DNA Used to Identify Child in Casket Discovered While Renovating Home in San Francisco

A year ago a very old child’s coffin was discovered during a home renovation in San Francisco.  In the 1800’s the land had been part of the Odd Fellows Cemetery of the Richmond District.  Tens of thousands of remains from the cemetery were relocated, but apparently these were left behind.  The nonprofit Garden of Innocence helped rebury the remains and searched for the child’s identity.

Researchers used strands of hair from the child for DNA and other analysis.  An anthropology professor analyzed them and found the child’s gender, approximate age, and characteristics of her illness. Other researchers used a cemetery map in conjunction with other area maps and cemetery records.

Edith Howard Cook was identified as one of the candidates that fit the description and burial location.  They found a living relative, a grandchild of her brother, and took a DNA sample from him.  Success!  He was a DNA match with the child (presumably with a magnitude in the appropriate range for their relationship).  The child is now believed to be Edith Howard Cook, buried in 1876 at age two, child of a prominent San Francisco family.

More details can be found in this San Jose Mercury News article: Mystery solved! 19th-century girl in casket found under San Francisco house identified as well as other news outlets.  Also see the Garden of Innocence website page on Miranda Eve.

Posted in DNA

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