Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What's in a Name?

Birth certificate of Harold Daugherty, 16 March 1927
Cook County, Illinois, Clerk's Office

While waiting for Brighton to settle into his new home, and for his mind to be fully able to grasp the enormity of the existence of an unknown daughter fathered nearly seven decades before, I had time to dig into the factual aspect of the life of my new grandfather. After all, that's what I do. I am a genealogist.

Genetic research as it applies to genealogy is a very young beast, appreciably barely two decades old. The ability to analyze the autosomal DNA of person and how it relates to others is a very new invention. The cost-effectiveness of doing so and the accessibility to the general public that came rapidly upon its heels is nothing short of phenomenal. When asked if I regret missing out on getting to know my grandfather had my grandmother expressed doubts when we met her in 1982, I respond that even had I known, I would have had no way of finding him until at least 2013 when science allowed me to do so. 

Equally so, the methodology of genealogical research has changed considerably since I first started reading microfilm searching for information on my long-dead ancestors in 1980. Although I had access to excellent research repositories, such as the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, even as a teenager, a lot of research involved waiting. Writing letters. Waiting. Requesting documents. Waiting. Connecting with distant cousins. Waiting. Asking distant libraries to locate obituaries. More waiting. I used to pound out letters in rapid succession on my mother's old manual typewriter daily. And every day the race to the mailbox was my singular, ecstatic, most-anticipated pleasure. I once wrote a letter to forty-four county clerks in the state of Missouri asking them to check for a deed of sale for an ancestor's land. I knew only from an Ohio guardianship that his children received money from this sale after his death, and that it involved "land in Missouri." Instead of writing to all 114 counties first (after all, I was a high school student - stamps cost money!), I split the state by the Missouri River and wrote to all the northernmost counties first.

I got nearly forty-four replies. Many clerks went out of their way just to send records regarding people of the same surname, even though I had not asked for such. One of the clerks found the document I was looking for. I was jubilant.

This was genealogical research in the 1980s.

Yeah, okay, so I wasn't like a lot of teenagers.

In the 2010s I could instantly scour the Internet on hundreds of websites extracting information about my grandfather and his family. In minutes I could have snippets of newspaper articles, vital records, abstracts, and further leads. And although Ira Daugherty and his estranged family had eluded me temporarily in my DNA search (see Hoosier Daddy?: Bad, Bad, Bad Genealogist), I was rapidly making up for lost time learning about his wife and four children - the youngest being my presently clueless grandfather. I could amass hordes of data in one night on the computer that would have taken me months of letter-writing in the past.

Since my grandfather was older than the seventy-five years required by the state of Illinois for maintaining the privacy of his birth record, I was able to procure his certificate of birth in minutes through the Cook County Clerk's web site. It was a thrill to see a copy of the actual document that officially announced my grandfather's entrance into this world. It made the man real. It cemented him into my family tree. His connection to me was confirmed scientifically; hopefully soon mentally, physically, and emotionally; but now officially and clerically. All of these things are so separate, yet so deeply intertwined. The documents have more meaning when accompanied with stories and remembrances. The people who tell them have an almost eerie tangible connection when you can pinpoint precisely on what chromosome tiny parts of them reside within every cell of your very being.

Harold Daugherty was born at 10:05 p.m.. the night of 16 March 1927, the fourth child of Ira Daugherty, engineer, and Katherine "Fries," housewife. He was born at 3432 North Paulina Street in Chicago, Illinois. His mother was attended by a midwife, Mrs. Emilie Stryker; the same woman who attended her upon the birth of her son Thomas four years earlier.

The home at the North Paulina address no longer stands. It is now an empty lot immediately north of the Sine Qua Non Salon, housed in a wedge-shape brick building that fills the sharp thirty-degree intersection Paulina makes to the immediate south with North Lincoln Avenue. Lincoln then immediately intersects with West Roscoe Street in this very busy Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. Just steps away from where baby Harold was born, the "L" rumbled overhead in 1927 as it still does today. Those catching the Brown Line at the Paulina Street Station are close enough to toss their emptied Starbucks cup upon the place of my grandfather's birth moments before catching the train.

Despite the traffic, the bustling businesses to the immediate south, and the trains overhead, 3432 North Paulina Street would have marked the first residential home on the west side of the street, in line with several tidy two-story, multi-family homes extending to the north. The imposing architecture of Alexander Hamilton Elementary School and St. Andrew Roman Catholic Church were merely a block away northward along the tree-line streets away from the traffic and noise.

It is unlikely that Ira and Katherine strolled this neighborhood with their newborn son, living immediately upon the dividing line between urban bustle and neighborhood calm. The Paulina Street address was likely one of several addresses inhabited by the Daugherty family. They were living elsewhere less than three years previously when their son, Thomas, was born; and they were living at another address when the census taker knocked on their door in 1930. Not a single city directory for the city of Chicago bears the name of Ira Daugherty, likely because he was equally as mobile as his restless siblings in Michigan. And likely because he preferred staying one step ahead of his many scams. This address may have been merely a stopping place for an unhappy pregnant mother to have another child.

One thing is clear by the document depicted at the beginning of this blog. My grandfather was born Harold Daugherty. Not Harold James Daugherty. Not Brighton Daugherty. Not even the Brighton H. J. Daugherty conglomeration he used briefly in the mid-1980s.

He was simply Harold.

Brighton stated later that his mother insisted on strong, regal British names for her sons. From the Old English Hereweald derived from the words for "army" and "power, leader, ruler," and a name carried by two kings of England, she chose quite wisely. And Katherine expected her sons to live up to the greatness implied by their names as well.

It seems perversely odd that Katherine (Tries) Daugherty would insist upon such Anglophilic names for her sons. After all, she was the daughter of German immigrants, both arriving upon the chaotic streets of Chicago less that a decade before her birth. Even Ira Daugherty himself, sporting a very Irish moniker, was the son of a German mother. His maternal grandfather whom he played with as a child had come to this country in 1851 from the Prussian province of Brandenburg sporting the unmistakably German name Friedrich Wilhelm Jonas.

