Remains of a Little Girl in a Forgotten Casket are Identified

This story combines detective work, genealogy, DNA, and public records.

A little girl about 3 years old died and was buried about 140 years ago in an unmarked metal casket in a wealthy San Francisco neighborhood. When workers recently discovered her elaborate coffin beneath a concrete slab, there were no markings or gravestone to say who she was. A team of scientists, amateur sleuths and history buffs worked tirelessly to solve the central question in this Bay Area mystery: Who was the little girl in the casket?

She has now been identified. The girl’s DNA was matched to that of a relative now living in San Rafael.

The story of the investigation is intriguing. Investigators found a scale plan of the cemetery development in 1865 at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. That provided an approximate location of the grave.

Thanks to the Internet and a culture of open records that existed from the 17th century to the 1960s, amateur genealogists were able to tap centuries of records of censuses, births, marriages, properties and deaths to trace up and down each candidates’ family tree. The whole effort took three people 3,000 hours, said Elissa Davey, who spearheaded the search for Edith’s identity.

You can read the entire story in an article by Joseph Serna in the Los Angeles Times web site at: http://lat.ms/2q4oflt.

My thanks to newsletter reader Ed Dietz for telling me about this story.

4 Comments

What happened to that “culture of open records that existed from the 17th century until the 1960s”?

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Did they ever find a photo of what she looked like?? I would be curious to see that.

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It is amazing how with the help of DNA testing the researchers were able to identify a living relative. Thank you sharing.

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