My Education in DNA
Hi Everyone, this is Paul. Thanks for visiting my new website, and thank you for all your continued support and encouragement.
When I started the search for my true identity, the biggest fear I had was that it would be impossible for me to ever learn who I really was. After all, I had no name, no birthday, no history, no relatives, no family tree. When police found me abandoned on a New Jersey street in 1966, investigators could only attempt to conclude one thing about where I came from—that my parents probably lived relatively near to where I was abandoned. But that was it. Nothing more. I was about as close to a blank slate as you could get.
Nearly 50 years later, when I set out to learn the truth of my identity, I worried that slate would stay clean forever.
What I wasn’t yet aware of, at the very start of my search, was the extraordinary reach and power of a somewhat new field of scientific study—genetic genealogy.
Genetic genealogy is defined as the use of DNA testing, in combination with traditional genealogy and traditional family and historical records, to infer relationships between individuals. In other words, it’s possible to take someone like me—a man with exactly zero known biological relationships—and, through DNA testing and old-fashioned detective work—find some people I am related to.
And that’s just what happened—a team of incredible genetic genealogists somehow pieced together my family tree from scratch. Led by a superstar in the field, CeCe Moore (above, right), the team also included Michelle Trostler, Carol Isbister Rolnick and Allison Demski—four remarkable women who, to me, are the true heroes of my story. The work they do is hard and painstaking, but it’s also thrilling and sometimes, as in my case, really dramatic. I went from knowing basically nothing about the cutting-edge science of genetic genealogy to being absolutely fascinated by it—and, if you read about the exploits of these four inspirational women in The Foundling, I’m pretty sure you’ll be fascinated, too.
For now, if you want to know more about what they do, please visit CeCe’s website, www.thednadetectives.com.
The simple act of swabbing my cheek for saliva and taking a DNA test led me to some of the most amazing discoveries about myself. Here is a brief excerpt from my book that reveals just one of them:
On June 20, 2013, I received an email with the preliminary results of my DNA test. The Ancestry analysis revealed that 94 percent of my DNA traced back to Europe, 5 percent to West Asia, and 1 percent to Africa. That was roughly the same determination reached by Identigene—that my ancestors hailed mainly from Europe. But then I got the first true surprise of my search.
I am Jewish.
I’d been raised Catholic, by parents who came from a long line of Catholics, in one of the most Catholic cities anywhere. I was deeply steeped in Catholic traditions. We went to mass, we took communion, we prayed to Jesus—that’s what we did and that’s who we were. But no—that’s not who I was. Ancestry compared my DNA to the DNA of some three thousand people who came from the same global region as my ancestors, and in this way determined that 37 percent of my genetic ethnicity was European Jewish.
Just like that, one of my fundamental beliefs about myself had been proven false.
Thanks again for checking out my website and my blog, and keep checking back for more updates about my case. Take care.