A baby boy who was never named was born in July 1944, in Detroit, Michigan. The family believes that he was kidnapped and another dead baby substituted for Baby Boy Hacht. While at first this sounds improbable, if not incredulous, it isn’t.
That child, if still living, would be 70 today. So, if you or a male family member was born in the summer of 1944, in or near Detroit, please consider this possibility as you read this article. It’s also possible that if the child was part of a black market baby ring, the birth location could have been falsified, so any birth in late July 1944 should be considered.
In 1943, Jean became pregnant, and in the heat of the summer in 1944, on July 29th, their first child, a boy was born at Grace Hospital, a Catholic hospital, in Detroit.
This date is very important, as is the fact that the hospital was Catholic as this story unfolds.
I met Patti Hacht, the sister of Baby Boy Hacht, in 2009. We worked on this mystery for some time, but have hit a dead end. Patti’s living brother tested at Family Tree DNA for the Y DNA and Patti has tested at Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and at Ancestry for autosomal DNA.
I’ve asked Patti to tell this story in her own words.
On 29 July 1944 a first child was born to my parents – a son who never received a name other than Baby Boy Hacht (BBH.) BBH was born at Grace Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. My mom fed him for several days and then one day “medical personnel” came in and told her that her baby had died.
BBH had not been ill, and my dad’s sister worked at Grace Hospital. These three family members never believed BBH died. They always believed he was “switched” with another baby, one that really had died. My mother did not see the baby after death, but my father did, and he never believed the dead child was his child.
When I first heard of BBH, I was in my mid-late 40’s. I was driving in the car with my mother one day as we were driving by White Chapel Cemetery, about a year before she died, and she casually said, “That’s where our first baby is buried,” then added, “but we never believed our baby died.” I almost drove off the freeway!
It took me 3 years to find BBH at White Chapel. As it turns out, he was not buried there. He was cremated there, but his cremains were sent back to the funeral director.
Having been a family researcher for over 30 years, I went to the Detroit Vital Records Department to get a Death Certificate for BBH. As I walked away from the counter, reading this new document, I saw that BBH was listed as “stillborn.”
That was impossible.
You can’t feed a stillborn baby for “several days.”
So I went back to the counter, hoping to find out what was going on with this “wrong” Death Certificate. The clerk suggested we look for a Birth Record.
Ten minutes later, we had that record, and it too stated that BBH was “stillborn.” I later discovered that a stillborn baby never received a birth certificate at that time, only a death certificate. In 2003, Michigan began issuing Certificates of Stillbirth in addition to death certificates.
On closer inspection, it was clear that the Certificate of Death had been heavily altered. Someone had taken what appeared to be a thin Scripto pen (which had not even been invented yet in 1944) and “wrote over” what had originally been written on the document. The written over date was “29”, the year was “44” and the time was “9:57 a.m.”
Additionally, except for the signatures, all of the other information for BBH was typed, except for the birth date and death information…almost like the death certificate was being pre-prepared.
I noticed another odd detail – BBH had been cremated. This was unheard of in this timeframe and was expressly prohibited by the Catholic church. Grace was a Catholic hospital. My parents were actively Catholic. All of their children attended Catholic school. White Chapel Cemetery, where the cremation occurred told me that they would have only cremated “maybe one person” a year in 1944, and never a newborn baby.
However, his certificate clearly states that BBH was cremated.
For several years I tried to find the funeral home, J. P. Miller on Van Dyke in Detroit. Apparently my parents never picked up BBH’s cremains, apparently because they believed he had been buried, and I wondered if I might find viable DNA in them.
After about four years, I talked with someone at the funeral home. It had been sold a couple times, and the man I spoke with was retiring the very day I had called. He said that any cremains that might have remained in the building would have been destroyed as the building had been abandoned for several years and the roof had collapsed, so the inside of the building was exposed to the elements for many years.
I wondered why my Catholic family would have cremated their child and why they never picked up the cremains or had them buried. It makes sense only in the context that my parents never believed the dead child was their son and they sent the child’s remains who were substituted for their own child’s to be handled in the least expensive way possible. They likely had no idea that the child’s cremains weren’t buried and were returned to the funeral home. They never visited the grave because they never believed their child died. Unfortunately, by the time all of the details unfolded, my parents had passed away and couldn’t be asked.
