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Finding John Costello – A DNA Journey: Connecting Four MORE Cousins

Finding John Costello, cfc-01


Oh BOY! do I have an update for you.

But first, answer these questions for yourself.  What happens when a new discovery means that the information you started with cannot be correct?

What do you do when it seems like everything you’ve been told is . . . dare I say it? . . . a lie?

And if it is all a lie, or set of lies, whose lie is it?

How many people know the truth?

Who lied to me?


Did they even know they were lying or is the lie so old, that the perpetrator of the lie managed to pull off an all-encompassing act of deception that has been perpetuated through the generations of my family by unwitting accomplices?

Is it possible to identify the source of the lie now, after all these years?

Chew on those bad boys for a minute while I update you on some new DNA data.


We Have Contact


Months ago, I messaged a DNA match.  Let’s call her Sarah*.  She matches my Mom and Uncle C with a fairly significant amount of shared cMs – 129.3 and 160.6, respectively.  I didn’t hear back from her.

Then I was granted access to Cousin Mack’s* DNA as well.  He matches Sarah with 182.4 shared cMs.  Wow, that is a pretty close match for an unknown cousin.  I really wanted to talk to Sarah!

Well, four-and-a-half months later, Sarah messaged me back.  We started working together.  She is awesome!  She started reading all of my posts about John Costello and got her whole family fascinated in my quest.

Guess what happened next?

Her Mom and Dad, who had already tested but not gotten results, retested, and her aunt and uncle also tested.

Well, those results have been rolling in, my friends!  And IT. IS. FASCINATING.

Seriously, fascinating.

It was definitely time for more data tables.


Working With the Details


So, last week, I dug in.  I started making some tables.  I started looking at the possible ways we connect based on the number of shared cMs between everybody.  The great thing is that I have data about SEVEN people who descend from John Costello, and FOUR people in Sarah’s family to work with.  That is a lot of good data.

Even better?

Sarah’s family also match the last cluster of four cousins.  We just don’t know exactly how for sure.  Yet.

So, back to the charting.  I’m building tables, and tables, and tables.  Every time I think I’m done, I build another table – just to check.  I went through all of the possible relationships that were also logical.  Obviously, Sarah’s Mom is not my Mom’s Great-Great-Aunt – or vice versa.  There are several reasons why that just does not work.  Aside from the obvious no-gos, I checked it all!

In a fury of work over a few days, I ended up with a 39-page report filled with relationship hypotheses and tables of data that prove that hypothesized relationship possible OR not possible.  This time, I even added in the probability that the tested relationship was correct.  I was getting fancy trying to wrap my mind around the data.  Those tables look a little something like this:


Hinde Fried as John Costello's Aunt - relationship chart


We have Sarah’s family on the left of the table, my family on the right.

I have a few things to explain about the differences between my family members in this table and my family members in the last tables.

First, Sarah has shared with me how many cMs her family members share with James*.  I haven’t been able to communicate with James so I had no cM data for him before now.  Second, I had totally forgotten to include my surprise first cousin, Bob* on the last go ’round.  And third, I mistakenly listed Mary* as the daughter of Mack*.  She is not, she is his niece.

{Let’s just take a moment right here to acknowledge that when a family has decades-old broken places post-divorce like mine does, these types of mistakes are MUCH easier to make.  I don’t know my John Costello second cousins.  But, all is fixed now with Mary is her proper place.  Phew!}

This relationship chart is lined up to reflect the possibility that John Costello is the nephew of Anna, born Hinde, Fried.  Everyone who has taken a DNA test is highlighted with green.  Now I can quickly see what relationship that gives all of the DNA test takers to plug into this table:


Hinde as John Costello's Aunt, data table


I got a little bit fancier with this table.  You’ll notice that the various family members listed on the left and along the top have two different blue colors to separate them into the two generations.  The older generation is listed first and is highlighted with darker blue and the younger generation is listed second and is highlighted with lighter blue.  This is a visual reminder to me that the older generation’s numbers matter more.

I also added a probability column for each relationship.  After plugging each number into the Shared cM Tool, I listed first the grouping this number of shared cMs is a part of – 1, 2, 3, etc.  Below that, I listed the percentage of probability for that hypothesized relationship.  Then I color coded that box – green is a percentage from the first grouping of relationships on the probability table, yellow is second, orange is third, light grey is fourth, darker grey is fifth, light red is sixth, and 0% probability relationships are red.

