Doris and the Schuesslers of Los Angeles

Using DNA to identify grandparents

Doris and the Schuesslers of Los Angeles

In September 2018, I received an email from Pam, asking if I’d help identify her biological grandmother. Pam’s mother, Doris was born in 1932 and adopted in 1933. Doris was no longer living, but her children still wanted to know who their grandparents were. Using DNA, they had already identified Doris’s father, but her mother was unknown.

Doris was adopted by Walter and Marguerite Cruikshanks of Los Angeles. Walter, a Texaco oil salesman, and Marguerite, a housewife, gave Doris everything a little girl could want or need. As she grew up, they encouraged her natural talents and doted on their only child.

Doris turned out to be a musical prodigy. She sang with perfect pitch, and as she got older, her parents encouraged her to pursue a career as a concert pianist.  But, as often happens, life had other plans for Doris. She became a full-time mother instead.

Doris Jean Cruikshanks
Doris, circa 1950

DNA testing led Pam and her siblings to Doris’s father, a man named Hallard Garvey. Because Doris’s DNA sample was not available for testing, the search could only be done using her children’s DNA by proxy. Also, Doris’s birth certificate was falsified, so there were no names to use in the search.

On the document, Doris’s adoptive parents were listed instead of her birth parents. This is not to be confused with amended birth certificates, which are provided to most adoptees.

Doris Falsifiled Birth Certificate Los Angeles Dr. Harrop

A 1932 article published in the El Paso Times explains the lack of original birth certificates for adopted babies.

It is easier to get a divorce in El Paso than the birth certificate of a child born out of wedlock, says Mrs. E.L Harris, matron of the Salvation Army Rescue Home. No certificates in such cases are ever issued where the babies are adopted, she said, for in every case the persons adopting the child want to bring it up as their own, and they want no documentary evidence that the child was not born to them.1

Pam and her siblings had heard bits of information over the years, passed down by the Cruickshanks family, but none of it was enough to locate Doris’s parents. Initially, Pam recalled a detail she thought might be helpful.

The first picture I have of mom as a baby appears she was about 10 months old. In her baby book, her adoptive mother wrote “Doris is finally home” leading me to believe they didn’t get her as an infant.

It does seem odd that a couple so eager to adopt a child would wait 10 months to take the first baby picture. And the word finally does make it seem like the adoption was prearranged, but somehow delayed. But why?

To figure out this mystery, I began looking at Pam and her siblings’ DNA matches. I immediately discovered why Doris’s father was so easy to identify.

A Prolific Patriarch

Hallard J. Garvey was born in Paducah Kentucky in 1897. He was married twice and fathered about a dozen children, including three sets of twins. Several of his descendants also tested with Ancestry, because with that many offspring, odds are a few of them have taken a DNA test. When Pam and her siblings reviewed their DNA matches, they soon figured out that Hallard was Doris’s father.

Finding a Biological Parent with DNA
Hallard J. Garvey, circa 1975.

As I mention often in these stories, identifying a parent or grandparent is much easier if their family resided in the US for many generations. The Garveys have deep roots in the south, and many of their relatives had already published family trees going back to the early 1800s. Also, the odds of a close relative appearing in a DNA match database are much higher if they came from a large family.

Conveniently, one of Hallard’s daughters (Pam’s biological half-aunt) had tested, as well as a several of Hallard’s grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins. Pam’s half-aunt appeared at the top of her match list (displayed as a possible 1st-2nd cousin).

Below: A screenshot of the first page of Pam’s list of matches (excluding her full-siblings). The first person is Hallard’s daughter.

Ancestry DNA Matches Paternal Side

Hallard’s daughter and the next person on the list both have Garvey in their personal family trees.  Clicking on the tree icon that says4 people” brings us to this screen (the 3rd person is hidden):

AncestryDNA match tree

Ancestry doesn’t know exactly how she is related to Pam, but uses the amount of shared DNA to suggest their relationship. They share 742 cM, or centiMorgans, which roughly translates to 10% shared DNA.2 There are several possible ways Pam and this match could be related. Fortunately, many of these possibilities can be crossed off the list because they are either impossible or highly improbable.

Ancestry DNA understanding relationship

This person’s father (Hallard) was born in 1897, so she can’t be Pam’s great-grandchild, nor her 2nd great-grandmother. The least likely possibilities are greyed out. By process of elimination and comparison to other matches, Pam was able to determine that this woman was her mother’s half-sister.

Before Hallard passed away, he told his family he had a daughter with another woman before the rest of his children were born. They thought maybe the woman’s name was Lillie.

Not surprised by Pam’s story, Hallard’s family was helpful and welcoming. Unfortunately, the Garveys could not recall any other details to help find Doris’s mother. A few months later, Pam and her brother Walter traveled across the country to meet their half-uncle, Hallard’s oldest son, Hal Jr.

Walter, Pam, and Hal
(left to right) Walter, Pam, and Hal Jr.

Hallard Sr. lived in Los Angeles from about 1921 to 1933, but we had not yet found a connection to the woman he fathered a child with in 1932. Pam had been told her mother was born to a married couple who couldn’t afford to care for another child, but Hallard was not married at the time.

The Cruikshanks had been waiting for their daughter to come home. Did they know a young woman who was about to give birth? Did they know a doctor who was going to find them a baby?

The signature of Dr. Leon Harrop on Doris’s falsified birth certificate suggests he had something to do with the adoption. We know the woman who gave birth to Doris was definitely not Marguerite. We also know that there is no hospital listed on the birth certificate, nor is there even a street address.

But who was L.L. Harrop?
(Click on page 2 to continue)

  1. El Paso Times, El Paso, Texas, 16 Feb 1932, Page 2
  2. https://isogg.org/wiki/Autosomal_DNA_statistics

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