‘Unknown child’ onboard the Titanic identified

April 29th, 2011 - 10:10 am ICT by IANS  

London, April 29 (IANS) A little boy previously called the “unknown child”, whose body was found among the victims of the Titanic disaster, has finally been identified.

A team of American and Canadian researchers have found that the remains of the young boy were “most likely those of an English child, Sidney Leslie Goodwin,” Ryan Parr, vice-president of research and development of Genesis Genomics in Ontario, writes in the upcoming June issue of the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics.

Recovered from the Atlantic Ocean five days after the luxury liner sank, the body of the child was buried with 150 other victims in a cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

An inscription on his gravestone read: “Erected to the memory of an unknown child whose remains were recovered after the Titanic disaster”, Discovery News reported.

After exhumation of the child’s grave in 2001, which produced a 2.4-inch-long fragment of an arm bone and three teeth, Parr and his colleagues concluded that the child was Eino Viljami Panula, a 13-month-old Finnish infant who drowned with his parents.

Examination of the teeth and DNA sequencing resulted in incorrect identification, write the researchers.

Genetic analysis involved mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) typing. The procedure uses two regions on mtDNA that have high rates of mutation and are optimal for studying differences among people.

Since mitochondrial DNA is passed from a mother to her children, the researchers compared the unknown child’s DNA sequence with samples from maternal relatives of all six boys under three years of age who died in the shipwreck.

Matches resulted in only two boys - 13-month-old Eino Viljami Panula and 19-month-old Sidney Leslie Goodwin.

However, a pair of leather shoes recovered from the unknown child and held in the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax led the scientists to think that the shoes were too large for a 13-month-old like the Finnish boy.

The researchers carried out more analysis, which positively confirmed that the unknown remains were Goodwin’s.

The youngest of a family of eight who all died in the disaster, Goodwin was a third-class passenger travelling from Fulham, England, to Niagara Falls.

His father Fred, a 42-year-old electrician, tried to move his family to Niagara Falls, where a power station was about to open.

The family had very bad luck. They booked a small Southampton steamer but the trip was cancelled because of a coal strike.

They were then transferred to the “unsinkable” liner for her maiden voyage.

On the night of April 14, 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank off the Newfoundland Coast, taking the lives of some 1,500 people.

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