Sunday, December 21, 2014

Researching and Driving

Source: Wikimedia Commons, USMC, 2011

After making the discovery that my close genetic match on AncestryDNA was to a Harold Daugherty, a previously unknown son of Ira Daugherty (1886-1943), I was overcome with a whole host of emotions. Elation, shock, excitement, exuberance... these all have to be put on that list. But frankly one of the biggest was relief. Thank God I no longer had to deal with Schraders, dream about Schraders, schmooze the Schraders, cajole the Schraders, beg the Schraders, or kidnap a Schrader to find the answers I had been seeking and so close to finding.

Add regret to that list of emotions, too. I had just spent $400 on four more DNA tests the night before in anticipation of a long hard battle getting far-flung Schraders to test for me. And believe me, I chase dead people for a living; this is not a small amount of money. I have no supplemental spousal income, and I come from a long line of white trash, so there are no legacies awaiting me in the future. I could have put that money toward something else... like heat for the winter. Food. Cat litter. Extravagant luxuries like that.

Ooooh, but I had four DNA tests to use on other people now! Joy!

But I digress....

I sent back my first email reply via Ancestry's mail system to the person managing Harold Daugherty's DNA account at 8:43 a.m. Friday morning, 17 October 2014. This was in reply to their email asking if I was possibly related to the Daugherty or the Tries family that was sent to me nearly two hours previously. I did not go all bonkers letting the person know that I had surmised "H.D." stood for Harold Daugherty, nor did I go into a long accounting of my search for my mother's father and my findings related to the Daugherty family thus far. I didn't want to scare the contact away, and frankly I was still fleshing out the details of this newly revealed connection to Ira Daugherty. And I was frantically trying to pack my car to leave.

My response was merely: "I still do not have access to the family tree on AncestryDNA."

The previous response had indicated that the administrator had unlocked the restricted access to H.D.'s family tree, but it was still locked to me. I wanted to see that my assumptions were correct before launching into my story. Regrettably, there was no immediate response to this return email. I was hoping to get some sort of confirmation to my suspicions before I headed to Dayton, Ohio.

But what I did do immediately was to call my mother.

By this time, my mother's enthusiasm for the search was pretty much nil. My talk of DNA matches, second cousins once removed, Daughertys and Schraders, and plans for future testing had long since fallen on barely tolerant ears. I had given my mother a family chart showing the connections within the Daugherty family, complete with percent genetic similarities of those tested, and how the results pointed to nobody other than the Schrader brothers. Among my explanatory notes on the side, I had ended with "No other person on this planet [other than the Schrader brothers] could match these numbers and be Carol Crumet's father. The only other exception would be if one of the Daugherty brothers had a son unbeknownst to me (or to them) who then went on to be the father of Carol Crumet."


Upon handing my mother this chart a few days previously, she set it aside with, "I will look at it later."

When I had last called to go over the chart with her and launched into my Operation Schrader DNA plans, it was met with an audible sigh over the phone. I testily responded that if she was so utterly bored with this search that had taken over my life, I would be more than happy to hang up. She begrudgingly listened. But I am certain if asked, she couldn't name a single Schrader brother by name.

After giving her a string of paternal candidates, each dying younger than the one before, she was left with a trio of dead brothers whose families were at best, uncooperative, and at worst, hostile. And since the man who was her biological father had no real relationship or connection with her mother and probably had no recollection of her after possibly just a single night together, what did it matter? I think she placated me more for the genealogical aspect of the search and its ramifications upon my research than in any eager anticipation of a happy ending.

But with this new piece of information, and with the name and identity of her father, the response just had to be different.

Now mind you, as a genealogist, I work for myself. For twenty-two years I had worked as a veterinarian that required my presence at my practice by 7:30 a.m. every morning. I have never gone to bed before 1 a.m., and thus I have been sleep deprived for well over two decades. The only reason I was awake at 8:43 a.m. on a Friday morning was because I had to be on the road. My normal sleeping hours are usually in the 4 a.m. to noon ballpark, and I get this trait from my mother. So after not hearing an immediate response from the AncestryDNA connection, I called my mother at the last possible moment before leaving the house in hopes that she would be up and about.

At 9:55 a.m., there was no answer. I left a frantic message to call me immediately with no verbiage as to the reason for such urgency. 

I dismantled my computer display, packed my final bag, stuffed my new Daugherty notes in my pockets, and I hopped in the car for Dayton, Ohio.

