Doris and the Schuesslers of Los Angeles

Using DNA to identify grandparents

But what about the Wackerman?

At about the same time Ada decided to take her daughters Dorothy and Helen across the country, Ada’s mother and sister Leona also moved to California. By the late 1920’s all of them were living near each other in Pasadena. On the 1930 census, Carolina, still calling herself a widow, was again living down the street from her ex-husband John.

Yes, the same John who allegedly threatened Carolina with a gun in 1908, and divorced her in 1915, seems to have followed her all the way to California. It’s a good thing this mystery is not about solving the puzzle that is John Schuessler.

John made his way to California long after his sons were grown. Per the 1930 census, he was living in Pasadena with his widowed sister Rose and her nephew, J. Wackerman.

Wackerman DNA
1930 United States Federal Census, Los Angeles, Pasadena, District 1243

A few months later, John died and Carolina actually became a widow.

Match 3: The Wackerman

He appeared as a 105 cM match to Pam, but his seemingly close genetic relationship ended up being a statistical outlier. Sometimes, people inherit more shared DNA than would be expected. Such is the case with the Wackerman.

As I mentioned, he had no tree attached to his profile. Via public records searches, including the aforementioned 1930 Federal Census, I figured out where he fit in the research tree.

Another Schuessler

The Wackerman’s great-grandmother was Rose Schuessler, John’s sister. Rose emigrated to the US ten years after her brother, but also ended up in Pittsburgh for a while and then moved to California.

Schuessler DNA

Pam has dozens of matches to the Wackerman surname, because that particular branch of the family had a lot of children, and interestingly, many of them became quite successful. It seems the Wackerman family has an inherited talent for music. Possibly, the Schuesslers had creativity coded into their DNA and Doris inherited a large portion of the same “musical genius” genes as her distant cousins. This is pure speculation, of course.

Sorting through all these genetic cousins and family trees can get a bit confusing. That’s why I create a spreadsheet diagram to go along with each research tree I build. When I find a set of shared ancestors, I add the DNA match to the spreadsheet.

Diagram of DNA matches

The Pittsburgher and the Irishman are each other’s first cousins. The Wackerman is their 3rd cousin once removed. The pale green boxes represent other people who appeared on Pam’s match list, but with less shared DNA. Notice how the Wackerman has more DNA in common with Pam than his own uncle shares with Pam. This happens pretty often, and is one of the many reasons we need to use as many data points (DNA matches) as possible.

Distant Cousins and Removal

To help remember the degrees of cousin-ship and removal, count how far back their connection is.

1st cousins share a pair of grandparents.

2nd cousins share a pair of great-grandparents.

3rd cousins share a pair of great-great-grandparents.

Always starting with the older generation first, check to see who shared ancestors are. The Pittsburgher and the Irishman’s great-great grandparents John Schuessler and Bertha (Unknown) are also the Wackerman’s ancestors.

Since shared great-great-grandparents means 3rd cousins, but the Wackerman is one generation younger, or removed from those ancestors, he would be their 3rd cousin once removed.

More Scandals! But first — More diagrams!

Over the next few months, a few other matches appeared. Pam also tested with 23andme and uploaded her info to MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA. Eventually, the spreadsheet diagram looked something like this.

Using Excel to chart DNA matches

Usually, there will be more close matches, but there were still enough data points to reasonably verify John and Bertha Schuessler as Pam’s ancestors. At this point in the search, I had not yet found any connection to the Frick/Doelke Side (top row), but one appeared a few months later.

Finding a match to John Schuessler’s parents as well as Carolina Frick’s parents meant Doris’s mother was surely a descendant of John and Carolina.

More specifically, I was able to narrow down Doris’s possible mother to one of the three women in the pink-shaded boxes.

Three potential birth mothers

Possibly, the Pittsburgher and the Irishman were Pam’s true 2nd cousins. If that’s the case, her mother had to be one of Ada’s sisters, Mathilda or Leona Schuessler. But, what if they are actually half-first cousins — sharing grandmother Ada, but different grandfathers? That brings us back to Ada Schuessler…

The Story Continues

A half-first cousin would be a grandchild of Ada Schuessler via a man other than Archie Hill. That seemed possible, considering the story about Charles Mitchell.

Was Ada romantically involved with Charles Mitchell? She sure was.

On July 20, 1930, Charles Mitchell and Ada Schuessler were married in Los Angeles. Charles continued to appear on the Pittsburgh city directories up until 1929, but then, as if conjured by Dr. Harrop, Charles magically appeared in LA to marry Ada.

The biological grandmother

Not long after, Ada was listed as a widow in the city directory. Considering her mother’s use of the designation widow, I’m not so sure Charles Mitchell was actually deceased.

Back to Hallard Garvey

Hallard ended up in the Sawtelle Veteran’s Hospital in Los Angeles in 1929. His injury? Appendicitis. At the time, Hallard was working as a chauffeur.

As I later learned, Hallard was a divorcee. He had been married to a woman named Lillian “Lillie” Jordan for less than 2 years. In 1921, they divorced. I think this might be the Lillie that Hallard’s family had mentioned.

Garvey's first marriage
Chicago Tribune, Sat, Feb 15, 1919 · Page 15

By 1932, Hallard was living in a boardinghouse downtown.

At the same time, Ada Schuessler was running a boardinghouse downtown.

What are the odds…? Probably just as slim as the odds of me obtaining a photo of Ada and her daughters, Dorothy and Helen, circa 1932.

Dorothy, Helen and Ada Schuessler
(L-R) Dorothy, Helen, and Ada Hill. Many thanks to Gini Hoyt Bowers for sharing this picture.

Hallard lives next door.

Per the California voter records, Hallard Garvey was living at 1113 1/2 W. 9th Street in 1932

Ada Schuessler and her daughters were were living at 1111 W. 9th Street in 1932.

At the time, Ada’s sister Leona was living in San Bernardino. Youngest sister Mathilda Schuessler had fallen off the radar somewhere between Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. I couldn’t find her anywhere.

There had to be another clue…

(Click on page 5 to continue)

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