This was also a very difficult time for the family for other reasons as well. My father’s mother was terminal with cancer and would die a couple of months later. This young couple had their hands full.
For several years the family pondered over those “write overs” in BBH’s Certificate of Death. In April of 2006 we hired Speckin Forensic Laboratory in Okemos, Michigan to conduct a forensic exam on BBH’s original Death Certificate – we wanted to know what had been “written over.” Getting to the exam had been a lengthy process. I was appointed BBH’s Personal Representative in Probate Court, and we had to obtain a court order for the State of Michigan to allow the forensic exam.
The forensic exam showed three chemical erasures – someone used some sort of chemical to first try to “erase” what had originally been written. Then they just wrote right over those chemical erasures. The original writings were: Day, 31 July. (This had been overwritten to read “29” July); Time, 10:00 a.m. (This had been overwritten to read “9:57 a.m.) So the date was changed from 31 July to 29 July and the time was changed from 10 a.m. to 9:57 a.m. The exam also clearly showed that the “overwritten” information was written with a different ink that the original writing.
|Death Day||Death Time|
|Original Entry||July 31||10 AM|
|Overwritten Entry||July 29||9:57 AM|
It was the opinion of the examiner (who was a retired Michigan State Police Officer) that the Certificate of Death was probably altered to “match” BBH’s Certificate of Birth. There probably was a baby that died and for whatever reason, and this baby probably died on 31 July. Then BBH was “substituted” for this deceased baby, and records were created that would make BBH’s Certificate of Birth and Certificate of Death “match.” If his birth and death date and time didn’t match, by three minutes, then he wasn’t “stillborn.”
The Detroit Legal News at that time published all the births in Wayne County. The males and females each had their own column, and the name and address of the mother was listed, along with the date of her child’s birth. I have compiled a list of about 200 male births in all of Wayne County from 27 July through 31 July. I believe one of these mothers took BBH home from the hospital and raised him as her own. She may have never known BBH was not her biological child.
I have been trying for years to narrow this list of 200+ names to ONLY babies born at Grace Hospital. All attempts to accomplish this have proved unsuccessful. Hospital records reportedly “burned” several years ago.
St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on Parson’s Street in Detroit would have been the Church that handled emergency baptisms for babies born at Grace Hospital – babies that became ill and needed to be baptized immediately. The baby baptized would have been one of those babies on my list of 200+ names from the Detroit Legal News. St. Patrick’s records do not have a baptism for BBH or any of the other names on my list. I do not know if you had to be Catholic to deliver a baby at Grace Hospital. Perhaps the baby that really died was not born to Catholic parents, so there would not be a record of a Catholic baptism? A stillborn baby is not baptized either.
We don’t know WHY Baby Boy Hacht was substituted for a deceased baby. Were the dead baby’s parents from an elite Detroit area family? A member of the Mob? Was it someone that hospital personnel was afraid to inform that their baby had died? Were hospital personnel negligent with someone else’s baby and decided to switch the dead baby for BBH, thinking these were young parents and they could just have another baby the next year? Did BBH become part of a black market baby ring? Why was the death certificate backdated to say that BBH was stillborn instead of having died 2 days later?
Or was there perhaps a widow whose husband had just been killed in WWII who delivered a stillborn baby and doctors determined to “fix” the situation for a new widow? This last idea was nixed – as in 1944, the thinking was more “stiff upper lip” and people did not necessarily treat the bereaved gently. The thinking of the day was to “get on with your life”, and giving a recent widow someone else’s baby didn’t mesh with that way of thinking.
If something wasn’t being covered up, then why were the dates and time changed, and why was a child who had lived for 2 days listed as stillborn?
Let’s take a look at scenarios of different possibilities.
- One Time Baby Swap – The baby of another patient died or was stillborn on the 31st and BBH was swapped for that child. If this is the case, then the swap was unplanned and the mother was likely from the area. BBH’s paperwork was altered to reflect that he was the stillborn child, on the 29th, not on the 31st as originally recorded on his death certificate.
- BBH Died of Natural Causes – If BBH simply died, the hospital would have completed a death certificate and not gone to the trouble to falsify his death certificate, claiming a still birth to match his birth certificate time and date.
- BBH Died of an Accident by Hospital Staff – Let’s say someone on the hospital staff accidentally dropped the baby and the baby died. This might get sticky and making the death a stillbirth, which was much more common, would avoid any questions.
