Saturday, January 07, 2006

Getting a DNA Sample the Hard Way

From The Fredericksburg (Va.) Free Lance-Star:

Hunley findings bring surprises

By Scott Boyd

Date published: 1/7/2006

"I WORK WITH Civil War remains more than anyone out there," said Dr. Douglas W. Owsley, division head for physical anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution.


One of those sailors [on the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley] who might have descendants alive today was none other than Fredericksburg's own Frank Collins. The body of a suspected maternal relative, Edward Clarke Gosnell (1853-1929) was exhumed in 2004 to retrieve some DNA that could be tested against material recovered from Collins' body to see if the men were related. Gosnell has known living relatives.

Owsley showed pictures of the cemetery where Gosnell's grave was opened with the family's permission. Owsley recalled that as he crawled over the opened casket to cut Gosnell's trouser leg to get a sample of bone marrow from the man's thigh bone, the lid fell on him, pushing him partly into the casket with the body. Owsley said this was quite an experience. But he did retrieve the sample he wanted.


[Read the whole story]

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