DNA testing of unknown Recovered Bodies

Seumas

Seumas

Member
Thank you for replying Bill and certainly for providing a good deal of information about this.

I think that as long as an individual case for doing so is a strong one, then by all means try and put a name to them.

Have you had any success at contacting people from non-English speaking countries about identifying their Great-Great Grandfather for example ?

The figures I have before me* claim that amongst others there were 104 Swedish, 79 Lebanese, 55 Finns, 33 Bulgarians, 22 Belgians and a lesser amount from Croatia, Denmark, Armenia, Switzerland and Portugal aboard RMS Titanic when she sank. Most of them perished. Have you found avenues to get your project featured in the media of those countries and find potential blood relations of unidentified victims who now lie in Halifax ?

*Source is "Titanic Lives" by R Davenport-Hines.
 
Keith Baxter

Keith Baxter

Member
Exhume a bunch of skeletons? To what worthwhile end? These victims are immortal just by the circumstances of their deaths.
FWIW, there are projects to identify WWI soldiers that could be said to be roughly comparable.
 
Bill Willard

Bill Willard

Member
[Have you had any success at contacting people from non-English speaking countries about identifying their Great-Great Grandfather for example ?]

You have mentioned one of our missions. We hope featuring it with many of the Titanic Societies around the world (most of whom endorse us) will help - most of the 42 Unknowns appear to be ship's crew - firemen or stewards. The third class passengers appear to be possibly Irish. One is described as- "possibly Greek" and another "possibly Italian". That helps in our search.

Good thinking!
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
>>Some feel those buried should be undisturbed. But there are many who lost family that night in 1912, that WANT to know if their family member is buried in Halifax. Don't they have the right to find out?<<

Yes they do, and they have the standing to say as much. I've been involved with the Titanic community for over two decades now, and I've known Bill since the gathering in Florence SC back in 2003. If I thought there was anything underhanded about this, as some parties have implied or stated bluntly, I would never have signed on...quite literally....to support this. Everything here is on the up an up.

I've also met and come to know the decedents of both survivors as well as the victims and count some of them as my friends. I can tell you from some of the discussions I've had with them that there is a lot of pain with not knowing. We're talking about people who grew up hearing fond stories of aunts, uncles, granddads and grandmothers who they never had a chance to get to know because they never made it to the other side of the Atlantic.

Did some of them make it to Halifax?

That's a good question and it's now possible to identify some of these people...if there are any remains...because of technologies which didn't exist a century ago. I have no doubt that if this project goes ahead, some will be identified. For some families, this will bring some satisfaction that they know where a loved one is and for some, a measure of disappointment, but at least they will know.
 
Seumas

Seumas

Member
I used to be against the idea of any further identification of Titanic victims but I have been won round by reading Bill's very detailed arguments and am impressed at his openness by engage with the public like this. Bill's endorsement by an ET expert and legend like Michael Standart also impresses me.

The authorities in Halifax should listen to the relatives of the victims and allow this to go ahead. It's their families after all.

How have the local Roman Catholic and Jewish authorities responded to the possibilities of identifying the "unknowns" that lie in their own respective Halifax cemeteries ?
 
Bill Willard

Bill Willard

Member
Thank you Seumas, for joining with us. If you use Facebook, join our group "Project NAME THEM ALL" and become a part of the support family. Meet descendants who share their support. This is a project where, in the wrong hands, would be a nightmare. That is why I WANT to talk with people, to let them know who I am and what I believe - that I feel these victims are MY family (having researched them for 45 years).
All three cemeteries have our initial proposal, and were receptive to it. No one said yes or no, and we look forward to the next round of conversations where we can, as I've done here, answer questions, address concerns, and see how we can help them. If all works well, we may can identify some of the 42. We greatly appreciate the cemeteries talking with us, and hearing our proposal so far.
 
Seumas

Seumas

Member
Tanks Bill.

I steer well clear of Facebook and Twitter but rest assured I will keenly following any updates on here, elsewhere and wish you all the best.

The relevant authorities in Halifax I hope and pray will listen to the families of the lost and accede to their requests for potential identification to go ahead. It's the right thing to do.

I am keen to see if body No. 139 and body No. 257 can be identified. From the description of their clothing, especially No. 257, it really does look like they could be amongst the engineers or electricians.
 