But how on Earth was I supposed to be concentrating on the road with a mind stuffed with new possibilities and the very likely possibility that my great-uncle was still living? And even though his brother, Thomas Daugherty - likely my grandfather - was not alive, I knew now that there was someone intimately related to him that could at least tell me about the man. In the brief amount of time I had between revelation and driving, I had discovered a city directory entry for 1945-1946 that indicated Harold J. Daugherty and Thomas R. Daugherty, both employed by the United States Navy, had lived together on Dunham Street in South Bend, Indiana.

I fantasized about the conversation.

"Oh yes, I remember my brother coming home one spring night after we returned home from the Navy. He had met this hot number from Elkhart. I think he said her name was Helen. He thought she was quite something, but regrettably nothing ever came of it."

Okay, fine, like I said, it was a fantasy. I am sure an 87-year-old man likely forgets what he had for breakfast, let alone recalls who his brother was having sex with in the spring of 1946. But it's my fantasy. Don't judge. 

I couldn't shake the immediacy of the situation and my need - no, my unquenchable thirst - for information, so I logged onto via my phone... while driving.

Yes, I am well aware this is an unwise move. Yes, I am also well aware that texting and driving in Ohio is illegal. Yes, I am also well aware that all of this could have waited until I checked into my hotel in Dayton. Yes, I am also completely and fully aware that these findings, no matter how relevant to my search nor however important or revealing, are of no use to a dead man.

Bad, bad, bad genealogist.

Nonetheless, I sent one final Ancestry email to the administrator of the presumed DNA profile of Harold Daugherty at 10:33 a.m., having been on the road an excruciatingly long twenty minutes. I just wanted to cover my bases in case I could have more knowledge, more quickly, with more answers, now.  Now.  NOW.

"I am traveling today and responding by phone. Can you call me today at 555-555-5555? If I am unavailable, please leave a message with the best time to return your call. Thanks!"

Again, I didn't want to scare anyone off with too much detail, and frankly, I can barely chew gum and walk simultaneously, so that was a pretty wordy text for driving.

And no, you're not getting my number from this blog. I can't find everybody's father!

I called my mother again at 11:06 a.m. Again, voice mail. I announced that I would be calling roughly every ten minutes until she answered her phone, which I repeated again at 11:15 a.m. At 11:19 a.m. she returned my call wanting to know what the emergency was (but more likely to shut me up). I laid out the details as I knew them up to that point, but frankly a lot of it was conjecture, as I knew very little about Thomas and Harold Daugherty other than their recently discovered existence. I told her I was waiting for the contact person from to call me.

Which happened whilst I was chatting with my mother.

I hung up with my mother and called my voice mail immediately. The name of the woman who managed the profile of "H.D." was Donna, and she indicated that she had a busy day ahead of her and would be available to talk after 5:30 p.m. that night.

5:30 p.m.!?!?! 

I did NOT just text and drive to have to wait for answers for another SIX hours! And I had dinner plans that night with association members of the group I was lecturing to the following day. I agonized over calling back immediately, or being respectful of her wishes and her busy schedule and to talk later. I wrestled with the options, but on hindsight and reviewing the time stamps on my cell phone, I apparently endured this tumultuous internal struggle for a grand total of 55 seconds.

I called.

Donna had known Harold James Daugherty, whom she called "Brighton," for over twenty years. They both had watched a documentary by Spencer Wells about The Genographic Project, sponsored by the National Geographic Society, at the end of 2013. Donna, a hobbyist genealogist, was intrigued by the ancestral identities encoded in our DNA. Brighton had a very limited knowledge of his extended family background. Together they ordered DNA tests from AncestryDNA and submitted their samples at the beginning of 2014, just as much to seek answers regarding their ancestry, as it was on a curious lark to see what their results would tell them.

While Brighton Daugherty's results were tabulated by AncestryDNA at the beginning of 2014, I was finding out my mother's father was not the man she thought he was via 23andMe.

Over the next 42 minutes, I explained to Donna the roller coaster ride that had been my life over the past eight months in search of my grandfather, and that I had already narrowed the field down to the Daugherty generation that Thomas and Brighton belonged to. She was equally as excited to find someone so closely related to Brighton, as he had very little family currently in his life, nor had he ever been particularly bonded to them when he was younger. I probably knew more about the Daughertys than he did.

Regrettably she knew very little about Brighton's brother, Thomas Daugherty, other than his existence, and one photo she had seen shortly before his death when his body and countenance had been ravaged by a stroke. She knew only that he had died in 1997 in Florida, and that Brighton had visited him there many years before. Thomas had been married twice, and he had no children of his own. He had adopted his first wife's daughter who was five years old when her mother married Thomas Daugherty, and he lovingly raised her as his very own, but there were no other biological siblings to test if my mother truly proved to be his daughter. But in addition to Brighton, Thomas's second wife was still living, and at the age of eighty years, she too could tell me more about her late husband once we got confirmation of what seemed already a done deal regarding my mother's paternity.

