What would you do if you discovered a huge family secret when you were ten years old that shook your world? Paul Joseph Fronczak learned from old news clippings that he had been abandoned in front of a New Jersey store as a toddler. FBI agents determined he was the missing child of a Chicago couple whose infant had been kidnapped from the hospital two years earlier. Reunited with his supposed parents, Paul grew up wondering if he really was the son of Chester and Dora Fronczak.
Fast forward forty years, when Paul’s own child was born. What was the truth? Was he the kidnapped son, restored to his rightful parents? If not, who was he and why had he been abandoned? The answer was in his DNA. A simple cheek swab test proved that he was not the biological son of the Fronczaks.
After Paul discovered that he wasn’t the son of Chester and Dora, he knew he needed help to find the answers to his questions. On April 25, 2013 he went public with his story via a local news station and soon all the major networks had picked it up. The story prompted two contacts with offers to help: Matt Deighton from Ancestry.com and CeCe Moore. Both volunteered to help Paul solve the mystery of his birth through autosomal DNA.
I met and talked with CeCe Moore at RootsTech 2017. CeCe is an independent professional genetic genealogist and media consultant. She has appeared on numerous television shows and writes the popular blog, Your Genetic Genealogist.
She gave a fascinating keynote for the Saturday morning session at RootsTech 2017. An excerpt from that presentation gives a peek into the world of DNA testing.
“As human beings we long to connect, to our history and to each other. To know where we fit into the grand scheme of things. We’re all searching for something. For many, these long sought answers have come through DNA testing and genetic genealogy. It’s providing answers to hundred of thousands of people, perhaps even millions. Our genealogy is truly coming alive through our very own DNA.”
CeCe was one of a team of genealogists that worked tirelessly to reconnect Paul with his biological family. The book details the good and bad leads, the hopes raised and dashed, the secrets.
Why did Paul feel such a need to discover who he was? He writes:
What do we mean when we talk about identity? Is it just the names and dates and numbers we believe define us? It can’t be, because those are so easily taken from us – in this country, someone’s identity is stolen every two seconds. Is it our features? Our thoughts? Our memories? No, those are fragile and fleeting too. So what is it then? What defines us? What makes us who we are?
DNA testing for adoptees, orphans, and foundlings is growing exponentially. Skeletons in the closet are jumping out right and left. The DNA Detectives Facebook group, started by CeCe Moore currently has over 50,000 members and almost every day someone writes about being reunited with their biological family. The stories can be joyful but also heartbreaking.
I know a little about adoptees. My younger sister, Nancy, was adopted when I was six years old. She too wanted to know where she came from. Several years ago I helped her track down her biological mother with some old-fashioned forensic genealogy. Meeting her biological family put her questions to rest. She shared her feelings and experiences as an adoptee on her blog, “Nancy an LDS woman on the brink.”
I met my sister’s biological mother and siblings at her son’s wedding last fall. I saw the genetic ties in her brother that looks just like my nephew. Although my sister looks nothing like me and we laugh when people tell us we look like sisters, we are sisters in the true sense of the word. We love and support each other through all of life’s sorrows and triumphs.
Do you know an adoptee, foundling, or orphan? Is there one in your family tree? If so, DNA just might be the key to answering the huge questions of identity. Reading The Foundling: The True Story of a Kidnapping, a Family Secret, and My Search for the Real Me can give you some valuable insight into that world and DNA testing. Enjoy!