Forensic Identification of Titanic Victims


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Tracy Oost

Guest
George,

My appologies for taking so long to answer your question. I was pretty wrapped up here in a forensic case.

The facial superimposition is actually quite accurate, especially if it is combined with other methods, as you suggested. Even if two people look fairly similar, there are so many different points of comparison that are used and measurements taken that it would be unusual to be mislead just because a person looks similar to another, although it is within the relm of possibilies.

To all,

As you know, our forensic team has been working diligently in the DNA identification of the unknown child. We are getting close to final results, but can't release any info yet. In the meantime a couple of questions have come up regarding the little tyke's coffin and burial. I seem to recall seeing a picture of the coffin, perhaps as it was being carried from the church, or into the cemetary, but I can't find this resource anymore. I need some info, if anyone knows, regarding the hardware/ornamentation on the coffin. Specifically, the nature of the metal/alloy of such hardware. The reason for this is that the metal may have come into contact with the bone as the coffin wood decomposed over time. This is something that we need to account for.

Thanks for all the help!
Tracy
 

George Behe

Member
Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Tracy!

Thank you very much for the additional input. We'll look forward to any new information that you might be able to share with us in the future.

All my best,

George
 
Feb 13, 2002
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Hello Tracy,
Like the others, I would like to thank you for taking the time to enlighten us on this project. I have a question. I'm not the most educated of people and this may have already been covered, but concerning the graves that were affected by the water damage (and I have no idea how they are affected) but what about obtaining the DNA from inside of a tooth? I don't know how prolonged exposure to water affects teeth and I know body fluids dry up, but how about it? What would you find if you pulled a tooth or (lol for lack of a better terminology) drilled a core sample?
Maybe even someone else on here on the board can answer this one? Just wondering!

Stephanie
 
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Tracy Oost

Guest
Stephanie,

Nice to meet you!

No one actually asked me about the teeth in previous postings. You are entirely correct that they would provide a very well protected source of DNA. The DNA would in fact be extracted from the tooth pulp chamber. The only problem in the case of our two adult graves is that we didn't even find teeth!

Keep in mind that we did not excavate anything but the area of the coffins, immediately in front of the tombstones. Also, we did not dredge all of the wet mud out of the bottom of these graves and wet screen it. So, it is possible that teeth might have been there, buried deeply. Personally, I think they were washed down the slope and into the area of the french drains, but that would also apply to every other body in the immediate vicinity, Titanic or otherwise. Hypothetically, even if the drainage system was completely excavated, and all of these teeth were found, it would be nearly impossible to differentiate them on the basis of whose grave they came out of. Not without the skulls to fit them back into anyway!

Tracy
 
Feb 13, 2002
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Thank you Tracy,

It's nice to meet you as well! You really cleared that up for me. Gives me a better picture of the conditions you had to work with. I am glad to know that if you had found a tooth, it would have worked, but like you said, with no DNA in the bones and no skulls to match teeth up to,had you found any, then that was pretty much it. I just watch to many forensic shows to let that one go without being asked!
Surely there is at least one person on this board that can find the picture in question of the funeral! Since I joined this board, I have been in awe many, many times at the wealth of knowledge these wonderful folks have! It's hard to even feel worthy enough to be among them! :eek:) I hope someone has already come forth and found it for you. Don't give up hope!
Thanks so much for getting back to me so quickly! Best of luck in your search!

Stephanie
 
T

Tracy Oost

Guest
Actually, no one has replied in the affirmative regarding the unknown child's casket. It could be a case of precocious senility on my part, but I'm still sure that I did see a picture of the casket once. Anyway, if anyone does have any info on the unknown child's casket it would still be greatly appreciated!

Cheers,
Tracy
 
May 8, 2001
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Tracy. It is always great to see your name on the board. I know that I will learn something new and interesting in your post. I will keep watching for the picture you seek. At least with this message, fresh on the board, it will serve as a reminder.

Colleen
 

Philip Hind

Staff member
Member
Sep 1, 1996
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I have finally put up two articles about the Halifax exhumations and DNA project which Alan Ruffman sent me some time ago. There is likely to be an article in this Sunday's Sunday Times that may question the motives of those undertaking this project. Should make interesting reading.
 

Jan C. Nielsen

Senior Member
Dec 12, 1999
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Phil,

Can you post that article? I would like to see it. In particular, I was told that the research was funded by a local company, Applied Biosystems, Inc. (now "Applera" Corporation), located in Foster City, California. What role have they played in all of this, if any?
 

Jan C. Nielsen

Senior Member
Dec 12, 1999
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Yes, I saw those, but I'm asking Phil to post The Times' article, which he said would be published on Sunday.
 

