Book Review: “The Foundling” by Paul Joseph Fronczak

“The Foundling: the True Story of a Kidnapping, a Family Secret and My Search for the Real Me” by Paul Joseph Fronczak and his writer, Alex Tresniowski, is a recounting of Paul’s determination to find his biological parents. Paul recounts his journey with an emotional intensity giving readers incredibly deep insight into the emotional side of his journey.

Paul discovers from snooping through his parent’s storage, that he is what’s called a foundling or a child that is found without any indication of its parents. With no documentation in the form of a birth certificate or adoption papers, Paul could be anyone from anywhere. He has very few clues to his identity. Wisely, he turns genetic genealogy testing. What searchees and seasoned genetic genealogists both know is that this process isn’t easy. And I’m just not referring to the science and the DNA-match grunt work. In fact, searching is an emotional gut-job at times. And, success doesn’t necessarily equate with a happy ending.

Fronczak’s book is worth a read. Not only for the story itself. The twists and turns are numerous, and the world into which he enters during his search is frightening. However, I’m not a literary critic. I’m a genealogist. And while I read it as a fan of biography, I also read it as a professional. Here are some thoughts.

  1. DNA testing is legit. Many lay people question its validity. But, a foundling found his biological family. It’s the ultimate test, and DNA rocked it.
  2. Every family has some secrets. DNA testing may uncover some of them. You can’t avoid the big reveal by not testing. It only takes a cousin, and the testing databases are growing exponentially.
  3. DNA testing has limits. It can’t provide you with a story. Only people can. Interpersonal skills are a key part of the job description.
  4. The emotional turmoil that a DNA test can unleash cannot be underestimated. As searchers we aren’t professional psychologists and counselors. But, we must educate ourselves on when clients (or friends) may need some emotional support beyond what we can give. We must realize quickly, when I situation is over our head. Maybe, we need a list of counselors on hand for referrals. Why? People don’t give their child up for adoption (or any other scenario when I parent(s) is unknown) when all of the parties involved are financially, physically, emotionally and relationally healthy. There is always something broken in the dynamic. Pretending like all searches will end in happy and fulfilling family reunions is naive and dangerous.
  5. Searchers must be careful to establish boundaries with friends and clients. People that searchers come across in the process will say that they don’t want to help an adoptee (Ex. By providing valuable family information or by taking a DNA test to narrow down parent/child candidates). Professionals must respect an individual’s decision to not assist regardless of the reason. Even if that person is the target parent or child.

Adulting is hard, so be nice. Have the hard conversations, but also do the work to protect your relationships with your dearest ones.


Disclaimer: I didn’t get the book for free. Nobody asked me to review. I didn’t get anything in return for reviewing.

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