I recently wrote about using genetic genealogy to potentially identify a male’s unknown surname. Although I had in mind using DNA to find an adopted male’s biological surname, the method has numerous other applications. For instance, it can be used in an attempt to identify the surname of a male who has forgotten his biological surname.
A Mystery Man
Just before 7 a.m. on August 31, 2004, an adult male was found lying next to a dumpster behind a Burger King in Richmond Hill, Georgia. He was naked, beaten, sunburned, and covered in bites from fire ants. Benjaman Kyle, as he has decided to call himself (note the BK connection), eventually recovered from his physical ailments but was unable to remember anything about himself or his past. To this day, he cannot remember anything, although he claims to have vague memories or affiliations for certain things. For example, he appears to have some background knowledge of restaurant equipment and design. Surprisingly, he does not match any known missing person report, and no one has come forward with knowledge of his identity, despite considerable media coverage. For more background information about Benjaman Kyle, see “A Real Live Nobody” in SavannahNow.
A Suggestion for Benjaman Kyle
So how can genetic genealogy potentially help Benjaman? He could, for example, join the Adopted Group Project at Family Tree DNA and order a 67-marker test (more info here). Armed with these results, Benjaman could mine the public databases – including FTDNA’s database, Ysearch, and Ybase – to look for matches. If he finds a very close match (for instance, 67 out of 67 markers), then there is a strong possibility that the two individuals will share the same surname, or at least reveal a starting point for further research. The largest caveat to this method is that one of Benjaman Kyle’s male relatives must have taken a genetic genealogy test and made the results available. However, given that as many as 500,000 to 800,000 people have already undergone genetic genealogy testing and as many as 50,000 to 100,000 people try genetic genealogy every year, it is certainly possible that a male relative has been tested.
In October, I wrote “DNA Could Reveal Your Surname, Of Course,” which discussed a new paper from the lab of Mark Jobling (see the project background here). His research suggested that there is a 24% chance that two men who share the same surname share a common ancestor through that name, and this increases to nearly 50% if the surname they share is rare. The press release for the paper stated: “the fact that such a strong link exists between surname and Y chromosome type has a potential use in forensic science, since it suggests that, given large databases of names and Y chromosome profiles, surname prediction from DNA alone may be feasible.”
Thus, I recommend that Mr. Kyle use genetic genealogy to potentially identify his biological surname.