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Autosomal and Y-STR Analysis of Degraded DNA From the 120-year-old Skeletal Remains of Ezekiel Harper

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2014
9 pages
This paper reports on the procedures used in the analysis of the DNA from the exhumed 120-year-old skeletal remains of Ezekiel Harper, in order to determine whether he had fathered a son (Earl J. Maxwell) with his Native-American maid prior to his murder in 1892.
Results of the genetic analyses are consistent with the hypothesis that Earl J. Maxwell is the son of Ezekiel Harper, who fought in the Civil War and subsequently became a renowned country doctor in Tucker County, WV. Bones with adequate structural integrity (left tibia, right tibia, right femur, mandible, four teeth) were retrieved from the burial site and sent to the Institute of Applied Genetics in Fort Worth, TX, for analysis. Because of the age and condition of the remains, three different extraction methods were used to maximize the probability of DNA recovery. The majority of the DNA isolates from approximately 50 separate bone sections generated partial autosomal short tandem (STR) genotypes and partial Y-STR haplotypes. After comparing the partial results for concordance, consensus profiles were generated for comparison to reference samples from alleged family members of Ezekiel Harper. Due to the genetic recombination that occurs in autosomal DNA over the generations within a family, Y-STR analysis was determined to be the most appropriate and informative method for determining kinship. Two of Earl J. Maxwell’s grandsons submitted buccal samples for comparison. The Y-STR haplotypes obtained from both of these reference samples were identical to each other and to the alleles in Ezekiel Harper’s consensus profile at all 17 loci examined. This Y-STR haplotype was not found in either of two major Y-STR population databases. This shows its rarity and further supports a paternal lineage relationship among them. 1 table, 6 figures, and 22 references
Date Published: March 1, 2014