When she took a DNA test, this 51-year-old woman had no idea it would lead to the discovery that her father had been kidnapped!
23andMe is a privately held personal genomics and biotechnology company based. They are also an extremely popular holiday gift and as such, many people have found themselves with a newfound interest in ancestry and family trees.
Aubrey Bell is a 51-year-old, mother of triplets who comes from Long Island.
Back in 2017 jumped on the 23andMe train hoping to put to rest a question she has always had about her triplets. Which were the identical siblings and which was the fraternal sibling. Two of her triplets are what they call monozygotic (identical) twins, and share the same general DNA characteristics, while the third multiple was produced by a different egg/sperm combination and has a unique genetic makeup from the other two triplets.
The results that Bell uncovered left her with more questions. The test showed which of her triplets was the fraternal one, however, it showed their heritage was missing something important. Bell, whose maiden name was Palmadesso, had grown up in a proud Italian-American New York family and it struck her as odd that the results didn't say anything specifically about Italy. When she mentioned the results to her parents and siblings (Bell is a twin herself), they all found it strange but didn't make too much of it.
Fast forward to 2019 and Aubrey Bell's twin sister Cynthia McFadden decided to take the 23andMe test too. There was no Italian in her lineage either. Now the sisters were more confused, their father, who had since passed away, had always been so proud of their Italian roots. There was no way of getting his DNA now or ask him any questions. So they did the next best thing. They went to his cousin, Richard Palmadesso, and asked him to take the DNA test. The results returned to show that neither Cynthia nor Audrey were in fact related to the Palmadesso family.
On 23andMe there is an option that allows DNA relatives in the database to connect which Cynthia had opted into. This showed that there was a DNA match for the twins. Tom Martin, a 79-year-old Floridian shared 22% DNA with theM, making him either their Uncle or Grandfather. The twins decided to reach out.
Mr. Martin had decided to join 23andMe for a very specific reason years previously. On July 9, 1945, Tom's younger brother Gerald 'Jerry' Martin had been kidnapped. The brothers, just 4 and six-years-old at the time had been riding bikes in Hell's Kitchen, New York when they were approached by a woman offering candy. Younger brother Jerry was lured away to get the sweets while Tom waited with the bikes. Jerry never came back.
The Martin family had searched for decades to find Jerry and the story was covered by the New York Daily News extensively, but nothing ever came of it. Sadly, at that time, Black Market Adoption was prevalent and birth certificates were easy to forge. Lisa Wingate, co-author of the new book "Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children's Home" told WBUR that Georgia Tann "would take children off the street, off front porches. She would canvas poor parts of town, shanty towns along the river. If she saw availability, she took advantage of it. And, it was a different time. There was no air conditioning. People used to leave children out to sit in the yard, or put a crib out on the porch. Children played outside. That was before the day and time, ‘Don't talk to strangers’ and, ‘Don’t get in a car with anybody.’ And, so, it was very easy for her to roll up. Many children had never been in a car, during those years. And, so, it was very easy for her to roll up and say, ‘Hey, would you like a ride in my nice car?’ And she's this grandmotherly looking woman. And in the children would go."
Jerry's family never gave up hope of one day figuring out what had happened.
Cynthia and Audrey have developed a relationship with their Uncle Tom and have found that he had a lot in common with their father.
"The funny thing is when we met our Uncle Tom, we found out he loves a lot of the same things our dad did," Cynthia told Good Housekeeping. "They both loved coconut cake, and movies, and acting. Uncle Tom even had some headshots from when he was younger and wanted to be an actor."
Putting the missing pieces together has proved difficult for the Palmadesso family. According to his birth certificate, Richard Palmadesso was born on May 31, 1943. His parents were noted as Isabel and Angelo Palmadesso of Staten Island, New York. The couple did not have any other children together. Cynthia and Audrey have a few theories, however, it's difficult to acknowledge that the woman they believed was their grandmother may have been a kidnapper or involved with kidnapping.
For now, they are happy to have met their Uncle Tom and given him some closure on what surely must have been a traumatic experience.
Disclaimer : This is based on sources and we have been unable to verify this information independently.