DNA Testing Strategy for Adoptees and People with Uncertain Parentage

Adoptees aren’t the only people who don’t know who their parents are.  There are many people who don’t know the identity of one of their two parents…and it’s not always the father.  Just this week, I had someone who needed to determine which of two sisters was her mother.  Still, the “who’s your Daddy” crowd, aside from adoptees, is by far the largest.

The DNA testing strategy for both of these groups of people is the same, with slight modifications for male or female. Let’s take a look.

Males have three kinds of DNA that can be tested and then compared to other participants’ results.  The tests for these three kinds of DNA provide different kinds of information which is useful in different ways.  For example, Y DNA testing may give you a surname, if you’re a male, but the other two types of tests can’t do that, at least not directly.

Females only have two of those kinds of DNA that can be tested.  Females don’t have a Y chromosome, which is what makes males male genetically.

adopted pedigree

If you look at this pedigree chart, you can see that the Y chromosome, in blue, is passed from the father to the son, but not to daughters.  It’s passed intact, meaning there is no admixture from the mother, who doesn’t have a Y chromosome, because she is female.  The Y chromosome is what makes males male.

The second type of DNA testing is mitochondrial, represented by the red circles.  It is passed from the mother to all of her children, of both genders, intact – meaning her mitochondrial DNA is not admixed with the mtDNA of the father.  Woman pass their mtDNA on to their children, men don’t.

Therefore when you test either the Y or the mtDNA, you get a direct line view right down that branch of the family tree – and only that direct line on that branch of the tree.  Since there is no admixture from spouses in any generation, you will match someone exactly or closely (allowing for an occasional mutation or two) from generations ago.  Now, that’s the good and the bad news – and where genealogical sleuthing comes into play.

On the chart above, the third kind of DNA testing, autosomal DNA, tests your DNA from all of your ancestors, meaning all of those boxes with no color, not just the blue and red ones, but it does include the blue and red ancestors too.  However, autosomal DNA (unlike Y and mtDNA) is diluted by half in each generation, because you get half of your autosomal DNA from each parent, so only half of the parents DNA gets passed on to each child.

Let’s look at how these three kinds of DNA can help you identify your family members.


Since the Y DNA typically follows the paternal surname, it can be extremely helpful for males who are searching for their genetic surname.  For example, if your biological father’s surname is Estes, assuming he is not himself adopted or the product of a nonpaternal event (NPE) which I like to refer to as undocumented adoptions, his DNA will match that of the Estes ancestral line.  So, if you’re a male, an extremely important test will be the Y DNA test from Family Tree DNA, the only testing company to offer this test.

Let’s say that you have no idea who your bio-father is, but when your results come back you see a preponderance of Estes men whom you match, as well as your highest and closest matches being Estes.

By highest, I mean on the highest panel you tested – in this case 111 markers.  And by closest, I mean with the smallest genetic distance, or number of mutations difference.  On the chart below, this person matches only Estes males at 111 markers, and one with only 1 mutation difference (Genetic Distance.)  Please noted that I’ve redacted first names.

Hint for Mr. Hilbert, below – there is a really good chance that you’re genetically Estes on the direct paternal side – that blue line.

Estes match ex

The next step will be to see which Estes line you match the most closely and begin to work from there genealogically.  In this case, that would be the first match with only one difference.  Does your match have a tree online?  In this case, they do – as noted by the pedigree chart icon.  Contact this person.  Where did their ancestors live?  Where did their descendants move to?  Where were you born?  How do the dots connect?

The good news is, looking at their DNA results, you can see that your closest match has also tested autosomally, indicated by the FF icon, so you can check to see if you also match them on the Family Finder test utilizing the Advanced Matching Tool.  That will help determine how close or distantly related you are to the tester themselves.  This gives you an idea how far back in their tree you would have to look for a common ancestor.

Another benefit is that your haplogroup identifies your deep ancestral clan, for lack of a better word.  In other words, you’ll know if your paternal ancestor was European, Asian, Native American or African – and that can be a hugely important piece of information.  Contrary to what seems intuitive, the ethnicity of your paternal (or any) ancestor is not always what seems evident by looking in the mirror today.

Y DNA – What to order:  From Family Tree DNA, the 111 marker Y DNA test.  This is for males only.  Family Tree DNA is the only testing company to provide this testing.  Can you order fewer markers, like 37 or 67?  Yes, but it won’t provide you with as much information or resolution as ordering 111 markers.  You can upgrade later, but you’ll curse yourself for that second wait.


Mitochondrial DNA

Males and females both can test for mitochondrial DNA.  Matches point to a common ancestor directly up the matrilineal side of your family – your mother, her mother, her mother – those red circles on the chart.  These matches are more difficult to work with genealogically, because the surnames change in every generation.  Occasionally, you’ll see a common “most distant ancestor” between mitochondrial DNA matches.

Your mitochondrial DNA is compared at three levels, but the most accurate and detailed is the full sequence level which tests all 16,569 locations on your mitochondria.  The series of mutations that you have forms a genetic signature, which is then compared to others.  The people you match the most closely at the full sequence level are the people with whom you are most likely to be genealogically related to a relevant timeframe.

You also receive your haplogroup designation with mitochondrial DNA testing which will place you within an ethnic group, and may also provide more assistance in terms of where your ancestors may have come from.  For example, if your haplogroup is European and you match only people from Norway….that’s a really big hint.

Using the Advanced Matching Tool, you can also compare your results to mitochondrial matches who have taken the autosomal Family Finder test to see if you happen to match on both tests.  Again, that’s not a guarantee you’re a close relative on the mitochondrial side, but it’s a darned good hint and a place to begin your research.

Mitochondrial DNA – What to Order:  From Family Tree DNA, the mitochondrial full sequence test.  This is for males and females both.  Family Tree DNA is the only company that provides this testing.


Autosomal DNA

Y and mitochondrial DNA tests one line, and only one line – and shoots like a laser beam right down that line, telling you about the recent and deep history of that particular lineage.  In other words, those tests are deep and not wide.  They can tell you nothing about any of your other ancestors – the ones with no color on the pedigree chart diagram – because you don’t inherit either Y or mtDNA from those ancestors.

Autosomal DNA, on the other hand tends to be wide but not deep.  By this I mean that autosomal DNA shows you matches to ancestors on all of your lines – but only detects relationships back a few generations.  Since each child in each generation received half of their DNA from each parent – in essence, the DNA of each ancestor is cut in half (roughly) in each generation.  Therefore, you carry 50% of the DNA of your parents, approximately 25% of each grandparent, 12.5% of the DNA of each great-grandparent, and so forth.  By the time you’re back to the 4th great-grandparents, you carry only about 1% of the DNA or each of your 64 direct ancestors in that generation.

What this means is that the DNA testing can locate common segments between you and your genetic cousins that are the same, and if you share the same ancestors,  you can prove that this DNA in fact comes from a specific ancestor.  The more closely you are related, the more DNA you will share.

Another benefit that autosomal testing provides is an ethnicity prediction.  Are these predictions 100% accurate?  Absolutely not!  Are they generally good in terms of identifying the four major ethnic groups; African, European, Asian and Native American?  Yes, so long at the DNA amounts you carry of those groups aren’t tiny.  So you’ll learn your major ethnicity groups.  You never know, there may be a surprise waiting for you.

FTDNA myOrigins

The three vendors who provide autosomal DNA testing and matching all provide ethnicity estimates as well, and they aren’t going to agree 100%.  That’s the good news and often makes things even more interesting.  The screen shot below is the same person at Ancestry as the person above at Family Tree DNA.

Ancestry ethnicity

If you’re very lucky, you’ll test and find an immediate close match – maybe even a parent, sibling or half-sibling.  It does happen, but don’t count on it.  I don’t want you to be disappointed when it doesn’t happen.  Just remember, after you test, your DNA is fishing for you 24X7, every single hour of every single day.