I ran through all kinds of numbers, all kinds of relationships.  Then I ran numbers for Sarah’s family and the other four cousins from my previous cluster.  Then I re-ran my numbers with the four cousins from my previous cluster to add in some additional data and correct a mistake I noticed.  I had mistakenly used the longest shared segment number instead of the total number of shared cMs between my Mom and one of her matches.  Oops!

Finally, 39-pages later, my data masterpiece was officially – a rough draft.

Rough draft because, well, I’m human and we humans make mistakes.  I’d already found two to fix, plus the omission of Bob.

But even more importantly, it’s a rough draft because there are LOTS of empty boxes in those tables!

I want more data.



Because after running all the numbers and looking through my charts and then printing all of my charts so I could physically move them around into “if this & this – then this” groupings, I noticed something.

The grouping with an overwhelming amount of green is this one:


Hinde & John Costello as siblings relationship chart


Plus two others that make Isidore Fried, Anna Fried, & John Costello – SIBLINGS.

Siblings, people, SIBLINGS!

Sorry I keep shouting at you, but, siblings?

What the heck is going on here right now people?!

The Fried family were not from Spain, or near Spain, or Castillos.

You probably want to see the data table though, right?

Here is one of them:


Hinde Fried & John Costello as siblings data table


There are only three other possible relationships based on the current data:

  • Anna Fried and Isidore Fried – full siblings, are the half-siblings of John Costello.  However, this one is troubling because John was born in between Anna and Isidore, supposedly in Spain, as opposed to – Russia.  Well, the part of Russia that is sometimes Poland, and sometimes Ukraine, or so it seems.   That is where Isidore and Anna were born.  Russia, not Spain.
  • Anna Fried and Isidore Fried are the Aunt and Uncle of John Costello.
  • John Costello is the Uncle of Anna Fried and Isidore Fried.

That’s it.  Nothing else works.

I had to take a bit of a breather, because, well, something is not right here.


A Question


I called my Mom.

There was this story niggling at me.  A story about family members trying out their high school Spanish on Grandpa Costello and him not understanding a word of it.  I’d heard it a handful of times, but it had been a while.  I was thinking it was members of my Mom’s generation that were the high school Spanish speakers, but as the phone was ringing I knew that couldn’t be it.  They were much younger than that when Grandpa Costello died.

I asked my Mom about the story.  Without even a nanosecond of hesitation, she answered my question.

It was my Grandma Deane and Vince who had done it.  They had tried to talk to Grandpa Costello in Spanish and he knew nary a word of their basic efforts.

Not one word.

I asked my Mom if she remembered her Grandpa speaking any language other than English.

Nope.  She did not.


I did the very thing I asked you to do many words ago.  I chewed on all of it for a bit.

And then I slept on it.

And then I decided I needed to study up on the one factor I hadn’t been able to put into my data tables yet – endogamy.


Endogamy Study


Endogamy makes comparing shared cMs far less precise.  What is endogamy?  Well in a few words, it is groups of people that have intermarried because of geographical, cultural, or religious limitations.  This intermarrying causes people in that group to be related in multiple ways, inflating the number of shared cMs.  You can read more about endogamy here.  The European Jewish community – from which John Costello definitely descends – is an endogamous group.

Were all of my tables still valid?  Or close to valid?  Or not at all valid?  Or a hot mess of some of all of that?

I started reading.  And reading, and reading, and reading.

Endogamy wasn’t a new concept for me, but for the first time, I was highly motivated to try to understand if there was any way to quantify its impact on my data.

After lots of reading, there were three tables that were the most helpful for my question.

Lara Diamond has compiled several incredible tables based on data she has gathered regarding endogamy in Jewish populations.

This first bit of table comes from her post about 2nd cousins (I cut it down considerably):


Screen Shot 2019-03-25 at 7.58.57 PMScreen Shot 2019-03-25 at 7.52.40 PM crop


While the expected “average” number of shared cMs between 2nd cousins is 212.5, according to the ISOGG wiki, she was seeing an average of 240.75.

Ummm, the average of the shared cMs between Rachel and my Mom, Uncle C, and their cousin Mack is 225.67.