Katherine spoke German easily with her parents, and Brighton recalls German folk songs his mother sang to him as a child. But unlike the isolated German enclaves of smaller cities or the rural Midwest, Brighton's mother grew up in the city of Chicago surrounded by neighbors of diverse European backgrounds. Her education would have been in the public schools with an Anglocentric basis, and she would have entered young womanhood when the nation was gripped with an almost paranoid anti-German fervor as the country entered into World War I. She was likely relieved to quietly tuck away her German heritage and identity as the former Katherine Tries, and experience the security in her married identity of Kate Daugherty. Her immediate family was no different. Kate's Rhenish Catholic father married her Pomeranian Protestant mother the year before her birth in 1892, having two illegitimate children together in the six-year span before her. There were few family ties in Chicago other than her mother's sister. As a consequence, her parents held no special social, fraternal, or religious ties to their German heritage once they arrived in this country. They were Americans, and they went about assimilating as such, like so many European immigrants before and after them. Katherine's siblings, the remaining Tries children, all of immediate German parentage, took spouses of English, Irish, Norwegian, and Greek birth or backgrounds. None of them married a German.

So upon Kate's insistence, and likely to Ira's indifference, their youngest son was called Harold. It was a name that she adored.

And it was one that he hated.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

It Takes Two

Brighton Daugherty, 2005, Denver, Colorado
© Jeff Ball Photography, used with permission

At 87 years old, Harold James "Brighton" Daugherty had lived a life only few people could dream of living. 

I had never expected to find a living grandfather. That alone was a shocking surprise I was still trying to fully process and wrap my head around. It was actually possible that I could meet the man who had been the focus of my intense search for all these past months. Hours and hours of sifting through DNA results and begging for genetic material from strangers had paid off. Big time. This kind of story-book ending was nearly incomprehensible.

To understand the significance of these results, let me put a few things in perspective.

I am the genealogist who started researching as a pre-teen, and whose father was unable to spell his own mother's maiden name, and who further told me she was born on September 31st. Think about it.

I am the genealogist whose family discards photos, documents, memorabilia, and heirlooms because they are old and useless. Even decades into my research when my mother and her second husband managed a booth at an antique store, I had to rescue photos of the Dobyns and Hanks family that my mother tried to sell to the public as "Instant Ancestors"!

I am the genealogist who finally finds the document I have desperately needed for decades in Court Order Book 46, page 432 -- only to find that it is the only page that has been mysteriously torn from its bindings and has been missing for decades.

I am the genealogist that descends from impoverished ancestors whom nobody else is seeking. I have mastered the art of research because I have not had the luxury of "hooking up" to somebody else's family tree. Incidentally, I do consider this a good thing, but a factor nonetheless that has resulted in a lot of stubborn, dedicated, time-consuming, minutiae-sifting work.

Luck is rarely on my side.

So the grandfather I expected to find was dead. He was a native of Elkhart, Indiana, or vicinity. He had never moved away and had married as a young man. If he had ever left the confines of Indiana, it was for an exotic vacation to Disney World in Florida. He had worked doggedly at a local factory for over forty years, and he had two or three children who were now doing the same. Any local newspaper reporting of his lifetime accomplishments might be a mention at the birth or marriage of one of his children, perhaps a speeding ticket mentioned in the police blotter column, or an announcement of some time-related mile marker he had achieved in his marriage. He would have retired with little fanfare from a job he had learned to loathe years before, to then enjoy some mind-numbing pastime, like lawn care or watching NASCAR, until his horrible eating habits and lack of activity killed him. The number of cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon he had consumed over a lifetime might easily be well into five digits. His death warranted the obligatory public mention of his devotion to his job and family, and touted his allegiance to the Masons or to the Elks or to the Eagle or to the Kiwanis, even though he had not attended a meeting in over two decades. His online condolences from past neighbors and coworkers all indicated he was "nice."

This is what I had anticipated. And if I were lucky, I would be able to procure some photographs from living family members to see if I had any resemblance to my grandfather, as I have no striking resemblance to either of my parents. I would have a starting point to resume work on the quarter of my ancestry that had recently been nullified. My DNA matches would make sense once I had a correct name and a new paper trail for which to attach to them.

The grandfather I found was none of the things I anticipated. And through Donna, who had been the impetus for him to be tested through AncestryDNA and who was my intermediate connection to Brighton Daugherty, I was beginning to learn about his incredible life.

The identity of the man I had been seeking came to me on 22 October 2014. I knew. My mother knew. Donna knew.

Harold James "Brighton" Daugherty did not.

Donna had met Brighton in Hawaii in 1985 when she and her husband had moved there from their home in Denver, Colorado. Brighton's wife, Gay, had been their realtor when they bought their home in Kona, and they liked her immediately. Although energetic and welcoming in her personal presentation, and enthusiastic in pursuing a friendship with this newly-arrived couple to their tropical paradise home, Gay was conspicuously hesitant about revealing many details about her husband.

"My husband Bright is different."

Never ones to follow the rigidly prescribed paths of the social norm, Donna and her husband found this initial assessment to be far more tempting and interesting of an invitation than a warning of any kind. Days later, both couples met, and the evening was spent discovering similar interests, such as Asian aesthetics, shared favorite authors, and compatible philosophical mindsets.

The complete lack of discussion regarding football teams, sports scores, and feigned masculine bravado suited both men just fine. The couple became great friends.

Upon the death of Donna's husband in 1993, and Brighton's divorce in 1994, the two had become intimate confidants, living together in Hawaii for nine years thereafter. Donna returned to her home in Denver, Colorado. Brighton followed a short while later and they resumed a close friendship, which they have maintained for nearly three decades. Donna seemed to be a good sparring partner for a man with stubborn convictions, and the mutual respect between two strong-willed persons was apparently a good part of the glue that cemented the friendship together.

Donna was significantly younger than Brighton, and when his age brought with it the myriad health issues expected of it, she stepped in to help where she could. Brighton passed his seventies in rather vigorous good health, but he entered into his eighties as a broken aged man. As he said to me later, "one day I just woke up old." His care was becoming a full-time job, and Donna was the only one who had applied for the position.

Spinal stenosis diagnosed decades before resulted in a series of surgeries to stabilize Brighton's vertebrae and save the use of his hands, which were becoming progressively numb from years of dealing with his ailment. His third surgery in 2011 ended in unexpected post-operative seizures and complete respiratory failure.

