DNA Match Positively Identifies Hunley Crew Member

By Chivers, Syd | Sea Classics, January 2005 | Go to article overview

DNA Match Positively Identifies Hunley Crew Member


Chivers, Syd, Sea Classics


The Naval Historical Center's (NHC) Hunley project staff and consultants positively identified Joseph Ridgaway, a Hunley crew member, through DNA testing on 24 September.

The NHC Hunley staff has been actively working to identify the eight pioneers who manned the craft on 17 Feburary 1864, when it became the first successful combat submarine in history.

"Before the DNA match, our only tools in identifying the Hunley crew for their burial was the archaeological, forensic and genealogical data," Warren Lasch, chairman of Friends of the Hunley, said.

In 2001, once the crew's remains were excavated from the submarine, Hunley scientists sent samples of each crew member to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii, where the samples were selected for DNA analysis. From there, the samples were sent to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL).

AFDIL extracted mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from the samples and laser scanned the DNA sequences. Since then, they have waited for the Hunley scientific team to locate DNA samples from potential descendants to cross reference in hopes of making a match.

"A mother passes mtDNA to her children, meaning mtDNA identification can only be done through direct maternal descendants," said Jackie Raskin-Burns, AFDIL Supervisory DNA Analyst who led the analytical work on the Hunley crew samples. …

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DNA Match Positively Identifies Hunley Crew Member
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