Success Stories

Gardiner F. Pierce, a son of Gardiner Pierce, was born 14 Sep 1833 in Fall River, Massachusetts. He married Fanny Anderson. Gardner ended up in Buffalo, New York where he enlisted in the 26th New York Regiment at the start of the Civil War. He deserted at the battle of Second Manassas in September of 1862 and then disappeared from public records.  His wife Fanny had him declared dead when legally possible, applied for his pension, and remarried. 

But, he was not dead!  For reasons unknown, Gardner F. Pierce reinvented himself as THEODORE HALLSTED.  He later is found again in the public records beginning in 1865.  Various records have a birth date of around 1833 from Fall River, Massachusetts.  In 1890 he appeared at a veterans rally as a former member of the 26th New York Regiment (no Hallsted appears in the official records of that regiment).
So the descendants of Theodore Hallsted carry Pierce Y DNA as a result of a name change; the use of an alias (Theodore Hallsted) by Gardiner F. Pierce who was born in Fall River, Massachusetts.

In May 2015 William had a close autosomal DNA match, Amanda. They were predicted to be third cousins which would mean their MCRA would not be too many generations back. But, Amanda was also searching for her bio family. She had recently found and made contact with her bio grandmother who shared that Amanda's bio grandfather had been born a Pierce, but had taken a new surname when he was adopted as a young boy. I always thought if Amanda could break through her brick wall, we would be able to solve the Pierce/Hallsted mystery for William.

In April 2016 Amanda contacted me after her research led to the names of her bio grandfather's parents. This Pierce line is very easy to trace online, and sure enough, we found a strong candidate for Theodore Hallsted's father in Gardner Pierce. Gardner is in the right place at the right time. He descends from Michael Pierce, as William's close Y-DNA matches do. With Gardner as the MCRA of William and Amanda, we can calculate that William and Amanda are 3rd cousins 2X--very much in line with the DNA evidence. Because of the circumstances of Theodore's birth (he was likely an out-of-wedlock birth), we may never have a paper trail to support the connection between Gardner Pierce and Theodore Hallsted. But the DNA evidence is strong enough that I feel we can say with confidence that Gardner Pierce is the father of Theodore Hallsted. This discovery breaks through a brick wall that Hallsted researchers have been trying to get through for a long time!

William Crawford was adopted at birth in 1945. His adoptive mother did not want her children to know they were adopted, but after her death in 1977, William’s adoptive father spilled the beans. Mrs. Crawford, however, took the details of the adoption to the grave. William began searching for his biological family a few years later, the pre-Internet way. He was eventually able to secure his adoption records, though some information was blacked out, and there was a note saying there was reason to believe the birth mother had given false information. (Indeed, she did!) Undaunted, William continued to search using what little information he had gleaned from his court records. He made phone calls. He wrote letters. He searched public records. And always hitting the proverbial brick wall.

I joined William’s search in March of 2012. We used the Internet and Ancestry to continue the research. After stumbling upon Richard Hill’s story of using DNA to find his biological parents in April of 2013, I encouraged William to try DNA testing. We followed Hill’s recommendation of starting with the Y-DNA test. We were hoping to find a recurring surname that would be a strong indication of William’s birth father’s surname; we were not disappointed. Only 3 out of 12 of his closest matches (Step 0 – Step 2) had a surname other than Pierce or Percy. It didn’t take long to uncover the story behind two of those to realize they, too, had a Pierce origin. Only one remained a mystery, Alvin Hallsted. He was predicted to be a first or second cousin through the Family Finder autosomal test.

Further analysis of William’s raw DNA suggested a probable first cousin relationship between Alvin Hallsted and William’s birth father. We identified 27 male cousins to research. In particular we wanted to know if they were alive in 1944, where they were in 1940 (the closest census we could get to William’s birth) and if they had military records since the birth mother indicated the birth father was in the Army.

William and I each started with two cousins to research. While reviewing William’s work so I could enter details into Roots Magic, I noticed a Find A Grave link for one of the cousins linking to a different wife. Digging a little deeper led me to a blog with a tribute to Grace Hallsted. At the bottom of the tribute was Grace’s obituary. The first thing I noticed was her birthplace. It matched the one given by William’s birth mother. I thought it a coincidence since we were searching for the father at this point. But when I noticed the birth date also matched, I knew it was more.

It turns out William’s birth parents married a year after giving him up for adoption. Though both were deceased by the time they were discovered, William has been united with five full siblings who have welcomed him with open arms and hearts.

There still remains a mystery regarding the Pierce connection. We have learned that no one in the Hallsted family has been able to get past Theodore Hallsted, born in 1833 in Fall River, Massachusetts. Theodore clearly passed Pierce DNA down to his sons. We suspect he is the Pierce who slipped into the family under the Hallsted name. The research continues.

William will be forever grateful for DNA testing that put us on the path to find his biological family after a 37-year search.

Nancy Beyer
Search Angel

By J. Mark Pierce (Group K)

My journey began in 2006 when I participated in National Geographic's "Genographic Project", by simply scraping the inside of my mouth with a swap, and returning it to them.  At first I only had the 12 marker test done. (I've now done the more definitive 37 marker test)  Their website, then prompted me to cross reference my DNA results with other Pierces, one of which was the Pierce Northern DNA website.  (How easy is that!)