Friday, May 26, 2017

Fixing Responsibility: the Rush to Conclude

On April 30, 1927—the same day Ohioan Arthur James Daugherty was shot and killed while attempting to land his plane in Gardena, California—a local newspaper reported that four immigration inspectors "claimed that they had been assigned to catch smugglers of Chinese from Tia Juana."

That very day, the United Press news wire service had picked up the story and spread it far and wide, at least throughout the state of California, for—with discrepancies, of course—that basic story could be found on the same day in publications as far north as Healdsburg (where, however, the number of federal agents had been reduced to three).

A shooting death such as this required, of course, a response by local law enforcement. Tasked with that duty at the scene of the incident in Gardena was the sheriff for Los Angeles County. The proper procedure was quickly attended to, and preparations for the sheriff's inquest were reported in the news by May 2.

By this time, three aviators were named as suspects in a smuggling ring, and a statement revealed that ten Chinese immigrants were being smuggled into the country from Tijuana, Mexico. The International News Service report carried by the Oxnard, California, Press-Courier that day also mentioned the curious admission that "the Federal men set a 'trap' and shot only when Chaney [the student pilot's instructor] tried to escape."

However, that same day, a different wire service—United Press—reported in a story carried in the Berkeley Daily Gazette that the Los Angeles County coroner had postponed the inquest in response to a request by the federal immigration authorities. The delay would permit the federal office the time they needed to produce witnesses from San Diego who were supposedly key in fingering Daugherty as part of a smuggling ring.

By the time of this report, the number of aviators—each of them named—had increased from three to seven. They were by now characterized as members of a smuggling ring.

The inquest proceedings opened the next day, May 3. By this time, the feds had produced two men, identified as operators of a Tijuana bus line. In their testimony, they were able to positively identify two of the seven airmen "held on suspicion" as men they had met at a ranch in Mexico, but could not provide any further explanation as to how the Chinese aliens were transported to America, nor could they identify any of the planes supposedly used in the suspected operation.

That, at least, was the report provided in a newspaper up north in Berkeley, California. Meanwhile, closer to the hearing itself, a Santa Ana newspaper dated that same May 3 reported that two federal agents "were completely exonerated in connection with the flier's death." This conclusion, delivered by a coroner's jury, was returned after only thirty minutes' deliberation.

Meanwhile, the Immigration Director announced the arrest of six Chinese immigrants with "positive evidence that they had been smuggled across the border."

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Getting the Details Right

When breathless news reports mangle the fine points of a breaking story, I become skeptical over the possibility of a hidden agenda muddying the details. Somehow, when I encountered the news clipping concerning the sudden death of a man—A. J. Daugherty—I started getting that same feeling.

The ambush, by four federal immigration inspectors shooting into a plane during touch and go exercises by a student aviator, resulted in the instant death of Arthur James Daugherty on April 30, 1927. The resultant news reports over the next several days were full of discrepancies. Everything from the number of inspectors involved to the number of suspected Chinese immigrants in tow varied, depending on which day the report was published, and where the newspaper was printed.

When the rush to publish outruns the editorial professionalism of accuracy, something has to be at the root of the race. Since I was pretty sure it wouldn't have been on account of any outpouring of sympathy for the student aviator, himself, I thought I'd take a look around to see if I could uncover any other motivations firing up such rabid interest.

The only blip from history that I could recall was a political maneuver which, at its introduction, far predated this 1927 incident—but then, I was never any good at remembering the dates of history. Dates were what made me detest history as a subject in school, and I still recoil from the practice of noting years of occurrences.

Thankfully, in today's world, minute details like dates are what the Internet is for. Why trouble yourself with remembering when such facts can be googled?

With that simple act, my hunch was verified: though it was in 1882 that American president Chester Arthur signed into law the Chinese Exclusion Act, the law was extended through a number of legislative moves until it was finally repealed in 1943. Thus, this news furor in 1927 was in the very midst of an era in which the country's policy was to ban immigration of Chinese laborers (and, ultimately, their families as well).

