Syphilitic mummy found under Swiss church is Boris Johnson relative

Jan 26, 2018, 02:21
Syphilitic mummy found under Swiss church is Boris Johnson relative

The identity of the woman, buried in 1787 under the Barfüsser church in Basel, has always been a mystery, the Basler Zeitung reported.

Now, after two years of archival and DNA investigation by a team of researchers, she not only has a name - as it turns out, she's also got a rather recognizable great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson.

While there was no gravestone to identify her, and her coffin was unmarked, she was buried in front of the altar, which is a symbol of great importance, and was wearing good quality clothes. It was the mercury that was likely responsible for her death in 1787 at the age of 68 - and responsible, as well, for her body's uncommon preservation in the 230 years since.

Her body was most recently uncovered in 1975 in Basel's Barfusser Church, where historically wealthy people were buried.

Anna Bischoff is believed to have died of mercury poisoning, a common treatment for syphilis in her time.

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A new study of the body extracted DNA from the mummy's big toe, and this was compared to descendants of the Bischoff line.

Those records led historians to suspect the mummy was a member of a well-established Basel family, the Bischoffs.

Researchers then set out to discover the genealogical tree of the woman.

The mercury preserved her body - allowing researchers to identify her today.

Born in Basel in 1719, Anna Catharina Bischoff married a church minister, and lived most of her adult life in Strasbourg.

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Her daughter, also named Anna, married Christian Hubert Baron Pfeffel von Kriegelstein.

Wilfred Johnson did not know his father Ali Kemal, though the latter was a Turkish politician and opposition journalist murdered in the 1920s.

She had contracted syphilis, probably from treating sufferers of the disease.

After the death of her husband, she returned to her home town of Basel, and apparently underwent rigorous mercury treatment in the hope of a cure.

Before appearing on the BBC's Who Do You Think You Are program in 2008, he said he thought he was "part Jewish, part French, part English, part American, part pterodactyl and, unpredictably, part Turkish".

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The Foreign Secretary has previously spoken about his ancestors as "posh toffs" after learning about their upper class origins.

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