He remained on life support for nearly two weeks, and it was generally thought that he would not recover.

I am learning that you never tell Harold James "Brighton" Daugherty what to do. It is very likely that he heard the news of his impending death in his unconscious state and decided to prove everyone wrong.

Brighton recovered, but he also had experienced a traumatic brain injury from his near death experience. His ability to process information, especially in the short term, was deeply affected. And despite the tragic consequences of his 2011 ordeal, a fourth surgery for spinal stenosis was again performed in March 2014 to preserve nerve function and decrease pain. His post-surgical delirium was profound, and he remained in a rehab facility for an additional two months. After finally returning to his own home, he was immediately bounced back to the hospital a week later with a mysterious respiratory ailment and other complications. The doctors were quick to assume a cardiac-related problem, but the culprit was found in his home during his hospitalization. A long-standing water leak from a drainage pipe under his apartment had resulted in the growth of black mold in the flooring, the walls, and on several belongings that had been subjected to the moist environment.

So while I was chasing down my mystery grandfather during the bulk of 2014, Brighton Daugherty was struggling to regain a semblance of a normal life. And as I looked for the whereabouts of this mystery man, Brighton Daugherty had no home to call his own. He was sent back to a rehabilitation facility in early summer, 2014, after his hospitalization.

After hours upon hours, and days upon days of struggling against bureaucratic red tape, Donna was finally able to arrange living quarters in an assisted living center in Lakewood, a community contiguous with Denver, Colorado, on its west side. Although not at all what Brighton considered an ideal situation, it allowed him certain amounts of freedom, but consistent health care he was now unable to provide for himself.

My initial contact with Donna via AncestryDNA coincided with his move into his new home.

The corporate owner of Brighton's previous apartment had deemed his living space uninhabitable due to the mold, but they were still in possession of almost all of his personal belongings. Bright had nothing resembling the comforts of home for the majority of 2014. He was often agitated and confused about his new move, and he was verbally unhappy with his prospective new life, marginalized from society and devoid of the adventures he craved. He abhorred the presence of rules he was expected to follow.

This was not a good time to spring upon him the news of a previously-unknown sixty-seven-year-old daughter living in Indiana.

Frustratingly, that would just have to wait.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

An Explanation and a Commercial Break

I am afraid you have all run off and abandoned me when the story is just getting good. But of course, the fault would be mine, as it appears I ran off and abandoned you as well.

I did not.

I left my home in Granger, Indiana, on Friday, January 9th. I was supposed to board a plane at the ungodly morning hour of 7:35 a.m. and be happily skipping and frolicking in Salt Lake City, Utah, by 1:10 p.m. that same day. I was to be a guest lecturer in the German track of SLIG (Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy) that was to begin that following Monday.

Skipping and frolicking was not to be had on Friday, January 9th.

Although northern Indiana had experienced snow the night before, my flight was on time. And because I hate feeling rushed, I had arrived at the airport by 5:30 a.m. South Bend's airport is small, and check in and security checks take only minutes, but I would rather sit on my computer than feel like I am racing to the airport to beat the clock.

I had my breakfast and coffee at the airport. I bided my time playing with new 23andMe results for my paternal great-aunt, my deceased grandfather's only remaining sibling. Routine announcements were made about boarding. Air travel is tedious, but there is something blissful and secure about routine. All seemed good. After boarding my plane and drifting in and out of sleep (which I can do seconds after taking my seat), I realized we had not left the runway. It was just the normal dilly-dallying of flights ahead of us, and repetitive de-icing procedures while we waited. But we sat too long. The pilot announced the crew had timed out, and FAA regulations would not allow them to continue to fly, even though this first leg of my trip was just an hour-plus jaunt to Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota.

Everyone sullenly filed off the plane.

Chaos ensued.

You cannot cancel a flight at a small airport like South Bend, Indiana, and then find enough seat space on the few subsequent flights scheduled to leave that day to make everyone happy. I was booked on another flight a few hours later that never made it to South Bend. It was canceled in Chicago because of mechanical issues.

I sat in the airport in South Bend, Indiana, for sixteen hours. Waiting. Delayed. Canceled.

After several aborted attempts to go ANYWHERE, I was finally told there was no way I was getting to Salt Lake City that day. The best they could offer was to come back the next morning to try the same scheduled flight routine that failed me that day, or get on the only flight remaining out of South Bend to Atlanta, Georgia. I figured getting to Salt Lake City the next day out of Atlanta held more possibility of coming to fruition than doing the South Bend dance again. So I went to Atlanta.

The details of incompetence once I got to Atlanta would fill pages, but briefly I will say I got a hotel  arranged from a gate agent who was less than happy to help at the end of her shift, and I got on a shuttle to said hotel that arrived at the airport ninety minutes after its supposed "every thirty minute"  continual service.

The hotel was nearly forty miles from the airport. I was exhausted. I was given a card key to a room that did not work. Three keys later, I was no closer to getting into my room. On the fourth trip to the front desk, I asked for a new room instead of a new key. Once I got to the filthy room, I realized I  had left my wake up call under the old room number. I picked up the phone to dial the front desk only to realize the phone was not attached to anything. It was merely a prop. As too was the alarm clock that was plugged in but nonfunctional. I brushed my teeth with my finger and hand-sanitizer and went to bed.

I had to be back at the airport in two hours.

Although the flight to Utah was on time, I arrived to find no luggage. I also had no luggage claim tags, as the agent in South Bend took them from me when she rebooked my flight but never gave me replacements. I was too tired to be miffed. I just went through the motions and dragged my weary ass to the baggage claims office for Delta.

The gate agent in South Bend was indifferent; perhaps with apologetic undertones, but far from sympathetic. The agent in Atlanta was a she-devil. But the baggage claims representative in Salt Lake City was helpful and perky and personable. I should have noted his name. But I could barely recall my own.

He found my luggage in storage. It got there before I did.


If I was on the last flight into Atlanta, and on the first flight into Salt Lake City, how the hell did my luggage get there first? If there is a worm hole for luggage, I would like them to begin testing for human travel. I was too tired to ask questions. I was just happy to have my belongings intact, even though my sanity was not.