- BBH Died of an Accident by His Parents – Let’s say one of his parents accidentally dropped the baby at the hospital and he died. In this case, the hospital would certainly not have been complicit in a coverup and would not have falsified the death certificate, nor claimed that the child was stillborn. There would have been a death certificate that reflected the actual death date and cause, and not a stillbirth.
- BBH Was Part of a Larger Baby Market Ring – In this case, the couple who raised BBH as their own would not have necessarily been from the Detroit area. Young and naïve parents would have been the best targets as they would be less likely to ask questions and/or make waves. This would also have required the involvement of at least one doctor (to sign death certificates) and more likely several medical personnel including nurses. However, this would have been much more effective if the child was simply spirited away at birth and the parents told the child was dead, not after the parents having handled the child for “several days.” Given that BBH’s paternal aunt worked at that hospital, if there was something of this nature, you would think that over the years she would have at least heard rumblings, especially given that the family, including her, believed that BBH had been swapped for a dead child.
Either the One Time Baby Swap or the Accidental Death by Hospital Staff make the most sense. If the BBH was swapped, as his parents and family believed, then he may be alive today.
It’s very possible that the parents who raised BBH had no idea what happened, and therefore, neither does BBH himself.
Babies Born in Detroit
I asked Patti to provide the various documents involved, as well as the names of the other families who were listed as having given birth in the Detroit area in the surrounding days.
It’s most likely that the baby that died passed away on July 31st and that BBH’s death certificate was amended on July 31st, as the original writing stated, to reflect that he was stillborn on July 29th instead. Although, I certainly have to wonder if the doctor who signed as the attending physician didn’t think that the parents would have noticed at the discrepancy – especially since the child had been attended by his parents for part of the 29th, the 30th and the 31st until he “died.” At that time, however, one simply did not question someone like a doctor.
Perhaps the amendment was actually done after the doctor signed the original death certificate, but that is unlikely, because a cause of death would have been completed by the doctor and there is no other cause of death listed other than stillborn, which was unquestionably not true.
In any event, this first list is the list of surnames of families whose children were born in Wayne County on July 31st. The 31st is the most likely day for the baby who was stillborn to have been born since that is the original death certificate date on BBH’s death certificate. There is no way to determine which of these babies were born at Grace Hospital.
Also, please keep in mind that this list is very likely incomplete – births of illegitimate children and children who died weren’t listed. Others, such as famous or notorious people, may not have been listed either. The hospital was very clearly in control of which births were submitted for publication, and which were not – and if there was something “funny” about the birth of BBH or the other child – or the parents were famous or infamous, that birth may not have been listed. It’s also possible that the parents who wound up with BBH were not from Detroit.
This second list includes the surnames of all of the babies born in Wayne County between July 27 and July 31, 1944 with the municipality as listed in the birth announcements in the newspaper.
|7/28||Boorgois||Gr. Pte Woods|
|7/28||July||Van Dyke (??)|
|7/30||Lucey||Grosse Pt. Park|
|7/29||Sevener||Grosse Pt. Park|
For additional information, contact Patti Hacht at firstname.lastname@example.org. Patti does have additional information about each family from the birth announcements.
What Might Baby Boy Hacht Have Looked Like?
This first photo is of two of BBH’s siblings, as children.
This second photo is of the 4 Hacht siblings as adults.
If you think you might be Baby Boy Hacht, or might know of someone who would be a candidate – please contact Patti Hacht at email@example.com. Patti does have additional information about these families, such as the mother’s first name and the addresses.
If you would like to DNA test first to see if you match Patti’s brother’s Y DNA or Patti’s family by autosomal DNA, please test at Family Tree DNA.
The Y chromosome is passed from father to son intact and is what makes males male. BBH carries his father’s Y chromosome and BBH’s sons would carry his.
Autosomal DNA is contributed to a child from both parents. The child receives half of the DNA of both of his parents. You can read more about how DNA is used for genetic genealogy here.
The Y DNA of Baby Boy Hacht or a his male child or male grandchild through a son will match that of Patti’s brother. The autosomal DNA of Baby Boy Hacht or his children or grandchildren of any gender will match with Patti and her family.
If you would like to DNA test, we recommend the 37 marker Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA for males and the Family Finder autosomal test for either gender
Here’s the link if you’re interested.