Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Boy in the Iron Coffin

Here's a great story of archaeological and genealogical detective work from the Washington Post. Smithsonian researchers have successfully identified a boy found buried in an iron coffin in Washington, D.C. He is William Taylor White, who died in 1852.

The identification was made after museum researchers, led by Deborah Hull-Walski and Randal Scott, figured out that the youth might be White, constructed a 788-person family tree -- a diagram that stretched the length of a wall -- and tracked down a descendant in Lancaster, Pa.

The descendant, Linda Dwyer, 64, a night clerk in a convenience store, agreed to provide a sample of her DNA, obtained via a mouth swab, and when that was compared with DNA taken from the boy's left shinbone, it matched.

She said elated Smithsonian researchers called her with the news, saying: "'It's you! It's you!'" [Link]


We need to call the WaPo Ombudsman to discuss the reporter's use of the word descendant. We could also mention WaPo is too lenient in their reporting on the White House. Heh.

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