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.


And one of the six was a perfect candidate.


  1. Wow, i've done some family tree myself, and have gotten about where you have, but considering the german ancestry I didn't get any farther, I'm excited to see what else you find out! - were distant cousins!

    1. The Center for Volga German Studies at Concordia University ( is a wonderful source for Volga German genealogy. Also, the American Historical Society of Germans From Russia (

  2. A great read - am very interested in your deductive process.

    1. DNA is a very powerful research tool, and I wanted this blog to help people think their way through how it can help in research dilemmas of all kinds. I am glad you're enjoying the search!

  3. I've been following your blog ever since a member of our little genealogy group posted a link. We're all waiting with baited breath for your next blog post! I, for one, got a delicious little chill down my spine when I read your last line. :)

    I've also got a DNA mystery to puzzle through. I matched with a woman on Gedmatch and we've been trying to figure out the link ever since. But it turns out that either there's a DNA test mismatch which erroneously points to a paternity question, or the initial tests are correct and there really is a paternity question. We'll find out in a few months when the new test comes back.