In February 2023 I replied to a newsgroup post written by a woman named Debbie (Woods) Jones. She was looking for someone who was adopted out of her family at nine months old in 1953. The child’s name was Michael Keith Woods from Indiana. This was not a typical adoption story (See original newspaper article below). Debbie’s father, Stanton Woods, was the oldest sibling of Michael. Debbie did quite a bit of research, but couldn’t quite put all the pieces together. DNA data from genealogy sites can be tricky to understand. This wasn’t one of my usual searches. Finding a child who was adopted is not the same as finding a birth parent. It requires that the child or one of his/her children have submitted their DNA. This was more of a "missing person" case.
Using Debbie’s DNA data from the Ancestry site, I was able to confirm that one of her DNA matches, a guy from New Mexico named Matthew, is her first cousin. Since no one in the family knows who he is, it's very possible he is a son of Michael Keith Woods. It seemed like we would have a quick and easy ending to this mystery. We could just contact Matthew and say. "Who's your father?" Then we would have his adopted name and a way to contact him. Things are rarely that easy however. There was a problem. We could not get a response from Matthew. We did however find an obituary for his mother that mentioned Matthew was adopted and was originally from Tucson, Arizona. Even if we were able to contact him, it was unlikely that he would know who his bio father was. This was likely a dead end.
Next, there was a woman named Mary on the 23 and Me website with a similar match to Debbie’s family. Again, we got no response. This is a common problem on genealogy websites. People often let their accounts expire and never bother to check their messages on the site again. Some people don’t reply because they don't like strangers investigating their families. Getting a reply is often difficult. All I had to go on was Mary’s name. I did some serious internet research to try to find out who this Mary person was. I knew from the DNA data that she was very likely a first cousin. Since Debbie never heard of her, It was possible Mary was also a child of Michael Keith Woods. I kept searching and found a woman with her name, also from Tucson, Arizona. Since none of the other Woods siblings have been to Tucson, and the adopted child, Matthew, was also from there, this was looking really good. I had to find out who Mary’s parents were. If Mary was not adopted, then the man she knows as her father could be the missing Michael Keith Woods. If she was adopted, then we might hit another dead end.
While searching newspaper articles and people-search sites, I was able to identify Mary’s mother, but there was no information about her father. This might mean Mary did not know her father, or perhaps he died long ago. After some intense searching through old newspaper articles, I found a divorce record from 1981. Mary’s mother divorced a man named Maynard Carlyle Smythe. Using the Ancestry website, I searched for that name with a birth date of 1952. Maynard’s data appeared. He was born at the correct time in the correct place. June 1st 1952 in Linton Indiana. Records show he later moved to... you guessed it... Tucson, Arizona. That data, combined with the two DNA matches from Tucson, suddenly made it all very clear. Maynard Carlyle Smythe is the adopted name of Michael Keith Woods.
Now that I had his adopted name, I was able to do more research on him and his adopted family. Sadly, Michael died at a young age, just 43 years old. We have yet to make contact with his adopted family, but his obituary mentioned many family members and friends who cared about him in both Indiana and Arizona. We are sure we will hear from them soon so we can learn more about Michael’s life. I will post an update if we get more information. As an added twist to this story, not only did I find Michael, but I can confirm that Michael (A.K.A. Maynard) is the bio father of that adopted DNA match, Matthew. If Matthew ever replies, he will be able to learn about a lot of new relatives from his father’s bio family and adopted family. Maynard’s family probably does not even know Matthew exists.
If you’re missing a loved one, never give up hope. Thanks to the magic of DNA, anything is possible. After 70 years, Michael Keith Woods has finally been found.
Learn how to get more DNA matches for free in my next blog post.