Sunday, February 9, 2014

DNA to the Rescue, II

Marion N. Williams
Identifying the Unknown Soldier
In April 2009 we were presented The Man in the Photo with his assumed name of William Williams. The client had already been searching for her biological family for two years: "Mine is a hard case Kathleen, I've researched myself for two years, my cousin who has a Dr. Degree and is a genealogist bug has helped me.  We've hit many brick walls….The biggest issue is that the name my mother gave me could have been false!”

As often happens, WWII was full of secrets, only to be revealed right before death. This was no different for Ruth. Presented with a photo, and the name William Williams, she spent hours staring into her father’s eyes, believing he died in Alaska.

Armed with Ruth’s information we started searching: “My mother also told me he came from the Reno Kansas area.  He was in the Army Corp. of Engineers during 1944.  He was with my mother at Mt. Gretna Campground Sept. 30th and Oct. 1st l944.”

a3Genelaogy researchers chased down military records of possible candidates, matching vital records and family members of William Williams. The man in the photo could not be identified. We closed the case suggesting a DNA. So Ruth took a 23andMe DNA test August of 2011 and waited. I’d like to say patiently, but it was more on pins and needles.

And she waited….

Then, two years later, Dec 2013, “Voila!!” A 23andMe match had identified a first and second cousin match, both leading to the Williams family. Quick to connect, Ruth forwarded the photo. She received an instant response:  "this is my grandpa, who are you?” Yes Ruth had a nephew…his grandpa, was her dad.

Who was William Williams?
Well, this soldier’s nickname was Bill, but his real name was Marion Williams. He was in Mt. Greta in 1944 - Great! We needed him there, at that time, for conception. And, the newly found nephew presented a train pass for the direct line to Mt. Greta on the Cornwall & Lebanon train that matched our timing.  Williams retired as a Major in 1945, and was in Alaska with the 770 Engineers, but he died in Colorado years later.

With DNA
As Paul Harvey would say…"And, now you know the rest of the story."
Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

p.s. Client’s name has been altered but quotes and events are exact.


  1. Kathleen,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in my Fab Finds post today at

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    1. Thanks so much for including this post. DNA is a "hot topic" with family researches, and a vital tool.