First member of ill-fated 1845 Franklin expedition is identified by DNA analysis

by University of Waterloo


The identity of the skeletal remains of a member of the 1845 Franklin expedition has been confirmed using DNA and genealogical analyses by a team of researchers from the University of Waterloo, Lakehead University, and Trent University. This is the first member of the ill-fated expedition to be positively identified through DNA.

DNA extracted from tooth and bone samples recovered in 2013 were confirmed to be the remains of Warrant Officer John Gregory, engineer aboard HMS Erebus. The results matched a DNA sample obtained from a direct descendant of Gregory.....

...."Having John Gregory's remains being the first to be identified via genetic analysis is an incredible day for our family, as well as all those interested in the ill-fated Franklin expedition," said Gregory's great-great-great grandson Jonathan Gregory of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. "The whole Gregory family is extremely grateful to the entire research team for their dedication and hard work, which is so critical in unlocking pieces of history that have been frozen in time for so long."

Sir John Franklin's 1845 northwest passage expedition, with 129 sailors on two ships, Erebus and Terror, entered the Arctic in 1845. In April 1848, 105 survivors abandoned their ice-trapped ships in a desperate escape attempt. None would survive. Since the mid-19th century, skeletal remains of dozens of crew members have been found on King William Island, but none had been positively identified.

To date, the DNA of 26 other members of the Franklin expedition have been extracted from remains found in nine archaeological sites situated along the line of the 1848 retreat..........