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Seattle man helped solve mystery of little girl from 1800s found in casket

SEATTLE -- It's a San Francisco mystery that dates back to the 1800s -- and a Seattle man helped close the case.

A tiny casket was discovered on the property of a residential home in San Francisco that used to be a cemetery. Inside the casket was the body of a little girl, perfectly preserved.

She had long blonde hair and was wearing a white lace dress. On her chest was a cross made of flowers.

To understand where she came from -- and who she was -- we must go back to the beginning, back to the 1870s. The spot where she was discovered used to be known as San Francisco's Odd Fellows Cemetery. Last May, a construction crew found the sealed casket while renovating a home. They nicknamed the girl 'Miranda Eve.'

Seattle researcher Bob Phillips said, "One of the things that helped us out on this one was the fact that it was a very good casket for its time and she was pretty well-preserved so we had something to work with."

Phillips, a 65-year-old retired federal employee, saw Miranda Eve's story online and volunteered his genealogy skills to help identify her and find her relatives.

"We had to come up with maps we could use to plot the old cemetery, and the new residence and that took quite a bit of doing," he said.

Phillips said that once they had the map of the old cemetery, they narrowed down who this little girl might be.

Elissa Davey, a genealogist, and founder of the Garden of Innocence Project reburied the little girl last year.

Davey said she was also determined to discover this little girl's story -- including the date of her death, October 13, 1876. The team of researchers looked through thousands of burial records, dug up old street maps and compared them with old maps of the cemetery. And, finally, a family plot was found.

"Her name is Edith Howard Cook."

"We worked so hard to find her, it's been 11 months. It breaks your heart, but you're so happy you get her name back, a human being deserves their name."

Then began the search for a living relative. The research team was able to finally recover DNA from the child's hair, and that led them to an 82-year-old man in Marin County, Calif. -- the grand nephew of little Edith Cook.

We were "very fortunate it came together exactly the way that we had hoped," Phillips said.