I had been aware of this law, thanks to presentations by various Bay area genealogists who have been involved with Angel Island immigration station history. What hadn't stuck with me was the date range—and how recent it was. Nor was I aware of any specific operations to smuggle Chinese immigrants into the country, particularly from Mexico. Discovering this news report was not only a shock from the angle of family history—this was, after all, someone from my mother in law's Flowers line in Perry County, Ohio—but an eye opener to the possibilities for underground activity as a counter-movement against this law.

Obviously, once again, researching my own family's history meant delving deeper into the history of my state, my country, and those specific details of immigration history. Genealogy never stands alone nor operates within a vacuum. We are all part of the historic context forming the backdrop to our lifespan. Interwoven with our culture and its events, our lives couldn't possibly be understood without that broader perspective in our research.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Day in the Life of a Student Aviator

Despite intermittent challenges to one's personal sense of vertigo, the role of student aviator is not one I'd assume to be ridden with drama or intrigue. Not so, apparently, for the aspiring airman who turned out, coincidentally, to have been fourth cousin to my mother in law.

About the same time I unearthed my mother in law's genealogical relationship with Flowers family descendant Arthur James Daugherty, fellow native of Perry County, Ohio, I also discovered news articles reporting his sudden death and suspected role in a human smuggling scheme in southern California.

According to a United Press news wire only two days after the April 30, 1927, shooting which brought about the Ohio man's death, the local immigration official overseeing the agents involved in the incident requested more time for the investigation so that he could "produce witnesses from San Diego in an effort to show that Daugherty was a member of a smuggling ring engaged in bringing Chinese into this country."

Just as had the articles on the shooting incident itself, details in reports I found on the smuggling charges varied widely. Some reports fingered Daugherty as the smuggler. Some named both Daugherty and his supposed flight instructor, Burley R. Chaney. Others indicated up to seven other aviators in a smuggling ring, and anywhere from a few to "a score" of Chinese immigrants who were illegally brought into the country. 

Following the unclear reports of the actual incident itself—when student aviator A. J. Daugherty was shot by federal immigration officials sometime during the landing or takeoff of the plane he was learning to fly—journalists turned their attention to the next step in the investigative journey, the coroner's inquest.

All of this unexpected excitement was, for me, quite a startling launch into a genealogical project. And not only was this a local news story I had found, but one which was covered in newspapers throughout the state. Besides the expected coverage in the Los Angeles area, where the tragic event occurred, the story could be found in newspapers in the state's central valley, the Bay area, and even as far north as Healdsburg, California.

What at first seemed to be undue curiosity in what I thought was just a local story—a tragic one, admittedly, but a southern California event—turned out to hold interest for a significant number of people throughout the state. Puzzling, that is, until I took into account the broader historical context of the times.

This expanded coverage, presumably, was not just a reaction fueled by a normal sense of justice in recoiling from such official statements about the "regrettable" shooting which was done merely by those "acting in the line of duty." The expanded focus may well have been due to another political maneuver which happened to be holding sway at the same time.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Family Secret? Or Gossip Around Town?

Whenever I've run across an outrageous story about a distant family member—say, something like the news articles we've recently stumbled upon, regarding the young aviation student shot point-blank upon landing his craft at an airfield—I've wondered how many members of the family actually knew about the event.

Take the story of John Syme Hogue that I found a year ago while researching my own mother's line—the incredible story of the safe cracker who kept getting away, even when his luck seemed to run out and he actually shot a law enforcement officer. I tried (very circumspectly, of course) to contact current family members who have worked on that same family tree at Ancestry, to strike up a conversation in hopes of detecting whether the man's descendants were even aware of his murky past, but have had no response.

It leaves me wondering whether such news stories even get passed down by family from generation to generation. Or are these the types of stories which prompt the older generations to say, like my own father, "Aaah, you don't wanna know that."

I've heard other people mention how their parents or grandparents were reticent when it came to talking about the past, especially about family members long gone. Sometimes, it was just due to the taciturn personality of the individual being questioned. But other times? Might it have been symptomatic of skeletons in the closet?

