Friday, December 5, 2014

Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo, Catch a Schrader by the Toe...

Theodore David "Ted" Schrader

Using the DNA of strangers as my road map, I had almost conclusively placed my mother, Carol, as a great-grandchild of John Henry Daugherty and Emma Augusta Jonas. With the DNA test results of Russell Hath's niece obtained on 1 October 2014, the verdict by process of elimination was that her grandmother was LaVina (Daugherty) Schrader.

As expected, Russell Hath was not my mother's father. His niece would have shown an approximate 12.5% genetic similarity in her autosomal DNA profile if this were so. Instead, they shared 2.08% of their DNA in common with one another, which would place them in the ballpark of the theoretically expected 1.563%  similarity they would have if they were second cousins, once removed. And if my mother's missing father was a Schrader, this is exactly what they would be.

And as an aside, for those who are reading this as an informal tutorial on finding a missing parent or grandparent using DNA, the one other thing I did with this genetic information was to compare it to the rest of the people I had already tested. The figures received from anyone when compared to my mother mean nothing if the person does not fit appropriately when compared to known relatives! This whole blog came about because of a surprise just like that. Checking this Hath niece to those already tested showed her closest match to be with Kenneth Ryder at 2.94%, which fits with the expected 3.125% match since they are half-first cousins, once removed. Her similarity to Brian Ryder was 0.70% with an expected value of 0.781% with their relationship of half-second cousin, once removed. Add one more generation removed from that to place Briana Rieman in the picture, and the match should be theoretically 0.391%. It was 0.36%. I do so love when numbers work in my favor. Everyone fit as expected. So my mother's connection to the niece of Russell Hath was confirmed as a valid one in the bigger Daugherty picture.

The genetic jigsaw puzzle was coming together, but I was still missing the most crucial piece I had been searching for since February. Who was my mother's father?

All the DNA results pointed to a grandson of John and Emma Daugherty, and LaVina was the only one known to have supplied any sons for consideration, so at the same time I contacted Russell Hath's niece, I contacted some Schraders via my primary hunting grounds: Facebook.

My honed and polished "Begging-For-DNA" letter was suddenly inadequate. I realized that the ramifications of this test would bring a half-sibling to complete strangers, which could be understandably jarring. Until now, the DNA I had asked for was for the purpose of guidance down a path, as in the case of Ken Ryder and Paul Robinson, or to identify a possible father that had died decades previously with no surviving offspring, as with Rick Denney and Russell Hath's niece. The emotional impact was certainly not as high in those previous situations. But I wanted to be honest and transparent in my requests, so I had to subtly change the tone of my letter to being more deferential to such potently shocking news.

Although all three Schrader brothers had since passed away, they had done so in the recent past. These were men who left families still harboring relatively fresh, fond memories, and if my mother proved to be the child of Theodore or Edward Schrader it would mean revealing an extramarital affair. This could get messy.

The eldest of the three Schrader brothers was Theodore David "Ted" Schrader. Born in 1912 in South Bend, Indiana, he grew up in Niles, Michigan, in the extended Daugherty block on Pine Street. Married at nineteen to his fifteen-year-old bride, June, in 1931, he spent his entire life in Niles, Michigan, working for forty-two years at Tyler Refrigeration Corporation before retiring in 1973. He died in 1993 in Niles, Michigan. His ability to stay grounded in one location his entire life lies in shocking contrast to the generations before him. He raised four children, born widely spaced between 1932 and 1949, all living. Only his two sons lived locally. I located a daughter-in-law on Facebook. She was my chosen representative to obtaining "Ted DNA."

Edward "Ed" Schrader was born in 1915 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and he too grew up on Pine Street, leaving the Schrader household upon his marriage in 1940. Again, his ability to stay married to one woman and to remain in Niles his entire life differs from the patterns set forth for generations before him. He died in 1996 in Niles. He fathered one son and three daughters between 1942 and 1951, although one daughter had since passed away. I was buoyed by the fact that his son and a grandson had family trees posted on, so I anticipated an easy sell on this line of genealogical connectedness. I contacted the son via Ancestry's proprietary mail system, and he would be my source for "Ed DNA."

