May 25, 2015


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Identity of Titanic's 'unknown child' a sad mystery for nearly a century

HALIFAX - Little Sidney Leslie Goodwin was laid to rest in Halifax's Fairview Lawn Cemetery nearly a century before anyone knew who he was.

The toddler's body was plucked from the North Atlantic by crew members aboard the Mackay-Bennett, one of two cable ships tasked with recovering Titanic's dead after the ship sank on April 15, 1912.

Bill Arbuckle, a senior parks official and former graveyard worker for the Halifax Regional Municipality, visits the grave of the unknown child from the Titanic disaster at the Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax on Thursday April 5, 2012. Scientists, using an advanced form of DNA decoding, determined that the toddler was in fact 19-month-old Sidney Leslie Goodwin, a third-class English passenger whose family perished in the sinking. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Bill Arbuckle, a senior parks official and former graveyard worker for the Halifax Regional Municipality, visits the grave of the unknown child from the Titanic disaster at the Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax on Thursday April 5, 2012. Scientists, using an advanced form of DNA decoding, determined that the toddler was in fact 19-month-old Sidney Leslie Goodwin, a third-class English passenger whose family perished in the sinking. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

"When they brought in this small child, tiny child, with no life-jacket, they were very much moved," says Alan Ruffman, a Halifax author and researcher who ultimately helped find the child's identity.

"They resolved among themselves that if no one claimed this body, they would see that it got a decent burial."

Days later, the boy's remains were buried at the end of a row of Titanic victims, beneath a grey tombstone dedicated to an "unknown child."

It would be 90 years before he was finally given a name.

In 2002, DNA technology and dental analysis concluded the exhumed remains were those of a 13-month-old Finnish boy named Eino Viljami Panula.

Two years later, a family from Ontario donated a pair of mottled brown shoes to a Halifax museum, claiming they belonged to the boy.

But the shoes were too large for such a young child.

Scientists went back to work using a more advanced form of DNA decoding. Last May, it was announced that the toddler was in fact 19-month-old Sidney Leslie Goodwin, a third-class English passenger whose family perished in the sinking.

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