How did Edith H. Cook die?

According to The Garden of Innocence:

"The effort to collect and analyze DNA was one of the essential areas of research necessary to finding the answer to the question that motivated this project: Who was the young girl found in the Karner’s back yard?

DNA and other biomolecule analysis served two important purposes:

To obtain information about the health and likely cause of death of Edith H. Cook, as well as about likely
ancestral origins.

Strands of hair were obtained from “Miranda Eve” before her reburial for DNA testing. Analysis of nitrogen
isotopes, conducted at the University of California, Davis, revealed that she began experiencing
undernourishment approximately 3 months before her death. This is consistent with a chronic illness (unlike,
for example, smallpox or an accident where death was typically within weeks), and with the cause of death of
“marasmus” indicated in funeral home records for Edith Howard Cook found later.

Whatever the specific cause of her illness (a bacterial infection seems most likely), it is certain that “Miranda
Eve” died from the “wasting” which was characteristic of a diagnosis of “marasmus.” Her hair was also
analyzed for traces of medicines, such as morphine and cocaine, which were common components of
medicines in the late 1800s, but existence of those compounds could not be documented.

Analysis of nuclear DNA, which is inherited from both parents, confirmed that “Miranda Eve” was a girl (no
Y chromosome DNA fragments are present), and suggested ancestral origins in Western Europe. Her
complete mitochondrial DNA (inherited only maternally) was assembled, and it was found that “Miranda
Eve” carried the I1a1e haplotype, most common on the British Isles.

To obtain a certain identification of Edith H. Cook. At the University of California, Santa Cruz, an analysis was performed comparing the DNA extracted from the hair sample with that obtained from the living male descendant of the second candidate, Edith Howard Cook. Those samples provided a clear match.

The living relative is Peter Cook, Edith’s grand-nephew. Peter Cook is a direct descendant of her older brother, Milton H. Cook. He lives in the Bay Area. DNA was extracted from the “Miranda Eve” hair samples in the clean room facilities at the university’s Paleogenomics lab using standard ancient DNA techniques. After sequencing, data was collected from about 10% of Miranda Eve’s genome. The data show typical patterns of old or ancient DNA. The DNA fragments were short – about 50 basepairs each – and showed evidence of chemical degradation.

The DNA sequence from Peter Cook was compared to the “Miranda Eve” data by examining the rate of
matching at positions of rare DNA variants across the genome. Several long, contiguous sections were found
where Peter Cook and “Miranda Eve” match at these rare genetic variations at a rate expected for two people
who share a very recent common ancestor. The “Miranda Eve” data had no such matching segments to
dozens of negative controls, i.e., DNA data from unrelated people. Further analysis of the matching regions
confirmed that these segments are bona fide Identity By Descent regions – regions of the genome co-inherited
from the same person, i.e., the parents of Miranda Eve." 

Learn more about Edith Cook below 

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