Doris and the Schuesslers of Los Angeles

 

There’s no doubt this is Helen, Ada’s daughter.

It seemed awfully suspicious that the marriage date is only one month after Doris was born — if November 5 was Doris’s actual birthday.

Helen’s marriage didn’t last very long. She later remarried and had some kids and I realized I’d have to tell this crazy story to one of them in the hopes they’d be willing to take a DNA test.

Maybe Helen was the daughter of Charles Mitchell. (she wasn’t)

Maybe Helen was Doris’s mother. (she wasn’t)

Maybe if I reached out to Helen’s daughter Gini, she’d send me an adorable photo of her mother crouching mischievously in front of an old car. (she did)

Helen Hill 1939
Helen Hill, 1939

It’s not easy to contact a stranger out of the blue and start making weird allegations about their mother. Most people don’t like that.

You don’t know me, but can we talk about your mom?

I’ve contacted a lot of people through the course of these searches, and sometimes I’m met with a skepticism, often annoyance, and a few times outright hostility. But Gini was obliging and sympathetic. If Gini didn’t live on the other side of the country, I’d love to meet her for a cup of coffee or tea.

It’s wonderful to encounter someone who isn’t afraid to let some family skeletons fall out of the closet. Or in this case, to take the door off its hinges and sweep out every last bone. Thank you Gini, for your part in solving this mystery.

As I hoped, Gini’s DNA test came back as a suspected 2nd cousin. I really didn’t want 14-year-old Helen to be Doris’s mother. Helen, Dorothy, and Ada were Hallard Garvey’s next-door neighbors — nothing more. *whew*

Now we now had only two suspects — Leona and Mathilda. Either of them could have met Hallard while visiting their sister Ada.

Sorting out the Schuesslers

Leona Schuessler: born 1894. Residence in 1932: San Bernardino. Never married.

Mathilda Schuessler: born 1903. Residence in 1932: Unknown. Married: Unknown.

Leona continued to appear on census records and in the city directory until her death in 1954. Her mother Carolina died in 1959. They are buried next to each other at Roosevelt Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.

But where did Mathilda go? There had to be more information. Finally I found something.

The Find A Grave index on FamilySearch indicated the final resting place of Mathilda D. Schuessler Carmack.

The date of birth matched exactly, so this had to be her. I checked for family members who might have been buried near her and found none.

Mathilda’s middle name was Carolina. What did D stand for? Who was Carmack? The person who submitted this photo to Findagrave told me he didn’t know anything about Mathilda. He just takes photos of local grave markers and matches them up with death notices.

I’m not exactly sure how the next part happened, but I found the next big clue. I was browsing through marriage licenses on digitized microfilm some night, half-asleep, around 2am and there it was. I’d probably get a D- if this was a class on documentation in accordance with the genealogical standard.

It’s not easy to read, so I’ll zoom in a bit.

Below, we see Robert Wesley Daniels marrying Marian Wills in July, 1948.

Robert was born December 3, 1926 and he was living at 1524 Menlo Ave, in Los Angeles. His father’s name was William Daniels of St. Louis, MO, and his mother was Mathilda Caroline Schuessler, born in Pittsburgh, PA.

D is for Daniels!

Mathilda Daniels.

Now I had a new name to search. Almost immediately, I found some old newspaper articles.

A Year on the Rock Pile

In July, 1928, Mathilda charged William with failure to provide for their child. Possibly, she also alleged he stole her car, because the grand theft auto charges that had been made against William were dismissed by the judge. William was sentenced to “a year on the rock pile” for not supporting his child.

His Freedom of Brief Duration
The Los Angeles Times. 16 Jul 1928, Mon • Page 38

Mathilda filed for divorce in April, 1929, when their son Robert was less than three years old.

The Los Angeles Times. 16 Apr 1929, Tue • Page 22

Mathilda and William were married on May 14, 1926, and their son Robert was born 6 1/2 months later.

There were several women named Mathilda Schuessler in the greater Los Angeles area in the 1920s, with a few listed on the the marriage index. Prior to the discover of Robert and William, this index page didn’t have enough details to tell me if this was our Mathilda. Now I knew this was her.

As it turns out, Mathilda was right under my nose the whole time, but her surname change threw me off the trail. She had been living down the street from her mother Carolina, sisters Leona and Ada, and Ada’s daughters.