Joseph Russell "Joe" Schrader was the last of the brothers for my consideration, and ideally the best candidate of the three. Born in 1920 in Dowagiac, Michigan, he did a little more wandering than his older two brothers. Having joined the Army on 1 June 1942 from Kalamazoo, he was sent to the air corps training base in Spokane, Washington, where he met and married his first wife, Doris Arlene Walker, later that year. Upon his return to Michigan with his new bride, he chose Battle Creek as his home rather than his old home town, and it was here that he and his wife divorced in 1945, having had no children together. He moved back to the area, and like his brother Ted, spent forty years working for Tyler Refrigeration in Niles. He remarried in 1950, and spent the remainder of his life in Dowagiac, Michigan, where he died in 2009. He and his second wife had one son and three daughters between 1952 and 1961. The three daughters were all living in California, but the son was still living in Dowagiac, and he had an identifiable Facebook account. I favored proximity in finding a relative to test so that I could collect the saliva sample in person and keep control of the test kit. I did not want to gamble on a test kit being lost in transit or deal with a participant reconsidering and throwing the test (and a hundred bucks) away. The additional bonus of having the son living nearby was that I could also utilize his DNA to perform a Y-DNA analysis, which would be the presumed paternal lineage of my mother if Joe Schrader was confirmed to be her father. This man in Dowagiac would be my source for "Joe DNA".

Of course, I favored Joe Schrader as my missing grandfather, as he was unmarried between 1945 and 1950. With my mother's conception in the spring of 1946, this gave him the opportunity to be "available" to do so. And although I am not naive enough to think marriage precludes the insemination of someone other than your wife, common societal norms favored Joe as the primary target of my search. I was also wise enough to realize that it was unlikely that all three families would embrace the situation warmly and come running to give me a DNA sample. But even if I could get one to participate, the numbers would be closer and closer to ruling out one brother and implicating another.

All my emails went out the third week of August, 2014.

The response was disheartening.

No... no... I take that back. The response was horrific.

The Ted response was prompt. But it was as brief as it was prompt. Two sentences. "How much does it cost?" And "we really have no information on the Daugherty family." I responded immediately that there would be no costs to them whatsoever and voiced my enthusiasm at their rapid response. There was no reply. Two more nudges via email over the following month. Still no reply.

The Ed response was non-existent. I am not a fan of the mail system. Even though I use that site daily, I rarely use their on-site email, nor do I keep an eagle eye upon it. I had the home phone number of Ed's son who had a family tree posted on there, so I followed up with a phone call to his home in Niles. I figured we could bond on a genealogical level, especially since he had some grievous errors in his family tree. I got his voice mail. I identified myself, referred the recipient of my message to my email waiting for him, and left some tantalizing bait regarding new information I could supply for his family tree. There was no response.

The Joe response was the most unsettling. The son I had located on Facebook appeared not to be a frequent visitor or poster to the site, so I sent a copy of the email to his son as well.  I asked him to please direct his father's attention to the message I had sent to his Facebook mailbox if he was not in the habit of checking it frequently. The son never replied. But the grandson did so quite promptly.

"My grandfather had more children than just my father. I don't think you are going to get a DNA sample out of anyone."

My response indicated that I was aware of the presence of Joe Schrader's other children, but that his father's sibling all lived in California, and that I had contacted him first because of his proximity. Of course, I gushed with appreciation over his response and asked him if I could supply any information that would allay his family's reluctance to test.

"We all feel this would be useless and futile. None of us are interested in shaking the family tree. I have contacted the rest of the family. No[ne] of us are interested. Based upon the date of 1946 I can tell you that you can eliminate him. I will not elaborate further. Not going to happen. Sorry."

I get anxious even now rereading that response.

My emotions then, as now, were mixed. My email reply was effused with gratitude for his response and consideration, and I urged him and his family to contact me if they had any further questions. He may have slammed the door on the prospect of testing, but I wanted him to be clearly aware that I was still waiting on the other side of it. And of course, I was somewhat empathetic. I understood the inherently bizarre nature of my request and the emotional response that could come from the results of it. I was also a bit confused. Joe was the only Schrader brother whose actions in impregnating my grandmother would have not been scandalous. Joe was unmarried and between wives. I would have expected a more dramatic response from the children of the other two brothers, but not Joe's. And I was upset and saddened that this obstacle would be an enormous one to surmount. "I have contacted the rest of the family." What did that mean? Aunts? Uncles? Cousins? How many of the Schraders did he shut down in the wake of that email, and who could I contact now without information coming back to him and provoking an even more pointed response?

But yeah, I was freakin' angry.

