How They Found the Real Benjamin Kyle

Benjamin Kyle 2010

The genetic genealogy community let out a simultaneous whoop for joy last week at the news that the identity of Benjamin Kyle had finally been found. At long last, the “man with no name” finally has a name – a real name – not a temporary name.

In case you’re not familiar, the man known as Benjamin Kyle was found beaten, stripped naked and left for dead behind a trash dumpster in 2004 in Richmond Hill, Georgia, outside Savannah.  He remembered nothing….nothing at all.  Not how he got there, not what happened, and not who he was.  His life became a living hell, because you not only can’t work, you can’t get any services, not even a bed in a homeless shelter, without being able to prove you are.  Surprised?  So was I.

Benjamin did remember snippets from time to time.  He remembered what he believed to be his birthday, 10 years to the day before Michael Jackson, and he remembered that he was Catholic.  He remembered landmarks in Indianapolis, Indiana as a child and some things from Colorado, but not much more.  He thought his first name might be Benjamin.

In 2008 Benjamin Kyle appeared on the Dr. Phil show, and in 2011, a documentary was produced about his plight.  Through this and other media coverage, his situation became known in the genetic genealogy community.  DNA testing commenced thanks to Family Tree DNA, and this saga culminated last week with the announcement that Benjamin’s identity has been found…along with his family…and yes…in Indiana.

Who accomplished this feat?  It wasn’t the police, as one might expect.  In fact, it is a little known group of “search angels” with, a nonprofit group that helps adoptees and others with unknown parentage find their roots through a combination of DNA testing and assembling the family trees of those whom they match, narrowing the search for their own family.  It’s a long tedious process, but it’s doable, and the DNAadoption volunteers developed and documented the methodology for success.

But hey, let’s listen as Diane Harman-Hoog tell this story herself in her article, Our Greatest Challenge.  After all, it’s their story, their victory – Diane along with the other search angels, and of course a victory for Benjamin Kyle too.  And for the inquiring minds who want to know exactly how the researchers accomplished this incredible feat….Diane shares the methodology!

Congratulations to all of the researchers and genetic genealogists involved in the search and discovery of the true identity of Benjamin Kyle.  I must say, in all of the footage I’ve seen of Benjamin, the video in the news article announcing the discovery of his identity is the first time I’ve ever seen him smiling and he looks genuinely happy!  It must have been an incredible day for Benjamin – like a second birth in one lifetime.  The gift of his life returned.

The folks at truly are angels.  Amazingly skilled, dedicated, devoted angels.  I’m positive that Benjamin Kyle would agree.  I do believe in the process of finding his original family that he has found a new family of genealogists too!

angel family



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3 thoughts on “How They Found the Real Benjamin Kyle

  1. Great story. In 2009 I contacted the Search Angel group called Northwest Adoption Search and Reunion. I worked with Diane who was instrumental in searching for my mother’s (she was born and adopted in 1930) birth families. My families. We succeeded in 2010. That summer I took my 1st autosomal DNA test. DNA was not new to me as I had taken a YDNA test in 2008 for my surname at the invitation of a distant cousin. I just knew that DNA would eventually lead to a solution. I think I had 22 Autosomal matches on FTDNA to start. Now, I have well over a 1,000. I have also been involved with DNAAdoption and they are a fine group of dedicated individuals. Although my search was not a DNA search at that time (databases too small) we did use autosomal DNA to verify a paternal half sister to my mother and a maternal 1st cousin to my mother. My half-aunt and 1st cousin once removed. Diane, Patty, Margaret and Penni are wonderful and will always remain my angels!

  2. DNA could easily solve my mystery today with the quantity and quality of matches across the three “fishing ponds” – FTDNA-Family Finder, 23andMe, and


    Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited, imagination encircles the world. Albert Einstein

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