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. 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!

After several years of searching for his birth family, Paul finally found a close cousin, also adopted, only to lose him again. At least his cousin had records which 20/20 was able to get unsealed. From the book:

“But because he was adopted, he didn’t know his medical history. He had no way of knowing what was inside him waiting to happen. Only much later did [we] learn that two other member’s of [my cousin’s] family had died under similar circumstances.” He was in his 50s.

Close cousins are the gold of DNA adoption searches. If you find a first cousin, you only have the descendants of two sets of grandparents to look through for someone in the right place at the right time. A second cousin gives you four sets. A third cousin, eight sets. In fact, it was this cousin’s test that was the key to cracking Paul’s case.

The dark secrets of Paul’s biological family come to light in the book, as well as the shared love of music missing from his adoptive family. Then there is the search for the real Paul. And last but not least is the effect on Paul’s own family. I could not put it down.

Here is the youtube report from the I-team of Las Vegas 8 news:

Click here for the facebook page “Who is Paul Fronczak?” Congratulations to Cece Moore and the DNA detectives for finding Paul’s birth family.

UPDATE 28 Apr 2017: The I team had a new segment on this case see


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  1. I read the book last week. Did not put it down. It detailed the feelings that Paul had while growing up and as a young adult. Very moving story. My father was a foundling in NYC in 1918. Placed for adoption through NY Foundling Hospital. Very sad for him. I have discovered his paternal side of his birth family through DNA. Still searching for the maternal part.

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