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Nearly 50-Year-Long Mystery In Washington State Solved Through Forensic Genealogy In Just 48 Hours

Like so many who grow up without knowing one or both of their birth parents, Doria Ruffin had always wondered who her father was. Incredibly she had a name. Even more incredibly, for the last 49 years, he was nowhere to be found.

Eight months ago, Doria Ruffin set out to find her birth father using what scarce, precious clues she had. Doria had taken a DNA test last year but her closest paternal match was just a 2nd-3rd cousin who had never heard of her father. Discouraged, Doria sought the help of founder and veteran Private Investigator, Jay Rosenzweig.

As it goes, if you give Jay a name, he will find the person, sooner or later. But with Doria’s father, things just weren't adding up and the trail was leading nowhere. Somewhere around six months into the search, Jay had one of his team members at the time conduct some research and she came up empty.

This is where I joined in on the search. My specialty is combining Forensic and Genetic Genealogy in order to find people. Whether they be perpetrators of cold case crimes or long lost birth families, DNA is the key to my toolbox. Like Jay, with his private investigation prowess, this is my jam. I knew Doria’s case would be a challenge but I never dreamed of where it would end up...

Here’s what Doria knew—or at the very least, had been told:

Her mother had told her that her father was a basketball player at a local college in Washington State, which is where Doria was born, and that he had transferred to a major university in Arizona. Her mother had also given Doria his name, Jeffrey Stewart, and the name of his mother, Ida Jo West.

The day before I found Doria’s birth father I had called Jay to wearily inform him that I getting close to exhausting all my available DNA leads. I had only been at it for a day and a half but there are tell-tale signs when that scenario is about to play out.

I kept thinking, surely there couldn’t be THAT many Jeffrey Stewarts in Washington and California? Maybe he was born somewhere else? Maybe West is not his mother’s maiden name? The trails could not have felt any colder.

And then the next morning I woke up after a full night of sleep, opened my laptop and started poking around in the family trees built by Doria’s DNA matches. I clicked on one way down her match list that I wasn’t sure I had ever felt relevant enough to look at before. I scanned the tree for five or six minutes tops...and there she was: Mrs. IVA JO HARRISON.

My heart was pounding as I clicked her name—I already knew before the page finished loading that this was our Ida Jo. She was indeed married at one time to a Mr. West. And it only took another couple of seconds to eye the name of one of her sons: ROBERT JEFFERY STEWART.

Iva, not Ida.

Robert Jeffery, not Jeffrey.

After I spent a little more time verifying the information I had found was correct, I rang Jay to share the news.

I also let him know that sadly, Doria’s father had passed away in 1999. But there was joy still to be found: Robert Jeffery had two sons. Both alive and well in California. Both Doria’s half brothers she never knew she had.

We say this a lot, but the best part about what we do at is sharing precious information with our clients. Sometimes that information is joyous, sometimes difficult or sad. But the beauty lies in allowing our clients the privilege of healing through that knowledge which was previously unknown to them—often, like in Doria’s case, for decades.

Doria was ecstatic to finally have answers and most of all, closure. Jay reached out to her newfound brothers and after a long conversation, learned that Doria’s father had played college football at New Mexico State, not basketball. His sons had no idea that their father ever went to college in Washington State.

And here’s the really wild part: Not only were both of Doria’s brothers standout high school football players, Doria herself was a defensive tackle for the Seattle Spartans of the WFA. Football is in her blood!

Finally, Jay presented Doria with a photo of her father given to him by his sons. Doria’s heart was racing and she said to Jay, “Wow, that’s my daddy!!! I am overwhelmed with joy.”

Doria's younger brothers are now excited to meet their big sister for the first time. After 49 years of waiting and wondering, Doria has finally found her peace.


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