All in the Family

It All Comes Out in the Wash: DNA Test Reveals HH Connection

By Brenda Kestenbaum

Many refer to their units, departments or hospital as “one big family.” Maybe it’s because we spend so much time together, or because some invite relatives to apply because it’s a great place to work. This section is about those connections. We want to hear your story.


When her son gave Lisa Tarala a DNA test, she looked forward to learning more about her genetic makeup but never expected to find a Hartford Hospital connection dating back to the turn of the 20th century.

Tarala, RN-CC, on Hartford Hospital’s North 8 unit, processed the test and was soon contacted by a cousin previously unknown to her. Her maternal grandfather and the cousin’s mother were siblings. Plans were made to meet and Tarala also met a great aunt, who is now 98 years old.

During the meeting, the great aunt, Adeline Caruso Clark, told Tarala things she didn’t know about her ancestors, including the fact that her maternal great-grandmother, Elisabeta Caruso, worked in the Hartford Hospital laundry for more than 40 years.

The Carusos lived on Dean Street, a very short walk from the hospital, and Elisabeta’s job was to operate the mangle, a tool used to remove water from wet laundry, to launder nurses’ uniforms. Tarala’s great aunt worked weekends in the laundry when she was 16 years old, and was assigned to give nurses freshly pressed uniforms and caps from their designated cubbies.

Tarala has enjoyed a new relationship with her family members, who live in Massachusetts, and said she loves knowing as she walks the campus that her ancestors are a part of Hartford Hospital’s long and storied history.

Left: Lisa Tarala, left, met a great-aunt, Adeline Clark, center, and a cousin, Rose Clark McKenzie, she never knew she had after taking a DNA test. Right: In researching this story, the writer reached out to Lisa Carter and Lori Hayes at Hartford Hospital’s Hamilton Archives for images of nurses in the early 1900s to illustrate the uniforms laundered by Elisabeta Caruso and her colleagues. They also found a photo of the Hartford Hospital laundry dated 1906 featuring a woman who bears a resemblance to Caruso. Due to the quality of the image, Lisa Tarala can’t be completely sure, but it might be her great-grandmother, seen on the left in this photograph.
Right photo courtesy of the Hartford Hospital Hamilton Archives.