Real Name: Unrevealed
Case: Lost Family/Identity
Location: Washington, D.C.
Details: Bob Coleman is searching for information about his father Richard Coleman's mysterious past. By all accounts, Richard was a fairly ordinary man who lived an uneventful life. He worked as a vending machine mechanic in Washington, D.C. He had served in the military and married in 1947; Bob was born two years later. Bob's fondest memory of his father involves their love of baseball. Bob remembers him and his father playing baseball in the front yard.
Richard Coleman passed away in 1961 when Bob was just eleven. A short time later, Bob began looking through an old trunk under his parents' bed. Inside were Richard's war mementos; when Bob asked his mother about it, she claimed that Richard did not like to talk about the army because he did something bad. Bob's mother did not say much else about the subject. Fourteen years passed; then, in 1975, Bob looked again in the trunk. He looked at his father's uniform and noticed that it had a pin that meant his father was a doctor in the army. This reminded Bob of an incident during his childhood. His mother had been cleaning the blinds when she badly cut her hand. Richard applied pressure to the cut, knew about pressure points, and was able to stop the bleeding. This incident made Bob believe that his father had great knowledge of the medical field.
Bob couldn't understand why his father would abandon the medical field to become a vending machine mechanic. When he looked at more items in the trunk, he found several medals from the First World War, even though he thought his father had only fought in the Second World War. Bob found another item for the First World War, a certificate which had several items written over, including the name. This suggested that Richard had written the name "Richard Coleman" over his real name. The same envelope that held the letter also had a sheet with the same names and numbers written over and over; these names and numbers were used to replace the previous names and numbers on the certificate. After checking with the Veteran's Administration, Bob learned that the certificate belonged to another man.
Bob also learned that there was no record of a Richard Coleman serving in the Army Medical Corps in either the First or Second World War. Bob then remembered something else from his childhood. When his father was on his deathbed in the hospital, he asked his father if anyone else had visited him. Richard said no, and Bob asked why his brothers or sisters hadn't come to see him. Bob's parents then changed the subject.
Bob found one more item in the trunk: a roster supplement from a New York City gun club. It listed Richard as a member in 1944 and stated that his occupation was "Special Patrolman". From tax records, Bob learned that his father had been employed as a security guard at a bank in Manhattan from 1943 to 1945. However, the bank had no employment records for a "Richard Coleman". When Bob researched his father's address from 1944, he discovered that his father may have lived with an "Alice Coleman". Voting records stated that they were married and that she lived with Richard Coleman. However, he could not find any marriage records for them.
Bob's mother passed away in 1983 without giving him any clues to his father's past. Bob believes that his father may have done something in his past that he regretted.
Richard Coleman did identify his parents as David Coleman and Adelaide Cooper. He listed both Massachusetts and Montana as his birth place. Bob hopes to find his father's family and determine why he covered up his identity.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the April 28, 1995 episode.
Results: Solved. In 2006, Bob Coleman searched through World War II Draft Registration cards on Ancestry.com and found one for his father, which gave Richard's birth date as September 12, 1895 and place of birth as Everett, Massachusetts. He then searched through the draft cards for World War I using his father's birth date and place of birth. He found one record for a "Coleman Joel DeKorte" and the signatures between the two draft cards were identical.
Through census records, Bob was able to locate his father's parents, seven siblings, first wife, son, two daughters, and several cousins. Unfortunately, most of these relatives have since passed away. However, he was able to get in contact with several half-nieces, nephews, and cousins, along with his half-brother's wife.
Bob learned that his father was a policeman in Massachusetts and had first married in 1915. Later, he and his first wife went through a nasty divorce. One day, Coleman walked away from his first family and never returned.
Since his discovery, Bob and his sister have been reunited with several of their late father's family members.
- (1994 Washington Post Article) Name, Rank, and Serial Number
- (2007 Ancestry Magazine Article) Names, Places, and Misinformation
- Richard Coleman at Find A Grave