, Edward Emil and Lavina Veatrice (Daugherty) Schrader. Lavina was Bertha's youngest sibling and only sister, and although eight years Bertha's junior, she was only nine years older than her nephew. In 1918, Rollie registered for the draft under the name "Robert Joseph Schrader" as a resident of Kalamazoo with his wife Emily living at 812 North Pitcher Street, although he was not living with her. He was away from home working as a janitor for the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia, Michigan. In 1919, "Emily Schrader" is living at the same Kalamazoo address as Edward E. and Lavina Schrader, with no Robert/Rollie. He was likely working out of town as he was in 1918. By 1920, both couples had moved to 3 Matthews Court in Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan, where Rollie is again identified as "Robert Schrader." The families were both enlarging. Rollie and Emily had two children under the age of two, Helen and Robert; while Edward and Lavina (Daugherty) Schrader had three children of their own. Edward was a core maker at an iron foundry, while Rollie was a delivery man.


Emily (Scharich) Ryder with daughter, Helen


By 1921, both the Schrader and the Ryder families had again moved together, this time to Dowagiac, Cass County, Michigan, Rollie's place of birth. And although Rollie's father and paternal relatives were never completely out of his life, perhaps coming back to his roots allowed him to embrace his Ryder surname. The Ryders and Schraders would forever be deeply intertwined, as they again both moved to Niles, Michigan, around 1926. By the early 1930s, the Edward Schrader family lived at 943 Pine Street in Niles, while the Rollie Ryder family lived at 957 Pine Street in Niles. Separating them was just one house: 951 Pine Street. This house was inhabited by Rollie's uncle, Albert Daugherty, and his grandparents, John Henry and Emma Augusta (Jonas) Daugherty.

The family of Rollie Joseph and Emily (Scharich) Ryder would continue to grow while they remained at this Pine Street address. Eight children were born to them between 1918 and 1942. This was the place Rollie called home when he died on 25 September 1957. His widow, Emily, outlived him by many years, dying in Niles on 30 May 1991.

Of their eight children, only the youngest survives today. Kenneth Eugene Ryder was the man who held the key to my grandfather's identity. And it was his DNA that would bring me closer to that name. It was his test results I waited impatiently for to determine where I fit into this convoluted network of Ryders and Scharichs and Daughertys.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Fork In The Road

Kenneth Eugene Ryder, c1959
Niles, Michigan


On 27 March 2014, I received my DNA results for Paul Aaron Robinson, of Smiths Grove, Kentucky. And just like every time before, and every time to come, as I hit "Return" to see the statistical comparison of DNA from the immediate target person to my mother, my heart races, my cheeks flush, and I can feel the metallic taste of adrenalin surging through my entire being. I desperately want to see the results, and yet I also feel like squinting my eyes, because like a gruesome slasher film, I don't want to see it either. And every time I feel somewhat like I want to vomit.

Paul Aaron Robinson and my mother Carol Sue Crumet shared absolutely no DNA in common with each other. Zero. None. Zilch.

Although disappointed, I wasn't entirely surprised. The Ryder side of the family had been local to the vicinity my mother was born since the turn of the century. The Robinsons were recent southern transplants. But since my mother had several genetic matches with people whose ancestry reached back to Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and the Carolinas, I had to consider a southern connection like the Robinson family. Up until this time, I had no identifiable ancestors in the deep south. And since it was a 50:50 Ryder:Robinson toss up, the first taker got the DNA test. The fork in the road had been encountered, and the road sign now said RYDER.

Presuming my initial hypothesis was sound, Nora Lee (Robinson) Ryder was not the vessel from which Brian Ryder and Briana Rieman got their DNA in kind with my mother. It likely came from her husband, Rollie Joseph Ryder, Jr. And as mentioned before, I had already reached out to Rollie's brother Kenneth Eugene Ryder with no response.

I had not actively chased Ken Ryder, nor had I even sent a second email. Once Paul Robinson agreed to be tested, I figured I would just sit and wait. Hey, I am not a full-time veterinarian anymore. I chase dead people for a living now. This means that gleefully handing out autosomal DNA tests at $100 apiece willy-nilly to all who may hold the answers to my plight is no longer within my budget. I have established in previous posts that I am not a patient person. But unfortunately I have to waylay expediency and immediacy for cost effectiveness.

But it was now apparent that I needed the saliva of Kenneth Eugene Ryder immediately, and I wasted no time in obtaining it.

I had no idea what to expect from Kenny. Although he was Brian Ryder's great-uncle, he was roughly the same age as Brian's father. Brian had indicated that he had never known Kenny, and that his father had not spoken to him in quite some time. Briana Rieman indicated that from her family's discussion, she thought Ken Ryder was in jail.