Okay.  How about her next table?

This one comes from her compiled data of all responses.  Check out the three 2nd cousin relationships I have circled:


Screen Shot 2019-03-25 at 7.53.07 PMScreen Shot 2019-03-25 at 7.53.25 PM


My family’s average of 225.67 definitely falls into those ranges.

So, feeling like an endogamy numbers newbie, and wondering if I was even in the right ballpark, I asked for some input on my numbers in this Facebook group – Jewish DNA for Genetic Genealogy and Family Research.  Lara Diamond totally reinforced my own conclusions, that the numbers look like my Mom’s generation of Costellos and Sarah’s Mom’s generation of her family are either 2C, 2C1R, or 1/2-2C.

Oh boy!

Then I read through the pdf file about the data in the Shared cM project.  There is a section on endogamy and how it impacts the numbers.  You can look at that pdf here.  The endogamy portion begins on page 22.

While there are several interesting numbers you can look at, I’m just going to list the averages for the three relationships in question on that table:

  • 2nd cousins in endogamous groups average 274 shared cMs in the Shared cM project.
  • 2C1R in endogamous groups average 153 shared cMs in the Shared cM project.
  • 1/2 – 2nd cousins in endogamous groups average 117 shared cMs in the Shared cM project.

While those numbers are not a perfect match for Lara’s data project, they are similar enough that I started to feel more comfortable with considering endogamy’s impact on my own numbers.


What Next?


So, so, so much is next.

First – data.  I need more data.

We have lots of DNA testers who are not in the same pools of data.  Now before you go suggesting that we all use gedmatch, I’m gonna stop you right there.  That is a non-starter in my family.  And since I want to get MORE testers, not fewer – as in existing testers requesting their results be deleted, I’m not even going to consider it for a second.

But – we can all transfer ourselves over to MyHeritage and get some more comparisons going on.

I also have a handful of DNA kits for Ancestry and 23andMe sitting in my office waiting to be mailed out to anyone in my family willing to test.  How am I going to lure them in?

Well, you know that magnificent rough draft report?

My genius brother was overwhelmed by it, so I definitely can’t use that.  But I am going to synthesize it and present a short and to the point report of the possible relationships between our family and Sarah’s family.  Hopefully, that will cause some family members to bite.  Whether to help prove or disprove what I am seeing.

I’m not just going to send it to a few family members.  I am going to send it to every single John Costello descendant.  With an invitation to test.  With no great-aunt filter between me and the request.

{wish me luck – I need it!}


Second – info.  I need more info.

I know a handful of story bits that I want to trace back to the source.  I want to document every last scrap and whisper of a story about Grandpa Costello, his immigration story, his memories of the old county, what he said about his family, his business in Spokane, his friends, ALL OF IT.

I want to document the heck out of ANYTHING that ANYONE remembers.  No matter how ridiculous.  No matter how much they question their own memory.  I want it all.


{Where is Dumbledore’s Pensieve when we need?  Oh, and while we are at it, the ability to draw lovely shimmery wisps of memories from people’s minds with a wand?  Oh wait, we genealogists have to make our own magic, dang it!}


I want it all because this is what I’m thinking.

John Costello wasn’t named John Costello at birth.

John Costello wasn’t born on 14 February 1893.

John Costello wasn’t born in Barcelona.

John Costello was someone else entirely on the day he was born.  Will I know him when I see him in a record?


Last Thoughts


Now that you’ve had some time to mull, what do you think?  Did someone lie?  Or is there another explanation that I just can’t see, yet?

But if someone did lie, who was it?

And, why?



*All names of living people have been changed to protect their privacy.  Although, I have always called my Mom, Mom, so I decided no code name was necessary.  😉


Please note that the DNA results of myself and Sarah are unnecessary when comparing to individuals who can be compared to our mothers.  We got everything that we have (in this scenario) from our mothers.  However, Sarah is my contact person in the family and for that reason, I included her in the table out of respect for her constant and very gracious work with me.   I included myself because I have tested at 23andMe and my mother has not.  Rather than leave myself blank compared to individuals who can be compared to my Mom, I filled it in.  I’m glad I did.  If ever I questioned the value of testing more family members, I definitely do not question it now!  Seeing the crazy swings in numbers for me compared to my matches, and the more stable differences in numbers when looking at my Mom’s matches, I am 1 million percent sold on testing everyone.  I thought I got it before.  After 39 pages of tables, I REALLY get it now.  Test ’em all people, test ’em all!

