Finding John Costello

Finding John Costello – A DNA Journey: The Fried Family, John’s Family, Part 6, Conclusion

Finding John Costello


In writing, and in life, it is best to begin with the end in mind.


Twelve days ago, I wrote and published part one.  I did that for a very specific reason.  It wasn’t because I felt I had “finished” my research.  It was because the oldest living generation of descendants of Anna Fried were gathering.

I was hoping that by writing up my findings in a narrative that they could read and then discuss while together, they would find some glittery bits of forgotten memories that might help answer the ultimate question . . .

. . . Is John Costello Isidore Fried?

Twelve days ago, I knew that I would be ending with this post.  I imagined that I would be writing a fancy side-by-side timeline of the two men’s lives and showing you that there was absolutely no overlap.  That Isidore Fried disappeared from Chicago in November of 1911 and that John Costello popped up in Spokane in June of 1917.

I thought I would be reminding you of some of the key information items scattered throughout the last five posts.  Information items that seem to indicate there is only one son for Samuel and only one brother for Fannie and Anna.  Information items that show the distinct absence of Isidore that is more in line with him leaving than dying.

I thought I would be flavoring this post with bits about how John avoided the camera at all costs.  How he didn’t understand a lick of Spanish despite claiming he was born and raised in Spain.  How his wife filed his paperwork every year to keep his registered alien status because he didn’t want to go in.

I thought I would be comparing the physical descriptions of Isidore and John and showing you how a man who changed his identity and had a warrant out on him would fudge things to appear as if he were a different man without establishing a physical description that was in complete conflict.  I thought I would be walking through all of the family lore from the Fried family and the Costello family and weaving it together to present some possible explanations.

But I also I thought that I would be pulling out my DNA analysis charts and explaining that genetically, there were still two possibilities–that Isidore and John are full brothers or that they are the same man.

I thought I would be leaving you with an unfinished ending listing out some of the steps I would still be taking, records to look at, a plan to reach out to cousins and beg them to test.  Again.

But twelve days ago, what I was not at all expecting, was that exactly four days after that first post, at 11:15 pm on Sunday night, June 23rd, I would decide to check my email one last time before I fell asleep and suddenly see that Celia’s grandson who had previously tested with 23andMe went ahead and transferred his DNA to MyHeritage.  Just like I asked him to.  He didn’t send me an email, text, letter, or message of any kind.  But he did do the one thing I so desperately hoped that he would.  He completed a free autosomal transfer of his DNA data.  And what I ABSOLUTELY was not at all expecting, was that his DNA comparison with my Uncle C would answer the question I have been chasing for 20 years.

Celia’s grandson and my Uncle C share so much DNA that there is now only one possible relationship between Isidore Fried and John Costello.


There is a statistical probability of 0.58% that John Costello and Isidore Fried are brothers.  But that possibility is accompanied by this note on the Shared cM Tool, “This relationship has a positive probability for 379.4 cM in thednageek’s table of probabilities, but falls outside the bounds of the recorded cM range (99th percentile).

And while my family, clearly, is remarkably interesting, I am going to suggest here that we are not the 0.58% in this scenario.  I am going to suggest that when you combine the 0.58% probability that John and Isidore are brothers with the evidence in the records that Isidore did not have a brother, and the complete lack of overlap between Isidore and John, and the many information items that show Isidore struggling and needing a fresh start, that we are left with only one logical conclusion.

I am going to suggest to you, dear readers, that John Costello is, in fact, Isidore Fried.

I am going to suggest that Isidore Fried skipped out on his parole in November of 1911.  That he had some lost years.  That he took some time to work through some stuff.  Heavy stuff.  And that by June of 1917 he had chosen a new identity.  One that he would keep for the rest of his life.

A life that included a marriage, children, grandchildren.  Stability.  Peace.  Safety.

With a different name.

I wonder how he and Sarah parted?  I hope they made peace with each other.

Grandpa Costello did his best to bury the truth of his past.

But it appears I have discovered his secrets.  He certainly did not make it easy.  I hope he will forgive me for sharing the past he worked so hard to hide.

And while it feels amazing to have the answer I have been seeking, there is one last question I posed to you that I haven’t yet answered.


Would this fractured family ever be made whole?


Yes.  We will.

Despite Grandpa Costello’s best efforts to become a different person, his descendants and the descendants of his siblings are finding each other.  We are scattered across the United States, but we are connecting.  We are just beginning to rebuild what was fractured all those years ago.  And what we are building together is beautiful.