A friend picked me up in Salt Lake City on Saturday. We went to have real food. A meal that included things like eggs. Protein bars, overpriced airport coffee, complementary peanuts, and whatever gum or mints I could find in my computer bag hadn't really sated my desire for nutrition over the past twenty-four hours. When we got back to his house, and I was ushered into the spare bedroom, I just dropped my bag and hit the bed. Then I slept. For a long, long, long time.

Sunday I attended an instructors meeting and registration reception for SLIG. Monday was the first class in the German course, and although I was not lecturing that day, I wanted to sit in and absorb the content of the other lectures, meet the students, and check out the layout of the situation.

Throughout the afternoon, I noticed this slight tickle in my chest. An occasional cough. Hmmmm.... perhaps it's just the dry air? The inversion in Salt Lake City was pretty bad that week. The layer of smog was probably just making my bronchi unhappy.

I lectured on Tuesday. The voice was rough. The tickle had turned into a cough. And each one of them felt like a million little paper cuts in my lungs. I went back to my friend's place and slept for thirteen hours in anticipation of the following day's lecture.

I managed to pull off the next day's lecture, but I honestly have no memory of it. I ached all over. I am sure my friend beat me with a baseball bat during my hours of unconsciousness. On hindsight, I probably infected more people in my class than I enlightened. What has come to be known in genealogy circles as the SLIG-CRUD or the SLIG Epidemic of 2015 encompassed a whole host of respiratory nastiness that took down an outrageous number of registrants, attendees, and instructors.

I had the flu.

I had only anticipated staying with my friend in Utah for a few days and arranging other accommodations with other friends, but I could barely get out of bed. He came and went from work, while I felt miserable, begging for forgiveness for being the houseguest that never leaves. I had raided his plentiful supply of cold and flu remedies in his medicine cabinet. I took enough acetaminophen to destroy my liver and ibuprofen to anger my kidneys. I even had some codeine to add to the Mucinex to dull the cough. Double-dose swigs of NyQuil was the routine end to every night, although my bedtime was becoming more evening than nighttime as I became progressively weaker. The body aches subsided, and each day I felt a little better, but fatigued. I just figured time was necessary for recovery. But for every day I would get to the Family History Library to do research, the following day I would feel significantly worse.

Although SLIG ended, my illness did not. 

The walk to the Family History Library was two miles from where I was staying. I am a walker. That is not a bad distance, and normally it's a good time for me to swill a coffee and contemplate my day of research. It is invigorating. But by the time I would arrive at my destination this week I was drenched in sweat. So much so that I had to undress in the bathrooms and remove my first layer of clothes and ring them out into the sink. Sweating became the norm. I woke up that way. Beads of it would form on my forehead when I walked from my microfilm machine to the rows and rows of film-laden cabinets.

By the following Wednesday after SLIG I had to rest after my morning shower. Rest after dressing. And I even brushed my teeth sitting on the toilet because the whole morning ritual was exhausting. And sweaty.

On Thursday, my disease-addled mind thought I could walk to the Family History Library. It is more or less a straight line from where I was staying. 

I got lost. And confused. My eyes had trouble focusing on the street signs ahead of me. I checked. I was wearing my glasses. I sat on a park bench drenched in sweat contemplating my next move. I went back home.

That evening as I laid in the silence of my friend's spare bedroom, I could hear what sounded like the crunching of crisp dead leaves underfoot on an autumn day. It was the sound of inhaled air fighting to enter my lungs.

I had pneumonia.

I wept. Partly because I was over a thousand miles from home feeling miserable. But more so because I was not myself. The sweating, the fatigue, the inability to draw oxygen deeply into my lungs - these were bad things. Very bad. But I could not properly get into my own head. I felt "other worldly." I was spacey, confused, unable to wrap my head around simple concepts.

I was very sick.

And much to the dismay of friends and family, I did not go to the hospital. I am a veterinarian, and frankly, I would put the diagnostic skills of a veterinarian above most M.D.s any day; especially doctors in emergent-care facilities who are often stuck in a rush-in, rush-out, situation. Although I had taken way too long to diagnose myself, I figured I had pneumonia. A chest x-ray and blood gases would tell me how badly it was, but the treatment was antibiotics. I hadn't turned blue yet, so I didn't need supplemental oxygen. Going to an emergency room or an emergent care facility would accomplish confirmation of what I presumed, and treatment I could already procure. Being a doctor, I travel with an emergency drug stash to cover a wide variety of medical disasters. Luckily, I had the appropriate antibiotics for presumed community-acquired pneumonia. If that didn't turn things around, I would willingly turn my body over to a fully-staffed medical establishment.

Or a morgue.

Twenty-four hours after beginning antibiotics, I felt a bit of my presence returning. But I was oh-so-very tired.

Seventy-two hours after beginning antibiotics, I felt like Michael D. Lacopo - mind, body, and soul - had finally made a reentrance into society. Finally.

And then I had to board a flight for Denver, Colorado. That was a week ago.

Thankfully, it was uneventful.

I am back in Salt Lake City, Utah, to FINALLY do some research, and to lecture at the FGS 2015 National Conference. But I am also responding to several hundred unanswered emails. Yes, I said several hundred.

I am hoping to get caught up with my life as quickly as possible, and to pick you all up for the continued ride you have shared with me. I promise not to disappoint you again. I cannot promise I will not die, but let's just say it's not currently on my agenda.

BUT.... until I can pick up where we left off, let's talk genealogy. And research. And spending valuable, fun time together.

I will be teaching an advanced course in Pennsylvania research this summer with the knowledgeable Sharon Cook MacInnes, Ph.D., at GRIP (Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh) from July 19 to July 24. The class is shaping up to be something extremely exciting and fun and brimming with information. See more details at 2015 Pennsylvania: Research in the Keystone State | Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.

I tell you this now because GRIP registration for this course opens on 18 February 2015 at noon Eastern Standard Time. There are only a limited number of registrant positions, and classes fill up quickly. I would love to see you in person and share my passion and my knowledge with you! Mark your calendars and check out the registration process at Registration | Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.

I am alive. I am mostly well. I am also scatterbrained and way behind schedule. But I owe you a blog.

Where were we?

