Almost 1500 men, women and children died when the Titanic slipped into the dark cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean some two hours after having been struck by an iceberg on the evening of April 14, 1912. The body of an unknown child was pulled out of the ocean some five days later and was sent to lie with many of the other victims in a cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where it remained until some ten years ago.
Incorrectly identified twice before, researchers now believe that they have finally established the identity of the child as 19-month-old Sidney Leslie Goodwin from England. Ryan Parr, an adjunct professor at Lakehead University in Ontario, spearheaded the efforts to identify the child using genetics.
In 2001, the unknown child’s remains as well as those of a few other unidentified children were exhumed and DNA was extracted. Hopes ran high but results were inconclusive and doubts remained. Parr attempted the identification again, this time using the US Armed Forces DNA Identification laboratory.
In one less-mutation-prone section of the mitochondrial DNA, Parr found a matching difference that separated Goodwin from the other missing children. Another section of the DNA revealed that same difference.
The entire Goodwin family perished on board the Titanic and in 2008, relatives held a touching memorial by the unknown child’s headstone. A cousin read aloud the names of about 50 children who had also perished when the Titanic went down. As a bell softly rang for each name, a gentle rain began to fall and it persisted until the last of the names were read when it suddenly stopped. The family decided to leave the tombstone unnamed to honor the memory of all the lost children.
For the Goodwin family, answers at long last.