Donna and I both ended our conversation with excited and joyful exuberance at the twists of fate that had caused our paths to cross, and I hung up enormously relieved that I had found an ally in the final steps of my search who was truly eager to help me, unlike the Schraders who were quite the opposite.

I explained the deficiency in AncestryDNA's reported results for those who took a scientific and factual approach to assessing the DNA profiles of our matches, and I asked her to upload Brighton's raw data to where I could compare it to mine and my mother's previous 23andMe test results already there. I also informed her that I was still waiting to obtain my mother's AncestryDNA results, but that I expected them rapidly on the heels of my own.

Frankly, it was just a matter of days before all my work over the past several months would come to fruition, and I would have an answer to my quest. A name for my grandfather. And a living soul to tell me all about him.

I called my mother with an update, and she too was cautiously eager to hear the outcome.

And with that, I arrived at my hotel in Dayton, Ohio.

Nothing makes a drive go more quickly than finding a grandfather. 


  1. I'm on tenterhooks, just can't imagine how you are coping with all this. Don't take too long to post an update!

  2. More, more, more...waiting feels like watching commercials in the middle of a good show!

  3. It seems you might be open to paying work. I sent you a query to (from ) a couple of weeks ago with no response. I just assumed you were too busy to respond but you might want to doublecheck your points of contact etc. if you actually want paying work.

  4. Yes, Michael..I also am wondering what your rates would be to help with problems similar to the one you are solving for your mother. I understand you may not want to seem to commercialize this intriguing and warmhearted blog but maybe you could link to another site where you spell out the paid work you do , if indeed you work with individuals, as well as lecturing and so on.

  5. Da dum, da da da' dum, da da dum - like waiting for the next installment of Game of Thrones! Yet another good cliff-hanger, Michael! -- NatLevinson

  6. very interesting! and someone else with my sleep pattern, ;)

    Just be careful about that "close-1st cousin" designation. It's entirely possible Brighton is your grandfather with that (my own grandmother is designated as such, and it's entirely annoying; they make it sound as if it's not possible to tell the difference between a parent and a first cousin).

    Anyway, congrats on finding your grandfather and from reading your blog may I say I'm glad for you that it's not an immediate connection to any of the Schrader's.

    I myself am currently attempting to help someone in a similar situation (though for a missing grandfather's father). My grandfather and her mom/aunt match over about 2-2.5%. The DNA didn't really go away in recent generations, and for now I believe it's a second cousin/half first-cousin 1x removed relationship. Luckily there are only 5 candidates.

  7. Are we going to get a Christmas present? It is a tantalizing tale thank you.

  8. All I want for Christmas . . . is to find out who your grandfather is!! Thank you for sharing your roller-coaster journey with us.

  9. My experience with ancestry dna is that their ranges tend to be conservative, and the closest estimate is most likely. So, for example, someone who pops up as a 3rd to 4th cousin is most likely a 3rd cousin (or someone with that same percentile).

    My son, his father and I, and my father all tested on On my son's list of matches, his father and I are matches designated as "Parent, Child - immediate family member". His grandfather is designated as "close family - first cousins."

    I strongly suspect that you have found your grandfather in Brighton Daugherty. Your mother's results will make it more clear, and, if you can get them to put their results on gedmatch, you can see the actual data and it will confirm it for you!

    You and Brighton need to chat about his 1945 adventures!

    Congratulations on getting to this final step!

    1. I would expect at least two more installments.

      It gets harder when writing conclusions, particularly if living persons are quite closely involved.

  10. Just to clarify my previous comment (sorry about what aim did to my name), "close family" would be the 25 percenters: grandfather, nephew, uncle, half-brother, double cousin. Ancestry is indicating that he is most likely in that group, i.e. that Brighton is more likely your grandfather, not a great-uncle.

    I"m so excited for you! I've been chasing an elusive paternal ancestor (my kids' grandpa) for months and it can get very frustrating!


  11. How about blogging while wrapping - c'mon Michael! ;-)

  12. Forwarded this post to my cousins, along with the recommendation that they read your blog archive. One wrote back that she missed your lecture at the Tazewell, IL annual meeting due to a conflicting band performance by her granddaughter!

    She was like, "I can't believe I missed him!" and wondered about your schedule this year. I'm hoping you'll be back to central (or maybe even Southern) IL, or maybe Southern IN, and we can come together. Fingers crossed...

    Sharon E