Oh yes, I have to take my mother to Denver to meet her father.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Waiting Impatiently

Just a brief word of reassurance to those who have devoted a lot of their valuable time and energy reading my blog and sharing my journey over these past several months.

I have not disappeared.

Let me first bait you a little bit and tell you, there is SO much more to this story! So, so, so much more. 

In the ten days since my last blog post, I have endured a two-day air travel nightmare that should have taken just a single afternoon. That alone could have been a blog post from hell. Since my arrival in Salt Lake City, Utah, I have been felled with the flu. I am typing this blog entry from a strange bed in a puddle of my own sweat whilst coughing up my left lung.

It has been a less than conducive atmosphere for writing.

Although I will be away from home until February 17, I had fully anticipated keeping you all on board for this crazy ride. I just have to ask your indulgence while the driver of this short bus takes a few extra days to recuperate.

Trust me.

It will be worth the wait.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Reunion, Part II: Telling My Mother

Part II of my mother's reunion with her birthparents follows thirty-two years after Reunion, Part I. (see Hoosier Daddy?: Reunion).

This part of the reunion was significantly different for a number of reasons.

Although not having personally been in the situation of giving up a child or being adopted (...although my mother often told me I was a foundling...), I think there is often a fundamental difference between the separation of a child from each of his or her birthparents. And that difference is well illustrated in my mother's situation.

Helen Marie (Timmons) Miller was an unhappily married woman with three children caught up in the tumultuous divorce proceedings from her first husband. Their marriage having soured years before, she had found the love she wanted and deserved in Frank Strukel. 

And she was pregnant.

Since the discovery of my mother's surprise mystery paternity in February 2014, I have had friends, relatives, and readers of the blog comment, "Oh, now it makes sense why she gave your mother up!" The flash of doubt obviously had to spark in Helen's head once she realized she was pregnant, but I do not think the answer, nor the situation, is as easily explained as people think it to be.

Perhaps Helen's uncertainty of Carol's paternity factored into her decision, but the fact remains that she very quickly convinced herself that the child was Frank Strukel's. And Frank went to his grave believing his eldest daughter was raised by someone else. Helen's first husband, Eldon Miller, threatened to take custody of the only child he was willing to let her keep, four-year-old Sandy, if she kept her unborn child. Frank Strukel, a recently returned veteran of World War II, still bearing the very fresh emotional scars from months in a German POW camp, was living with his parents rebuilding his life post-war. He loved Helen, and he wanted to marry her, despite the disapproving whispers of his staunchly Catholic family. But he was not in an economic position to take on a wife, a four-year-old stepchild, and a newborn baby. And an illegitimate child would further test the limits of the acceptance of his new wife to his Catholic family.

If there were doubts in Helen's mind, she never spoke of them. But it is unlikely these doubts forced her to make the heart-wrenching decision to relinquish her unborn child. Had circumstances been different, it is almost certain that Carol would have been raised Carol Sue Strukel, never doubting her paternity.

The fact remains that Helen did make that heart-wrenching decision. And she carried a child for nine months that she knew she would have to say good-bye to after its birth. The mother-child bond was already formed with every stirring and every kick of the child she would never watch grow up. And based on my mother's original birth certificate, she bestowed on my mother the first and middle names she carries today. Whether it was a name agreed upon by her adoptive parents is debated. They most likely had a say in it, although while both mothers were still living, they both claimed to have come up with her name. Nonetheless, the baby girl born in Goshen General Hospital that New Year's Eve might, had a name; and with each cry or giggle or coo, had a budding personality. But as Helen told the story, she endured my mother's childbirth with quiet, staunch stoicism, because she felt that she was not allowed the selfish luxury of showing discomfort and garnering pity. This pain she endured silently because she would be forever unable to feel any further intense emotion - joy, sadness, pain, pride, anger, laughter, love - with the daughter that would grow inside her, but be nurtured and flower under the care of someone else.

The mother-daughter reunion in 1982 was a tearful, joyous reconnection of that invisible umbilical cord that is never permanently severed when a mother loses a child.

Conversely, a birthfather's role in bringing a baby into this world can run a gamut of scenarios. There is no doubt that Frank Strukel relinquished the child he thought was his with emotional regret. When discussing baby names when Helen again became pregnant in 1948, he brought up the name Carol as a way to remember his first child. That daughter, Dianne, remembers overhearing a conversation as a child between her parents regarding an adopted baby, fearing that she was the adopted child they were discussing. Memories of the child born on the last day of 1946 was rarely far from either of their minds.

Very soon after discovering my mother's unknown paternity, and at the beginning of my search, I remarked to my cousin Lisa that I would now be blessed with FOUR grandfathers: my father's father, Dean William Lacopo, Sr.; the father of my mother who raised her with devoted love and affection and was the grandfather of my childhood; Raymond Ezio DePrato; the father of my mother who lived his adult life thinking he relinquished his daughter and loved her from afar in his own personal way, Frank Louis Strukel; and as then the yet-unidentified biological father of my mother that gave her life.

That man was Harold James "Brighton" Daugherty.

In 1946, this man was known as Jim Daugherty. Whereas Helen had to carry her child, hold her after her birth, arrange for another couple to raise her, and tell her goodbye; Jim's function in my mother's creation was likely limited to one physically gratifying encounter with my grandmother. He never knew of his child's existence. He didn't even have to sign away paternal rights to her adoption. He lived his life from that pivotal moment in the spring of 1946 blissfully unaware.

That does not make him any less significant in my mother's existence, and therefore in my own. I tend to be prone to deep introspective thought, and I get my mind blown by deep existential reflection of the fate of my very being had that random encounter not occurred. And as a genetic genealogist and a medical professional, I am fascinated by the parts of me, physically and emotionally, that are "Daugherty". In the "nature versus nurture" debate, I firmly believe there is an enormous amount of nature involved. And so who Jim Daugherty was, who he is, where he came from, and what makes him tick are subjects vitally important to me.

And these things I believe are also vitally important to my mother. But early in my search, her interest was primarily academic. By identifying that her paternity was not what she had been told thirty-two years previously, I changed her story. I altered her perception of her creation. And so a new story had to be written, but this time the actors of the original script were gone. Helen could answer no questions. She could confirm no doubts. She could not be asked to recall any stories. And whomever the man was that also entered the stage in 1946 was likely gone too. The story would be mostly conjecture. As a genealogist, I was compelled to refill my emptied family tree of one-quarter of its previous inhabitants. And as a son, I need to answer the questions I had now laid before my mother.