Philip Hind

Staff member
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I obviously can't post the article itself but I may be able to post the gist of it. It looks like it is in the ST today butthe web link to the article is restrctied to subscribers, better nip out and buy the paper.
 

Philip Hind

Staff member
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Sep 1, 1996
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Well it was quite a disappointment after speaking to the reporter on Firday and hearing all her conspiricy theories. The article itself had nothing new and was just a recapitualtion of facts we all new already. Obviously a quiet weekend for news!
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Apr 11, 2001
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The Sunday Times article is in today's Australian, but it's not online.

The current theory is that the unknown child may be Alfred Peacock, who was eight months old at the time of the sinking. He was lost with his mother, Edith, and his sister, Treasteall.

Genetic material has been provided by relatives for comparison and results are expected later next year.

Incidentally, the article manages to turn Mackay Bennett into a fishing boat. As soon as reporters get near to anything nautical, they get it wrong!
 

Mo LaBranche

Member
Mar 13, 2018
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Looking for info on MtDNA Margaret Rice, I have an update from a Don Lynch posting many years ago for Nora Norton Stetson in Springfield, MA
 

Jen RN

Member
May 8, 2018
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Pennsville, NJ
Hello Tracy,
I'm new here, so excuse me if this has come up before.

I submitted my dna to an ancestry site. I'm just curious, if any dna recovered that doesn't match family samples, could be compared against a large dna database. I recently read that a criminal case was solved in a similar manner, by genetic markers submitted by a relative if the perpetrator.

Thank you!
 
Nov 14, 2005
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Hi Jen. Welcome. I don't think Tracy has been here for a very long time. DNA is a pretty fascinating science with all its able to do but unlike on tv its not always 100% certain. One of the big problems is there are a lot of DNA databases around the world but they are not linked together. Usually they try to narrow down to a possible comparison as much as possible, Like we think its this person so lets check his relatives. But with more records and better links of databases and better computing power it is getting better. Of course on the flip side you get into the whole "1984" scenario.
 

Jen RN

Member
May 8, 2018
4
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Pennsville, NJ
Thank you for your reply!

I have to admit, after reading about that criminal case made me slightly uneasy. Not that I've committed a crime, but having the government be able to access dna through private ancestry type sites seems to be an invasion of privacy. A guess I should've read that small print better!

I'm sorry that Tracy is no longer on here, but thank you for the reply and information.
 

Keith_Baxter

Member
Apr 29, 2015
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Toronto, ON, Canada
As far as I know, all of the major consumer DNA testing companies (AncestryDNA, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, LivingDNA) and websites that have DNA matching (GEDmatch, Geni.com, DNA.land, etc.) require that you confirm the DNA sample or raw data being submitted is your own, or that of someone for whom you are a legal guardian or have obtained consent. Also, I believe the two companies with the largest DNA databases, AncestryDNA and 23andMe, accept only saliva samples for testing, and do not accept raw data uploads.
http://www.genie1.com.au/blog/58-which-dna-testing-company

Apparently police in the U.S.A., as in the recent case in California, may be able to upload the autosomal DNA data of an unknown suspect, obtained after analyzing samples at crime scenes, to these websites that accept raw data uploads, despite obviously not having that person's authorization, since "DNA abandoned by the perpetrator of a crime basically has no legal protection", according to a professor of law quoted in this article.
Investigators searched a million people’s DNA to find Golden State serial killer

This would be done in hope of obtaining the name of a cousin or other relative of the suspect, and eventually identifying the suspect through further investigation. As the police investigators are using these websites like any other person, and the only information being obtained by them would be the name of someone voluntarily displaying it (and not their actual DNA data -- the A-C-G-T's), they do not need a court order.

From the first post of this thread, it would appear that any exhumation of an unidentified Titanic victim would occur only after someone had presented compelling evidence to local authorities that it was one of their relatives. If DNA was obtained from the exhumation, and it did not match the person thought to be related, it would certainly present an interesting situation. I have no idea if the authorities in Halifax would then be legally allowed to submit the DNA data to those DNA testing companies in an attempt to find someone related. The total database of all those companies was estimated to be 12 million earlier this year, with AncesrtyDNA alone at over 7 million and likely to exceed 10 million in 2018. And most of the people using them have been from largely English speaking countries (U.S.A., Canada, Britain, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand), so I would guess there would be a very high probability of finding a relative, even if it was only a distant cousin, for most of the unidentified victims.

Perhaps before considering any such wide search of that kind if the situation did arise, a more reasonable course of action would be attempting to determine other possible identities for the victim, followed by efforts to locate their relatives.
 
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