"Useless and futile"? To whom? My mother's desire to know her identity and half of the lineage from which she arose seemed to me anything but useless and futile. Everyone should have the right to connect to their past and to know their own story. This grandson of Joe Schrader certainly had the right to decline his assistance in that search for my mother's identity, but I hadn't come this far to have my journey labeled "useless and futile."

And I was incredulous. How would this person, born thirty-three years after the conception of my mother, claim to have any idea where his grandfather might have been on one singular night in the spring of 1946?

My whole plan for identifying my mother's Schrader father needed to be reworked. And it needed to be done cautiously. Was the lack of response from the Ed and Ted camp a direct ramification of the negative Joe intervention? Or was it simply out of disinterest? Do I push gently but persuasively, or do I look for other people?

The search was far from over. I hadn't come this far to be shut down without a final answer, nor do I ever quit in the face of adversity. If anything, it recharges my battery and motivates me further.

But even as I was formulating my next move, the story got even stranger.


  1. I've been following your blog since the beginning and can't wait to hear the rest. I'm so glad you've been posting more frequently! The story is riveting!

    1. I second that! I look forward to reading the rest of the story; it is fascinating!

    2. Thanks so much to Judy Russell for alerting her readers to this fantastic story! I can't wait to hear the rest. I also have tried to get other distant family members to do DNA testing in vain, at least to this point. Have had a couple matches that were incredible though including my cousin in New Zealand! Still trying to figure out how his side got there.

  2. Anxious for the next installment! This is a nail-biting story!

  3. Very nicely written, Michael! And what suspense! Amazing!

  4. I binge read your blog yesterday and today. Fascinating! Can't wait for the latest update. You write beautifully!

    1. I'm in the same boat as you manners22. I am thoroughly addicted (I can thank Judy Russell aka The Legal Genealogist for that, as she trumpeted this blog in her own blog yesterday. Maybe I will get to bed at a decent hour this morning now that I am all caught up. Michael, this a trip! I will be inflicting you on everyone I know. Whether they are into genealogy or not, this is a riveting whodunnit.

  5. Jesus Christ on a bike, I can't handle the suspense

  6. You're a great storyteller Michael, and I eagerly await the next instalment. My 1st thought was that this candidate may have been "confined" in some capacity in 1946, which might elicit a reaction like what you received.

  7. My thoughts also, Rhonda. Now we are past the first of October. Even if you got a sample it would not be available yet unless, Michaell, you have pull somewhere!!! This is like waiting for the phone to ring when I was 15. . .. Come on with the rest of the story. You cannot be that far from today!

  8. I must admit, I had seen the title of your blog "out there", but having no known Hoosier connections, I had not not read any of your posts. Having just finished a binge (thanks to Judy Russell's recommendation), I have rectified that very LARGE mistake. I'm hooked (and a subscriber).

  9. Wow! this is a nail biter. It's also an incredible tutorial on autosomal dna. The light went on my little brain. I get it! Thanks.

  10. Okay I am on the edge of my seat. Can't wait for the next installment. Man you know how to tell a story!

  11. I'm waiting for the episode where Michael starts collecting these guys' cigarette butts and used drink containers searching for trace DNA :-)

  12. I was alerted to your blog by a good friend. I have read all of your blog entries within the past 48 hours...I want to know more!!! ahhhhh!!!

  13. Dang it. I, like the others, was alerted to your blog by The Legal Genealogist. I wish she had waited six months. Now I'm stuck in real-time along with the others.

  14. Can we send him flowers or bake him a cake or in some other way bribe him. Geeze, I've even looked on Ancestry for the answer to this. A day does not go by that I don't check twice at least . . .I just hope there is an answer. Are we all so wrapped up in this that it feels like it is our life too. Do any of you do that. .. sometimes forget that the episodic journey we go on with some of these tv drama series are not real? Anyway this feels like that. . .that I am just hanging on every day waiting to hear the answer. . .but when we get it, remember, we will not have this to look forward to each day!

  15. Great post Michael! I empathize with you. I haven't delved this far into my DNA, but there is work to be done!

  16. How frustrating for you! I carry a genetic mutation that is harmful to me and from which my biological (maternal) aunt died. But when researching my biological family tree, those remaining on that particular side said they'd "rather not know". I have my theories but it's tricky to develop the stories as you have done so beautifully, when so many have passed away. If nothing else, this blog has persuaded me to do the cheek swab. Thanks for that!