A Small Project Update, May 31st 2020
As most of you are aware, some months ago, during the REM excavation for the new light transit system, the remains of 14 victims from the 1847 event, were discovered. (This excavation took place in 1% or less of the total area where the main burials of the victims from 1847 took place.)
These remains were subsequently sent to a laboratory for testing purposes. We did receive a note from REM in the last days that although the laboratory has been closed during this virus scare lockdown, that work on this project will resume as soon as possible. They also mentioned that the remains were fairly well preserved and that DNA can likely be obtained for all or most of these remains. They have also sent out requests to other various labs around the world who might be able to provide specialized information. The hope is that the DNA will provide information such as the gender of the victim; the approximate age; the cause of death (likely typhus or malnutrition or a combination); the diet of the victims over time (likely potatoes, corn etc.); confirmation that these remains were Irish and from the 1847 event (almost for sure but still testing is required) and similar information that will help to build a profile of each victim.
In the meantime, we have also been contacted by a group of volunteer scientists and genealogist in Ireland with an offer to help to review this DNA against their databases. This could provide such information as the location in Ireland where the victims originated. This group has provided a similar investigation concerning unidentified soldiers from WW1 – (if you would like to see a great video on their work in this area, it can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/R76Ubg-b_Sc )
Advances in DNA and the information that it can yield are happening everyday. For example, new developments in forensic DNA is starting to be able to provide a fairly good image of an individual from their DNA. This is all quite exciting especially since after more then a decade of searching we have never been able to find any record of the names etc. of the 6000+ victims that died and were buried in the area in 1847. And although 14 out of 6000+ is a small number, they could provide at least some representation of all the victims.
The plan is after all the testing etc. has been completed, these remains will be reburied near the Black Rock in the most dignified manner possible – although that is likely a couple of years down the road.