Finding John Costello, updates

Finding John Costello – A DNA Journey: Progress Update

Finding John Costello



I probably have about ten blog posts worth of updates, but I am in the thick of research and don’t have time to share everything I have been discovering.  But a few brief updates are definitely called for.


First – the DNA side of this project.


My Mom’s 23andMe results came in.  I was hoping they would rule out a possibility or two.  They did not, but they did help build the data set and for that I am grateful.

Three of the cousins in this cluster – let’s call them cluster #2 – have transferred their raw data to MyHeritage.  This gave me several more data points as well.  Again, it didn’t rule out any possibilities, but it did tighten up how this cluster likely matches my other cluster of four cousins – let’s call them cluster #1.  I have a very likely conclusion on this front with several records to back it up, still researching though.

I have identified three living descendants in cluster #1 who are in the current oldest living generation.  NO ONE from this generation has tested.  Two from the next generation down have tested and two from the generation below that.  On Monday, I mailed off eight letters to individuals in this cluster.  I invited those three descendants in the oldest generation to test.  Also, I requested that the individuals who have already tested please transfer their results to MyHeritage so that I can gather more data points.

Because the three individuals in the oldest generation are not spring chickens, I mailed a copy of my letter to a few other descendants and addressed the letter to all of them so that family members in multiple generations are aware of my project and requests.  I’m hoping to avoid a 90-something cousin telling their 70-something child that a stranger wants them to take a DNA test.  Trying to be open and transparent over here.

With the help of my awesome cousin Sarah*, I have identified two more testing candidates in her family who are in the same generation as her Mother, Aunt, and Uncle.  Neither have yet tested.  The great thing about testing each of them would be that one candidate is the 1st cousin of Sarah’s Mom’s generation and the other is the 2nd cousin of Sarah’s Mom’s generation.  This will make my data more robust.  Sarah is working on asking one of them.  I am working on asking the other.  (Sarah is not personally acquainted with this cousin.)

My Mom’s sister agreed to test and I shipped that test off on Monday.  She should get it today.  It’s a 23andMe test, so the results should be back soon.

My Mom’s 1st cousin’s wife agreed to try to get Virginia, John’s living daughter, to test.  Oh, happy day!  What a miracle that would be.  I’ll take all the positive vibes, happy DNA-embracing thoughts, and even prayers any of you want to send her way.

After three requests that Vince, John’s son and my grandfather, take a DNA test with no luck – I told him that I would not ask him to test again.  I did, however, send him an update on my progress on Monday.  I included a letter from Sarah, one from myself that I wrote to all of John’s descendants, and a handwritten letter from me with family updates.  I don’t know if he will be interested or if the information might soften his opinion, but I felt he should be kept in the loop.  My journey is all about his father after all.

I have a handy little table of my current data points between the three clusters.  It also includes numbers of potential testing candidates in each cluster.  I should have included how many data points I could add through transfers.  Oh well, next time I update this chart.  😉

Untitled document (5)



Second – the contact side of the project.


I have identified more John Costello descendants on Facebook and sent friend requests.  No joy.

I am in contact with Sarah’s Mom and Uncle.  They have shared a few photos and stories.  Sarah’s Uncle has answered lots of questions to the best of his memory.

I am hoping my recent letter-writing effort will invite more cousin connections between myself and members of all three clusters.  I find it a little bit weird that I am shyest about reaching out to my known John Costello cousins, but it seems that is likely part of the price we pay for the more than half-century old divorce between my grandparents.



Third – the research side of the project.


DNA alone won’t solve this mystery of mine.  I need a good solid set of records to support the connections I am hypothesizing between my cousin matches.  I readily recognize that as I get closer and closer to the end of this project, at some point I will be looking at a man on paper who is well-developed as someone who is NOT named John Costello but who is, in fact, my great-grandfather.  In order to get to that point, I need to fully research the trees of my two very close cousin clusters.

So how is the research going?


I can’t BELIEVE the records I am working in.  This story is oh-so-fascinating.  I am almost close enough to name the link between the two cousin clusters.  Doing that will impact the possibilities for where my family fits in.


Oh boy, is it ever getting good!




I wish these letters and packages well as they are received by my family members.  I hope that each cousin will somehow feel the deep love I have for my family and especially for Grandpa Costello as they read my words.

❤️   ❤️   ❤️   ❤️   ❤️   ❤️   ❤️   ❤️   ❤️   ❤️


I am so grateful for the suggestions and support I am receiving here as comments, as well as in personal texts, emails, and FB messages.  This is definitely a project that is benefitting from the experiences and knowledge of others.  So to all who have helped or cheered me on in any way – THANK YOU!  I am getting SO much closer.



*Sarah is not really her name, but we are becoming fast friends and close, but currently unnamed, cousins as we work together on this project.  She has given permission to be referenced in my posts.  Thank you, Sarah!  You are awesome.



13 thoughts on “Finding John Costello – A DNA Journey: Progress Update”

    1. Thank you, Su, that is very kind of you to say! I am getting closer all the time. ❤️

  1. I cannot wait to find out definitely who he was before he became John Costello. Best wishes for results from all the formally unknown family!

  2. I wait every day for more updates as if this were my own great-grandfather. I am curious about what you wrote in the letters. I was thinking that telling the family story of the missing brother might be a great hook to get their interest. I can’t believe your own grandfather is so resistant. 🙁

    Good luck, Amberly! It amazes me how far you have come from the day you first learned of your Jewish DNA! Mazel tov!

  3. I went back to re-read your post about Vince and meeting him in his home. I remember reading it the first time but for some reason I never commented on it. In retrospect, after reading the above about all the reaching out you are doing to get people to test for your John Costello DNA project, I wonder about Vince. Isn’t he a lot like his father John, distancing himself from loved ones like the brother in your soon-to-be-proven-cousins’ story? Amberly, you’re working hard toward your goal and we’re having a great time reading your posts, letting us tag along for the ride.

    1. Thank you, Cathy! And YES – Vince is a very interesting parallel to the brother and to John. Excellent observation. I’m getting closer all the time. ❤️

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