DNA solves one of the Titanic's oldest mysteries

More than 100 years after Loraine Allison disappeared with the sinking ship, genetic testing uncovers a massive hoax and brings to light who this girl really was.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
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The front page of the New York City Herald on April 16, 1912, describes the sinking of the Titanic. Library of Congress

DNA has helped solved a nearly 70-year-old hoax -- one that has haunted a family and its ancestors in the debacle over the identity of a girl who was said to have died on the Titanic.

When the massive ship struck an iceberg more than 100 years ago, it was believed that only one child from the first class died in the sinking ship: Loraine Allison. The 2-year-old apparently didn't get safely on a life boat because her parents were said to have been frantically searching for her little brother, who unbeknownst to them was already on a life boat. Allison and her mother's body were never found in the ship's wreckage.

In 1940, 28 years after the Titanic went down, a woman named Helen Kramer appeared on a radio show claiming that she was Loraine Allison. She had an intricate story of being saved by the ship's designer and builder Thomas Andrews, who was also thought to have died on board. Kramer said she was raised in England before going to boarding school in the US.

For more than 50 years, Kramer adamantly lobbied the wealthy Allison family trying to prove that she was kin. But, for the most part, the family was skeptical of Kramer's claims and held her at arm's length.

When Kramer died in 1992, her granddaughter Debrina Woods picked up where she left off. Woods continued to try to convince the Allison family that she was a descendant of Loraine Allison claiming she had a suitcase of documents to prove it. Now, after more than 70 years, the family knows the truth.

A group of Titanic enthusiasts created the Loraine Allison Identification Project and persuaded a member of the Allison family and a relative of Kramer's to get DNA tested, according to The Telegraph. The results conclusively show there is no genetic relation between the two groups.

"It is good to have a resolution here, but we mustn't forget that this is all about one of the more tragic of tales to come from the Titanic," Loraine Allison Identification Project founder Tracy Oost told The Telegraph. "The only mystery that remains now is who was Helen Kramer."

[Via The Telegraph].