If you’re lucky, you may find a close relative, like an uncle or first cousin.  You share a common grandparent with a first cousin, and that’s pretty easy to narrow down.  Here’s an example of matching from Family Tree DNA.

FTDNA close match

If you’re less lucky, you’ll match distantly with many people, but by using their trees, you’ll be able to find common ancestors and then work your way forward, based on how closely you match these individuals, to the current.

Is that a sometimes long process?  Yes.  Can it be done?  Absolutely.

If you are one of the “lottery winner” lucky ones, you’ll have a close match and you won’t need to do the in-depth genealogy sleuthing.  If you are aren’t quite as lucky, there are people and resources to help you, along with educational resources.  www.dnaadoption.com provides tools and education to teach you how to utilize autosomal DNA tools and results.

Of course, you won’t know how lucky or unlucky you are unless you test.  Your answer, or pieces of your answer, may be waiting for you.

Unlike Y and mtDNA testing, Family Tree DNA is not the only company to provide autosomal of testing, although they do provide autosomal DNA testing through their Family Finder test.

There are two additional companies that provide this type of testing as well, 23andMe and Ancestry.com.  You should absolutely test with all three companies, or make sure your results are in all three data bases.  That way you are fishing in all of the available ponds directly.

If you have to choose between testing companies and only utilize one, it would be a very difficult choice.  All three have pros and cons.  I wrote about that here.  The only thing I would add to what I had to say in the comparison article is that Family Tree DNA is the only one of the three that is not trying to obtain your consent to sell your DNA out the back door to other entities.  They don’t sell your DNA, period.  You don’t have to grant that consent to either Ancestry or 23andMe, but be careful not to click on anything you don’t fully understand.

Family Tree DNA accepts transfers of autosomal data into their data base from Ancestry.  They also accept transfers from 23andMe if you tested before December of 2013 when 23andMe reduced the number of locations they test on their V4 chip

Autosomal DNA:  What to Order

Ancestry.com’s DNA product at http://www.ancestry.com – they only have one and it’s an autosomal DNA test

23andMe’s DNA product at http://www.23andMe.com – they only have one and it’s an autosomal DNA test

Family Tree DNA – either transfer your data from Ancestry or 23andMe (if you tested before December 2013), or order the Family Finder test. My personal preference is to simply test at Family Tree DNA to eliminate any possibility of a file transfer issue.


Third Party Autosomal Tools

The last part of your testing strategy will be to utilize various third party tools to help you find matches, evaluate and analyze results.


At GedMatch, the first thing you’ll need to do is to download your raw autosomal data file from either Ancestry or Family Tree DNA and upload the file to www.gedmatch.com.  You can also download your results from 23andMe, but I prefer to utilize the files from either of the other two vendors, given a choice, because they cover about 200,000 additional DNA locations that 23andMe does not.

Ancestry.com provides you with no tools to do comparisons between your DNA and your matches.  In other words, no chromosome browser or even information like how much DNA you share.  I wrote about that extensively in this article, and I don’t want to belabor the point here, other than to say that GedMatch levels the playing field and allows you to eliminate any of the artificial barriers put in place by the vendors.  Jim Bartlett just wrote a great article about the various reasons why you’d want to upload your data to Gedmatch.

GedMatch provides you with many tools to show to whom you are related, and how.  Used in conjunction with pedigree charts, it is an invaluable tool.  Now, if we could just convince everyone to upload their files.  Obviously, not everyone does, so you’ll still need to work with your matches individually at each of the vendors and at GedMatch.

GedMatch is funded by donations or an inexpensive monthly subscription for the more advanced tools.


Another donation based site is http://www.dnagedcom.com which offers you a wide range of analytical tools to assist with making sense of your matches and their trees.  DNAGEDCOM works closely with the adoption community and focuses on the types of solutions they need to solve their unique types of genealogy puzzles.  While everyone else is starting in the present and working their way back, adoptees are starting with the older generations and piecing them together to come forward to present.  Their tools aren’t just for adoptees though.  Tools such as the Autosomal DNA Segment Analyzer are great for anyone.  Visit the site and take a look.

Third Party Y and Mitochondrial Tools – YSearch and MitoSearch

Both www.ysearch.org and www.mitosearch.org are free data bases maintained separately from Family Tree DNA, but as a courtesy by Family Tree DNA.  Ysearch shows only a maximum of 100 markers for Y DNA and Mitosearch doesn’t show the coding region of the mitochondrial DNA, but they do allow users to provide their actual marker values for direct comparison, in addition to other tools.

Furthermore, some people who tested at other firms, when other companies were doing Y and mtDNA testing, have entered their results here, so you may match with people who aren’t matches at Family Tree DNA.  Those other data bases no longer exist, so Ysearch or Mitosearch is the only place you have a prayer of matching anyone who tested elsewhere.

You can also adjust the match threshold so that you can see more distant matches than at Family Tree DNA.  You can download your results to Ysearch and Mitosearch from the bottom of your Family Tree DNA matches page.

Mitosearch upload

Answer the questions at Mito or Ysearch, and then click “Save Information.”  When you receive the “500” message that an error has occurred at the end of the process, simply close the window.  Your data has been added to the data base and you can obtain your ID number by simply going back to your match page at Family Tree DNA and clicking on the “Upload to Ysearch” or Mitosearch link again on the bottom of your matches page.  At that point, your Y or mitosearch ID will be displayed.  Just click on “Search for Genetic Matches” to continue matching.

Get Going!

Now that you have a plan, place your orders and in another 6 to 8 weeks, you’ll either solve the quandry or at least begin to answer your questions.  Twenty years ago you couldn’t have begun to unravel your parentage using DNA.  Now, it’s commonplace.  Your adventure starts today.

Oh, and congratulations, you’ve just become a DNA detective!

I wish you success on your journey – answers, cousins, siblings and most importantly, your genetic family.  Hopefully, one day it will be you writing to me telling me how wonderful it was to meet your genetic family for the first time, and what an amazing experience it was to look across the dinner table and see someone who looks like you.

Baby Boy Hacht – Born July 1944 – Dead, or Kidnapped and Alive Today??

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.

What Happened?

John James Hacht & Jean Marie Mlasko were married on November 18, 1942 in  Michigan.
hacht wedding

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!

First baby?


Didn’t die??


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.”

BBH Death

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.

BBH birth

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.

BBH modification

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.”

speckin 1

speckin 2

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.

  • Akin
  • Bailey
  • Bennett
  • Boytim
  • Brow
  • Bruce
  • Cappo
  • Craver
  • Davis
  • Dellamore
  • Dinneweth
  • Downes
  • DuBois
  • Elmasian
  • Faron
  • Fletcher
  • Flood
  • Gampel
  • Grandmaison
  • Harter
  • Hicks
  • Hill
  • Jones
  • Karas
  • Kekaha
  • Koblicz
  • Kraemer
  • Liss.
  • Mitchell
  • Nadolny
  • Pospeshil
  • Quiroz
  • Ready
  • Rotenberg
  • Rutzel
  • Shoemaker
  • Shoemaker
  • Smith
  • Stallings
  • Swartz
  • Thompson
  • William
  • Zimostrad

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.