Since the early assumption was that my missing grandfather would be approaching 100 years of age, there was no anticipation of meeting the man who was her father. And even on the infinitely small chance that I would find a living being, my mother was decidedly disinterested in meeting a man who had no emotional ties to her mother and had no knowledge of her existence. The question was mostly raised when discussing the possibility of finding half-siblings, but again, she felt there would be nothing more than a biological connection. She could see no reason to insert herself into anyone else's lives and create the potential for emotional upheaval. But there was curiosity about what this man may have looked like. Where was he from, and what did he do? Questions that were mostly biographical and mostly based on curiosity.

As my DNA research dragged on, my mother's interest waned even more from the beginning mediocre curiosity. She held little interest in hearing my news of autosomal DNA match percentages . She saw more of a failure to identify a man with each test, rather than the pathway it was creating to  confirming the identity of her father. When the path led to a family unwilling to help us in our search, who selfishly responded that they thought the search was "useless and futile," my mother was even less interested in knowing the truth.

Even my excited phone call to my mother while driving to Dayton, Ohio, outlying the surprise discovery of two Daugherty brothers, one of whom was likely her father, met with little outward emotion. I had made numerous phone calls like this before, discussing candidates to test, and how they seemed to be a good match to be her father. All of them ended with no answers. Perhaps the perceived closeness of the AncestryDNA connection didn't really sink into my mother's mind during that phone call. After all, I had been babbling about DNA continually for much of the preceding year.

"Just let me know when you know something."

At 12:59 p.m., on the afternoon of Wednesday, 22 October 2014, I shot a brief, shocked email to Donna, who had been my contact to Brighton Daugherty, informing her that the GEDmatch.com profile she created revealed that he was my grandfather.

At 1:09 p.m. I called my mother.

In preparing to write this blog, I called my mother and asked her about that fateful afternoon phone call. Frankly, after the exciting culmination of an enormous amount of time, money, and effort, I had no real recollection of it. I can tell you that my phone indicates that we spoke for thirty minutes and twenty-two seconds.

I don't recall shouting, sobbing, wailing, laughter, crying, comforting, or any cork-popping champagne moments. Nor does my mother.

Oh, I was excited. My heart was beating wildly, and my brain was processing rapidly, but still woefully behind on sorting all the miscellaneous data I had accumulated in my head.

The agreed upon consensus between my mother and myself was that the overriding emotion of the phone call was shock.

"Mom, it's me. Remember the AncestryDNA match I told you about the other day? His data just finished processing on the other site I needed to use to understand how he is related." 
"He's your father. Harold James Daugherty is your father."
"And he's alive."

Silence. Shock. Processing.

"I need to meet him. When can I meet him?"

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Centimorgans or Percentages?

Average Estimated cMs for Autosomal Testing Comparisons. click to enlarge
Kristina Gow Dunnaway, ISOGG Facebook Page, 2014, used with permission

I will take a moment away from the narrative to answer the most commonly presented question put to me by readers regarding autosomal DNA matching.

And yes, I just heard that audible group sigh from all of you chomping at the bit to hear about my mother's reunion with her father. All in due time. All in due time. 

But let's start out the new year right. It is important for all genealogists - novice and experienced alike - to start 2015 with a cheek swab or a vial of saliva. And if your response is that you have already done so, then you need to start 2015 getting your older relatives, who are regrettably finite resources, to spit or scrape. Remember that DNA testing benefits both you, the researcher, and those out there desperately looking for a match. Take a lesson from what you have read in my blog. My path to Harold James "Brighton" Daugherty, my grandfather, began with my mother's relatively tiny 0.52% match to Brighton's first cousin, thrice removed: Brian Joseph Ryder. 

Brian's great-great-grandmother, Bertha Daugherty, was a woman who died at the age of thirty-six years: sixty-three years before Brian Ryder was born. He never knew the woman. He never knew her name. When he started to poke around into his ancestry at the time of his 23andMe test, she became a passing fill-in-the-blank on his family tree. But Bertha's brother, Ira Daugherty, was my great-grandfather, and Ira's son was the man I spent 2014 searching for.

If Brian Ryder had not tested out of sheer curiosity, I would not have had the starting point for my search.

The larger the various DNA databases become, the more helpful they will become to the genealogist, the adoptee searching for his or her birthparents, the foundling with no history at all, the millions of children born of sperm and egg donations that have made modern-day genealogy so technologically baffling. DNA testing helps everyone.

Do it. Do it now.

So that takes me back to the question I am asked most frequently.

When I discuss relationships and DNA matching, I often do so in terms of percentages. It is one way that 23andMe lists their genetic matches, and the mathematics makes more sense to me and my analytical brain. I have posted a graphic with my blogs indicating how known relationships should theoretically match each other by percentages. Siblings match each other by 50%. Half-siblings match each other by 25%. First cousins match each other by 12.5%. And the biggest revelation for my search came when my mother matched Ken Ryder by over 4%; and I knew second cousins match on the average of 3.125%.

But not all DNA sites list percentages. And the total amount of DNA tested by each company varies slightly, as well as how they report it. Additionally, the percentages by which different sexes match is skewed a bit by counting the matches on the X-chromosome, as women have two of these to the man's one. Roughly, the centimorgans of DNA you match with another person divided by 6800-7100 should give you a ballpark percentage.

What the hell is a centimorgan anyway?

Wikipedia defines it this way. "In genetics, a centimorgan (abbreviated cM) ... is a unit for measuring genetic linkage. It is defined as the distance between chromosome positions (also termed, loci or markers) for which the expected average number of intervening chromosomal crossovers in a single generation is 0.01. It is often used to infer distance along a chromosome. It is not a true physical distance however."

Confused? Don't be. What I wanted to point out by this definition is that a centimorgan is not a tangible distance, such as an inch or a centimeter. It does infer a length of segmentation along a chromosome, and as genealogists we can think of it as a "sort of distance." All DNA testing companies report the amount of DNA you share with a match in centimorgans.  When you upload your results to GEDmatch.com, the many user tools also show matches in centimorgans and not percentages.