Mike Spooner

Mike Spooner

Member
My first thoughts was not to disturb any of the unnamed 43 gravesides. But if my calculation is correct that is less than 3% of the 1500 who perished. Then there is the question of the ones whom don't want the graves touch. How can they be sure they are any connection with them? There is all chance some of those graves will never find a name for them. So the odds are further reduced in percentage. As Bill has said the grave disturbance will be done to the minimum and not dig up the bodies, and intention is not make a money making business out of it!
It will certainty settle another untold story of Titanic!
 
PRR5406

PRR5406

Member
I'm wondering if anything worth testing for valid results remains in those graves. Pine caskets with wet bodies, buried in 1912? I'm thinking even the bones will have turned to mush by now. And the claim of minimum excavation of graves, how is that done? Do you drill a hole into the earth until you hit wet wood and organic material? This needs to be explained, since no matter what, the casket (if there is anything remaining) has to be violated.
 
Seumas

Seumas

Member
I'm wondering if anything worth testing for valid results remains in those graves. Pine caskets with wet bodies, buried in 1912? I'm thinking even the bones will have turned to mush by now. And the claim of minimum excavation of graves, how is that done? Do you drill a hole into the earth until you hit wet wood and organic material? This needs to be explained, since no matter what, the casket (if there is anything remaining) has to be violated.

You can look up the facebook page that Bill mentioned or why not just send him a PM ? He's been very open and straightforward about what he is proposing and provided a lot of detail.

There are also a lot of victims relatives who want to go ahead with this. Their wish should be respected.
 
Bill Willard

Bill Willard

Member
We are in a hold pattern with the world locked down with the Covid-19 virus. We've added a world known expert in ancient DNA on our team to even further enhance our opportunities to identify the victims. We have also upgraded several of our project components - memorials, etc.
 
Bill Willard

Bill Willard

Member
for PRR5406 - Seumas is correct - we would welcome you to the FB group (Project NAME THEM ALL) and I am happy to address any of your questions. For those who are sensitive to this issue, I am going to use the scientific terms, which may appear callous - it is not meant to.

First, the wood in the coffins would be the first material to decompose. In 2001, there were small bones found of now-known Sidney Goodwin. It is believed that, because an adult male's bones are significantly larger with more mass, and also more dense (we old timers have hard bones compared to young children) that it will take much longer to decompose. Our experts say there is a good chance there are remains, though maybe not complete remains. We know there is a short window to recover and identify using today's genetic testing technology. We may have passed the opportunity, if in fact all the remains are gone. And, we acknowledge that might be the case - but our Titanic families (over 240 now) support our effort to try.

Next - you asked about the procedure. Somewhere someone started a "they will using a strip mining operation to recover them." Well, that is as far from the truth as it could be. We will isolate one grave at a time - cordon it off for tourists, bystanders, onlookers and the like. Only the essential personnel will be there. We are asking each cemetery to assist by opening the graves, just as they would for a burial, down to about 4 feet. That is the size of the opening. One of our technicians will go down, and trowel the dirt into containers. IF something is found, we stop, and get our forensic anthropologist to identify an appropriate bone for retrieving DNA. We would take 4 samples (that is our current plan), and ship 2 to a laboratory in the US, and 2 to a lab in Denmark. Both are well credentialed. We feel two independent testing locations provide confidence and integrity to the verification. Each sample will be between 10 - 20 grams, depending on the source. Nothing else will be removed. If we go and find little, we will sift (the process is called screening) the troweled soil, and carefully examine what is filtered out. When we have our samples, we return respectfully the troweled dirt, then ask the cemetery technicians to return the dirt they removed, and then the topsoil is replaced.
 
Bill Willard

Bill Willard

Member
Also - my apologies for not answering right away - though I have been an ET member for many years, I only check here occasionally.
 
Steven Christian

Steven Christian

Member
I know some disagree but I think you guys are going about it in the right way. I don't see anything wrong with the way you all are doing it. I grew up in a place where before the antiquities act it was not all that common for people to spend their weekends digging up graves looking for pots and artifacs. I always thought that was out of bounds.Especially for their personal collections. But the way you guys are going about it is a completely different thing so I hope you are successful in your project.
 
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