Because this situation with Arthur James Daugherty was different—after all, I only knew about this news story as of last week because of the news clippings linked as hints to his file at Ancestry—I took the opportunity to write to the person originating the link. I can't tell how close that relationship is, but if the person is willing and able to give us a behind-the-scenes report, there are a few things I'd like to ask.

For one thing, I'm curious how many of the Daugherty family back home in Perry County were aware of what happened to one of their native sons. Was this the gossip on everyone's lips, back in Somerset, Ohio? Or was it circumspectly hushed in consideration of the grieving—and likely, surprised—family?

Then, too, I'm sure the question on everyone's mind had to be: was he guilty as accused? Was A.J. Daugherty really a smuggler? Or was he just the unfortunate innocent caught in the crossfire of misinformed but zealous law enforcement agents?

Of course, these are factors which seem to have no bearing on genealogical research—but for those, like me, who have self-styled their research as family history, these questions are quite pertinent to our goals of accessing a fuller picture of the individuals who people our family trees.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Joyeux anniversaire, Montréal!

Partying like it hasn't been anything close to 375 years, the city of Montreal put on a memorable festival that I got to be part of, after all. When I saw fellow genea-blogger Gail Dever's post at Genealogy à la Carte last week on the events planned for the 375th anniversary of the founding of Montreal, it seemed as if all the hoopla would be over before our family could even get to the city.

As it turned out, our bus from the airport arrived downtown Saturday afternoon just in time for the city's parade to delay by over an hour—then abort—the route to our hotel. Thanks to that unexpected turn of events, the three of us found ourselves trudging along, suitcases in hand, for ten blocks—and miles behind the featured guests of the city—until we made it to our destination.

Even then, we didn't truly miss the scene. With our internal clocks still on California time, we were awakened at what to us seemed like 6:30 the next morning by windowsill-vibrating music from the live band passing in front of our hotel. In a move that couldn't have turned out more precisely if we had planned for it, the parade route—which differed from the twin routes snarling traffic the previous afternoon—brought "the giAnts" passing by, seven stories below our own window.

From that vantage point, we were afforded a birds-eye view of a "Petite Géante" and her dog, followed by her "uncle," a deep sea diver in town for the city's anniversary celebration. The three, up to thirty-plus feet tall marionettes operated by lilliputian humans heaving ropes on pulleys, were the brainchild of French street performance troupe, Royal de Luxe, which have taken their creations on tours of 170 cities and now to their premiere in Canada with the Montreal celebration.

That's not what brought us to Montreal, of course—although getting here in time to take in that feature was a plus. My husband has been invited to speak at a conference being held here this week. While he is busy at work, I'll be touring the sights of the city with my daughter serving as my interpreter in the rare instance in which this bilingual city might not respond in my native tongue.

We will take in the history—and, considering my daughter's presence, the archaeology—of this long-established French colony in the next few days. Though time prevents me from my original plan—I had hoped to travel from Quebec to neighboring province Ontario to do some research on our Tully ancestors who arrived there much later in the mid-1800s—that genealogy-based mindset which helps me seek connections and roots in any given situation will stand me in good stead as we explore a city rich in historic context of its own.

Above: View from a cafe window during Montreal's 375th anniversary celebration; photograph courtesy Wren.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Raining Down Results

When it rains, it pours, as some say. When we do the rainmaker dance to get my old frankenputer to work again—allowing precious access to old research files tucked away in cyberspace for years—we get a veritable deluge.

In this case, that is a good thing.

The primary beneficiary in that endeavor was my mother-in-law's Flowers line. Now that I've re-opened that old file—predating Internet-era research, for many of the records—I now can cross-check that with verifications found online. Double-checking my work from decades ago, without even trying, I'm zooming forward and the count on that tree shows it.

Last time I checked my biweekly count, I had amassed 10,843 individuals in that tree. In these past two weeks, that number has jumped 383 to total 11,226 people. I'm still in the midst of verifying all the records I'm moving over from my old file, but most everything looks right. In some cases, the number has gone backwards as I discover and remove duplicate entries in this intermarried line of ancestors.

