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Remembered Today:

DNA solves mystery of Vimy Ridge soldier


simb
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Very interesting, and very good to see one of the missing not only brought in from the cold but also identified and 'returned' to his family. I'd be interested to hear Terry D's views on this story, as I seem to recall he has said in the past that CWGC does not/will not make use of DNA profiling. I'm not clear, though, whether that was in relation to men already buried as 'Unknown', or to newly-discovered remains, or to both.

I have a personal interest in this issue, as my great uncle Jack became one of the missing 89 years ago yesterday.

Mick

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A wonderful story. Another little mystery from the Great War has been solved through dedication and hard work.

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The problem with DNA testing is that it can only prove a relationship, not an identity. For instance the soldier highlighted in the story can be proven that he is Doreen Bargholz's uncle, but that does not necessarily make him Private Herbert Peterson.....I am surprised that CWGC/Canadian MoD have accepted DNA evidence in this way.

Andy

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Is it true that one of them had identification? If so this case is possibly unique in the fact that there was known identification of 1 of 2 sets of mixed remains, they only needed to exclude one. How often is that likely to happen?

If neither had identification, can any DNA experts tell me, realistically, how they could be identified and how accurate it would be 90 years down the family line?

Mick

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I'd be interested to hear Terry D's views on this story, as I seem to recall he has said in the past that CWGC does not/will not make use of DNA profiling.

Correct. They do not - as they did not in this case.

Identification is the responsibility of the authorities in the appropriate Commonwealth country and not of CWGC. In this case it was the Canadian military authorities who accepted the DNA evidence.

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Pte Herbert Peterson.

Finally laid to rest among his fallen comrades in arms. May he rest in peace.

Remembered With Honour.

Terry W.

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I'm not clear, though, whether that was in relation to men already buried as 'Unknown', or to newly-discovered remains, or to both.

It would only be sensible to use DNA to lend weight to other evidence/presumption.

Perhaps, for instance, one had a situation where there was already good indication that the man was one of a very small group. It may be that Joe Bloggs and John Smith did not come back from a raid. You might then find two bodies. It would seem very sensible, if one knew of a direct descendent of Bloggs to do a DNA test. But what wouldnt be sensible if everyone in the country called Smith who might have lost a relative wanted to be tested.

John

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The problem with DNA testing is that it can only prove a relationship, not an identity. For instance the soldier highlighted in the story can be proven that he is Doreen Bargholz's uncle, but that does not necessarily make him Private Herbert Peterson.....I am surprised that CWGC/Canadian MoD have accepted DNA evidence in this way.

Andy

Hi

would they not just find out if other blood relatives served?

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would they not just find out if other blood relatives served?

Hello Soren

Again, that wouldn't prove an identity, only a relationship. A proper positive ID would rely completely on the virtue of the females in the family and this cannot be guaranteed. As I said a DNA test of a dead body and a living person (or another dead body) can only show that they were related but not the identity of the dead man.

Andy

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Hello Soren

Again, that wouldn't prove an identity, only a relationship. A proper positive ID would rely completely on the virtue of the females in the family and this cannot be guaranteed. As I said a DNA test of a dead body and a living person (or another dead body) can only show that they were related but not the identity of the dead man.

Andy

There’s always the problem of the ‘milkman’

;)

Dave

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The U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory uses DNA as one of its techniques. Here is what it has to say about DNA:

Family Reference Samples

We can often identify individuals if we have a reference sample of a special type of DNA from surviving family members. This special DNA is called Mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA, and it is inherited only from the mother. We use this type of DNA because it is long-lasting, abundant, and doesn’t change much from generation to generation.

How you can help

You may be able to help us identify America’s missing heros. If you are a family member of an individual who is Missing in Action, we may be able to use a sample of your DNA to help us with our identification process. However, we do not need a sample from just any family member – we can only use samples from family members who share the same mtDNA as the missing service member. Mitochondrial DNA is only passed on through the maternal line.

Anyone can help by selecting a casualty (perhaps from your home town, home state or a man that served in the same unit as you), and researching their family history to determine if there are living relatives who might be FRS donors. Click here for a list of Family Reference Samples (FRS) required by JPAC.

Who can donate

The type of DNA we use to identify individuals is inherited only from the mother. This means that each person’s mother, as well as brothers, sisters, sister’s children and many other relatives share the same kind of mtDNA. This is useful because it means that mtDNA from relatives (sometimes quite distant ones) can be directly compared to mtDNA from unidentified remains. The downside is that children of a missing male cannot provide an mtDNA reference sample. The sex of the missing person and the donor are irrelevant. In a family tree linking the donor to the missing person, every intermediate person linking the donor to the missing person must be a female.

A powerful tool

While mtDNA testing does not uniquely identify an individual like a fingerprint or other kinds of DNA testing, it does help us determine if an individual is related to surviving relatives. Combined with other evidence that we gather, this is a powerful tool that we use to identify the remains that we find. You might wonder why we can’t quickly identify an individual from a DNA sample like forensic scientists do on TV. The short answer is that we would need a pre-existing sample of DNA from all the missing individuals we are trying to identify – and DNA samples were not routinely collected from our service men and women until the Gulf War.

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