This blog brings you breaking news about the 15th New England Regional Genealogical Conference and the city of Manchester, New Hampshire.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"The Search for the Identity of the Amnesiac Benjaman Kyle" by Colleen Fitzpatrick

Speaker: Colleen Fitzpatrick, Ph.D.
Talk: "The Search for the Identity of the Amnesiac Benjaman Kyle" [F-229]
Date: Friday, April 8, 2011
Time: 4:45pm

Who is Benjaman Kyle?

Our ancestors lived without Social Security Numbers, drivers licenses, and sometimes even without birth certificates. Yet they had jobs, they may have owned property, they emigrated to other countries without needing a passport. It can be very difficult for their genealogist-descendant to locate them without much documentation.

Life nowadays is not that simple. Imagine what it would be like to live today without a Social Security Number, a driver's license, and a birth certificate. You could not get a job, you could not drive, you could not open a bank account nor apply for a credit card. It would be impossible for you to get through airport security to board a plane.

Benjaman Kyle must function under these conditions every day. Due to a severe beating, he suffers from retrograde amnesia. He does not know who he is. Yet as a well-spoken healthy 60-year-old man, he would fit in well with our ancestors. He lives very much like they lived, without the types of personal identification we take for granted. Benjaman Kyle is the only missing person in the United States whose whereabouts are common knowledge.

My search for the identify of Benjaman Kyle provides much insight into the search a genealogist might do in identifying a missing member of his family tree. I've had dead ends, I've had close calls, I've located people who look just like him. I've scoured bulletin boards and missing persons' websites. I've given up countless times, only to have that "Eureka" moment that surprises me into continuing.

Unlike our ancestors, Benjaman has the advantage of modern technology. His fingerprints have been checked; we have had his picture run through facial identification software used by various Departments of Motor Vehicles. We have made use of the Internet, constructing a Wikipedia article about him (; he has a Facebook page. He has appeared in a number of newspapers and on radio and television, including The Dr. Phil show and National Public Radio's All Things Considered. He has even taken a battery of DNA tests to try to find his last name or to locate potential cousins. Even though millions of people have been exposed to his story, we still don't know who he is.

I have posted several articles on my blog at about Benjaman's DNA results - most recently an article on all the close calls we've had. My articles give the background of how he was found, with links for more detailed information. I welcome everyone to read the articles, and more importantly, to look at his picture to see if anyone recognizes him. I can provide an email to be forwarded to friends who might not be aware of the story. Most importantly, I encourage anyone who has information on who he is to contact me immediately at

Who knows what will happen before I speak in Springfield this April? There will undoubtedly be developments in the case - maybe I will even be lucky enough to reveal his identity at the conference. So even if you read the articles, make sure you attend my talk on Friday. April 8, 2011 at 4:45pm to hear the latest on our search for (and maybe discovery of) the identity of the amnesiac Benjaman Kyle.

Colleen Fitzpatrick, Ph.D.

Colleen Fitzpatrick, Ph,D., author of Forensic Genealogy, has been recognized by the international press for her work with the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory. Her article on her work on the "Arm in the Snow" project appeared in Scientific American, summer 2010. Although Colleen works on high-level projects, her techniques are familiar to genealogists researching their own family histories. You will come to her talk as a genealogist; you will leave as a forensic genealogist.

The New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC)

The New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC) is being held April 6-10, 2011 in Springfield, MA. More information is available from the conference website.

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