Oh, and when I say you should all get autosomal DNA tested in 2015, that automatically means you have to follow up with an upload of your results to GEDmatch.com. If you are only going to test through one company (cheapskate), you can still compare your results to others on GEDmatch.com who have tested through other platforms, and who have also uploaded their results to this site. It's free. Free is good.

Do it. Do it now.

So I am presenting you here with a chart similar to the one I have posted before in which the percentages of DNA are shown that you have in common with known stated relationships. This chart I give you today shows you the theoretical average of shared DNA you have with known stated relationships in centimorgans. This handy chart was made by Kristina Gow Dunnaway, and she gives permission for its reproduction and personal use. If you publish a book with this chart included and make a ton of money, that's another story, but I will leave copyright law to Judy Russell at Home - The Legal Genealogist.

You will see that the chart uses 6800 cM of autosomal DNA (atDNA) as its base figure for total DNA measured per person. This is the amount tested by FamilyTreeDNA. A more detailed discussion regarding the numbers game, the testing companies, and counting the pesky X-chromosome can be found at the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG)'s wiki page at Autosomal DNA statistics - ISOGG Wiki. I have visited this page so often my browser recognizes it as soon as I type "au" only.

And remember, Mother Nature does not follow the rules set out on either one of the charts that I have given you. These are averages. The numbers are based on a purely theoretical assumption that DNA is passed perpetually in a tidy 50:50 split every generation. It is not. The only true 50:50 split you will ever get is a child compared to his or her parents.

The key to remember is that the larger the number, the more reliable the relationship assessment should be. I knew at the beginning of my search that my mother's father was not the man she thought he was, because she matched her sister by only 26% (1935 cM). There is no way you can make an argument for that being a full-sibling relationship. But as the numbers become smaller and smaller, the known relationship gets fuzzier and fuzzier.

Additionally, remember that if you have cousin marriages in your ancestry or come from a highly admixed population that may have had limited choices for marital partners, due to say religion or perhaps geographical isolation, the numbers become wonkier and less defining. The more families intermarry and their common ancestors' DNA is "reinserted" into their offspring, the more of it will be passed to the present generation. The numbers will be larger than expected.

Remember when I said life was messy?

Get busy setting up the 2015 budget, and make sure there are ample resources set aside for DNA!

Monday, December 29, 2014


Life is full of "What if...." moments.

As a veterinarian, I spent many hours counseling grieving pet owners and crying right alongside them. They were always brimming with heart-wrenching "What Ifs."

What if I brought him to you sooner?
What if I didn't give him those table scraps? 
What if I didn't leave the door open just for that brief moment?
What if I had stayed home with him instead of going on vacation?

The problem with any of these scenarios is that they can never be undone. Every day we choose paths and make decisions based on the information put in front of us at any singular precise fleeting moment. None of us are blessed with the vision of foresight or clairvoyance. But we are all too keenly aware that the path not taken oftentimes would have led to a completely different destination, sometimes a more pleasing or less painful one. So many times I had to console pet owners by reminding them that life is full of these tragic reassessments that will drive you crazy if you let them eat away at your brain and your soul.

I have been very vocal about my disdain for AncestryDNA's decision to withhold hard science from the consumer. Just this week, a 68-year-old Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, woman located her biological siblings via AncestryDNA, but news articles report that she cannot tell if they are full siblings or half siblings. She would know this if she were provided with factual data rather than a warm, fuzzy "You're Related!" message from AncestryDNA. And since this information is not provided, most people who test through them do not even know that such information can tell them so much more. So, like this woman, many just guess at relationships, or are left wondering. If you don't know what you're missing, you don't miss it.

With that being said, what if I had tested with AncestryDNA first, or at least had not waited so long to cough up the $200 for two tests for my mother and me?

Harold James "Brighton" Daugherty had tested with AncestryDNA at the beginning of 2014. Almost at the same time I learned through 23andMe that my mother's father was not the man she thought he was. An immediate broad-sweeping testing of my mother with all three companies would have immediately given me the answer that instead took eight months, over a thousand dollars in DNA tests, and countless hours of valuable time. Ironically, my path to success would have looked much like the left side of the opening graphic. 

And this blog would have been a hell of a lot shorter!

I used to scoff at the human-interest news stories that showed a wide-eyed innocent adoptee who, after testing with a DNA company, immediately finds his mother/father/sibling was already in the database.

Pfffffttthhhhh.... that never really happens!

Oh...ummm...yeah, I guess it does.

From the onset of this search, I had never dreamed of finding a living person. My grandmother would be approaching her 98th birthday if she were alive today. At the beginning of this journey I teased my mother that I'd find her some withered centenarian on whose knee she could sit and say "Hi Daddy!" We had many a good laugh over that one. 

Brighton Daugherty didn't get the daughter on his knee, but he got the "Hi Daddy!"

What if I had a Schrader who had been willing to test from the onset of my request?

I would have received an unanticipated result that indicated any of the children of the three Schrader brothers I had asked were my mother's second cousins, sharing approximately 3.125% of their DNA with each other. If a Schrader were my grandfather as initially suspected, any of these people would have been my mother's first cousins or half-siblings, sharing 12.5 to 25.0% of their DNA with each other. A good scientist who obtains results that do not fit his hypothesis reevaluates his premise. This would have sent me back to look for more Daugherty children and reminded me that John Henry Daugherty's 1939 obituary referenced unaccounted for grandchildren. I said before in this blog, I always get my man. I would have ferreted out Harold James Daugherty eventually.

What if I knew Ira Daugherty had two sons from the onset of my search?

If I had not dismissed Ira Daugherty as childless, and as a source for sons, and therefore candidates for my grandfather, I would have had a starting list of eight men instead of six. Their presence in South Bend, Indiana, might have made them more viable candidates than the ones living in Niles or Dowagiac, Michigan. Brothers, Thomas Richard Daugherty and Harold James Daugherty, would have definitely been men I sought out before some of the others.

But would I have jumped on Harold James Daugherty as the prime candidate for my mother's father? Probably not. His muster rolls from the Navy deceivingly appear to place him on the U.S.S. Franklin D. Roosevelt at the time of my mother's conception. And since he was only nineteen years old at the time, did I think my twenty-nine year old grandmother would have been wooed by a punk in a uniform?