Seriously, TEST THEM ALL!



{I’m done shouting for the day.  xoxo}





26 thoughts on “Finding John Costello – A DNA Journey: Connecting Four MORE Cousins”

  1. Fantastic progress Amberly – I really hope that further digging helps provide some more clues and more answers! I wish you much luck for contacting the other family members to encourage them to test. Such a fascinating investigation!

  2. So it looks like his name was Fried! Not sure how he got from that to Costello!! What have you learned about the presumed siblings? Do you know where they were born? When they or their parents came to the US? Are there ship manifests? Citizenship papers?

    I wish I could say I understand your charts and how you used the data to create them—it’s beyond my brain power. But I know how careful you are about all this so I am happy to accept your conclusions even if I can’t quite understand how you got there. 🙂

    1. It’s certainly a possibility!

      I have learned quite a bit about Anna/Hinde. She immigrated with her father in 1913, arriving in New York in September of that year. She is the grandmother of the three oldest cousins in the cluster and since she died in 1974, they remember her well. They are being so wonderfully kind and helpful answering questions about her and confirming/excluding records I’m finding based on what they recall. From what they have shared about her father, which I won’t go into detail about here, some of the possibilities of why John might have changed everything about his identity are starting to come together. Of course, that statement is based on the possibility that he is also John’s father.

      I also know about Anna/Hinde’s sister and husband who came to America before Anna and the father. Apparently they left behind a lot of family in Russia.

      For the Isidore family, I know a lot less about Isidore but have been working on him too. I have quite a bit of data about his oldest daughter who was born in possibly Kiev before they immigrated. I also know about his wife, so I’m hoping that I can start to stitch the Fried family together and find some candidates for John – or his parent.

      There are so many outstanding leads on all of them, but I’m working as fast as I can with the data that I have. I’m a ruminator and don’t like to jump to conclusions so several of the records I was already looking at, are slowly being confirmed by the family stories from Sarah and her family. I have a handful like that for Isidore also. But the great news is that Anna, her father, and her sister appear to have naturalized so I’m hopeful I’ll find those records and get more clues. I do have a name and city for Anna’s mother that was on the ship mainfest for Anna and her father so that is exciting! Lots of things to do – a wonderful place to be compared to where I was last year with my John Costello work.

      Thank you for your interest and unfailing support of my John Costello journey, it means a lot to me, Amy. ❤️❤️❤️

      1. Wow, so many doors to open that will lead to more doors. You must be overwhelmed. I am wondering whether there are birth records for the family in “Russia.” If the daughter was born in Kiev, maybe that is a good place to start? I have no experience with Russian records, but I bet Lara Diamond or someone on JewishGen could help you.

        I also wondered about the synagogue records. Did the Frieds live in Spokane? I wonder whether John might have been listed as Fried, not Costello, in a synagogue.

        Very exciting!

        1. Thank you, Amy! Yes, so much to look for, it’s super exciting!!

          I started looking for Frieds around him in Spokane. While there are some Frieds, nothing seems connected to him yet.

          Yes, I’m hoping that we can find the daughter’s birth in Kiev, then the marriage of the parents and see where that takes us. I still haven’t exhausted the US yet, so I’m focusing on that first so that I don’t get off the path accidentally.

            1. Hahaha!! Sometimes that is DEFINETLY true! I try to be a bit more precise though – when I can focus and not get distracted by bright shiny objects. 🙂

  3. Wow Russia makes so much sense. I wonder if he came over on a false passport and was afraid to change his name back. When my grandfather came he traveled with his dead cousin’s passport to escape the draft in Austria/Poland in 1918. Jewish boys who went into the army then usually never returned.

    1. Oh, interesting! I hadn’t even considered that. Hmmm… I’ll have to think on that one and keep it in mind as I keep working.

      I’m glad that your grandfather was brave enough to do it! I would have been terrified to try, I think. Once he arrived, did he switch back to the name he was given at birth?

      1. It was a cousin that had his mother’s maiden name so just used that. Since his parents were first cousins it was not far off. But I know in later years he worried cause we have a recording of him talking about it.