7/30 Acker Detroit
7/30 Ackerman East Detroit
7/31 Akin Detroit
7/29 Anderson Detroit
7/29 Ash Detroit
7/31 Bailey Dearborn
7/27 Bartlett
7/28 Bawiee Detroit
7/27 Bazell Detroit
7/27 Beninati Detroit
7/31 Bennett Detroit
7/29 Bills Detroit
7/30 Blankenship Detroit
7/28 Bobo Detroit
7/27 Bombalski Detroit
7/30 Bond Detroit
7/28 Boorgois Gr. Pte Woods
7/28 Bourgeois Detroit
7/28 Bowman Detroit
7/29 Bowser Detroit
7/29 Boyce Detroit
7/29 Boyd Detroit
7/31 Boytim Centerline
7/29 Brantley Detroit
7/30 Brenner Detroit
7/27 Briggs Detroit
7/31 Brow Hazel Park
7/28 Brown Detroit
7/27 Brownlee Detroit
7/31 Bruce Detroit
7/30 Burchby Detroit
7/27 Burges Detroit
7/28 Burley Highland Park
7/30 Canfield Detroit
7/31 Cappo Dearborn
7/29 Carswell Detroit
7/27 Chobot Dearborn
7/28 Ciavone Detroit
7/27 Clifton Detroit
7/27 Coba Dearborn
7/29 Common Detroit
7/28 Cook Redford
7/27 Cooper Detroit
7/31 Craver Detroit
7/28 Crichton Detroit
7/29 Cromwell Grosse Pointe
7/27 Cummins Detroit
7/27 Davidson Detroit
7/28 Davio Detroit
7/31 Davis Detroit
7/31 Dellamore Detroit
7/28 Dennis Detroit
7/27 Deraedt Detroit
7/29 Dilda Detroit
7/31 Dinneweth Detroit
7/28 Donati Detroit
7/31 Downes Detroit
7/31 DuBois Detroit
7/27 Dunn Detroit
7/27 Earl Detroit
7/28 Ehrisman Detroit
7/28 Eldridge Ferndale
7/31 Elmasian Detroit
7/29 Engel Detroit
7/28 Ettinger Detroit
7/29 Fane Detroit
7/31 Faron Detroit
7/28 Fenstermacher Detroit
7/31 Fletcher Detroit
7/31 Flood Inkster
7/27 Fontana Detroit
7/29 Fung Yee Detroit
7/31 Gampel Detroit
7/29 Garrett Detroit
7/30 George Detroit
7/28 Glasnier Detroit
7/28 Gondos Detroit
7/31 Grandmaison Detroit
7/29 Greggie Birmingham
7/28 Griem Detroit
7/27 Gualdoni Detroit
7/30 Gunderson Detroit
7/29 Gurski Detroit
7/30 Hagerstrom Detroit
7/28 Harris Detroit
7/31 Harter Detroit
7/27 Haugh Detroit
7/27 Heiner Detroit
7/31 Hicks Detroit
7/28 Higgens Detroit
7/31 Hill North Carolina
7/30 Hillier Redford
7/27 Husak Detroit
7/28 Hussett Detroit
7/30 Ilby Plymouth
7/29 Jackson Detroit
7/30 Jackson Inkster
7/30 Jerimias Royal Oak
7/31 Jones Detroit
7/27 Jorden Detroit
7/30 Jozsa Detroit
7/28 July Van Dyke (??)
7/27 Kaczmarczyk Detroit
7/29 Kampa Detroit
7/31 Karas Detroit
7/30 Kaump Detroit
7/31 Kekaha Hazel Park
7/27 Kibler Detroit
7/27 Kilgore Highland Park
7/27 Kipp Royal Oak
7/31 Koblicz Detroit
7/27 Koerber Detroit
7/28 Kolongowski Detroit
7/31 Kraemer Detroit
7/27 Kuczenski Detroit
7/30 Kujawski Detroit
7/28 LaRose Detroit
7/28 Larsen Detroit
7/28 Leland Detroit
7/29 Lennert Detroit
7/29 Lightle Wyandotte
7/30 Lisiecki Hamtramak
7/31 Liss. Dearborn
7/30 Lovince Hamtramak
7/29 Lubs Allen Park
7/30 Lucey Grosse Pt. Park
7/27 Lupo Detroit
7/28 Malczyk Detroit
7/28 Maloney Detroit
7/29 Martin Detroit
7/30 Martin Detroit
7/30 Matley Detroit
7/30 Mattei Detroit
7/29 Mc Flgunn Detroit
7/28 Mc Millan Detroit
7/30 Meisner Detroit
7/27 Mitchell Detroit
7/28 Mitchell Grosse Pointe
7/29 Mitchell Ferndale
7/31 Mitchell Detroit
7/29 Moore Farmington
7/30 Moore Farmington
7/30 Morehead Inkster
7/27 Moses Detroit
7/31 Nadolny Allen Park
7/27 Neilson Detroit
7/30 Neu. Detroit
7/29 Noder Detroit
7/28 Nowakowski Detroit
7/27 Or Detroit
7/28 Pacult Detroit
7/29 Palmer Berkley
7/29 Parker Inkster
7/30 Parr Detroit
7/29 Peguese Detroit
7/29 Perri Dearborn
7/31 Pospeshil Detroit
7/30 Powell Detroit
7/27 Prange Detroit
7/31 Quiroz Detroit
7/27 Rabidue Detroit
7/30 Randolph Detroit
7/27 Ranin Detroit
7/31 Ready Detroit
7/29 Reiss Detroit
7/28 Rey Mt. Clemens
7/30 Rhodes Detroit
7/28 Richardson Detroit
7/27 Roberts Detroit
7/31 Rotenberg Detroit
7/28 Roush Detroit
7/31 Rutzel Detroit
7/30 Ryback Detroit
7/29 Rychlicki Detroit
7/29 Scafero Detroit
7/29 Schart Detroit
7/27 Schneider Detroit
7/30 Scott Detroit
7/28 Serling Detroit
7/29 Sevener Grosse Pt. Park
7/29 Shackney Detroit
7/27 Shipley Ferndale
7/31 Shoemaker Farmington
7/31 Shoemaker Detroit
7/28 Sievert Dearborn
7/29 Simm Detroit
7/27 Slavko Detroit
7/28 Smith Detroit
7/29 Smith Detroit
7/31 Smith Detroit
7/30 Springer Detroit
7/31 Stallings Detroit
7/27 Stanton Detroit
7/29 Stefanic Detroit
7/28 Steiner Detroit
7/29 Stepulla Hamtramak
7/27 Stoven Detroit
7/31 Swartz Detroit
7/28 Tekel Melvindale
7/27 Terhaar Detroit
7/31 Thompson Detroit
7/28 Towe Detroit
7/29 Tromburrini Detroit
7/28 Trouttchaud Dearborn
7/27 Turner Detroit
7/27 Vitagliano Detroit
7/27 Voss Detroit
7/27 Watkins Detroit
7/29 Watson Hazel Park
7/30 Wenban Detroit
7/29 Westland Detroit
7/27 Wheeler Detroit
7/29 Whitman Detroit
7/31 William Detroit
7/28 Williams Detroit
7/30 Williams Detroit
7/29 Winfrey Detroit
7/29 Winters Detroit
7/28 Wolfbauer East Detroit
7/29 Wright Pleasant Ridge
7/30 Wyka Detroit
7/27 Yeszin Detroit
7/28 Yokubison Detroit
7/27 Zielinski Detroit
7/31 Zimostrad Wayne
7/30 Zink Birmingham
7/27 Zoulets Royal Oak

For additional information, contact Patti Hacht at duncaha@gmail.com.  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.

Patti & Jimmy Hacht

This second photo is of the 4 Hacht siblings as adults.

Colleen, Mark (back) Jimmy & Patti Hacht


If you think you might be Baby Boy Hacht, or might know of someone who would be a candidate – please contact Patti Hacht at duncaha@gmail.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.

Obtaining Help with DNA

helix graphicI’ve always made it a policy to reply to every e-mail or information request that I receive.  The good news is that my blogs have become very popular.  The bad news is that I now receive literally hundreds of e-mails every day, many asking questions or for advice, and I just can’t keep up anymore.  So, I’ve assembled this information which provides direction for most of the types of inquiries I receive.

