Finding John Costello, updates

Finding John Costello – A DNA Journey: Isidore Fried & Sarah Esther Salzman, the Beginning of the End

Finding John Costello


The very first MRCA couple that I identified for my John Costello DNA matches were Isidore Fried & Sarah Esther Salzman.

I remember being so excited when I connected four of their living descendants!  I had a couple to research that had to be fairly close relatives of John Costello.  And so, research them I did.  I am.  It’s ongoing.

They haven’t been the easiest couple to research.  Their family was quite fractured.

That should have been a clue.

So while I have been digging, searching, analyzing, and sometimes throwing records back into the pile of possibilities, I have kept up my DNA gathering efforts.

I have this lovely little pile of DNA kits sitting in my office.  Five AncestryDNA kits and three 23andMe DNA kits.  I so desperately want to send them off to family members who might help bring more pieces of John’s story to my table.  I’ve offered them to far more people than the eight who can actually use them.  But there they sit.  Unclaimed.

There are seven very specific people that I would really like to test.  In my family, Vince and Virginia, the two living children of John.  In cluster #1, there are three living grandchildren of Isidore and Sarah that I would like to test.  And in cluster #2, there are two living great-grandchildren of Samuel Fried that I would like to test.

Despite my efforts, those prospective test takers still remain on my wish list.

A few weeks ago, I actually made a wish list with pen and paper and assigned each kit to a person.  At the time, I had nine kits.  I realized that I had a “surplus” of two – sort of.  I really want to convince Vince and Virginia to take two tests each – one from each vendor.  But since I was making absolutely no progress on that, I started toying with the idea of “wasting” a test on my Mom’s sister, Vince’s daughter.

It wouldn’t really be a waste at all, unless of course, Vince ends up testing.  But he hasn’t, and I don’t know that he will.

So, I asked my Auntie V if she would take a test.  She was worried it was a waste of money.  I assured her it was not.  She agreed, the test was mailed, she completed it right away and the wait was on.

Mentally, I was preparing for the possibility that her results wouldn’t eliminate any of the possible relationships between our family and our two close DNA clusters.  I didn’t want to be disappointed.

When I got the email that her results were being processed, I tried not to count the days.  But I couldn’t help myself, I was fairly certain her results would be done on about Wednesday the 8th of May.

But then, Sunday morning, the email came in telling me that her results were here.

I logged in.

I checked our key matches on 23andMe – there are three.

I opened my document that is filled to the brim with charts.  I started plugging data into those charts.  I started checking the numbers using the Shared cM tool.  I logged the new data, assigned the appropriate probability grouping, and color-coded each new entry.

When I got to the hypotheses for our family group compared to the Isidore Fried & Sarah Esther Salzman descendants, I had ten theories to test.

Hypothesis after hypothesis was eliminated until at last I was left with only two possibilities.

Only two.


Are you ready for this?


Take a breath.


No, not you, me.


“Can it really be true?” she whispers before she types.


Here goes…


John Costello is either the brother of Isidore Fried or Sarah Esther Salzman or, surprisingly, John Costello is Isidore Fried.


Let that soak in for a second.


Two possibilities.



Either way, all of that delight upon identifying my first MRCA couple among my John Costello matches was well deserved.  The statement that I have made many times since that moment – that I need to learn EVERYTHING I can about Isidore and Sarah – is absolutely true.

Isidore and Sarah are the beginning of the end of my John Costello journey.


Now Grandpa Costello, which is it?  Are you the brother, or are you, Isidore?

If you are Isidore, what on earth were you doing in the almost six years between when you skipped out on your parole in Illinois and when you showed up in Spokane, Washington?  Methinks I smell a story here.  A story that I will likely only ever be able to speculate about…


Now, dear readers, can you believe it?!  The list of possible answers to my question was narrowed down significantly by the spit of a person who wasn’t even on my DNA test-takers wish list.  How remarkable.


Also, ummm… I am now just separated from the answer to my overarching question by the tiniest list of documents.  A marriage, a birth, another birth or two, and suddenly that gigantically empty hole in my tree will start to fill in.  Somebody pinch me – this hardly feels real!