I hope that my great-grandfather, Isidore Fried, who chose to be John Costello, can feel my love and gratitude for him.

I hope that his descendants from his marriage to Sarah will be willing to connect.  I hope that they will share some memories with me, however bitter they may be.  I hope that together, we can find the beauty of our shared connection despite the terrible divide between the two parts of Isidore’s life.

I hope we can offer the memory of Isidore, John, forgiveness and love.

Because in the end, without his life, mistakes and all, we wouldn’t be here.





37 thoughts on “Finding John Costello – A DNA Journey: The Fried Family, John’s Family, Part 6, Conclusion”

  1. just wow again – excellent work, and almost foolproof. I think you are right.

    1. Thank you, Randy! Yes, almost. But, so far, there is not another alternative. I’m hoping for more DNA to completely seal the deal. Fingers crossed! ❤️

  2. Wow!!! What wonderful outcome to your incredible, painstaking research. This is fantastic Amberly. I hope that your work does help heal a fractured family.
    Well done you.
    PS: I am kinda sad the story is mainly over. This has been better than Sherlock Holmes!

    1. Thank you so much, Su!! That is so nice of you to say. I feel equal parts relief to be done and sad to be done telling. However, I have found so much more fascniating stuff (after the posts those items should have been in were posted) that I am seriously contemplating a book. Plus, I know there is loads more to search for. I think this epic story is only scratching the surface of the whole tale. 🙂

  3. This is just unbelievable, Amberly. I cannot believe you did this! You not only found John/Isidore—-you found his story! Or all but six years of it. Oh, how I wish Sarah and her children were alive to know where he went and who he ended up being. I am just amazed.

    I will have other questions, but for now just one—can you explain this paragraph for my DNA-stupid brain? “There is a statistical probability of 0.58% that John Costello and Isidore Fried are brothers. But that possibility is accompanied by this note on the Shared cM Tool, “This relationship has a positive probability for 379.4 cM in thednageek’s table of probabilities, but falls outside the bounds of the recorded cM range (99th percentile).“ I get that this says the possibility of John and Isidore being brothers is small, but does that also mean that there is a 99.42% chance that they are the same person? What does the 379.4 cm refer to here?

    Ok, one more question: Have you told the Fried cousins yet of this finding?? What was their reaction?

    Brava, my friend! You are amazing!

    1. Thank you so much, Amy!!

      Okay, for the DNA portion. Before I started, I had eliminated all possibilities except for the two – that they were brothers or the same person. When I got the new data and could compare Celia’s grandson and my Uncle C, they share 379.4 cMs. That is A LOT! For John and Isidore to be brothers, there is only the 0.58% chance based on how many cMs Celia’s grandson and Uncle C share. But for them to be the same man (which I did not focus on) everything is in a very normal range for all of the Frieds and Costellos. It would be VERY unlikely that they were brothers and the first recorded instance of that relationship distance with that number of cMs. But to be the same man, it’s not the least bit on the edges of possibility. Did that clear it up? If not, ask more questions.

      No! and Yes! I have told the descendants of Anna. They have been following along. I have not told the descendants of Isidore and Sarah but I’m planning to. Now I need to mull and consider how to write a new letter. Also, I have a feeling that Celia’s grandson has been reading and it prompted his autosomal transfer.

      And, while I deeply appreciate the compliment, I think the most apt descriptor for this genealogy victory is persistent. I am so proud of myself for not giving up. 🙂

      1. I am so proud of you also. Twenty years! I had no idea (you must have been a mere child back then!). That IS persistent.

        Yes, 374 cM is quite conclusive. Wow.

        1. Thank you, Amy! Yes, I was super young. Granted, I wasn’t working on it constantly or even regularly until the last year. But it was one of my very first questions when I was just beginning my research into my family.

  4. I really do not know what to say. In those days it was easier to lose yourself and change your name. I am amazed how persistent you were and what you were able to discover. But my of my heart goes out to his first family and how difficult it was when he abandoned them. And how it impacted his family. My great grandfather also abandoned his family about 1900. My grandfather never forgave him. I am still searching for him to find some answers to the many questions.

    1. Yes, my mother is having a hard time with that. But I have reminded her that we really don’t know exactly how that happened. I think we will understand the circumstances surrounding his leaving a lot better once I get some of the criminal records from the NYC part of his story. It’s possible they agreed he needed to go.

      I’m sorry for the pain your family experienced. I hope you find some answers. Abandonment is awful. Sadly, John/Isidore’s son did it too.

        1. That is very sad. I have seen it also. Hopefully we do our best to do a little better with each generation. ❤️

  5. I have followed your story with much interest. You have really done an excellent job of putting together those puzzle pieces. Thank you for sharing Isadore/John’s story – I look forward to any further finds in the future!

    1. Thank you, Judy!! I really appreciate the compliment. It has certainly been a labor of love. ❤️

  6. I really enjoyed this series and looked forward to every installment. It’s amazing that you solved this, I can’t even begin to imagine the work involved and I admire you for not giving up. This has been the most entertaining and amazing genetic mystery I’ve read since I started genealogy 5 years ago. Like the other readers I look forward to further finds.

  7. Fantastic work Amberly! It has been a really fantastic story to read and always have looked forward to the next instalment! How brilliant to get that DNA information from Celia’s grandson to seal the deal.
    I do hope you write a book about it all – and I will be sure to buy a copy!

  8. Flabbergasted after following along on your geneajourney! Congratulations on answering this key question in your family’s history. I especially appreciated your focus on reasoning and methodology.

  9. Amberly, your determination and perseverance have paid off! You’ve done amazing things throughout this journey. Your love for your family shows through in your posts. Without the DNA you may have never made the connection as John was so successful in hiding his previous identity. What a cool surprise it was for Celia’s grandson to transfer his raw DNA to MyHeritage where you were able to compare with your uncle’s DNA. This isn’t over and I look forward to updates and new discoveries. A book would be phenomenal if you decide this is what you want to do.

    1. Thank you, Cathy!! I read all of these comments as they came in, but didn’t come back to them to respond yet. (I’ve had to take a bit of a hibernation after my marathon writing… I’ve been on my computer but completely ignored my blog while I gave myself a little brain rest.) What kind compliments, I really appreciated them last week, and now again as I am rereading. I feel like I’ve had the best cheerleaders ever rooting me on this past year. Thank you, for always being so encouraging! It was definitely an uphill battle! I’ve actually made more Costello cousin connections since I started writing the series and had another family member offer to test! ❤️❤️❤️

  10. What you did was great detective work. I would hate to be on the run from the law and have you on my trail. 🙂 Seriously you have done great work and you have put the family history right for future generations.

    1. Thank you, Luanne! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I was so delighted that I got those new DNA results so I could actually come to a conclusion! And now, I have another cousin who has tested (waiting…) and a descendant of Isidore and Sarah that has been in contact. Hooray!!!

  11. Thank you for sharing your story. I was on vacation during part of the time you were releasing it and found myself looking forward to every installment! I love that DNA testing is giving us more tools to tell our ancestors stories.All of my great grandparents emigrated to the US between 1885 and 1905, some with their parents, some with a spouse and children, and one as a 15-year-old boy hoping for adventure alone. They were Jews from eastern Europe looking for a chance to build a safe future, and they all succeeded in that. They also had human tragedies and failings, and some of those shaped my grandparents, parents and ultimately my life as much as that decision to give life in the US a shot.

    1. You are welcome, Joanna! I am glad that you enjoyed it. 🙂 It really is amazing to be able to find hidden family using DNA!!! We are so fortunate to live in the DNA age.

  12. Wow! This is insane. I’m so glad that you finally have your answer, though I have to imagine it feels a little unreal. I came upon your blog in the midst of trying to solve my own brick wall, and I’m not sure whether to hope the story is this incredible or pray it’s not LOL. Amazing work.

    1. Hahaha!! I’m not sure which is better either.

      This has been such an amazing journey for me. I’ve learned so much and feel closer to my great-grandfather than ever. The discoveries are still on-going even though I’m not sharing them right now.

      No matter what your story ends up being, I wish you very good luck. DNA discoveries are amazing and the answers seem to trickle in as more cousins test.

      Thank you for your kind words, Nichole! ❤️

  13. Hi! I am a descendant of ‘John’! My name’s Garrick, and I can’t BELIEVE that you found him and his story!! Thank you! I have a funny feeling that my family and I are going to be talking about this for a long time!

    1. Hello Garrick!!! It is great to hear from you. I can’t believe it either! I’m still working on more details. 🙂

Leave a Reply