In 2011, a passerby at a beach on the Gaspé peninsula in Quebec found partial skeletons whose mystery has, at least to some degree, been solved three years later. Among the remains were around a dozen long bones, pieces of a jawbone, and more than 25 vertebrae. Parks Canada anthropologists have determined that the bones belonged to three malnourished children from Europe, likely impoverished 19th-century Irish migrants who died in a shipwreck while trying to find a better life, the Globe and Mail reports. "They are witnesses to a tragic event," says one archaeologist. Researchers found that the children likely ate a plant-based diet in Europe and that one child suffered from rickets, which is caused by a deficiency in vitamin D, Archaeology reports. In addition, a button found nearby was linked to Europe in the 19th century.
Officials believe they are likely victims of the wreck of the Carricks, a ship that crossed the Atlantic with Irish migrants trying to escape their homeland's famine only to sink in a storm in 1847. About 100 bodies washed ashore. There were 48 survivors, the CBC reported in 2012; they were taken in by local families. A memorial to the tragedy is just 40 yards away from where these children's bones were found. Says one local, who had ancestors among the shipwreck victims and survivors, "I have a link to these people—I almost consider them my family." Thousands died on the Carricks and other "coffin ships" of the era, and the Washington Post notes that the sleeping quarters in such ships look similar to concentration camps. "Most families of four would be given a platform that was about 6 feet square," one expert told NPR last year. (Click to read about a newly found shipwreck with a particularly tragic story.)