Monday, December 29, 2014


Life is full of "What if...." moments.

As a veterinarian, I spent many hours counseling grieving pet owners and crying right alongside them. They were always brimming with heart-wrenching "What Ifs."

What if I brought him to you sooner?
What if I didn't give him those table scraps? 
What if I didn't leave the door open just for that brief moment?
What if I had stayed home with him instead of going on vacation?

The problem with any of these scenarios is that they can never be undone. Every day we choose paths and make decisions based on the information put in front of us at any singular precise fleeting moment. None of us are blessed with the vision of foresight or clairvoyance. But we are all too keenly aware that the path not taken oftentimes would have led to a completely different destination, sometimes a more pleasing or less painful one. So many times I had to console pet owners by reminding them that life is full of these tragic reassessments that will drive you crazy if you let them eat away at your brain and your soul.

I have been very vocal about my disdain for AncestryDNA's decision to withhold hard science from the consumer. Just this week, a 68-year-old Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, woman located her biological siblings via AncestryDNA, but news articles report that she cannot tell if they are full siblings or half siblings. She would know this if she were provided with factual data rather than a warm, fuzzy "You're Related!" message from AncestryDNA. And since this information is not provided, most people who test through them do not even know that such information can tell them so much more. So, like this woman, many just guess at relationships, or are left wondering. If you don't know what you're missing, you don't miss it.

With that being said, what if I had tested with AncestryDNA first, or at least had not waited so long to cough up the $200 for two tests for my mother and me?

Harold James "Brighton" Daugherty had tested with AncestryDNA at the beginning of 2014. Almost at the same time I learned through 23andMe that my mother's father was not the man she thought he was. An immediate broad-sweeping testing of my mother with all three companies would have immediately given me the answer that instead took eight months, over a thousand dollars in DNA tests, and countless hours of valuable time. Ironically, my path to success would have looked much like the left side of the opening graphic. 

And this blog would have been a hell of a lot shorter!

I used to scoff at the human-interest news stories that showed a wide-eyed innocent adoptee who, after testing with a DNA company, immediately finds his mother/father/sibling was already in the database.

Pfffffttthhhhh.... that never really happens!

Oh...ummm...yeah, I guess it does.

From the onset of this search, I had never dreamed of finding a living person. My grandmother would be approaching her 98th birthday if she were alive today. At the beginning of this journey I teased my mother that I'd find her some withered centenarian on whose knee she could sit and say "Hi Daddy!" We had many a good laugh over that one. 

Brighton Daugherty didn't get the daughter on his knee, but he got the "Hi Daddy!"

What if I had a Schrader who had been willing to test from the onset of my request?

I would have received an unanticipated result that indicated any of the children of the three Schrader brothers I had asked were my mother's second cousins, sharing approximately 3.125% of their DNA with each other. If a Schrader were my grandfather as initially suspected, any of these people would have been my mother's first cousins or half-siblings, sharing 12.5 to 25.0% of their DNA with each other. A good scientist who obtains results that do not fit his hypothesis reevaluates his premise. This would have sent me back to look for more Daugherty children and reminded me that John Henry Daugherty's 1939 obituary referenced unaccounted for grandchildren. I said before in this blog, I always get my man. I would have ferreted out Harold James Daugherty eventually.

What if I knew Ira Daugherty had two sons from the onset of my search?

If I had not dismissed Ira Daugherty as childless, and as a source for sons, and therefore candidates for my grandfather, I would have had a starting list of eight men instead of six. Their presence in South Bend, Indiana, might have made them more viable candidates than the ones living in Niles or Dowagiac, Michigan. Brothers, Thomas Richard Daugherty and Harold James Daugherty, would have definitely been men I sought out before some of the others.

But would I have jumped on Harold James Daugherty as the prime candidate for my mother's father? Probably not. His muster rolls from the Navy deceivingly appear to place him on the U.S.S. Franklin D. Roosevelt at the time of my mother's conception. And since he was only nineteen years old at the time, did I think my twenty-nine year old grandmother would have been wooed by a punk in a uniform?

Apparently she was.

Once I thought about it, Frank Strukel was only twenty-three when he met my grandmother, so she was partial to those fresh faced soldiers in post-World War II regalia.

As previously mentioned, the normal gestation for a human infant would indicate that my mother was conceived sometime between 26 March and 7 April 1946.

Harold James Daugherty appeared on the United States Navy muster roll for the U.S.S. Franklin D. Roosevelt for the period ending 7 June 1946.

But a good researcher pays attention to details. "Period Ending" is as deceiving as AncestryDNA's "Close Family to First Cousin" relationship range. For the latter, I had initially assumed that Harold James "Brighton" Daugherty was within a 12.5% match of me, and likely my great-uncle. If he were really my grandfather he would have garnered a more closely related match category. Analysis of his raw data shows I carry over 26% of his DNA within my cells, but having just entered into AncestryDNA's world, I was unaware at the time that this is the next highest category of match after "Parent, Child, Immediate Family Member." Apparently a grandfather is "close family," but not "immediate family." Comments to my blog from many people indicated that their grandparents/grandchildren fall within this same category.

