Perfectly Preserved Toddler Found Buried in 1800s Casket Under Home Is Finally Identified
The little girl's name was Edith Howard Cook. She was born on Oct. 13, 1876, and died at age 2.
The mysterious little girl whose perfectly preserved body was found inside an ornate 1800s casket under a San Francisco home has finally been identified.
Her name was Edith Howard Cook and she died on Oct. 13, 1876 at the age of 2 years, 10 months and 15 days, according to the nonprofit Garden of Innocence, which used a team of volunteers to scour old records in a yearlong effort to identify her.
Her parents were socially prominent and she was the couple's first girl.
She had been buried in her family’s plot in the Yerba Buena section of the Odds Fellow Cemetery in San Francisco. The graveyard was later closed and its coffins relocated. Somehow, Cook's tiny, glass- paneled resting place was left behind.
Homeowners John and Ericka Karner discovered the puzzling casket last year and contacted the local coroner, whose office advised the Karners they could pay for a private burial or leave the corpse where it was, the organization said.
Garden of Innocence, which provides burials and services for children who have no one to help, agreed to aid the Karners in burying the small body and vowed to learn who she had been.
The child was nicknamed Miranda Eve and was reburied at Greenlawn Memorial Park in Colma, Calif., during a June service attended by about 140 people.
Volunteer researchers found a map of the original cemetery’s plots at the University of California at Berkeley and were able to identify various family burial grounds.
Old funeral home records showed Edith died from severe undernourishment, called at the time “marasmus,” which the nonprofit said may have been caused by an infectious disease that resulted in the child wasting away.
Because the coffin was tightly sealed, decomposition was significantly slowed. The girl was perfectly preserved. There were purple flowers threaded through her hair, and her lacey, white christening dress was intact.
After Edith’s death, her parents had another daughter they named Ethel, who was later called the most beautiful woman in America by a Russian nobleman, the group said.
The coffin was purchased at N.Gray & Co. in San Francisco, researchers determined. The firm promised their caskets offered “perfect protection from water and vermin,” according to advertisements from the time.
Researchers logged more than 1,000 hours trying to trace Edith Cook to living descendants. They sent her hair strands for DNA testing.
The volunteers identified Peter Cook, a Marin County resident, as a possible family member. He submitted a DNA sample and it matched Edith's hair tests, making him the girl's grand-nephew, according to the nonprofit.
With her identity found, Jennifer Onstrott Warner of Fairy Tale Portrait in Newport Beach created a beautiful portrait of the child.
When Garden Of Innocence buried Miranda Eve last year, workers left half of her tombstone blank, hoping to later engrave it with her real name.
Volunteers will etch Edith Howard Cook into that space, and plan to hold a June 10 memorial service to unveil the updated marker.
The proceedings will be open to the public.
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