        1. Oh, interesting! I wonder if my great-grandpa was able to do something similar…? Thank you for the idea to consider, Ellen! ❤️

  4. Well, that’s quite a twist, but I was having a hard time imagining how you were going to link Russia and Italy in such a short time span due to the matching DNA amounts.

    I think you need to keep the approach of World War one in mind; people left Europe to be safe for a variety of reasons. One of my discoveries was that a great-grandfather was orphaned. He came to the US with his brother-in-law intending to bring his wife and my grandfather over, but due to the war, they were “stuck” on the other side of the pond until my grandfather was 15. 15!! And you wonder about family dynamics sometimes. I was told my grandfather did not have a middle name, but that was not true. He was known by his second name (first was traditionally religious) and his initials were really “J J” rather than an attempt at Americanization. Many of the people I was looking for were known by their middle names. You didn’t expect this to be easy did you?

    Good luck,
    Lynne 🙂

    PS: this side of my family is from a country where DNA testing is not yet popular– I had to do it all via paper trail.

    1. Yes, WWI is definitely part of my considerations. Grandpa Costello’s Alien File claims that he arrived in the Winter of 1914. So far, no immigration or travel records confirm that, but if that date is correct, the war being a motivator makes perfect sense.

      How sad that your family was stuck in that separated situation for so long. It really is such a miracle to make it here with an intact family. I’m so grateful for the sacrifices of my immigrant ancestors. I knew one personally – John’s wife. I also personally knew the child of two of my immigrant ancestors – a different great-grandfather. Without them, I wouldn’t be me. ❤️

  5. I feel I should clarify my post as many ancestors made difficult choices to come to the USA and start new lives. I have trouble imagining a great-great-grandmother traveling on a ship with one and three year-old children to join her husband and maybe not seeing her parents again (she did!) A great-grandmother seems to have sailed under her husband to be’s first wife’s name– hidden story. Another great-grandmother did immigrate with her parents, but the did not marry until before her next-youngest sister was born (that one I have got DNA confirmation on. They were indeed her biological her parents.) Thanks to all my ancestors who made me who I am. No explanation owed.

    1. Yes! So true, traveling with little ones would be hard. I didn’t think your first comment was in any way dishonoring their memories or questioning their motivations/choices. I just felt like you were sharing part of your past that has some sadness associated with it. We have to tell all of the stories – the sad and the happy so our posterity know that life has never been easy. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be nearly so rewarding and joyous. ❤️

      1. I have found much happiness as a result of my searching– some wonderful cousins (some of whom had family photos to share) and two in Argentina who did not know they had any living relatives until a cousin in Belgium and I reached out to them. I studied languages in school but none of my own family’s as that was not an option. So glad I learned Spanish! I did search for your John Costello/Castillo in Spain without finding any records remotely close to the information you have posted. But if things change and I can help, just let me know.

        1. Thank you, Lynne! I really appreciate that offer. Yes, no luck in Spain so far. But every detail helps, so one of these days, I will know what I need in Europe (and where). ❤️❤️❤️

  6. I can tell you from the Jewish genealogy side that years of birth are often rough, often 1-4 years off, and that’s when people are not even trying to obfuscate. Don’t necessarily use that to reject a half-sibling hypothesis (though with endogamy that’s definitely less likely now). You’re getting so close! (Another point I thought of, is if John was 100% Ashkenazi and lied about his origin to keep safe (or escape a bad situation), he couldn’t have faked being a Catholic from birth from his wife. Even if he converted in Eastern Europe, which did happen though uncommonly, only the Poles are Catholic, Kiev is in Orthodox territory. That would still be hard to hide, though less so)

    Best of luck!

    1. Thank you for the input, Yosef!! That is all super helpful.

      I do think his wife knew that he was Jewish. His almost 93 year old daughter remembers him attending synagogue, so I don’t think it was a secret, just forgotten. He died 31 years before she did. I think she was able to control the narrative after his death.

      Again, thank you, thank you!

  7. I read this last night and it made perfect sense. You’ve given me a bit more confidence that I can open the door in my own brick wall. I need to put all the charts I’m seeing in my mind down on paper or into a digital file. Great post, Amberly.

    1. Thank you, Cathy! I hope you will have an awesome breakthrough very soon. ❤️❤️❤️

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