Last year I was contacted by an Hungarian gentleman who noted that his uncle and my mother shared a small amount of autosomal DNA. His uncle, András Debreczeny, was from Turkeve, Hungary. My great-grandfather. Lorincz Debreczeni, was born in Karcag, only 35 km northeast. Could they share a Debreceni ancestor?
To answer that question, I turned to my cousin, Neil Debreceni, who has a Y-chromosome that is almost identical to the Y-chromosome of our great-grandfather, Lorincz. If that Y-chromosome matched András' Y-chromosome then we would know that they shared a paternal ancestor.
So Neil agreed to swab the inside of his cheeks for DNA-laden cells and then he mailed that sample to Family Tree DNA for autosomal and Y-DNA testing. After several months, the results appeared on their website and I eagerly logged in to look for a match between Neil and András. I found nothing. Zip. Nada.
Neil is an autosomal match to my mother, me, my uncle Ben, and every other identified Hungarian cousin. He is certainly a Debreceni. However, he does not share a paternal ancestor with András. One of these Debrecenis is not like the others.
There it sat for a few months until Neil and I had breakfast with several family members and I discussed the disappointing results with him. The next day, he sent me a very interesting message. He had discussed the results with his Uncle Joe Debreceni and heard a fascinating story.
After brunch Saturday, I went out to Cranbrook to see Joe and Jean-ann. I told them about what you found out in the DNA results, and they didn't seem surprised. It seems they have some family folklore that the rest of the family isn't aware of. The story they told me was told to them by Uncle Peter, and later confirmed by Uncle Paul.
The mayor of a town of Karcag had business in Debrecen. On his way home, he found a small boy abandoned by the side of the road. He tried to find out who the boy was to return him to his family, but no one could give him any information. He finally gave up, and decided to take the boy home with him and raise him as part of his family. He gave the boy the last name of Debreceni ('from Debrecen').
That boy later had 2 sons. One son's family stayed in Hungary, and the other son's 3 sons immigrated to Canada. In other words, our great-great-great-grandfather was a foundling, who was given the Debreceni name. The only Debrecenis you'd find in Hungary related to us would be the ones that are descendants from the son whose family stayed there.