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The Foundling, a Compelling Story

Some books are hard to put down. The Foundling: The True Story of a Kidnapping, a Family Secret, and My Search for the Real Me was one of those books for me, maybe that is because I love working with DNA and genealogy and have helped a few adoptees myself. Perhaps it is because I know Cece Moore and the DNA detectives, so I heard about this from the sidelines. However I think it is really because it is such a deeply personal and compelling exploration of Paul’s journey.

Can you imagine filling out a form at the doctor’s office and having to leave the family medical history blank? Or feeling like the odd person out at family gatherings because you are so different from everyone else? These are common feelings for adoptees and Paul, with his co-author Alex Tresniowski, made them come alive for me.

The Paul Fronczak kidnapping was a famous case of a baby stolen from a hospital by a fake nurse. Two years later the FBI found an abandoned toddler in New Jersey that they thought was Paul and he was given to the Fronczaks to raise. This was long before DNA technology could be used. Fifty years later a DNA test proved that Paul was not the stolen baby.

The legendary journalist George Knapp from the Las Vegas I-team took on this story (next episode coming on April 28) and it soon went national. 20/20 made it famous. Ancestry.com and separately Cece Moore and her DNA detectives took on the DNA exploration.

The toughest adoption cases to solve in these days of DNA testing are the foundlings. With no names and just a location, only DNA can give an answer and even that is dependent on the luck of close relatives having tested.

Don’t click the Continue Reading unless you are ready for spoilers, just get the book!
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Endogamy: A book and a blog post and my own explorations

Endogamous populations are much harder to work with in genetic genealogy because you have double and triple 6th cousins who look like 2nd to 3rd cousins when you compare their DNA to yours. Ashkenazim (see my Ashkenazi DNA post), Mennonites (see Tim Jantzen’s project), and Polynesians (See Kalani Mondoy”s project) are a few of these intermarried groups. See the ISOGG wiki for a further discussion of endogamy.


A fellow genetic genealogist, Israel Pickhotz, has written a fascinating book about how he has confirmed and refuted many genealogical connections in his extended Ashkenazi family. He did this by testing every cousin he could. That story is an inspiration to those of us frustrated by using DNA to research our jewish roots. It is as easy to read as it can be, given that genetic genealogy is not easy to understand. Lara, blogging at her blog Lara’s Family Search, wrote an excellent description of the book in her review which is hard to improve upon.

Israel’s blog continues his story: http://allmyforeparents.blogspot.com/

Another DNA expert, Jim Bartlett has just written an interesting blog post investigating the math of endogamy at his segmentology blog. As it is titled part I, I am looking forward to part II.

The problem comes when so many cousins marry each other as you go back up the tree that it gets difficult to calculate the shared DNA. Plus once you get past 3rd cousins, DNA inheritance becomes more and more random anyway.

On my Norwegian side, my Dad has a woman “MB” listed as a 2nd to 3rd cousin who upon investigation was found to be a fifth cousin three times and a sixth another time. She shares 49 cM over 4 segments with my Dad and a whopping 141 cM in 8 segments with my third cousin in Norway. That third cousin is related the same way to MB as we are, but he, like MB, descends from a cousin marriage within this group.

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Free guide to DNA testing (for a few days only)

Richard Hill is a very fine writer. I could not put down the story of his search for his biological parents, Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA, which reads like a mystery novel.


He has put together an e-book, Guide to DNA Testing: How to Identify Ancestors, Confirm Relationships, and Measure Ethnic Ancestry through DNA Testing, available from Amazon, which is a very simple guide to personal DNA testing. Normally $.99, it is free through 12/16.

It will help you choose which test to take and why. It is only about 30 pages. It is not comprehensive but it does answer your basic questions. It is meant for those totally new to DNA testing not for the experienced. Although if you have tested, but still have many questions, they may be answered by this book.

This may also make a nice gift for relatives who are thinking of doing DNA testing.

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Genealogy books, family histories, and more useful books online, digitized

When I was working on a cousin’s colonial ancestry, googling an ancestor’s name* would often find a book digitized and online at google, for example, a local history of Stamford, CT. Recently I saw a post about the genealogically related books digitized by familysearch which said “There are many thousands of historical and genealogical books available to read online. They are indexed so I was able to find old towns where ancestors lived, genealogies of families …”

In short order I found a book at familysearch.org about Norwegians in Brooklyn that listed my granddad and both sets of my great grandparents who lived there. The details of that are posted here on my family history site.

MunsonInstituteAfter I excitedly announced this on one of my favorite mailing lists, others chimed in with more online book resources. So with permission, I am including June Byrne’s list of these and tips on using them.

*n.b. when googling a name, put it in quotes to get an exact match, e.g. “Lawrence J. Munson”

The rest of this post is adapted from a write-up by June C. Byrne.

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Finally a good basic book on genetic genealogy

There is finally a really well-done book on understanding and using autosomal DNA testing, so of course I have been wanting to review it. At last on the plane to Rootstech 2014 I had the time to read it:  Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond by Emily Aulicino. I thought that I would know most of what was in there but was pleasantly surprised by a number of helpful insights.

I will reread chapter 6, “Convincing a Person to Test” several more times. I have found that the DNA match ups of my 2nd cousins who have tested are extremely useful for figuring out which line a new relative is related on. Thus I need advice on how to get few more of them to test!

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