Genealogy database leads Iowa woman to her half brother in Michigan
Pamela Cady: 'It's just the final step in drawing my lineage'
CENTER POINT — Pamela Cady’s longtime hobby has taken her to some unexpected places. Just last weekend, for instance, she met family she didn’t know she had before last May.
“It was a mixture of nervousness and excitement,” said Cady, 60, of Center Point. “But when I first saw him, I put my arms around him and gave him a hug.”
On the receiving end of Cady’s embrace: James Schugars, her 76-year-old half brother. He was placed for adoption soon after his birth in Muskegon, Mich., in 1941, a birth their mother vehemently denied ever happened.
The meeting was the result of recent technology applied to Cady’s 35-year genealogical pursuits.
“It’s just the final step in drawing my lineage,” Cady said.
Cady’s earlier research into her background was through conventional methods: family obituaries clipped from newspapers, birth certificates and visits to cemeteries. But about a year ago she signed up with AncestryDNA.com, one of several online genetic databases.
Cady provided a saliva sample for analysis. When she logged onto the website last spring, it noted an extremely close genetic match with a man from suburban Chicago.
“It’s just really kind of bizarre, because it just dropped into my DNA matches,” she said. “I didn’t recognize the last name, and yet it said we were an extremely fine match.”
The match belonged to James Schugars Jr., who had submitted a DNA sample of his own. He is Cady’s half nephew.
Cady called him on the phone.
“I said, ‘How are we related? I don’t recognize your last name,’ ” Cady said. “He said, ‘I don’t know, my dad’s adopted.’ It all went from that.”
The story came together over the summer.
About a decade ago, when her mother Edna V. Cady was still alive, Pamela Cady’s older sisters — she has one full sister and one half sister — did some research of their own. One of them found her Michigan birth record referenced another, still older, child born to Edna Cady. So the sisters asked their mother about it.
“She said, ‘Oh, that’s ridiculous,’ ” Cady said. “My mother was very upset over it. It just kind of sat on the back burner after that. We never wanted to upset our mother again.”
Edna Cady died of leukemia in 2003 at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids.
After the DNA sample match, however, family members were able to track down James Schugars’ adoption records to confirm the sibling relationship, Cady said.
As Cady was processing what she’d learned, so was James Schugars.
“He had reservations at first about ever agreeing to a meeting,” Cady said. “Through the first months even I, as the baby in the family, was kind of in a fog. I prayed hard and heavy.”
Eventually, the two agreed to meet last Friday at a hotel in East Peoria, Ill., chosen because it’s roughly halfway between Cedar Rapids and the Muskegon area, where James Schugars still lives. They talked for hours, shared photos and went to dinner.
“Just got to know each other,” Cady said. “Got to know about all the kids. I’m hoping we can rebuild some form of family, but that’s not something I can do on my own.”
The Gazette was unable to reach James Schugars for comment.
Cady was born and raised in Long Beach, Calif., after her parents moved there from Muskegon. She and her husband Gary Fike moved to Center Point in 1980.
James Schugars has stayed in Michigan his entire life, working in manufacturing and as a truck driver. He and his late wife had three sons and a daughter.
“So I’ve got a niece and nephews to meet,” Cady said.
James Schugars Jr., who also was at Friday’s gathering, is a regional manager for McDonald’s, based at the chain’s Chicago headquarters.
“He’s really a nice man,” Cady said. “He’s been such a nice person.”
AncestryDNA.com announced last April it had a DNA database of 4 million people. An independent service, gedmatch.com, matches DNA data across multiple databases.
“I think it’s pretty fascinating,” Cady said.
Her own children — son Nathan Fike lives in Blairstown, daughter Shannon Scheffel in Salida, Colo. — don’t know quite what to think of their mother’s discovery.
“They’re not sure,” Cady said. “They’re kind of like, ‘What? It’s just Mom, up to her genealogy stuff.’ ”
Cady is semiretired, working part time at a Cedar Rapids Walmart. Her sister Lois Wheeler, 69, lives in Cedar Rapids. Her half-sister Judy Khan, 74, lives in Illinois. Cady and Wheeler have the same father, Khan has a different father and Schugars also has a different father.
This wasn’t Pamela Cady’s first major discovery. In 2009, she used old-fashioned research to locate Gary Fike’s lost brother.
“He was always told he had died,” she said.
Further research led to a cemetery near Waterloo where Gary Fike’s ancestors, 1850s Iowa pioneers, are buried. He didn’t know about them, either.
“That was pretty cool,” Gary Fike said. “She’s really good at this stuff.”
Cady said she believes a higher power may have been at work in bringing her new family together.
“I think this was a divine occurrence,” she said. “A little science in there, but I think it was kind of a blessing. That’s how I look at it.”