For the former, the muster roll for the "period ending June 7, 1946" indicated only that Harold James Daugherty was present on the ship since the previous muster, which looks to have occurred every three months. This last muster roll indicated that Seaman Second Class Daugherty "Tran. to RS & AGC, BRKLYN, NY FFT PSC Great Lakes, Ill. for separation." I am not exceptionally good with naval acronyms, but apparently my grandfather was transferred to the recruiting station and armed guard center in Brooklyn, New York, for further transfer to the Personnel Service Center in Great Lakes, Illinois, for separation. No date was given.

The U.S.S. Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived in Brooklyn, New York, on 21 March 1946 for post-shakedown alterations after sailing to Rio de Janeiro for the inauguration of Brazilian President Eurico G. Dutra and then stopping in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for a change in command. The ship left Brooklyn for Norfolk, Virginia, where it arrived on 10 April 1946.

Apparently, Jim Daugherty (as he was called before his Hawaiian days and before he adopted the moniker of Brighton) left the ship while it was in dock in Brooklyn and was then sent to the naval station just north of Chicago during those last ten days of March. A little paper work, a slap on the back, all military forms in order, every box ticked, all Ts crossed and Is dotted, and Jim Daugherty is on a train back home to South Bend, Indiana, by the end of March, or perhaps the first week of April, 1946.

Thank you Grandma Helen for welcoming home the troops.

And just as an aside, my mother's tests came back from AncestryDNA on 24 October 2014, six days after I had made the connection via She and Brighton Daugherty are classified as a "Parent, Child, Immediate Family Member" match, as she is with me.

Do I wish I had found my grandfather immediately via this AncestryDNA route?

I'd say yes, only in that I would have had several more months of time with this incredible man. But overall, no, I have deeply treasured the squiggly-lined path to success. I have met incredible people, most who are now firmly classified as my relatives, albeit distantly. I have learned their stories. I have gained a far better understanding of the Daugherty family during their wanderings in Michigan. I have discovered an amazing treasure trove of photographs from distant cousins that I would have never found via a direct discovery of my grandfather, many of which have been used to illustrate this blog in the past. Since I come from an extended family that is more apt to throw things away rather than save them, these photos are priceless.

In addition to adding a very human component to my research, I have vastly improved my knowledge of DNA usage for genealogical research. Who could have asked for a better classroom than real life? And look at the amount of Daugherty DNA I have to play with now!

So where do I go from here?

"The Grand Finale" was definitely a misnomer for my last blog post. Although it was definitely akin to the multiple colorful loud blasts of fireworks at the end of a Fourth of July display, it merely was the culmination of my DNA search and the identification of a man who was previously unknown. But the story is far from over. Not only did I find a grandfather very much alive, but I found one that is incredibly fascinating. 

Don't get me wrong, everyone has a tale to tell. I firmly believe that. We all have hopes, dreams, aspirations, joys, failures, loves, tragedies, interests, and memories to share. They are all unique and fascinating and stories that desperately need to be told. But by outward appearances, many of the men of my grandfather's generation came home from World War II, settled down with their new brides, raised a handful of children, secured their steady and reliable 9-to-5 jobs where they worked for forty to fifty years, and retired to a life of fishing, televised football, coffee with the boys at the local diner or games of bridge at the nearby senior center.

Harold James "Brighton" Daugherty is definitely not one of those men.

For every jaw-dropping adventure I am told about this man, I uncover a previously unknown secret about him as well. I am learning more and more everyday about Ira Daugherty and Katherine Tries, the parents who molded the man, and who were possessed of their own seriously significant personal flaws. Brighton Daughtery is a man who has drunk thirstily and heartily of the Cup of Life and has embraced the true meaning of carpe diem

Sometimes free-thinkers and adventurers happily take others on their joy ride, and at other times they drop off their startled passengers on a random street corner to continue their ride without them. 

Brighton Daugherty has had his fair share of passengers.

How do you tell the story of a man still living? Will my assessments be fair? Will my recounting of his life be accurate? Will I broadcast information via this blog that was meant to be buried forever in the sands of time? But if so, aren't the good and the bad things we do part of what defines us as a person? I never want to read a biography that's all propagandist garbage extolling only a person's virtues, nor do I want to read a bitter tell-all exposé that reveals only the bad.

Do I write a chronological tale, or write about the stories as I discover them? My first "meeting" with my grandfather was a FaceTime chat via my computer. My first request: "Start from birth and work forward. I want to know everything about you." Regrettably, it just isn't that easy.

