The Foundling tells the incredible and inspiring true story of Paul Fronczak, a man who recently discovered via a DNA test that he was not who he thought he was—and set out to solve two fifty-year-old mysteries at once. Along the way he upturned the genealogy industry, unearthed his family’s deepest secrets, and broke open the second longest cold-case in US history, all in a desperate bid to find out who he really is.
In 1964, when Paul Fronczak was 1 day old, he was kidnapped from the maternity ward of a hospital in Chicago. Fourteen months later a child was found abandoned in New Jersey. Very limited scientific tests were available at the time to determine paternity. All the FBI could say was that they could not rule out the possibility that the child found in New Jersey was Paul Fronczak. So they gave this child to the Fronczak family and considered both cases closed.
When he was 10 years old Paul found a box of newspaper clippings about his kidnapping case. He had never heard about it before. His parents refused to discuss it with him – ever. He grew up feeling like he didn’t really fit into his family. He wasn’t anything like them.
Then in his forties he decided it was time to investigate. He took a DNA test and convinced his parents to submit samples too. They later withdrew their consent but he sent their samples in anyway. This proved that he was not their biological child. Now he set out to answer two questions.
Who was he?
What happened to the real baby Paul Fronczak?
This book is a masterclass in the abilities and limitations of DNA analysis. It investigates the possibilities opened up by databases on the major genealogical websites to answer long standing family mysteries. (This happened in my husband’s family.)
What was fascinating to me was the reactions of the people around Paul during his search. They did not want him to find out the answers to his questions. I don’t understand that at all. His parents and brother cut all ties with him. If your child was kidnapped, wouldn’t you want to know what happened to him? Wouldn’t you want to know the truth about the child you raised? I don’t see why it would make any difference in your relationship to each other.
His wife wanted him to stop searching. I understand that it was taking up a lot of his time but how could you expect someone not to want to follow the clues he was getting? Maybe I just hate an unsolved mystery so much that I wouldn’t have been able to let it go. I can’t understand people who are insisting that you walk away from it.
Reading about his birth family may be hard for some people. A family situation that ends with dumping a toddler outside a department store is not going to be healthy and functional. There is a lot of abuse described.
He met so many fascinating people along the way. There were volunteer researchers who worked on his case. He met distant relatives identified through DNA who dug into their own family histories to try to find a link to him. He met other abandoned children who hoped that they would turn out to be the missing Fronczak child.
The book is not able to give definitive answers to all the questions that it raises but he does have a pretty good idea of what happened in his life and the life of his parents’ biological child at the end. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves genealogy and the science of genetic genealogy to see how it works in real life.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
In her new memoir, Cookie Johnson, wife of NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson, shares details of her marriage, motherhood, faith, and how an HIV diagnosis twenty-five years ago changed the course of their lives forever.
On November 7, 1991, basketball icon Earvin “Magic” Johnson stunned the world with the news that he was HIV-positive. For the millions who watched, his announcement became a pivotal moment not only for the nation, but his family and wife. Twenty-five years later, Cookie Johnson shares her story and the emotional journey that started on that day—from life as a pregnant and joyous newlywed to one filled with the fear that her husband would die, she and her baby would be infected with the virus, and their family would be shunned. Believing in Magic is the story of her marriage to Earvin nearly four decades of loving each other, losing their way, and eventually finding a path they never imagined.
November 7, 2016 will mark a quarter-century since the announcement and Cookie’s survival and triumph as a wife, mother, and God-fearing woman.
Cookie has never shared her full account of the reasons that she stayed and her life with Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Believing in Magic is her story.
We all have had that friend. You know the one. She’s the one with the loser boyfriend who she insists is just the sweetest and kindest person ever to exist but he just doesn’t show that side of himself in public. If you just knew him like she does, you’d understand.
This is what the first half of this book felt like to me. I felt like I needed to stage an intervention even though it all happened years ago.
While they were dating, Magic:
Publicly shunned her and then asked her if she learned her lesson when she didn’t follow his orders
Got upset when his friends teased him for calling her on an out of town trip so he broke up with her because she was “too controlling.”
Dated other women when they were supposed to be exclusively dating and then had the nerve to get mad at her for calling him out on it
Saw her with her new boyfriend during a 2 year breakup and then going out of his way to publicly humiliate the new boyfriend.
Repeatedly broke up with her for long periods and returned only when he found out she was dating someone else
Let her know that he had impregnated another woman during one of their breakups by bringing the now 3 year old offspring to a family party and introducing them to each other in front of his whole family
Proposed and then called off the wedding – TWICE
And just like your friend who keeps getting back with her jerk of a boyfriend, she keeps making excuses for him.
Now, I give her credit for not moving to LA with him and living the lifestyle of a basketball girlfriend. He wasn’t going to make a commitment so she stayed in Toledo and worked on her career. Good for her!
Eventually she did move because she felt that she had to prove to him that she could fit into his world. She kept a job in her field though to maintain her independence. Soon she had to choose between her career and the NBA finals. She quit her job to stand by her man and what did he do? Dumped her again.
This book is advertised as the story of a long and successful marriage in the public eye. It doesn’t read that way at all. To me it reads like a woman trying too hard to convince you that everything is ok.
I found the second half of the book more interesting mostly because Magic almost entirely disappears from the story once they got married. She tells the story of raising her son, who she was pregnant with at the time of Magic’s HIV diagnosis. She talks of coming to terms with the fact that their son was absolutely not athletic and over time realizing that he was gay. She talks about the adoption of their daughter and the affect that adoption had on the life of her child. She touches on the work they do in HIV education. She does not discuss what it is like to have an HIV positive partner.
This is also advertised as a story of faith. She talks about getting through the hard times when Magic would run off again by reading the Bible and discovering what God wanted her to do. Amazingly, God always wanted her to do exactly what she wanted to do. He would always lead her back to her emotionally abusive boyfriend. Wow, thanks for looking out for me God!