First, my www.dna-explained.com blog is free, fully key word searchable and has hundreds of articles.  So if you want to find out about autosomal tests, for example, just type the word “autosomal” into the search box and a list of articles about autosomal testing will appear.

If you are requesting information about the different types of DNA tests to take, visit this link:  https://dna-explained.com/?s=4+kinds

If you are requesting information about Native American DNA testing, visit this link:  https://dna-explained.com/2012/12/18/proving-native-american-ancestry-using-dna/

If you are an adoptee, visit this link:  https://dna-explained.com/2012/07/30/adoptee-resources-and-genetic-genealogy/ and this link http://dnaadoption.com/AboutUs.aspx

If you are looking for Melungeon information, read this paper: http://www.dnaexplain.com/Publications/PDFs/MelungeonsMulti-EthnicPeopleFinal.pdf

If you want to know which testing company to use, see Consulting and Products, below.

If you have a general or specific DNA question, try searching my blog.

ISOGG (International Society for Genetic Genealogy) has a robust wiki as well:  http://www.isogg.org/wiki/

If you want to learn about DNA and genetic genealogy, visit this link:

https://dna-explained.com/2014/01/24/genetic-genealogy-the-basics-and-beyond-by-emily-aulicino/ and this one https://sites.google.com/site/wheatonsurname/beginners-guide-to-genetic-genealogy

You can also join several online lists, which are great places to ask questions and learn, such as:

The primary genetic genealogy list:


The DNA Newbie group: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/DNA-NEWBIE/info

FaceBook has an ISOGG group.

Other mailing lists:


Consulting and Products

For a long time, I’ve tried to answer basic questions for people, for free.  However, recently the volume has increased to the level that I can’t do that anymore.  Plus, trying to skim a question to help someone with a quick answer leads to errors and some days, I receive dozens.  Hopefully, the sources above, plus the breakdown below, will answer most questions for most people. 

If you want to know which testing company to use, and why, the answer is “it depends,” based on your goals, who you have available to test, the products and services currently being offered by the testing companies, how thorough you want to be, and your budget.  You can purchase a Quick Consult at http://www.dnaxplain.com/shop/features.aspx for a personal recommendation based on your circumstances.

If you have questions or want to learn about your Y DNA or mitochondrial results, and have tested at Family Tree DNA, you can purchase a Personalized DNA Report at http://www.dnaxplain.com/shop/features.aspx.  These are heirloom quality and range from 80-100 pages.

If you are a previous client and want your report updated, I do that on an individual basis, based on what has changed.  Typically updates run from $50 to $200.  Contact me for specifics.

If you are a previous client with questions or are looking for direction, you can purchase a quick consult at http://www.dnaxplain.com/shop/features.aspx.

If you have a quick question about DNA results, you can purchase a Quick Consult at http://www.dnaxplain.com/shop/features.aspx.  Quick consults are designed to answer quick and relatively simple questions that take less than an hour in total.  If your question involves complex family relationships and takes more than a paragraph or so to explain, it’s will probably take more than a quick consult to unravel.  In that case the quick consult would tell you what would be involved unraveling your mystery, not provide you with the answer.  If you have a complex problem, contact me before purchasing a quick consult.  I do not provide consulting by phone.

If you have a question about who in your family to test to determine what, you can purchase a DNA Test plan available at http://www.dnaxplain.com/shop/features.aspx.

If you are looking for someone to work with you through complex autosomal DNA and genealogy results, I am not accepting new clients for these types of cases, but I am referring people to a colleague.

If you are looking for genealogical assistance, please visit www.apgen.org.

If you are a member of one of the DNA projects for which I’m a volunteer administrator, and your question is project related, or you are inquiring about the project, I’ll do my best to help you or refer you to someone who can.  Please be specific with your question and tell me which project you’re asking about.

I hope you have found this information useful. Best of luck on your genetic genealogical journey!  I hope you unlock the mystery of your ancestors!

Happy First Blogiversary

may you live in interesting times

Today is the first anniversary of the launch of www.dna-explained.com.  In a way it seems like just yesterday and in another way, it seems like DNA-explained has been a part of my life forever.  One thing is for sure, it’s been a very interesting year!

So now, I’m going to tell you a secret.

I was going to retire early and write a book.  I was going to have time on my hands.  I was going to work on my own genealogy and share the journey of what I learned.  I was going to weed my garden.  Are you laughing now?  Holding your sides?  Well, if so, you clearly understand just how unrealistic that expectation was.

I have less, much less, time now than ever.  My little part-time retirement job overtook my original career, and then some.  I’ve never worked harder, had less sleep, nor loved it more.  Is sleep really a necessity?  Seems like so much wasted time.  Spoken like a true genealogist!

Genetic genealogy is the marriage of my two passions, genealogy and science.  I spent my entire career on the very exciting edge of technology, first communications research and discovery, then mapping and specialized software.  Genetic genealogy isn’t much different actually, except it’s more bleeding edge (some days) than leading edge and it’s much more personal and fulfilling.  Not only have I learned volumes about my own ancestors – things there was no prayer of knowing even a decade ago – but I get to help others on that journey too.  Not only that, but I’ve gotten to be personally involved in scientific discovery.  I can’t imagine a better place to be!

And no, I’m not writing a DNA book.  Well, actually, I am, soft of – but just in a different way.  Blogs are the way of the future – so is electronic communication.  The problem with books about fast-moving and highly technical topics is that they move on and change so rapidly that tomorrow, literally, your book can be out of date and you have no way to update it.  Just what I don’t need is another box of boat-anchors in my office.

Not long ago, someone on the ISOGG Facebook page asked for a list of books and someone replied, “forget the books, read the blogs.”  I don’t want to invest the effort into one of those “forgotten books” when the blogosphere beckons and is so much more friendly towards photos, graphics, color and change.  It’s also a lot more personal and flexible.  And it lets me interact with you and vice versa .

So how have we done this first year?  As of yesterday, we surpassed 2100 subscribers and that doesn’t count all of the RSS feed, Facebook and Twitter followers.  My husband bet me I’d have 2000 by summer and I said I wouldn’t.  Good thing I didn’t bet much, because I was wrong.  Thanks to all of you.  Sometimes being wrong is a good thing!

This is the 162nd posting, so about one every other day.  I had goaled one a week.

There have been a total of about 2700 “real” comments and are you ready for this, almost 29,000 spam ones.  No, that is not a typo.  Yes, I do use a spam filter, but I still approve every single comment that is posted – and now you know why.  The spam filter doesn’t catch them all, because spammers are crafty!

In total, the articles are “tagged” in 81 different categories so you can find them by searching.  One of the articles I’ll be writing soon will tell you how to use and search blogs more efficiently, including this one!

http://www.dna-explained.com has had a total of 249,545 views, nearly a quarter million and that doesn’t count the 2100+ people who receive postings via e-mail and RSS.  We average just over 1000 hits per day now.  Wow!

What is the most popular category of blog articles visited?  Autosomal DNA.

How about the most popular article?  Big News! Probable New Native American Haplogroup.  That shocked me.  For a long time, the most popular article had been the kickoff of the Geno 2.0 announcement, National Geographic – Geno 2.0 Announcement – The Human Story published on July 25, 2012.  Older articles have more time to amass hits – and the haplogroup article was just published June 27th.  Indeed it does seem to be big news and is of interest to lots of people.

One of my reasons for creating this blog was as a matter of self-defense. Most of you know that I also have a business webpage, www.dnaexplain.com.  I receive a lot of inquiries from the page and through my various list memberships.   The DNAeXplain webpage is professionally written and updating content it is not just a matter of typing.  I have to create something, send it to the provider and they make the change or the update.  And it’s not convenient or free.  Needless to say, this is not a conducive environment to making regular updates or additions.  I do need the separate website though in order to take orders for consulting and for DNA Reports, so the blog doesn’t by any means replace the webpage.