As this blog moves forward, it may take the form of an intricate Hollywood drama, with tales of conversations with my grandfather interspersed with flashbacks and memories. Sprinkled within will be the fruits of my research uncovering the facts that support -- or refute -- the stories I learn.

But likely we need to skip ahead a couple months to meeting the man in person who has been the focus of this blog from the very beginning. Thirty-two years after meeting her mother, my mother finally met her father.

"Hoosier Daddy?"

Harold James "Brighton" Daugherty is.

Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride.


  1. I enjoyed your story. I can't wait to hear how the visit in Denver went!

  2. Fabulous story and amazing detective work. I fail to understand those that say researching family history is B-O-R-I-N-G!

  3. I'm glad that the story will be continuing, and I look forward to learning more about your grandfather!

  4. I wish your success would rub off. Really enjoyed reading about this and the blog

  5. This has been like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and I've enjoyed every minute of it! Glad you'll be continuing!

  6. Love the Bette Davis quote, except this time it isn't *All About Eve" (yet) but *All About Helen and Harold*. This is one delicious soup. I just hope you don't invite George and Martha. If you do, I won't be home.

  7. I'm so glad this is not the end of the story.

  8. "Thank you Grandma Helen for welcoming home the troops."

    Man, Michael, I though I was gonna die laughing when I read that. I know, your mom may not think that is so funny, but you do have a way with words, my man.

  9. Michael, again thank you for taking us with you on this journey. It has been facsinating and I've learn a lot about DNA testing. One question as I haven't been able to figure this out on; How do you calculate the percentages to determine the relationship? I have either missed something, or can't figure it out. Thanks

    1. In the narrative I rely heavily on quoting percentages as that is how I learned, that is one of the ways 23andMe reports their matches, and it makes mathematical sense to me. GEDmatch will list the total cM of autosomal DNA you share with your matches. Since you can upload data from any of the three testing sites, they all have slightly different totals of cM tested to be able to calculate a percentage, but roughly it is the total cM shared divided by 7100. Or you can go to the Facebook page for the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) and check out the chart made by Kristina Gow Dunnaway (posted 5 December 2014) that shows a relationship chart and the average shared cM between known relatives, in place of the percentage chart I have posted on my blog. I hope that helps!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Another great update. You always, always leave us wanting more of the story! Looking forward to the next....

  11. You've done some amazing work, Michael. I eagerly await the next installment!

  12. What a great gift to have been able to give your mother: to have been able to track down and help her meet both her biological parents. Extraordinary.

  13. This is excellent work and wonderful writing, MIchael. Is there a way that an admirer might contribute to the support of this effort with, say, a small donation for cat food?

    1. I had to wrestle with how to respond to this, as it is a most kind offer. Modesty tells me that I shouldn't ask for contributions for doing something I love to do, but the stark reality is that I spend an inordinate amount of my budget and time on this blog and the DNA tests that go with it on an income that is based on recent self-employment. I would be thrilled, humbled, and honored to receive donations anyone would moved to send. I have a PayPal account at, which would be the easiest. Perhaps those who donate can get the scoop before others... or a free copy of a published version. ;-) Thank you for asking... and offering!

  14. Thanks for all this. I'm so glad it is continuing!
    I vote for "as you learn them", handled with your usual talent, consideration and craft. But I'll take it any way I can get it.
    It's so nice, and so reassuring, to hear the stories of real people. Like us. Quirks, strengths, blind spots, kindnesses, weaknesses. I got much easier on myself for my own life history when I started doing genealogy. It was not just me....

  15. Your story has been so amazingly awesome! Thank you so much for allowing us to be passengers on your journey.

  16. Thank you for sharing with all of us . It is a long bumpy, emotionally hard ride ... but just remember we are all on the same bus & we love all of our Adoptee Brothers & sisters . We are all " ONE OF A KIND " NO ONE ELSE HAS LIVED THE LIVES WE'VE HAD , THE NON ADOPTED CANNOT EVEN FATHOM NOR BELIEVE THE PAIN IN OUR HEARTS & IN OUR SOULS THAT WE HAVE ENDURED. THEY NEVER WILL. IT IS UP TO US TO EDUCATE THE PUBLIC THAT OUR CIVIL RIGHTS ARE DENIED TO ACCESS OUR ORIGINAL BIRTH CERTIFICATES & OUR VITAL MEDICAL HISTORY. AS I WRITE THIS , WE COULD HAVE JUST LOST AN ADOPTEE FROM THE UNKNOWN " MEDICAL HISTORY " I'm on the board with Missouriadopteerightsmovement & New York, I was adopted in Upstate New York . My birth mother lived 15 mins away from me , but i never knew until I had to move to Missouri when I was 18.
    My birth mother had breast cancer when she was 30 & she came searching for me when I was 23 . She wanted me to be aware & to get tested , she also had stage 4 Ovarian cancer , she is a true fighter & a survivor, Thank You Lord. She lives in Schenectady New York & she is waiting for me to return home. Amen.