20.  The Mystery Of a Family Tree

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Can a four-year-old boy mistake the recognition of his own mother after months of separation? Or can a mother raise another boy as her own to cope with her actual son’s loss? These and many questions were answered when a great-granddaughter set off to uncover the mystery of her family tree. This is a mystery that was uncovered nearly a century later and made many uncomfortable.

19. Truth Comes Out Of A Dead Horse

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Robert Dunbar Jr lived happily thinking that a rumor, that had threatened their family tree for over a century, was not true. But when confronted with the theory again, he decided to take a DNA test, in an attempt to put all his doubts to rest. However, often truth is stranger than fiction, especially when it is not what you’d expect. Why did Robert feel like the foundation of his identity was shaking?

18. The Typical American Family

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Back in 1908, the Dunbars were a happy family living in Opelousas, Louisiana. Percy and Lessie Dunbar had welcomed their first son Bobby Dunbar in April that year. In a few years, they welcomed their second son Lorenzo. They embodied the typical 20th-century middle-class family living in America. Yet, what happened to them was far from usual.

17. A Day Of Picnic At the Lake

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On August 23, 1912, the Dunbars were headed for a day of picnicking to nearby Lake Swayze, 20 miles away from their home. The plan was to go fishing and have a day of fun with the boys exploring the lakeside. Their elder son Bobby was an inquisitive four-year-old now. Little did he know that his curiosity would change his and his family’s fate forever. Even the parents weren’t exactly aware of the dangers of the lake.

16. Where Was Bobby?

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It was lunchtime when the parents suddenly noticed that Bobby wasn’t around anymore. While Lessie along with her younger son Lorenzo waited at the picnic spot, Percy looked around for any trace of Bobby. They even had a minor argument over who was to take care of Bobby. They shouted, searched and soon realized their attempt was just a shot in the dark. It was time to call for help. They had already wasted some precious time.

15. Amid The Rumours, Footprints Appear

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An extensive search was launched, inching every part of the lake. And as it happens with most missing child reports, there were strange rumors that distorted the truth. Some people claimed that even alligators were sliced open in order to find Bobby. The only shred of truth that came out of the search was when lone footprints were found that led to the railroad tracks. Were the footprints Bobby’s?

 14. The Boy Disappeared In Thin Air

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The footprints belonged to a grown-up male. More rumors followed, with people claiming they had spotted a man at the time of Bobby’s disappearance. Since there wasn’t anybody found by then, the police followed the kidnap theory scouring the region for signs of a man with a boy. Eight months passed and still neither Bobby nor the man was found. Could he be still alive?

 13. Was That Really Bobby?

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A breakthrough finally happened in April 1913 when a nomadic man was reported to have been traveling with a boy who matched the description of Bobby Dunbar. The duo was traveling in a tented wagon through Mississippi when they were finally found. The man was named William Walters but whether or not the boy was indeed Bobby, no one knew then. This would eventually become a century-old mystery, but not before a fair share of strange situations.

12. A Whole New Story

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The captured man Walters claimed that the boy’s name was Charles Bruce Anderson, son of his servant Julia Anderson. Walter explained that Julia had allowed the boy to travel with him. Clearly, the police found a lot of loopholes in the story. They had to confirm it with both Julia and Bobby’s mother Lessie. By the time the papers reported this, everyone became confident that the mother would identify the boy easily. Yet, even mothers can do wrong sometimes.

 11. Dunbars Are Invited to Mississippi

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The Dunbars were informed about the development and they soon traveled to Mississippi. Here’s where the story got distorted a little. Back in 1913, newspaper sources weren’t so advanced. Often strange accounts floated through the news market. Timelines were blurred and various versions of the stories appeared one after another. Missing Bobby Dunbar had already garnered enough media attention, and this would prove to be quite expensive for the family.

10. Is He Really My Boy?

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Some papers claimed that the moment the boy saw Lessie, he ran into her arms. Others said that the boy wasn’t exactly happy to see his parents and cried the whole time during identification. Some also reported that even Lessie wasn’t very sure if the boy was really her son. How could she not recognize her own son?

9. Jubilations Galore

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In the next few days, it was finally established that the boy was really Bobby when upon bathing, Lessie recognized scars and moles on his body. The family returned in peace, confident that they had found their long-lost son. Their arrival was much reported and talked about and was a jubilation of sorts. Bobby Dunbar was famous at the age of five. Yet, there was a vital information lurking somewhere. The police had more work to do.

8. What About Walters?

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The police had one more task to do: establish Walter’s intention and question Julia Anderson. When she was invited to Louisiana to testify, her story was far from convincing. On one hand, she claimed that she had indeed left her son in Walter’s care, she couldn’t pick her son during an identification parade. Her son Charles was supposed to have a two-day excursion with Walters but the same lasted for 13 months. Yet, she didn’t do anything to find her son. Why was Julia lying?

7. The Anderson Family Tree

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Anderson had three children but she was not married. In 1913, this was considered quite scandalous. She testified several times during Walters’ trial but couldn’t convince the jury about her story. As a result, Walters was charged with kidnapping and sentenced to life. The boy went back to Louisiana as Bobby Dunbar who was found miraculously. There was little possibility of a child his age lying about his parents. So life moved on…

 6. Life Moves On, Julia Doesn’t

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With Walters’ imprisonment, there was little left for Julia to do but to return to her hometown. Meanwhile, the Dunbar family went about their usual life. Bobby grew up, married and had children. Julia raised her own family in Mississippi. Yet, neighbours and friends kept claiming that she often remembered Charles, the son who she claimed was taken away from her by the Dunbars. Why would the Dunbars claim some other boy as their own?

 5. Bobby Wasn’t Sure

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Fortunate for Walters,  he was released after only two years of imprisonment when an appeal for his innocence was accepted. He died in the 1930s and claimed his innocence until his death. What’s bizarre is that Bobby himself may have had doubts about his identity. Two of Julia’s sons – Hollis and Jules, claimed that he visited them sometimes. A man who lived his life as Bobby Dunbar kept meeting the sons of a woman who claimed to be his mother. There was something he was hiding.

 4. Case Re-opens

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Bobby passed away in 1966. The truth or the lack of it should have ended with him. He would have never predicted that his lineage would be dug up again by none other than his granddaughter Margaret Cutright. She found the family mystery quite fascinating and made it her mission to prove that Bobby was really her grandfather. But was he really?

 3. America’s Favourite Rumour Resurfaces

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This time it was as if the truth had decided to come out. When her investigations completed, she had doubts about the version of the events. The country’s favourite rumour resurfaced. More newspaper reports followed tracing back the family history, recounting the events of Bobby’s disappearance. America was discussing an interesting piece of forgotten history once again.

 2. The DNA That Couldn’t Lie

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Then in 2004, a journalist persuaded Bobby’s son Robert Dunbar Jr to take a DNA test. His cousin was also called for the same test. Just for the sake of putting the rumours to rest and to end so much media attention, Robert decided to take the tests. Sure enough, the tests showed both were not related. How would the Dunbar family take this truth?

 1. An Uncomfortable Truth

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Imagine the joy felt by the families of Anderson and Walters – who had lived under a bad name all those years. But the truth did hurt some of the Dunbar family who didn’t exactly like Cutright’s re-opening of old wounds. Cutright, on the other hand, resolved with the belief that the actual Bobby was possibly eaten by an alligator in the lake. However, if this were indeed true, then why did Charles Anderson live all his life as Bobby Dunbar? Was he that naive to not recognize his real mother? Or did he feel the Dunbars could give him a better life? Nobody knows.

 

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