DNA testing solves mystery of Titanic survivor claim

January 22, 2014 by Bob Yirka weblog
Brave Nurse and the Babe She Saved: Alice Cleaver with Trevor Allison, survivors of the sinking of the RMS Titanic after disembarking from the RMS Carpathia

(Phys.org) —DNA testing has proven that Helen Kramer was not Loraine Allison, a two year old child who was believed to have died when the infamous ocean liner Titanic sank April 15, 1912. Ms. Kramer died in 1982—she rose to fame after claiming on a radio program in 1940 that that she was in fact the long lost toddler.

Kramer apparently hung on to her claim for her entire life, thus it's not clear if she herself perpetuated the fraud or if it was foisted onto her as a child. She claimed that she had been put aboard a life raft by none other than Thomas Andrews—the man that had designed the ill-fated liner. Loraine Allison and her mother were both believed lost when the ship sank though neither body was ever recovered. The child's father also died when the ship sank but his body was eventually found. Kramer insisted that she'd been taken in and raised by a man, a fellow passenger in the lifeboat, who explained to her sometime later that she was the missing child.

Adding to the sensationalism of the story was Debrina Woods, Helen Kramer's granddaughter who claimed to have physical evidence that her grandmother was who she claimed to be and more recently said she was writing a book about the whole story. That was enough apparently for a group of Titanic aficionados to get together and create what they called the "Loraine Allison Identification Project." That resulted in funding to undertake DNA testing of members of both of the involved families—a great niece of Loraine's mother and Woods' half-sister—the results show absolutely no connection between the two families.

The story of the missing toddler took on more drama when it was revealed that she was believed to be the only non-adult housed in the first class section of the boat to have died when the ship sank. Various reports from survivors suggest the family remained on the ship looking for little Loraine's younger brother, who unbeknownst to them, had been placed in a lifeboat by a servant. He was the only member of the family believed to have survived the sinking.

Explore further: Trove of 200,000 Titanic records goes online

More information: findingloraine.wordpress.com/

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