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.


  1. Cool post! Digging, digging, digging . . . the life of a genealogist with the perfect family tree.

    1. Oy, my family definitely has the most IMPERFECT family tree I have ever seen! Kinda like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree.

  2. I know we will eventually meet Brighton, and I'm looking forward to that. (I imagine it might be a bit trickier to write about a living grandfather than about long-deceased ancestors.) Meanwhile, I'm enjoying the details. This post was especially interesting to me, since there were a lot of name changes (legally or not) in my own family. I always hated my own name, too, though I never did anything about it.

  3. Oh my. I discovered your blog exactly ten minutes ago and I keep finding uncanny connections! I just got here from 23andMe, pursuing a connection that I gather is no longer part of your personal family tree: the presumed grandfather who was part of the Ċ trukelj/Strukel family in Slovenia and the American midwest. And now I am reading about your real grandfather and discover he was born on N. Paulina St in Chicago, three blocks from where my husband and I lived in the 1980s. Too much! Fascinating blog. I am sorry we don't seem to have a Slovenian connection. Strukel was the maiden name of my maternal great-grandmother whose story I've spent a lot of time tracking down. This summer, I even visited the tiny hamlet where she was born in Slovenia.

    1. Blair - I am part of the Strukel line - would love to connect rkrofcheck@aol.com

  4. I love these sentences: "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."

    Wow - so well said! That is precisely why I love geneaology.

  5. Lets make it a 3-fer ( posts in a week) :) Can't wait to read about Brighton finding out about his new family and your family reunion!

  6. Might I inquire . . . your blog says your mother's maiden name was Tries - with a "T" but the certificate clearly shows an "F" - Fries (which I'd think much more German than "Tries") Presumably you have other documents available but this seems an unlikely error for the clerk to make - I've even attempted saying "Tries" with a Germanic accent and it doesn't work well . . .

    1. The name Tries (and its sound-alike equivalent Dries) is a centuries-old established surname found in Cochem on the Moselle River in Rheinland from which my great-grandmother, Katherine (Tries) Daugherty, descends. This is a good illustration of the fallibility of American records in dealing with German names, or frankly in this case, more probably a result of a clerical transcription error.

    2. Thanks - I certainly agree with both parts of the last sentence (my "eppler" family became "aplar" and other variations in census and other records.) But then I must ask, did you know it was "Tries" prior to receiving the cert or did you learn the actual name at a later date (in which case you might well have been following another false lead until the light bulb went off.)

    3. There were many other documents regarding this family that indicated the name was Tries.

  7. What an amazing story. I can't wait for the next chapter and can't imagine the patience it took to wait to meet your grandfather. I wonder if you have an opinion of which DNA test to take if I am seeking relations in Europe? I have never considered the need for a DNA test before but your story has given me hope that DNA may help me find relations of my grandfather. Until last year I though he was only child but have since discovered that he had eleven siblings. He immigrated to Canada in 1926 and unfortunately the German colony where he was born (now Nova Topola Serbia) was evacuated during WWII and the colonists never returned.