Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Ryders, the Scharichs, and the Daughertys

Bertha (Daugherty) Ryder Rieder Prestidge Merrifield

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 what 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. Although this looks innocently like Robert/Rollie had found work away from home, in reality he was imprisoned at the reformatory in Ionia for car theft, the result of a joy ride in a vehicle he took without permission in 1918. This was not just an innocent prank gone badly. Robert/Rollie had already had numerous run-ins with the law, mostly regarding theft of scrap metal from his various places of employment that he then tried selling to other businesses.

In 1919, "Emily Schrader" is living at the same Kalamazoo address as Edward E. and Lavina Schrader, with no Robert/Rollie. He was likely still in prison, as his sentence delivered on 20 August 1918 in Kalamazoo was for imprisonment for a period of six months to five years. But 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.


  1. Michael, I am really enjoying your story and look forward to every new episode. Thanks.

  2. Thanks for this Michael, an interesting history of my mother, Dorothy' s family. I add only one comment/correction which comes from a conversation between my Grandmother Emily and myself. I'm sure you followed legal records as much as possible, which often are misrepresented versions of cloudy truth. My Grandpa Rollie' s run in with law began not with his stealing scrap metal and building materials, but with his tearing down of old buildings on a local doctors farm. At the doctors request Rollie agreed to accept the materials as payment for his labor in removing the buildings. Upon completion of his task the greedy doctor submitted a police report against him in order to profit both from Rollie' s labor, and demand the cash Rollie had sold the buildings for. Grandma further, sadly, reported to me that when Gramps died, it was the Professionals, doctors, lawyers, and such that refused to pay their debts recorded in his tattered book of accounts when approached to do so. The honest hardworking middle-class folk gladly paid. Leaving a lasting impression on Grandma as to where true character lies among our neighbors.

    1. As I have mentioned a number of times in the blog, there are always many more sides to the "truth". That is why it is always good to hear the same story from multiple perspectives. I appreciate you sharing your story with me. Sadly, double-crossses like that don't surprise me at all, but it certainly provides valuable perspective. Thanks!