Little girl found in glass coffin under San Francisco home now ID'd
SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - The story of a small glass, cast-iron casket began in the 1870's at San Francisco's Odd Fellows Cemetery.
About 140 years later - last May - the story came back. A construction crew at a home on Rossi Street near the University of San Francisco found the sealed casket.
Inside they found a little girl with long blonde hair, wearing a long white lace dress. She had a cross made of flowers on her chest and she was nicknamed Miranda Eve. Now we know that her real name is Edith Howard Cook.
Elissa Davey, a genealogist and founder of the Garden of Innocence Project, reburied the little girl in Colma last year. Davey says she was also determined to discover the real story of the girl, including the date of her death.
Davey says she looked through thousands of burial records as they worked to solve this mystery. They dug up old street maps and compared them with old maps of the cemetery, and finally a family plot was found. The positioning of the maps put the Cook family right in the backyard along with Edith, her father and mother. We now know Edith died on October 13, 1876.
For the first time Davey met UC Davis Professor Jelmer Eerkens this week. With a name, and family tree in hand the anthropologist began looking for a living relative and found a candidate. They contacted that person and got a saliva sample from him.
At the same time the professor and his team were doing DNA tests on strands of Edith Cook's hair.
"Then in the end we were confident enough to say - 99.9 percent it's a relative of this particular person," said Eerkens.
Peter Cook, 82, of Marin County was identified as a relative of Edith Cook. He said in a statement that he was "beaming ear to ear upon hearing he is the grandnephew of little Edith Cook."
Professor Eerkens says as part of the research is was found that Edith died of marasmus, which is severe undernourishment.
"It's likely she was sick some disease and at some point her immune system couldn’t combat the disease and probably went into coma and passed away."
The coffins from the Old Fellow's Cemetery were moved to Colma around 1930.
Somehow Edith Cook was left behind, and as the current home owners tell Elissa Davey, they often hear her.
"They put two girls to bed and put they'd hear running feet upstairs - they'd go 'who is out of bed and the girls are sound asleep,'" said Davey.
Davey says the headstone with Miranda Eve etched into it will soon be removed, and a new one will go in its place. It will say Edith Howard Cook with her birthday, death date and a verse from Amazing Grace, "I was once lost but now I've been found."
The funeral will be held for Edith on June 10th.