San Francisco

Researchers Track Down Name of Mystery Girl Uncovered in SF a Year Ago

Exactly one year after a coffin containing a mystery child from the 1800s was uncovered in San Francisco, the girl's identity has been found and was revealed Tuesday.

Thanks to a mix of detective work and Bay Area technology, researchers now know the name of a nearly 3-year-old girl found clutching a single rose inside a Victorian-era coffin is Edith Howard Cook. Not only do they know who she was, but also that she was born November 28, 1873, and died October 13, 1876.

After the girl was uncovered May 9, 2016, in the backyard of a Richmond district residence, officials from the nonprofit Garden of Innocence called her Miranda Eve and held a service and burial at a Colma cemetery. Now, her headstone will be turned around and engraved with her proper name.

"It's a joy to give her a name," said Elissa Davey, founder of Garden of Innocence. "Let her have her name back."

Ericka Karner, who owns the home where the girl was found, said she was doing some remodeling when workers came across the small coffin.

"It was a little challenging for us to figure out how to manage this," Karner said.

So she turned to Garden of Innocence, which discovered that Edith was buried here when Ulysses S. Grant was president. Then, they turned to a UC Santa Cruz DNA expert. Part of the challenge was that researchers there decided to use DNA technology that’s fairly new.

"We have a clean room lab for DNA work where we can extract DNA, in this case from a small amount of human hair," said Ed Green, professor of engineering.

Ultimately, they found a match, a great nephew in Marin County, and soon after the child’s proper name.

"I feel like now we have closure, and we know who this little girl was," Davey said. "Everybody needs a name. A name is a dignity everybody deserves. Her parents lovingly gave her a name. It got lost in the process somewhere. Now, she's got it back."

Garden of Innocence has reached out to Edith's family. They say they're planning a memorial service for Edith in June.

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