Hartford Circus Fire Victims

Hartford Circus Fire Victims

The Hartford Circus Fire on July 6, 1944 was the worst disaster in the history of the city.  As the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey big top caught fire and collapsed, it was inevitable that families and friends would become separated as the nearly 8,000 spectators fled for their lives. The fire spread rapidly. The paraffin wax covered canvas tent, along with blocked exits, contributed to the high death toll. Within 10 minutes, 682 attendees were injured and 167 were killed, many burned beyond recognition. Six unidentified victims were buried in numbered graves in the Northwood Cemetery in Windsor, CT.

In October 2019 two female victims were exhumed, one Caucasian and the other African American. It was hoped that modern DNA technology could identify the Caucasian as Grace Dorothy Fifield, one of six spectators still listed as missing. When conventional DNA identification methods were unable to match the DNA of the remains to Fifeld’s living granddaughter, the Chief State Medical Examiner, Dr. James Gill, requested the assistance of the DNA Doe Project for its help in identifying both women using genetic genealogy.

NamUs ID: UP59502 and UP59504
Date Body Found: July 6, 1944
Estimated PMI: hours
Location: Hartford, CT

Agency of Jurisdiction
Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
James Gill, Chief Medical Examiner

Links to More Information

Status: Undergoing Testing

The DDP and their labs will apply their expertise in processing what is expected to be highly degraded DNA, considering that the remains were probably burned and have been buried for over 75 years. In January 2020 the bones of both victims were sent to Astrea Forensics, a company located in Santa Cruz, CA that specializes in ancient DNA analysis. It will likely take several months before genetic genealogical analysis can begin.

Fundraiser Goal $8,000 ($4,000 each)
DNA Doe Project has established a fundraising campaign in order to raise money for the extensive lab work that will be required to extract DNA from such damaged and old bone material. Please donate using this button. Thank you for your generous contribution to this important project.

Image Credit: Adobe Stock

Posted on

February 9, 2020