Apparently she was.

Once I thought about it, Frank Strukel was only twenty-three when he met my grandmother, so she was partial to those fresh faced soldiers in post-World War II regalia.

As previously mentioned, the normal gestation for a human infant would indicate that my mother was conceived sometime between 26 March and 7 April 1946.

Harold James Daugherty appeared on the United States Navy muster roll for the U.S.S. Franklin D. Roosevelt for the period ending 7 June 1946.

But a good researcher pays attention to details. "Period Ending" is as deceiving as AncestryDNA's "Close Family to First Cousin" relationship range. For the latter, I had initially assumed that Harold James "Brighton" Daugherty was within a 12.5% match of me, and likely my great-uncle. If he were really my grandfather he would have garnered a more closely related match category. Analysis of his raw data shows I carry over 26% of his DNA within my cells, but having just entered into AncestryDNA's world, I was unaware at the time that this is the next highest category of match after "Parent, Child, Immediate Family Member." Apparently a grandfather is "close family," but not "immediate family." Comments to my blog from many people indicated that their grandparents/grandchildren fall within this same category.

For the former, the muster roll for the "period ending June 7, 1946" indicated only that Harold James Daugherty was present on the ship since the previous muster, which looks to have occurred every three months. This last muster roll indicated that Seaman Second Class Daugherty "Tran. to RS & AGC, BRKLYN, NY FFT PSC Great Lakes, Ill. for separation." I am not exceptionally good with naval acronyms, but apparently my grandfather was transferred to the recruiting station and armed guard center in Brooklyn, New York, for further transfer to the Personnel Service Center in Great Lakes, Illinois, for separation. No date was given.

The U.S.S. Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived in Brooklyn, New York, on 21 March 1946 for post-shakedown alterations after sailing to Rio de Janeiro for the inauguration of Brazilian President Eurico G. Dutra and then stopping in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for a change in command. The ship left Brooklyn for Norfolk, Virginia, where it arrived on 10 April 1946.

Apparently, Jim Daugherty (as he was called before his Hawaiian days and before he adopted the moniker of Brighton) left the ship while it was in dock in Brooklyn and was then sent to the naval station just north of Chicago during those last ten days of March. A little paper work, a slap on the back, all military forms in order, every box ticked, all Ts crossed and Is dotted, and Jim Daugherty is on a train back home to South Bend, Indiana, by the end of March, or perhaps the first week of April, 1946.

Thank you Grandma Helen for welcoming home the troops.

And just as an aside, my mother's tests came back from AncestryDNA on 24 October 2014, six days after I had made the connection via GEDmatch.com. She and Brighton Daugherty are classified as a "Parent, Child, Immediate Family Member" match, as she is with me.

Do I wish I had found my grandfather immediately via this AncestryDNA route?

I'd say yes, only in that I would have had several more months of time with this incredible man. But overall, no, I have deeply treasured the squiggly-lined path to success. I have met incredible people, most who are now firmly classified as my relatives, albeit distantly. I have learned their stories. I have gained a far better understanding of the Daugherty family during their wanderings in Michigan. I have discovered an amazing treasure trove of photographs from distant cousins that I would have never found via a direct discovery of my grandfather, many of which have been used to illustrate this blog in the past. Since I come from an extended family that is more apt to throw things away rather than save them, these photos are priceless.

In addition to adding a very human component to my research, I have vastly improved my knowledge of DNA usage for genealogical research. Who could have asked for a better classroom than real life? And look at the amount of Daugherty DNA I have to play with now!

So where do I go from here?

"The Grand Finale" was definitely a misnomer for my last blog post. Although it was definitely akin to the multiple colorful loud blasts of fireworks at the end of a Fourth of July display, it merely was the culmination of my DNA search and the identification of a man who was previously unknown. But the story is far from over. Not only did I find a grandfather very much alive, but I found one that is incredibly fascinating. 

Don't get me wrong, everyone has a tale to tell. I firmly believe that. We all have hopes, dreams, aspirations, joys, failures, loves, tragedies, interests, and memories to share. They are all unique and fascinating and stories that desperately need to be told. But by outward appearances, many of the men of my grandfather's generation came home from World War II, settled down with their new brides, raised a handful of children, secured their steady and reliable 9-to-5 jobs where they worked for forty to fifty years, and retired to a life of fishing, televised football, coffee with the boys at the local diner or games of bridge at the nearby senior center.

Harold James "Brighton" Daugherty is definitely not one of those men.

For every jaw-dropping adventure I am told about this man, I uncover a previously unknown secret about him as well. I am learning more and more everyday about Ira Daugherty and Katherine Tries, the parents who molded the man, and who were possessed of their own seriously significant personal flaws. Brighton Daughtery is a man who has drunk thirstily and heartily of the Cup of Life and has embraced the true meaning of carpe diem

Sometimes free-thinkers and adventurers happily take others on their joy ride, and at other times they drop off their startled passengers on a random street corner to continue their ride without them. 

Brighton Daugherty has had his fair share of passengers.

How do you tell the story of a man still living? Will my assessments be fair? Will my recounting of his life be accurate? Will I broadcast information via this blog that was meant to be buried forever in the sands of time? But if so, aren't the good and the bad things we do part of what defines us as a person? I never want to read a biography that's all propagandist garbage extolling only a person's virtues, nor do I want to read a bitter tell-all exposé that reveals only the bad.

Do I write a chronological tale, or write about the stories as I discover them? My first "meeting" with my grandfather was a FaceTime chat via my computer. My first request: "Start from birth and work forward. I want to know everything about you." Regrettably, it just isn't that easy.

As this blog moves forward, it may take the form of an intricate Hollywood drama, with tales of conversations with my grandfather interspersed with flashbacks and memories. Sprinkled within will be the fruits of my research uncovering the facts that support -- or refute -- the stories I learn.

But likely we need to skip ahead a couple months to meeting the man in person who has been the focus of this blog from the very beginning. Thirty-two years after meeting her mother, my mother finally met her father.

"Hoosier Daddy?"

Harold James "Brighton" Daugherty is.

Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride.