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.