Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Ryder Candidates

Eugene Joseph Ryder (1875-1946)

We have learned a little bit about Rollie Joseph Ryder's mother, Bertha Daugherty, but what about his father, Eugene Joseph Ryder? He lived as much a nomadic life with a slew of spouses as that of his first wife.

Eugene Joseph Ryder was born 24 March 1875, in Indiana. Sources are unclear where in the state he was born, although one reference indicates Nashville, Brown County, which would be significantly south of where his parents had been living previously. He was the second son of Gideon Ryder and his wife, Isabel Sammons. The father, Gideon, was Canadian-born of New York parents, and his Ryder/Rider lineage stretched back to seventeenth-century Massachusetts. He grew up in a typical eighteenth-century farm family in Keeler, Van Buren County, Michigan, but like his descendants who came after, developed a strong penchant for wanderlust. Gideon may have left Keeler, Michigan, as a young man and spent time in the area of Dowagiac, Cass County, Michigan, as some of his cousins were already here in the 1870s. He likely met and married Isabella Sammons in the early 1870s in Dowagiac, as her family had settled there years before, and it is where she grew to womanhood. But they did not stay there long. Gideon and Isabella's first two children, including Eugene, were born in Indiana in 1873 and 1875, but they had returned to Michigan by the birth of their third in 1877. From there, the family removed to Marshall County, Kansas, where for a time Gideon was a laborer in the town of Beattie. After leaving Kansas, and a brief stay in Nebraska, the family returned to Isabella's home of rural Dowagiac, Cass County, Michigan, where they spent the remainder of their lives.

Son Eugene Joseph Ryder grew up a part of this transient lifestyle, and it was one he embraced and continued until his death. Much like the Daughertys he bounced between many towns and cities in southwestern Michigan working as a moulder. As discussed in a previous blog entry, he first married in 1898 in his home town of Dowagiac, Michigan, to Bertha Daugherty, by whom he had his first son, Rollie, the year after. They separated when Rollie was just an infant, and their divorce was finalized in November 1901. Bertha remarried two days after her divorce was official, and apparently Eugene too had already taken up cohabitation with the woman who would be his second wife. She was his first cousin, Gertrude Belle Carothers. Although Belle gave birth to Gene's second son and only other child, Lyle Joseph Ryder, in 1903, they were not officially married until 9 September 1911, in St. Joseph, Berrien County, Michigan. They moved to rural Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Michigan, near his brother, Leslie Ryder, whose children had fond childhood memories of Uncle Gene and Aunt Belle and cousin Lyle.

But much like his first wife, Bertha Daugherty, Gene never found long-term marital bliss. He and Belle divorced in Battle Creek in 1915, after which Belle remarried and took her son Lyle Joseph Ryder to Rock Island, Illinois. Gene Ryder remarried Viola Stoner in 1915 in Kalamazoo, and divorced her by 1917 when he married Mary Hammer. They divorced in 1922, and he married Mabel Van Tassel in 1930, whom he divorced in 1932. At Gene's death in Kalamazoo in 1946, he was survived by his last wife, Nellie. With or without a wife, Eugene Joseph Ryder, lived wherever he could find work as a moulder. Most of the time he worked in the vicinity of Kalamazoo, Dowagiac, and Battle Creek, Michigan; but he occasionally spent time in the northern part of the state in Traverse City and Cadillac, Michigan.

But since I now had enough preliminary evidence that my mother shared DNA in common with Eugene Joseph Ryder or his first wife, Bertha Daugherty, I had to take a closer look at both their extended families. For my mother to be Kenneth Ryder's second cousin as described previously, one of Eugene's or Bertha's siblings had to be one of my mother's paternal grandparents.

But also recall that mathematically, my mother and Ken Ryder could also be a half-first cousins, once removed, so we have to look closely at Ken Ryder's half-uncle, Lyle Joseph Ryder.

Children and Grandchildren of Gideon and Isabel (Sammons) Ryder
Viable candidates for my mother's father are outlined in blue, click on
the image to enlarge.

Thankfully, although Gideon Ryder and Isabel Sammons were the parents of six children, they were not blessed with a slew of grandchildren for me to assess. And of course, only their grandsons were candidates for my mother's father. Of Gideon and Isabel's children, one son never married. Another son died young. And yet another son fathered only two girls. The only two grandsons who could be my mother's father were Clarence L. Ryder, son of Leslie and Jessie (Moslander) Ryder; or Richard Eugene Buck, son of Robert William and Katherine Emily (Ryder) Buck.

To be Ken Ryder's half-first cousin, once removed, my mother's unknown father would have to be a son of Lyle Joseph Ryder. But Lyle had only two girls who died shortly after birth. So we could eliminate that possibility.

If my mother's DNA was "Ryder DNA" and not "Daugherty DNA" I had only two men who could have been her father. Of these two, Richard Eugene Buck, grew up in and around Kalamazoo, Michigan, and married there in 1930 to Florence Helen Austin. And surprisingly for this family, he remained married to her until her death in 1982. Richard died in 1989. They had no children, and their entire married lives were spent in the Kalamazoo area. It takes about an hour to drive to Kalamazoo, Michigan, so it is reasonably close, but not terribly so. Would a married man in Kalamazoo be in the Elkhart, Indiana, area to meet my grandmother in 1946? 

It was possible. 

Richard Buck's parents were divorced when he was only an infant, and his father, Robert William Buck, spent many years in the state of Wyoming. But he had moved back to the area by 1930, and he settled in Mishawaka, Indiana, where he lived until his death in 1960. Could Richard Eugene Buck have had a secret tryst with my grandmother upon a visit to his father in 1946? 

It was possible. 

And at this stage of the game, I was quite aware that ANYTHING was possible.

But Clarence L. Ryder was a much, much, much better candidate.


  1. What amazes me Michael, is all of this part of the story happened after you started your blog. Did you even have an idea it was going to get this good?

    1. Good observation! It all unfolded as I started telling the story of my mother's birth and adoption. No, I had no idea. "Real life" has only been one step behind the blog all the way. I initially started the blog with the intent of it being a tutorial on genealogists to use DNA, but it really evolved into a "Whodunit?" mystery quickly!

  2. And what a whodunit!!! I've enjoyed every step of the way.

  3. Hi Michael. I just discovered your blog when reviewing Randy's "best of" list for this week. Very interesting story and I will be following it. That's why we love this journey so much, isn't it? So darn interesting. I too have a ton of Michigan connections, thus the name of my own blog Michigan Family Trails. Good luck in your search. And, you mentioned DNA. I just got my own results back this week. Yeah!