On April 20-23 1912, on its mission from Halifax to salvage remains from the Titanic, the crew of the cable ship Mackay-Bennett pulled 306 bodies from the frigid waters of the north Atlantic. Only one of them, body No. 4, was that of a child. At the time, the best that forensic identification could offer was the observations, recorded on an index card, that the child was a boy, about two years of age, probably a third-class passanger.
Since no one came to claim the baby, the crew of the Mackay-Bennett took responsibility for the child’s remains, arranging a beautiful funeral for him at St. George’s Anglican Church. The child was buried in what would become a well-visited grave at the top of a small hill in Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax. His tombstone was inscribed: Erected to the memory of an Unknown Child whose remains were recovered after the disaster to the Titanic April 15, 1912.
That is the way things stayed until 1998, when the family of Gosta Paulson requested that the grave be opened and DNA identification be performed on the remains of the child. It had long been speculated that the Unknown Child was two-year, three-and-a-half-month old Gosta, based on eye witness accounts of the boy being swept into the water as the Titanic sank, and to the recovery of the body of his mother, Alma Paulson, with the tickets of her four children still in her pocket.
The Paulson family enlisted Ryan Parr of Genesis Genomics at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and Alan Ruffman, of Geomarine Associates Limited in Halifax, to obtain permission to open the child’s grave and perform DNA analysis on his remains. The exhumation took place May 17-18, 2001.