Paul Joseph Fronczak and Alex Tresniowski (ghostwriter) (2017) The Foundling. The True Story of a Kidnapping, a Family Secret, and My Search for the Real Me.

The title is longer that some of the books I’ve written and pretty much covers it. Alex Tresniowski has to shape a made-for-TV-kinda testimonial, true-story genre, into a three-part traditional beginning, middle and end with a bang. He gets nationwide coverage and a documentary programme to help with his search. 

The SET-UP establishes a normality that suggests this is who I am. In December, Paul Joseph Fronczak is just your typical ten-year-old kid in Chicago, Illinois. His dad works long hours in a power plant that makes things like transmission belts for helicopters. He’s a blue-collar worker with a steady job. His mum is a stay-at-home-mom. Brother David, who is a year younger, has the bigger of the two bedrooms.


‘THE FIRST STEP of my long journey was into a dark crawl space.

I was ten years old. I was snooping around for Christmas presents in my family’s two-story house in working class South Side Chicago.’

THE REJECTION. ‘I DON’T WANT’  Mum and Dad, Dora and Chester have hid away newspaper clippings. They’ve hid away their past and Paul’s past. They don’t want him to find it or to relive it.



“Police were combing Chicago last night in search of a one-and-a-half day old baby boy who was kidnapped from his mother’s arms.”

‘The details of the kidnapping were sensational. A woman pretending to be a nurse simply walked into the hospital, took the baby from my mother, and walked out the back door. The hospital went into lockdown, and the FBI and the Chicago PD lunched the biggest manhunt in the city’s history.’


Paul Joseph Fronczak always knew there was something different about him. He didn’t look much like his mum, dad or his brother. He loved music, for example, and they didn’t. He was athletic in the way his brother never was. He loved his mum and dad but felt ‘alien’. He was alien.


His mum and dad don’t want him metaphorically or literally digging up the past. What happened forty years ago should stay buried. But Paul has other commitments. He’s married with a daughter of his own. He feels he needs to know for their sake as much as his own.


His mum and dad at first agree to help. They give him a sample of their sputum (spit) for a DNA test. But then they tell him they don’t want him to use it. His brother David refuses to give him a sample and warns him off, asking him to respect mum and dad’s wishes.


Paul disregards their wishes. His argument that his need to know is the greater good. He sends away their sputum sample and finds out they are not genetically related. They are not his mum and dad. David, genetically is not his brother, which kinda makes sense since they’ve never been brotherly.


Mum and Da (and his brother David) cut off all ties with Paul and his wife and their granddaughter.


Paul was adopted. The family which brought him up does not match his DNA. His mum was placed in a terrible position akin to Sophie’s Choice. A toddler broadly matching the birth age and description of baby Fronczak had been left outside a department store. She has to decide whether her prayers have been answered.


Paul has to solve two mysteries. Who kidnapped the boy that wasn’t him? Who left him outside a department store? DNA and genealogy profiling have come a long way in forty years. But since he doesn’t know his father, mother or any known living relatives, pattern recognition is based on what his own DNA can reveal.  


Paul gives up on his relationship with the family that brought him up. But he’s also giving up more and more time and this is hurting the relationship with his wife and even his daughter.


A crack team of genealogists. They find out he is the boy left outside the store. His social care mum and dad loved him and would have kept him, but they had to give him back to his ‘birth’ mum and dad the Froncsak’s. But Paul’s team also find out his genes suggested an Eastern European immigrant connection. Paul had been brought up Roman Catholic. His ancestors were Jewish. His name was Jack Rosenthal. He’d a whole new family. Jack also had a twin sister, Jill. Nobody knew what happened to her. He’d cigarette burns on his toddler’s body and was scared of males.  Read on.