Paul Fronczak spent his life wondering if he was a baby who’d been kidnapped from a Chicago hospital. As an adult, DNA tests confirmed that detectives had gotten it wrong. CeCe Moore, founder of The DNA Detectives describes how she was able to use commercial DNA databases to help Paul uncover his true identity.
Hi, I’m CeCe Moore, and I’m a genetic genealogist. I’m the founder of The DNA Detectives and the co-founder of the Institute for Genetic Genealogy.
I presented about the Paul Fronczak case today. It’s multi-faceted, and I was just trying to address one of the questions involved in the case. There was a newborn who was kidnapped from a hospital in Chicago in 1964, and about a year and a half to two years later, there was a foundling (meaning a toddler that was abandoned on a street corner), and the FBI determined he was likely to be the Fronczak boy who had been kidnapped earlier, so, he was given to the Fronczak family to be raised as Paul Fronczak.
As an adult, with commercial DNA testing, he was able to test out that theory that the FBI reached way back in 1966, and found out that it was incorrect – not too surprisingly, since it was based on the shape of an ear. They didn’t have a lot of forensic techniques like we have today, and they didn’t have DNA testing in 1966 that they could use, so they made a mistake.
He was raised by the family as Paul Fronczak. We still aren’t able to solve what happened to the ‘real’ Paul Fronczak, but the man who was raised as Paul wanted to know his true biological identity. We addressed that using the methodology that I have developed since about 2011, using the three major commercial DNA databases, which are 23andMe, Ancestry DNA, Family Tree DNA. We recently now have a new entry into that, which is MyHeritageDNA, but we weren’t using that at the time of this case.
We looked at all four types of DNA. We did YSTR testing to see if we could find a surname or at least an ancestral origin. We did mitochondrial DNA testing to see if we could get information on his direct maternal line. We did autosomal DNA SNP testing. They use Illumina SNP chips or genotyping chips (those companies all use similar ones), and we looked at his admixture, and that helps me to narrow down the families that I’m looking at. Then, we make a lot of use out of the autosomal DNA matches – the list of people that are sharing significant amounts of DNA with Paul – the man we know as Paul. Included in some of those tests is XDNA testing. So that enabled us to use all four types of DNA to help point us in the right direction towards his family.
We also have a lot of foundlings (like Paul), that were abandoned. I’ve worked on dozens of those cases now. We have some baby-switch cases. Believe it or not, there are baby-switches out there! I’m always telling other genealogists, “If you don’t get the results you expect, don’t automatically think that you were switched at birth”, but sometimes, it turns out that they were.
I worked on an amnesia case. So there are other applications for what we do, and I really look forward to when the forensic community and the genetic genealogy community are able to work together more closely.
There’s some things that need to happen before we can get there. Right now, I can only work with a living person. If there’s someone who doesn’t know their true identity, it’s right up my alley, but we are unable to get the DNA from remains into the commercial databases that I use, so that really limits the application to forensics right now.
I’m looking forward to the future. I think there has to be some ways that we can work together. I’m especially interested in the approximately 40,000 John and Jane Does (deceased people who don’t have identities). That’s something that I want to tackle in the future. I’ve done a lot in unknown parentage, adoption, that area. It’s getting so easy to solve those cases. To me, the next challenge is to give these people their family back, even though they’re not living. So, I’m working on some ways that make it easier for us to try to work together on those types of cases.
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