Perhaps subconsciously seeking balance between both sides of our family, I tried to ramp up my progress on my own mother's line. I added 145 names to end this biweekly count at 10,035. Not as much as I had done on that easy project for my mother-in-law, but still a good amount of effort. Besides, I can now say both moms' databases have crossed the ten thousand mark. You know: parity.

Despite all the wonderful DNA sales happening—first for DNA Day, then around Mother's Day—the results for those tests apparently haven't yet hit our match lists. My matches at Family Tree DNA only increased by twenty three, leaving me at a total of 2,048, and my AncestryDNA matches increased by fifteen to total 581. One bonus was that my results finally came in at 23andMe: 1,197 in total, although only one match is as close as the second to fourth cousin range. Thankfully, that person is an avid genealogy researcher, so we are carrying on a merry conversation in search of our most recent common ancestors.

My husband's DNA matches seem to be just shy of those exploding sale results, as well. His FTDNA count is now 1,335, up thirty three, and his AncestryDNA results are at 273, up twelve, with 23andMe holding steady at 1,276. At least no more "cousins" are pulling out of the matching side of 23andMe's offerings to cause his count to go backwards.

With all the progress these past two weeks, I'm hoping the amply-augmented trees will provide some cousin bait to help sort out those mystery matches in our DNA accounts. There are some matches who definitely seem to fit certain branches of our trees, though we can't yet find the paper trail. The "in common with" function hints that this is what likely is the case.

As for our two neglected paternal trees, I know I need to get back to cleaning up the records and hunting for more hints, but that will have to wait another week, as we head to Montreal this week for a first visit to the eastern region of our neighbors to the north.  

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Getting Into
That Conference-Going Mood

Just one week ago was the annual conference put on by the National Genealogical Society. It was in Raleigh, North Carolina. I wasn't.

I had a friend who got to attend. She had a fabulous time, connecting with friends she hadn't seen in years. I was jealous. The moment she got back home, I plied her with questions over lunch—my desperate attempt to feel like she had stuffed me into her suitcase and brought me along.

So alright, then. I'll get my chance when I head south—on my side of the continent—to attend the conference of the Southern California Genealogical Society. It's my favorite. I've been to every one since they've added the ISOGG-inspired DNA Day five years ago.

Two days ago, I got my registration confirmation in the mail, so that mood is ramping up. This year, the SCGS Jamboree has added half-day workshops for those of us who prefer to go in-depth into specialized topics, and would rather get our learning in a hands-on format. No surprise that I'll be zeroing in on a DNA workshop for that extra Friday morning session.

Like my friend who attended the NGS conference earlier this month, I've come to realize that conferences add more value to their attendees than just the sum total of the material learned in each workshop session. Conferences are a time to make new connections with like-minded people, but also a time to be exposed to people and ideas quite different than those to which we are accustomed. As we broaden our experiences, we expand our capacity to learn.

Those learning opportunities, however, are partially uncharted. An adventure, our path through the conference jungle can take off in any direction. The syllabus may be charted, but what we take away with us, as we exit the workshop room, can be vastly different than what the person seated next to us may have discovered.

More than that, the face to face encounters come with no map. There are so many possibilities to meet someone—a distant cousin, someone from our hometown, a researcher fascinated by the same minutiae that have consumed us this past year—but when we all enter the registration lobby on that first morning, we have no idea what is in store for us among those hundreds of fellow-attendees. The only way to discover a connection may be to reach out and talk to a stranger.

A terrifying thought, indeed.

Just over two weeks from today, I'll be driving down to Burbank, California, to attend DNA Day and Jamboree. Three weeks from tomorrow, I'll be wrapping up my last post from Jamboree for another year. Yep, it will be over just as quickly as that.

What happens in between those two days, though, can be maximized with some careful planning—selecting which sessions to attend, strategizing with those I'd like to see while there—but will also need a strong dash of go-with-the-flow and improvisation. Yes, I'll connect via social media and the conference app, but I've got to rev up that adventurous spirit to just get out there and say "hi" to a bunch of strangers—who just happen to find the very topic I love, genealogy, as fascinating as I do.
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