Dec 20, 2022

The Fate of Rosemarie Doederlein, Who Vanished in 1954, is at Last Known

There are dozens of stories floating around where someone found a long-lost relative through a DNA test, usually involving investigative genetic genealogists and various DNA tools. However, one new story this week is a bit different.

Rosemarie Helga Doederlein was 14 when she disappeared one afternoon in late 1954. Her mother sent her to a bakery near the family’s Notre-Dame-de-Grâce apartment to buy a loaf of bread — and she never returned.

Vera Doederlein,11 (left), with her sister Rosemarie, 13, in Germany in April 1954. They sailed for Montreal in September and, later that year, Rosemarie disappeared.

She was new to Montreal, having arrived only weeks earlier with her parents and younger sister, Vera, from a village in Germany; she spoke no English or French and knew no one outside the family. Police efforts to locate her failed. Every year, the family moved from one neighbourhood to another, searching for her.

Thanks to a DNA test and through the efforts of a Toronto police detective, a social media campaign and, mostly, third-party DNA obtained through a consumer DNA genetic testing kit, it has been determined that Rosemarie turned up in Ontario in 1957 and married at 16, had a family, lived a full life and died at 69.

With help from digitized records from the 1950s, Detective Constable Michael Kelly of the Toronto police department’s Homicide and Missing Persons Unit was able to figure out that Rosemarie surfaced in Ontario and married in June 1957 at 16 and gave birth six months later. She had five sons, got divorced, married again and moved to British Columbia, where she ran a bed-and-breakfast. She died in 2009.

“We have been able to answer the question of what happened — but the why and the how give rise to more questions,” said Kelly, who concluded his investigation at the end of September. “Did she leave voluntarily, or was she taken and convinced not to look for her family?”

The family now knows what happened to the then-14-year-old but still has many unanswered questions. Can you help?

You can read the whole story, at least the pieces of the story that have become known, in an article in the MSN web site written by Susan Schwartz of the Montreal Gazette, at:

My thanks to newsletter reader Terry Mulcahy for telling me about this story.