It was a logical assumption.

Kenneth Eugene Ryder was born in Niles, Michigan, in 1942, the youngest child of Rollie Joseph Ryder, Sr., and his wife, Emily (Scharich) Ryder. His mother was forty-two years old at his birth, and his eldest sister was just a few weeks shy of her twenty-fifth birthday with children of her own. Kenny grew up on Pine Street in Niles, Michigan, surrounded by relatives, having more in common with his same-age nieces and nephews than with his much older siblings.

Kenny's father, Rollie Ryder Sr., died when Kenny was fourteen years old. And perhaps the lack of a father, and a tired widowed mother who had raised eight children, contributed to Kenny's propensity for trouble. Or maybe he was just a teenager that loved the rush of danger. But the photograph above of teenage Kenny Ryder shows a young man quite confident and sure of himself. His first brush with the law came at the age of seventeen, when he unlawfully drove away in an automobile that was not his. While waiting for sentencing, he was arrested again with two other teenagers for entering a vacant house and vandalizing it. In return, Kenny got two-years' probation and a slew of fines.

Although a lot of things can be attributed to the stupidity of youth, Kenny Ryder needed to grow up, because shortly after his eighteenth birthday, he got married and started a family.

But marriage and children didn't have a calming or settling effect on Kenny. A six-month jail sentence for unlawfully using an auto in 1964, was followed rapidly by a four-to-ten-years sentence in 1965 for burglarizing a gun shop in Niles with a buddy. He was divorced in 1967, and out of jail by 1969 when he was arrested again with two escaped convicts from Florida. A handful of other brushes with the law continued to be part of Ken Ryder's life through the 1970s.


Ken Ryder, 2011


This was the man whose DNA held the answers I was looking for. This was the man I needed to bend to the desperate pleas of a stranger.

It was apparent by now that Ken Ryder had a Facebook account, but he seldom used it. The message I sent to him on February 24 had gone unread. As mentioned previously, I personally find the written word far more powerful than the spoken word. This may not be true for everyone, but when writing, I can clarify complex issues, summarize information, and make requests clearly. When speaking, my brain works faster than my mouth. What usually spews forth is a lot of nonsense.

But three days after my negative results from Paul Robinson, I picked up the phone and called Ken Ryder seeking his DNA. I was buoyed by the ease and enthusiasm in which Paul Robinson and his son had responded, hoping even an ex-convict could be softened by my search for a missing father and grandfather. But what if his rough youthful exploits and legal wranglings of years past had produced a man in his seventies bitter with the world around him? There was only one way to find out. I dialed.

Ken answered the phone immediately, and I explained the situation as best as I could, briefly and succinctly. I presumed that a cold call from a person seeking your DNA could quickly be met with a dial tone, so I laid out all the facts as quickly as possible.

The man that responded to my breathless, garbled, angst-filled babbling was one of the most pleasant men I have had a phone conversation with in quite some time. And remember, as a veterinarian I spent a lot of time on a telephone responding to a whole variety of dilemmas and questions. Despite the hours logged on the device, I still always feel awkward on a telephone. I can lecture to hundreds, but I lose my words on a phone. Perhaps I rely too much on visual cues to gauge the response to my delivery, and more importantly to my requests. Was he lost and confused on the DNA issue? Did he fully comprehend what I wanted from him? A furrowed brow can tell a lot. A telephone silence is harder to interpret.

But Ken Ryder made it easy, and he agreed immediately to my request. And on the following day, 31 March 2014, I hopped in my car for the one-hour drive to Benton Harbor, Michigan, to retrieve some of Ken Ryder's saliva.

The man that greeted me was not a hardened criminal, but a warm, open man who laughed easily and welcomed me to his modest home. A kitten was climbing around in the garage knocking things off shelves which only made Ken laugh. We chatted about the Ryders and about his grandmother's siblings, the Daughertys, who all lived on Pine Street in Niles, Michigan, where he grew up. He reminisced about relatives long gone, and I filled him in on details he may have forgotten. Believe me, I had already committed many, many hours to Ryder genealogical research before this visit. We moved from chatting in the driveway to inside into the kitchen. As Ken reached for his cup of coffee, it was my cue to interject, "No drinking! You have to spit first!"

My Ryder DNA was secured.

Ken and I chatted for a short time longer. None of it was forced or uncomfortable or rushed. He wished me well in my search, and asked me to keep him updated regarding my findings. And although I had no idea how he would fall into my family tree, I really thought I'd enjoy Ken Ryder as a cousin, even if it were distantly.

Black sheep can still be warm and woolly and fuzzy.

And as so many future posts will end..... I then impatiently waited for results.