Sunday, August 5, 2007

Little child lost

For years, the little baby boy buried in a small plot in Halifax Nova Scotia had been the symbol of all the children who had perished when the Titanic sank. He lay there, known only as the "unknown child" until 2002, when Canadian researchers identified him as a 13 month-old Finnish boy.

On Tuesday, July 31 2007, Ryan Parr stated that his research team had been incorrect in that identification. Additional tests proved that the little boy was a member of an English family who persished on their way to Niagara Falls NY. He said that they tried to use DNA samples obtained during a 2001 exhumation to match the child to surviving female family members. They had narrowed it down to two families and in 2002, decided that he was Eino Viljami Panula, who had been in the third-class section with his mother and three brothers, based on dental evidence.

"There were some aspects that made us uncomfortable, even though that is what the teeth experts were telling us." stated Parr.

Additional tests of DNA proved their doubts correct. it didn't match the Panulas family. The team then went to the Goodwin family and found a surviving maternal family member who submitted a DNA sample. The tests showed a match and Parr stated they knew then, that the child was Sidney Leslie Goodwin, 19 months-old.

Sidney's father was headed to New York to work at a power plant and it is believed that both his parents and five siblings boarded in Southampton England. Both the Panulas family and Sidney's family were aboard the Titanic as third-class passengers and both families perished when the ship went down.

Another child who remains a symbol of tragedy is "Little Miss 1565," the young blonde girl wearing a brown dress who died in the July 6 1944 Hartford CT circus fire. The little girl laid unclaimed even though she had been untouched by the fire and 1565 was the number that had been assigned her in the morgue . Despite massive amounts of publicity and national publication of her photo numerous times, no one stepped forward to claim her and she was eventually buried without a name in Hartford's Northwood Cemetary, where a victims memorial stands.

In 1991, arson investigator Rick Davey published a book of his findings after nearly six years of investigation. He stated that the original investigation was flawed, there was a conspiracy within the judicial system to convict the Ringling defendents and that "Little Miss" was in fact Eleanor Emily Cook. His conclusions have been hotly debated since then, most vocal of those is Stewart O'Nan, who published his own book in 2001. He points out that Cook was a brunette, "Little Miss" was a blonde, the shape of their faces are dissimilar and their height and ages do not match.

Most importantly is the conclusion of Mildred Cook, Eleanor's mother who had been badly injured in the fire. When shown a photograph of "Little Miss", she immediately stated that it was not her daughter. She hadn't been able to claim her two dead children and too emotionally traumatized afterwards to pursue an identification later. She maintained that conclusion until her death in 1997 at age 91, her daughter was one of two still unidentified children who had been burnt beyond recognition, not "Little Miss." O'Nan stated that he also felt that Cook's daughter could be the child known still as "Little Miss 1503," due to the lack of a definate match of dental records to Eleanor and other features.

O'Nan believes, along with many others, that the most likely scenario is that another family, mistakenly claimed Eleanor shortly after the fire as their own child and she is buried under that child's name. A need to put the tragic fire behind them,may also have led them to not even recognise the child they buried as not being their own or recognise the photos of "Little Miss" as their own child.

After the release of Davey's book, the body of "Little Miss 1565" was exhumed, her death certificate changed to Eleanor Cook and she was buried in Southampton MA. Cook's brother Donald survived the fire and had assisted Davey with his book, her brother Edward though died in the fire and the body was reburied next to him. The Cook family has it's doubts as to the accuracy of the identification and some investigators still believe that Eleanor could be one of the other unidentified and unclaimed bodies. Since 2005, the Connecticut State Police Forensic Science Lab has been reviewing the case.

With the advances in science and DNA, there may be a day in the near future, when those who have laid for decades, unidentified.... can have their names returned to them.


kassie said...

i just had a few questions..
Mildred did eventually figure out that eleanor was miss 1565 right?

was eleanor 6 or 7???

Val said...

There has been no answer as to the correct identification.... unfortunate but that is due to the date of the fire. DNA testing today would have probably prevented this kind of outcome.