The 19th-century body of a girl found last year inside a small metal casket under a San Francisco home has been identified, researchers announced Tuesday. The child was 2-year-old Edith Howard Cook, who died on Oct. 13, 1876, six weeks short of her third birthday, the nonprofit Garden of Innocence said. The AP reports the girl's remains, found by construction workers last May, were apparently left behind when about 30,000 people originally buried in San Francisco's Odd Fellows Cemetery were moved in the 1920s to Greenlawn Memorial Park in Colma. Elissa Davey, a genealogist and founder of the Garden of Innocence Project, organized the girl's reburial in Colma last year and began her quest to identify the remains.
After hundreds of hours trying to find Edith's identity, researchers caught a break when they found a map of the old cemetery at a University of California, Berkeley library and matched it to a plot where her parents, Horatio Cook and Edith Scooffy, were once buried. Once they had the family name, researchers looked for living descendants, one of whom volunteered his DNA for testing. Peter Cook—Edith's grandnephew—was a match. UC Davis Professor Jelmer Eerkens, who helped with the DNA testing, told KTVU that Edith died of marasmus, which is severe undernourishment. "It's likely she was sick with some disease and at some point her immune system couldn't combat the disease and probably went into coma and passed away," he said. (Read more San Francisco stories.)