I was constantly referring people to several papers on my webpage, which are still there, but I needed more flexibility.

So I decided that if I wrote the answers to the most frequently asked questions, well, including graphics and pictures (which really are worth 1000 words), once, I could use that document to answer people’s questions, over and over again.  The good news is, so can you.  What are the most commonly asked questions and the pages I use to answer them?

  1. What can DNA testing do for me?  That is such a basic question and the answer could be that book I didn’t write.  I use the article 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy to answer this one.
  2. I think my ancestor was Native American and I want to prove it.  This question also has other variants like, proving which tribe, joining a tribe, getting benefits and free education.  I refer people to the article Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA.
  3. I’m adopted, or I don’t know who my father is, and I want to use DNA testing to find my parents/ancestry.  This is also relevant for people who discover an undocumented adoption in their line that “interferes” with the genealogy they thought they knew.  For this answer, I use I’m Adopted and I Don’t Know Where to Start.  This article, along with many others, links within the article to other resources as well.
  4. What can autosomal testing do for me?  If I had a dollar for every time I’ve received some flavor of this question, I’d be really retired and on that World Cruise!  The article I use for this is Autosomal Basics.
  5. And then the companion question to the one above, my autosomal results are back – what do I do with them now?  For this one, I refer people to the summary article for The Autosomal Me series.  While it is focused on a particular challenge for me, minority Native admixture, the tools and techniques are relevant for everyone.

We’ve had an awesome first year, thanks to all of you, and I’m looking forward to even more breakthroughs and findings in year two.  I love sharing your stories and victories too and always appreciate tips and hints pointing out genetic genealogy items of interest.  I have some fun articles planned for this upcoming year and there are discoveries on the horizon, so stay tuned!!!

And indeed, may we all continue to live in very interesting times!


Mythbusting – Women, Fathers and DNA

I’m sometimes amazed at what people believe – and not just a few people – but a lot of people.

Recently, I ran across a situation where someone was just adamant that autosomal DNA could not help a female find or identify her father.  That’s simply wrong. Incorrect.  Nada!  This isn’t, I repeat, IS NOT, true of autosomal testing.

Right here, on Family Tree DNA’s main page, it says as much.

mythbusting ftdna

Here is the product description for their Family Finder autosomal test:

“Family Finder uses autosomal DNA (inherited from both the mother and father, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, etc.) to provide you a breakdown of your ethnic percentages and connect you with relatives descended from any of your ancestral lines within approximately the last 5 generations.”

Now the genetic genealogists among us will know right away where this myth that women can’t find their father using DNA came from.  Indeed, it’s a true statement when you’re talking about Y-line DNA.  Women don’t have a Y chromosome because it is passed only from father to son.  The mitochondrial DNA that she does carry is from her mother’s maternal side, so before autosomal testing, there was no ready tool for women to identify or find missing fathers.  For a long time, before autosomal testing, it was said as a general statement that women could not test for their father’s DNA.  That statement was true in that context at that time.  Not anymore.

The Times, They are A’Changin’

Today, however, there are 4 different DNA tests/tools for DNA testing, all with different purposes and that can be used in different ways, often in tandem.

Where the Y-line test tests just the Y chromosome, the paternal line, and the mitochondrial DNA tests only the direct maternal line, autosomal testing tests your DNA contributed from all of your ancestors, males and females alike.

You can see in the chart below that the son and daughter carry some of every color of the DNA of their great-grandparents.  The daughter carries the blue of her great-grandfather’s autosomal and the yellow of his wife’s autosomal, but not the short blue Y chromosome of her father.  Only the son has that.

mythbusting autosomal chart

Therefore, you can indeed utilize the information to find missing fathers, for women and men alike, in exactly the same way.  The only difference is that men can take the additional Y-line test that women can’t take.

By way of example, let’s look at some of my results at Family Tree DNA.

I have a total of 333 autosomal (Family Finder) matches.  My mother has a total of 180 matches and we have a total of 66 common matches.  That means that I also have 267 matches from my father’s side.

So let’s say I’m adopted and I’m not really sure which side is which.

I would then begin to construct family trees based on my matches suggested relationship and their common ancestors.

mythbusting vannoy matches

On the chart above, my Vannoy cousins are shown, all with matches to me, and all from my father’s side of the tree.  Family Tree DNA’s estimates are very accurate, within one generation, and all are within the range they provide.  Their ranges and estimates are more accurate the closer in time they are to you.

If these people are my second cousins, we share common great-grandparents.  Third cousins, common great-great grandparents.  You’ve just gone from “unknown” to within 3 or 4 generations in one fell swoop.  Wow!

If you find a group of people with the same surname or the same ancestral surname, like I did on my Vannoy line, then you can, based on their estimated relationship to you, begin building a combined pedigree chart.  All three of these men have uploaded their GEDCOM file, so you can easily see their common ancestor.  Their common ancestor is also your common ancestor.  You can then narrow the list of possible links from them to you.  Once you identify their common ancestor, then continue to work down the tree to current to find someone in the right location at the right time.

On the chart below, which is my DNA pedigree chart, you can see how close the common ancestor of these matches really is to me.  We’re only 3 generations from my father.  This common couple, Joel Vannoy (1813-1895) and Phoebe Crumley (1818-1900) had 7 children, both male and female.  My father descended from one of those 7.  Now I’m only two generations from my father.  Going from “father unknown” to only two generations away is extremely powerful.  This is exactly why these tools hold so much promise for adoptees and others who are searching for their parentage.

mythbusting common ancestor

In the meantime, you may get lucky and click to open your personal page one day to find a very close, sibling, aunt/uncle or first cousin match.  Yes indeed, that can do a world of good to narrow the possible choices of parents.  That’s also why I always suggest to people seeking unknown parents that they swim in all of the autosomal pools, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and Ancestry.  You just never know where that answer or critically important hint is going to come from.

I hope you are now a believer and any confusion has been removed.  Women cannot take a Y chromosome test to find their father, but that has nothing to do with autosomal DNA tests.  Women can, and indeed do find their missing fathers using autosomal DNA.


Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 900 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA, or one of the affiliate links below:

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The Orphan Train and the Mystery of William Jennings Duckett


When I give genetic genealogy presentations, I always talk about the causes of NPEs (Nonparental Events) or what I prefer to call, undocumented adoptions.  This means that the DNA doesn’t match the expected family line.  In the case of 20th century documented adoptions, this is obviously true as well, but before the 1900s and sometimes into the early 1900s, adoptions were much less formal.  In fact, sometimes they never officially took place, but the surname got attached anyway.

And then, there were the orphan trains, originating in the East, loaded with orphans, and stopping along the route westward, with the orphans being adopted to families along the way who needed additional children to help with farm work.

All of these things happened to William Jennings Duckett, shown at age 11 in the photo, just before heading west on the orphan train.  William, known as “Papa D” to his family, has a daughter, Virginia, now age 91, who would very much like to know the rest of the story about her father and his parents.  It’s a very interesting mystery, a puzzle really, and maybe you hold the missing piece.  Here is what we know.

According to the baptismal certificate provided by the Foundling Home in New York City, William Jennings Duckett was born on October 28th, 1894 and was baptized one month and one day later, November 29th at the St. Vincent Ferrer’s Catholic Church in New York City.

Duckett baptism

On November 28th, 1894, he came under the care of the Foundling Hospital in New York City, a place for abandoned or orphaned children, under the name William Erington, later spelled Errington.  In later communications, the home says that he was a “true foundling.”  If this is the case, then how did the home know his birth date?  And how was he baptized under the name William Jennings Duckett, or did the home simply use the name from his request for information in 1918, omitting his earlier “assigned” last name.  And how was Errington selected in the first place?  The baptismal certificate was sent to William in a response to a letter written by him to the Foundling Home in 1918, probably in order to prove his age for military draft registration.

