07 August 2008

Forensic Genealogy: Titanic's 'unknown child'

Following forensic genealogy research revealing the true identity of a young Titanic victim, relatives of the child held a memorial August 6 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, according to this story in the Chronicle Herald. The newspaper story was written prior to the event.

For nearly 100 years, the child's grave has been known as the Unknown Child.

When she visited Halifax for a math conference 21 years ago, Carol Goodwin found time to stop by the grave of the young Titanic passenger known simply as the Unknown Child.

Next week, the Wisconsin woman will be back in Halifax, and this time she’ll know the boy in the grave is her relative.

"I remember standing there having a very spiritual feeling that I wished my grandmother was there," Ms. Goodwin, 75, said about her first visit to the grave.

Last year, DNA tests revealed the unknown child is actually Sidney Leslie Goodwin, a 19-month-old English boy whose entire immediate family died when the Titanic sank in the North Atlantic in 1912. Ms. Goodwin is organizing a memorial service next week at the grave, in Halifax’s Fairview Lawn Cemetery.
The boy's mother and Ms. Goodwin’s father were first cousins; she was also related to the boy's father. The boy was traveling with his parents and five siblings. Now she's writing a book about her family’s voyage. Originally, it was thought the child was a 13-month-old Finnish boy. DNA tests narrowed it down to the younger boy and Sidney.
The results of two early tests comparing Sidney’s DNA to a relative on his mother’s side of the family were inconclusive.

A forensic dentist was consulted, and the dead child was mistakenly identified as a Finnish baby named Eino Viljami Panula. Relatives of Eino came to Halifax in 2002 to visit the boy’s memorial.

Doubts about the identification surfaced soon after, but researchers did not announce they had made a mistake until five years later.

Forensic genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick was called in to help following initial tests on Sidney's DNA. She found Sidney’s nearest living male relative, in Australia, through the boy’s paternal grandfather.
"I had to go up the (family) tree and down the tree," said the California resident. She figures there were eight generations separating Sidney from his Australian relative.

But before a sample could be submitted, a third test showed a mutation in the maternal DNA that was an exact match to a living relative on the Sidney’s mother’s side.
According to additional information received from Colleen, the service was attended by descendants of the families of Frederick Goodwin and Augusta Tyler Goodwin who died with their six children. Sidney was buried in 1912 with more than 200 bodies salvaged from the North Atlantic by the MacKay-Bennett cable ship.
In 2002, he was erroneously identified as 13-month-old Eino Panula. This identification was based on ambiguous DNA analysis and forensic odontology on several teeth found in the grave in 2000.

Suspicions were aroused that the identification was in error when the child’s shoes, held by the Maritime Museum in Halifax, were found to be too large to be those of a 13-month-old. Expanded DNA analysis and new forensic research on the Goodwin family identified the child as 19- month-old Sidney.
Colleen Fitzpatrick will present two forensic genealogy presentations at the Chicago 2008 conference.

1 comment:

  1. A very interesting story to me. I visited the cemetery in Halifax and the grave of this child about a year and a half ago....and heard of the controversy at that time. Nice to now read that the facts are in, and the child is now known. Thanks for the update...