Not surprisingly, Mathilda listed herself as a widow on the 1930 census, but her husband was still very much alive across town. What is surprising is that her son Robert was never listed on the census with her. It wasn’t until about 1942 that Robert and Mathilda appeared to be living at the same address — 1524 Menlo Ave — the same residence as Carolina and Leona Schuessler.

Hallard Has a Roommate

On the 1932 city directory, which often reports information from the prior, Mathilda was living at 1232 W. 9th Street (now James M. Wood Blvd), only a few hundred feet from Ada’s boardinghouse. A few months later, she moved even closer to her sister.

Per the 1932 California voter registrations list, Mathilda Daniels was living at 1113 1/2 W. 9th Street.

Also living at 1113 1/2 W. 9th street in 1932 was none other than Hallard Garvey.

1932 Voter List

I’d call this case closed, but without DNA testing someone closer than a 2nd cousin, there was no way to scientifically confirm what this veritable mountain of evidence was suggesting.

Politics?

My research colleague Linda suggested that Mathilda and Hallard, one a Republican and the other a Democrat, disagreed so strongly about the pending implementation of FDR’s New Deal, they just couldn’t stay together.

The Los Angeles Times. 01 Nov 1932

I guess that’s a possibility…

Through obituary searches, I learned that Mathilda and William’s son Robert Daniels died in 2009. Robert had one son, William B., who passed away in 2017. William had three children. I contacted his daughter Lisa and shared what I had found.

I lucked out again. First Gini was super-nice, and now Lisa was incredibly helpful and kind. She replied to my initial inquiry within 12 hours.

Yes, Mathilda was my Grandpa’s mother … My Grandpa [Robert] passed over 15 years ago, but as far as we know he was an only child. From what my mom remembers, my grandfather’s dad [William] left Mathilda when he [Robert] was really young, so no one remembers him.

We heard stories of how poor they were when my grandpa was young, he said it was horrible. She eventually did remarry. I believe she lived in Oregon and moved out here to California when she was older. My grandma (Marian Daniels) did a genealogy chart probably 20 years ago, I think it’s somewhere in the rafters I’d have to look.

Over the next week or so, the pieces all started to fall into place. Lisa’s family tree was exactly as I had figured, and Mathilda and William only had one child, Robert, who only had one child, William B (Lisa’s father). Mathilda married a man named Lloyd Carmack, who predeceased her.

I want to thank Lisa for sharing these details and documents, and especially for providing Pam with photos of her grandmother.

Carmack, Mathilda, and
Lloyd Carmack, William B. Daniels, and Mathilda Schuessler, circa 1955. Image courtesy of Lisa Daniels.

When I shared these new findings with Pam, it triggered a memory.

I remember (vaguely) my grandmother, Marguerite’s, neighbor told mom that her parents’ last name was Daniels and they gave mom up for adoption because they couldn’t afford any more children. She also believed they had a son.

Pam had no DNA matches to anyone named Daniels, so it’s understandable she would have forgotten this bit of information. Fortunately, Pam didn’t tell me this story until recently, or I might have spent a lot of time searching for a genetic connection to the surname Daniels.

Mathilda’s Dimples

As Lisa and her mother went through the rafters, they passed along more photos of Mathilda. Here is a side-by-side of Doris and Mathilda.

Doris is on the left and Mathilda’s on the right.

Doris clearly inherited her dimples from Mathilda. Their eye shape is the same, as is their hairline with a slight widow’s peak, and jawline.  The paper-trail, the DNA, and now photographs verifying facial resemblances. This was Doris’s mom and she lived to be 93.

An Updated Family Tree

Pam’s tree was no longer missing a branch. With the new information we’d gathered, I was able to fill in all the blanks.

Even with Pam’s tree filled out, there are still a few unanswered questions.

Mathilda was issued a Social Security number in Illinois sometime before 1951. Why? I have found no record of her ever living there.

How did the Cruikshanks know Dr. Harrop and why did they have to wait several months before bringing Doris home?

Did Mathilda promise them her baby and have second thoughts?

If you have any information on Mathilda Schuessler Daniels Carmack in the 1930s-1940s, or information about Dr. Harrop regarding any other adoptees, please let me know.

Thanks again to Pam, her siblings Walter and Laurie, and to Gini, Lisa, and Hal Jr for allowing me to share their family stories.