In 1897, Richard and Mary F. Duckett of Orange, Essex County, New Jersey “fostered” William.  His release papers from the Foundling Home to them state his name as William Errington.  Two years later, in 1899, he was returned to the home, but Mary Duckett insisted that he retain the name William Jennings Duckett, even though he had never been adopted.  He was then placed with another foster family before leaving on the orphan train, but retained the Duckett name for the rest of his life.

In 1905, at about age 11, when the photo above was taken, he was put on the Orphan Train, ultimately winding up in Texas.  Whoever his parents were, he came from some healthy stock, as he lived until age 99 years and 9 months.  At his funeral, the following was read, as told in the first person by Papa D himself.

“The only early memories I have of my time in New York are of going to classes through the 3rd grade, and serving as an altar boy.  I faintly remember a Mr. Kelly, who came to the home frequently with gifts and food.

In June of 1905, I was sent to Texas on a train with 65 other children and two nuns.

The children sat two in a row, and I held an infant girl, Kristina, on my lap most of the way.  The Railroad car would be left off at sidings . Some of the children were dispersed to Galveston.  Kristina and I were let off at the Glidden depot near Columbus, Texas.  She was adopted by the Anton Holeszewski family of Fayetteville; and I was placed in their foster care. They couldn’t speak English, and I couldn’t speak Czech, so we had trouble communicating, especially the next morning, when they handed me a pail and told me to go milk the cow before breakfast.  I’d never seen a cow in New York.  Most of my recollections of my time with this family are of working very hard and spending hours serving as an altar boy. The family was devoutly Catholic and weekly sent packages of their most delicious farm foods to the priest.

When serving as an altar boy on special occasions, weddings, funerals, etc., the priest would share his fees with me, 5 to 15 cents, and tell me to buy some ice cream. My foster parents would take this away, as they believed I “didn’t need” any treats.

After some eight years, the priest at the Live Oak Hill Catholic Church in the area of Fayetteville and Ellinger, Texas bought me a new suit of clothes, gave me a prayer book and a gold watch and chain, on which was inscribed, ” To W. J.  Duckett – God give you strength,” and a railroad ticket to Galveston where I was to attend seminary and study for the priesthood.  I traded the railroad ticket for a wagon ride to Elgin, in the other direction, where I spent the first night under a railroad trestle.

My first job was as a water boy for the M&M Railroad which was building a bridge near Smithville, Tx., where I was allowed to sleep in a box car.  When summer came, I found a job at the cotton gin in Taylor, TX. With the few dollars I was able to save, I returned to the Fayetteville-Ellinger area, where I hired out as a farm hand and worked at the Walla gin. Life became enjoyable for a change.  I played 3rd base on the LaGrange baseball team for which I would receive approximately $2.00 per game, depending on the crowd.

The Hruska brothers were my teammates, and I was fortunate to meet their wonderful sister, Anna Marie, whom I married on Nov 23, 1915 in the Czech Moravian Brethren Church near Fayetteville, which church still stands and serves to-day.”

Duckett wedding

“Anna’s brother Henry made his home with us.  From this area we moved to Notowa, TX., and then in the fall of 1923, to a farm in the Bernard Prairie Community between East Bernard and Wallis, and in 1948 to the farm near El Campo where our two sons were attorneys.”

Duckett house

“We had five children, 2 boys and 3 girls.  While living in Notawa, our first son was bitten by a Cottonmouth Moccasin snake and I carried him by horseback a distance of fifteen miles, chucking up and delirious with fever, to the doctor in Wallis, TX.  Miraculously, he survived.

We became reunited with Kristina (Shoppa) and also with the son of my foster family, both living in Wharton, TX.  To this day we are in contact with the son’s remaining daughter, who came to visit me on my 99th birthday on October 28th of this year.

So as not to be totally dependent on the whims of nature and a cotton crop, I secured a job in the general store in East Bernard, joined the local S.P.J.S.T., group and then the Masonic Lodge.  I received The Masonic 75 year Service pin, and the S.P.J.S.T. honored me on my 96h birthday.

Once we were able to buy a car we took daylong journeys to visit friends and relatives in various parts of south and central Texas.  One summer Sunday morning we took off for Galveston with promises of hamburgers and the beach.  We got too hungry before we made it to Galveston, so we stopped at a roadside café and ordered hamburgers.  We waited and WAITED, and then we heard a shot.  I said, ‘Well… They’ve shot he cow-it won’t be much longer now.’  All forgot their hunger pangs and laughed.  This was a funny family story for years.

Our children were all bright and beautiful respectful and obedient.

Educating our 5 children was the top priority of my wife Anne and I because we wanted something better for them than farming…so we pinched pennies and scraped so that they could participate in all school activities and outings.  They rewarded us by making top grades, and all worked to earn their way through college, of which we are all proud.

One  son, a graduate of Law School at The University of Texas in Austin, paid his way by also working every week day pushing an old fashioned lawn mower on the huge lawn in front of the State Capitol building in Austin,Tx…then at night he spent the night in a funeral home answering the phone…where he was allowed to study between calls…plus other jobs.”

My only medication I’m on daily is two tablespoons of good bourbon in my coffee every morning, it gets my circulation going.

When my daughter asked me what I wanted for my 99th birthday, I replied, “ JUST WHAT I HAVE.”

The report about the orphan trains, including Papa D’s story, can be found in the book, “Their Own Stories” by The Orphan Train Riders Historical Society in Arkansas (OTHSA).  It’s available through the Train Riders Museum and Research Center in Concordia, KS., (785) 243-4471.

We know what happened to Papa D after 1905, but the time from 1894 to about 1900 is murky at best.  What clues do we have as to who his parents might have been?

DNA Testing

The first avenue we tried, was, of course, DNA testing through Papa D’s son.  The good news, Papa D’s Y chromosome is quite unusual, so when a solid match is received there will be no question.  The bad news is that there is no solid match today.  There are a couple of 12 marker matches who did not test at a higher level, and none of his 5 total matches have taken the Family Finder match.

We’ve also checked at Ancestry where we found 3 of 4 matches were hand entered from Family Tree DNA.  Sorenson has been offline lately, so that resource can’t be checked at present.

It goes without saying that he matches no other Ducketts, nor did we expect that he would.  You can see his results in the Duckett project, kit number 262691, or at Ysearch, User ID 69C3G.  Papa D has established a new Duckett genetic line.

However, the circumstances surrounding Richard and Mary Duckett make me wonder if they were related to William.  Were they his grandparents perhaps?  Why did they take him, not once, but twice?  Why did they return him?  Why was Mary insistent that he retain the Duckett name?  And is his middle name, Jennings, significant.  Is it perhaps a family name?  So many questions and so few answers.

Family Finder testing showed no people with Duckett surnames, but then again, Duckett is a very rare surname.  It did show two people with Jennings surnames in Ireland, but this could be coincidence only.  His closest match is at the 2nd to 4th cousins level, estimated to be a third cousin.  This means in essence, he is 4 generations from his match to a common ancestor.  That person has a lot of Bohemian/Czech in their 4th generation pedigree chart, which they have uploaded to Family Tree DNA.  Papa D’s wife was Czech.

Clues – The Baptismal Record and the Duckett Family

We have two viable clues.

  1. The first clue is the baptism record.  I suspect that when the Foundling Home provided this to William Duckett in 1918, they simply entered his name as it was in 1918.  This means that the original records, at the church, would not be under the name of William Duckett, but William Errington, or perhaps his real name if there was some kind of note with him providing at least his birth date.  The records of St. Vincent Ferrer’s Catholic Church need to be checked for the actual church record of his baptism.
  2. The Richard and Mary Duckett family.  Preliminary research on the Duckett family shows the following information.

