The Hand in the Snow

The Hand in the Snow

Our blog would not be complete without a mention of The Hand in the Snow.  This was our first big military identification case with the Armed Forces DNA ID Laboratory, performed with a dream team of top forensic scientists.  Our successful identification of the frozen arm and hand found in the Alaska glacier as belonging to crash victim Francis Joseph van Zandt was featured in 300 newspapers worldwide, and will be published as a feature article in  Scientific American in the next few months.

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Attendees at the Memorial Service on Yap Island, July 2010

Identifinders has been assisting History Flight and Missing Air Crew in their efforts to locate family references of MIAs for DNA identification. On July 24-28, U.S. Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia Peter A. Prahar travelled to Yap State to participate in the dedication ceremony of the Ensign Joseph E. Cox Memorial, named in honor of a U.S. naval pilot whose F6F-5 Hellcat fighter plane was shot down over Yap Island on September 6, 1944.  Thanks to the efforts of Identifinders, members of the family of Howard Holding were present; Holding was killed during the same mission.  Identifinders located his niece, Terri Trick, who with her brother Brent Jacob, traveled to Yap to attend the ceremony.  To read the Press Release issued by the Embassy of the United States of America Kolonia Public Affairs Section, click here.

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Identifinders Locates Family of Harry Dugan Brown

Pat Ranfrantz at the Yap Island Crash Site of Lt jg Harry Dugan Brown

Our first success working with History Flight and Missing Air Crew was the location of the Jenny, the sister of Harry Brown, who was killed while flying his VF-20 F6F-5 Hellcat on a routine mission over Yap Island on September 6, 1944.  Jenny is the ideal mitochondrial family reference for Harry’s future DNA identification.

Harry’s family was very challenging to locate, considering how much time had elapsed since his death and the fact that his family name is one of the most common in the US. Another difficulty was that his father was listed with a different family name in Harry’s casualty records, implying that Harry had been adopted. 

Nevertheless, Identifinders was able to locate Harry’s sister and her family, who had never been told the details about what happened to him.  We hope to be able to perform the same miracle for the families of other servicemen, bringing them much needed closure after so many decades of not knowing what happened to their loved ones.

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Western Hospitality Expo

We are on our way to the Western Hospitality Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center on August 12-14 to speak with representatives of the restaurant industry about Benjaman. Since he worked in this industry, we hope we will find someone among the attendees who recognizes him.  To read more about Benjaman, see his Wikipedia article.

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BBC World Service Interviews Benjaman Kyle

Benjaman Kyle, Mystery Man

The BBC World Service interviewed Benjaman Kyle in August 2010.  You can listen to the interview by clicking here.  For the full story, please see his Wikipedia page.

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Case Histories

I have been fortunate to have been a key member of several projects that have challenged my abilities as a forensic genealogist.  Several have been posted on my Identifinders International site.  The Hand in the Snow, James Jake-Smithers-Gray, and Benjaman Kyle are just three.  I have also been involved in the exposure of two Holocaust literary frauds.  To see a brief description of each of these, please see  Click on Case Histories.


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Happy Reunion

Identifiers is happy to have reunited Bonnie Dodson and her dad in July 2010 after 55 years.  Bonnie is looking forward to meeting the rest of her new family.  We are just thrilled to have been an important part of bringing about such a happy ending!

Colleen Fitzpatrick PhD

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