The Duckett Family

In the 1900 census, there is a Mary F. Duckett who is living with her adult son in his household along with her 2 adult daughters, ages 26 and 29, in South Orange, Essex Co., NJ.

Mary is a widow, born in 1843, of Irish parents, but born in New York.  She has had 7 children, and only 4 are living.  Her daughters are Frances and Nelly, ages 29 and 26, both hat trimmers.  Her son is a gardener.  This would account for 3 of her 4 children.  The Irish are most often Catholic, and if Mary was of Irish parents, she most likely was Catholic.  They lived at 309 Scotland Street.  If Papa D is the son of one of the Duckett daughters, Frances and Nelly are the best candidates.

duckett 1900 census

Mary is listed as widowed, but there is a Richard who is living in a home for disabled veterans in Hudson Co., NJ.  He is born in April of 1830, age 70, married for 30 years, immigrated in 1847 and is naturalized.

Unfortunately, the 1890 census is missing, but the 1880 census should show this family.

Indeed, in the 1880 census, we have Richard Duckett, age 50, so born 1830 in Ireland and a hat maker.  His wife Mary is age 40, so born about 1840 in New York to Irish parents.  They have daugher Fanny, age 19, a hat trimmer, daughter Ellen age 9 and Samuel, age 6.  They live at 276 Teanount(?) Avenue in Orange, Essex Co., NY.

I was not able to find either Richard or Mary Duckett in the 1870, 1860 or 1850 census.

There was a Richard Duckett who filed for a Civil War Pension in 1889 from New Jersey.  A military headstone was provided for Richard Duckett in Springhill Cemetery in Milburn in November of 1901.  This is in Essex County.  He died November 7, 1901 although I cannot find him through Find-A-Grave.

Looking at other records, we find:

Mrs. Richard Duckett of New Jersey contributed in 1861 to a St. Mary’s Hall scholarship and contributions are listed as from “graduates and former pupils.”  Unfortunately, this is probably not the “right” Mary as St. Mary’s Hall, located in Burlington, NJ, was a private Episcopal School, not Catholic.  It is now the Doane School.

In 1883, Mary Duckett of Orange is listed as a laundress in the city directory.

In 1891, in Orange, East Orange and West Orange, NJ, Richard, Ellen G. and Lesher Ducket are listed as “hat” (Richard) and hat trimmers.  The address is 40 Forest.  Who is Lesher Duckett?  Is this Sarah Lesher from the 1895 census?

The same year in the business directory, Richard P. Duckett is listed as a hatter at “Main op Spring.”  Op probably means opposite.  In 1893 he is listed exactly the same.

In 1893 in the city directory, Mary F. Duckett is listed at 478 Scotland.

In 1894, there is also a Mary P. Duckett in Camden who is a dressmaker who is listed for many years.  This is not Mary F. Duckett of Orange.

In 1895 Richard P. Duckett is listed as “hat” on Church.  Mrs. Mary F. Duckett is listed at 478 Scotland.  One may be a business address and one personal, or they may be separated or divorced.

On the 1895 NJ State census, the family is listed as Mary F. Duckett, Sarah Lesher, Ellen G. Duckett, Samuel Duckett and William Williams.  William Williams is under age 5.  The adults are all listed age 20-60.  Who is William Williams and how is he connected to this family?  Who is Sarah Lesher and how is she connected to the family?

In 1898 and 1899 Richard H. D. (or Richard H. D. S.) Duckett is listed on S. Passaic Av in Newark, NJ.  In 1901 Richard HDS Duckett is listed on Belgrove Drive.  He is noted for many more years, so this Richard is not the Richard Duckett of Orange.

However, Richard Duckett is listed in the 1901 and 1902 Orange directory as “hat” on Scotland Road and N Irving Ave.  It could be he has died but his business is still in existance?

So we know that Richard and Mary have either 3 or 4 daughters and one son.  In 1900, two of the adult daughters remain unmarried.

In summary, the children are:

  • Fanny b 1861 (from the 1880 census)
  • Ellen b 1871 (from the 1880  and 1895 census)
  • Frances b 1870 (from the 1900 census, possibly the same person as Ellen in the 1880 census?)
  • Nelly b 1874 (from 1880 census and the 1900 census)
  • Samuel b 1875 (from the 1800, 1895 and 1900 census)

Mary had 2 more children who died, and there is a 10 year gap between daughters Fanny, born 1861 and Ellen, born 1871.

Solving the Puzzle

I made the following suggestions to the Duckett family:

  1. Obtain the original records from the church reflected in the baptismal certificate provided by the Foundling Home, dated November 29, 1894, from the St. Vincent Ferrer’s Catholic Church of New York.  This baptism occurred the day after he was “found” and admitted to  the Foundling Hospital.  He could  have been baptized as William Errington, or perhaps another name.  See if there is any note as to how they knew his birth date.
  2. Contact the school that Mrs. Richard Duckett attended prior to 1861 and see if you her maiden name can be determined.  With other records, this could either  confirm that she is not the wife of Richard.  I strongly suspect not, given that this is an Episcopal school and your Mary was later a laundress, not appearing to be from a wealthy family who could afford for their daughter to attend  a private school.  Also, Mary Duckett in the 1897 transaction with the Foundling Home signed her name and it appears from the signature that she struggled to do so.   I strongly suspect this woman in the 1861 record is NOT the Mary Duckett you seek, so this would be a low priority.
  3. See if you can locate a marriage record for Richard and Mary Duckett about 1860, probably in Essex County, NJ.  Once Mary’s maiden name is determined, check Family Finder matches for other people researching that surname.
  4. Track the children of this couple forward in time to find a current living descendant and see if they will DNA test.  The autosomal DNA would be the only one to test unless by some chance you find a male descendant of  Samuel Duckett and in that case, I would test both the Yline and autosomal.  I do not expect the Yline to match.  If William Jennings is from this family, he is likely the son of one of the daughters.
  5. Obtain the death certificate of Richard Duckett.  You may need to order his military records in order to determine his death date in order to order the death certificate.  If  this is the right family, his death certificate, as well as that of his      wife Mary, will hold their parents names which may allow you to find siblings      which can also be tracked forward in time.
  6. Check to see if Richard Duckett had a will.  If so, his children will be named and possibly his grandchildren as well. The same goes for Mary.
  7. I suspect that William’s middle name, Jennings, may be a key to this puzzle.  I looked for Jennings/Duckett marriages and found none that seemed to be relevant.  This could be Mary’s maiden name or perhaps that of her mother.
  8. Finding an obituary or other information, perhaps through a funeral home, that will lead you to a  church may well be the key to finding an original baptism of William Jennings Duckett, which could contain his father’s name.  The baptism performed at the Foundling Home could have been a second baptism, if they didn’t know about a first one.
  9. I would suggest that you search the St. John Catholic church records in Orange for William Jennings Duckett’s baptism.  If he was born to a Duckett female, and they had him for a month before giving him up, it’s very likely he was baptized sometime after October 29th, 1894 and before November 29th, 1894.  I would suggest looking at all baptisms that took place during that time, especially any to Duckett, Lesher or Williams women.

On the map below, the Catholic churches in the area of Orange, Essex County, NJ, where the Ducketts lived are shown with purple balloons and the location where the Duckett’s lived on Scotland is shown in red.  They are very close to Our Lady of the Valley, but the original St. John’s isn’t far either, at the top of the map.  There is also a cemetery by St. John’s church which suggests it was likely the original Catholic church in the area, although there are no Ducketts listed as buried there at Find-A-Grave.  The history of St. Johns indicates that the priests there were Irish, which makes this church an extremely good candidate for the Ducket family.

Duckett map

Can You Help?

Anyone who is familiar with the Richard and Mary Duckett family of Orange, Essex County, NJ, or has other observations, information or suggestions to offer can contact Lara Gibson, great-niece of Virginia, Papa D’s daughter, who is now deceased.  Lara would love to hear from you at Lara@stevegibson.com.

The Gift of a Davenport

I work with adoptees a lot.  They often order Personalized DNA Reports with the hope of finding some hint of their family.  Women have a distinct disadvantage – they have no Y chromosome.  About 30% of the time by looking at the Y chromosome, I can figure out the most likely genetic surname for men – and sometimes there is absolutely no question.  But women aren’t so lucky.

When adoptees order these reports, I suggest, strongly, that they also have the Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA performed.  This gives me two tools to work with, and they can be used together.

Recently, I completed a report for Caroline.  Here’s the sum knowledge of what she knew about her biological family.  She was born in Flagstaff, Arizona to a mother who was a college student.  That’s it.  Let’s just say there was a lot of opportunity for DNA to help Caroline.  Caroline said to me, “I don’t know the names of any of my blood relatives.”  Well Caroline, we’re about to fix that!!!

And indeed, she does now, through the magic of DNA and a little sleuthing.  Caroline, it turns out, is one of the lucky ones – she had a good match and that match has led us to well, a Davenport…and more.


No, not this kind of Davenport – well – maybe not – but the Davenport family.  Maybe it’s the same Davenport family, because although the word davenport is generic like “Kleenex” today, it all started with the Davenport family, a Massachusetts furniture manufacturer, the A. H. Davenport Company.  Hmmm….I wonder.

Using Family Finder, Carolina had a solid second cousin match.  She contacted this person, we’ll call him Mr. Midkiff, who provided some initial information, but the 4 surnames Mr. Midkiff listed as Ancestral Surnames proved to be much more useful than the information provided to Caroline.

Often, it’s a good idea to list as many surnames as you possibly can, but in this case, Mr. Midkiff only listed 4 plus his own, for a total of 5 to work with, so I’m betting here that they are Mr. Midkiff’s closest surnames, meaning the grandparents generation plus one great-grandparent surname.

With that, I used the handy-dandy genetic relationship chart to show Caroline how this works.  One of the reasons I love this chart is because it’s all related to “self,” so you don’t have to try to figure out where and how you fit into the chart.

adopted cheat chart

If Mr. Midkiff is her second cousin, and she is “self” then we can see that self and the second cousin connect via great-grandparents. Mr. Midkiff’s great-grandparents would have the following surnames, plus three additional.

  • Midkiff
  • Davenport
  • Jennings
  • Potter
  • Veach
  • 3 additional unknown

These are the surnames of Mr. Midkiff’s ancestors and it’s all we have to work with since we don’t know the surnames of Caroline’s ancestors.

Using the chart and retrofitting surnames, we know that of Mr. Midkiff’s 5 surnames, 2 or 3 come from his mother’s side and 2 or 3 from his father’s side.  We know genetically that Caroline is related closely to at least one of those 5 lines, and possibly to more than one, meaning 2 or 3, depending on how closely she and Mr. Midkiff are actually related.

Next, we need to figure out which of those 5 surnames Caroline is related to.

Caroline only had one close match, but she had 960 total matches.  In order to be able to sort through those matches, I entered the 5 surnames listed by Mr. Midkiff as Caroline’s surnames.  This allowed me to then search for these ancestral surnames and to see them bolded in Caroline’s match list.

davenport 1

Because of different surname spellings, instead of simply relying on the search, I went through page by page and looked at each bolded surname.  I discovered that this was a very good move, because the Davenport family was spelled any number of ways, like Diefenback, Dieffenback, etc.  The Ancestral Surname search does not pick up alternate spellings, but the bolded surnames in the lists sometimes do.

A total of 13 people matched one or more of these surnames.

Her matches sort out like this:

  • Midkiff – 1
  • Jennings – 5
  • Davenport – 3
  • Potter – 4
  • Veach – 1 Vaux

I grouped people into categories by their surnames and then began using the Chromosome Browser to compare people to Caroline.

Normally, I could compare all 13 people in 3 comparisons (the browser allows 5 selections per comparison), download them, and then use a spreadsheet to sort by chromosome matches, but the downloads have been experiencing technical difficulties recently, so instead, I simply compared randomly and then by surname group.

One of the great options in the Chromosome Browser is the option for “common surnames” which then displayed all of 13 of her common surname matches and no non-matches.  So I, thankfully, did not have to sort through 960 people to find the 13 she matches for comparison.

Below, with the chromosome browser set to 1cM, you can see her matches to the Davenport group, plus a Fry who lists Potter as her ancestral surname but also matches the Davenport group.

davenport 2

What we are looking for here are people who match Caroline on the exact same chromosome segments and match each other as well.  This allows us to identify that segment with that surname.  In this case, chromosome 12 fits that bill exactly.

Davenport 2 ch 12

So Caroline, welcome to the Davenport family!!!

However, since Ms. Fry does not list Davenport, but does list Potter, let’s take a look at that Potter group.

davenport 3

Now, this gets very interesting, because look at that same segment of Chromosome 12 – in addition to  the Davenport folks, it also matches a Pinson who lists both Jennings and Potter in their list of ancestral surnames.  So the Davenport DNA is also Potter DNA.  Welcome to the Potter family Caroline!

Davenport 3 ch 12

So, let’s take a look at the Jennings folks.

davenport 4

Again, let’s look at Chromosome 12 and indeed, 4 of the 5 people who carry the Jennings surname also match Caroline on that same segment of Chromosome 12.

Davenport ch 12

What does this tell us?  Well, it tells us that this chromosome is inherited from the same ancestor.  What I can’t tell Caroline is which ancestor.  What we can say is that all three of these surnames, and all of these individuals share that ancestor and the chromosome is inherited through the Jennings, Davenport and Potter families in a particular family line – in Caroline’s family line and also in Mr. Midkiff’s.  Now it will be up to genealogy, and contacting these matches and asking for their Davenport/Potter/Jennings ancestry, to disclose just how these people’s ancestors are related.

Oh yes, and before I forget, welcome to the Jennings family Caroline!

So, here’s what I’m guessing.  Caroline has in essence no matches to Midkiff (other than the initial match to Mr. Midkiff) or Veach.  However, both Caroline and Mr. Midkiff have several matches, including the same segment of chromosome 12, to Jennings, Davenport and Potter.  I’m guessing that this is Mr. Midkiff’s mother’s side of the family and that if Caroline were to contact all of these people, she would, by process of elimination, discover commonalities in their pedigree charts and genealogy.  Then, by working forwards from what she finds, she can, again, by process of elimination, hopefully, find a line of the family that went to Arizona and candidates for one of her parents.

Maybe one of you holds the answer to Caroline’s quandry.  Does anyone know of a family with some history in Texas and in Arizona that carries the surnames Jennings, Davenport and Potter and perhaps married in to the Veach or Midkiff family?  If so, you can perhaps put some color into Caroline’s mysterious Davenport family.  Contact Caroline directly at cbfernandez@gmail.com. She would love to hear from you.

Davenport 5

Caveat:  Please note that this level of autosomal research is not normally included in a Personalized DNA report which focuses on either the Y-line or the Mitochondrial DNA lines.  Some research is included and was included for Caroline, identifying the Davenport common line.  The balance of this research was performed for the blog posting, with Caroline’s permission of course.  This type of autosomal research is available through www.dnaexplain.com at an hourly rate.  Everyone’s situation is unique and varies, and it is impossible to create a standard report product for autosomal situations.  Generally, a good approach is to start with a Y-line or mitochondrial DNA report and move forward from there.  You can see what it did for Caroline!