It's funny what happens when you start writing about your ancestors. Suddenly, cousins appear from across the world (YEAH!) and they begin to share photos, letters, postcards, and stories. One of the most interesting I've heard is that my Great Grandmother Alice was going to return to the US from England aboard the Titanic but she came on an earlier ship.
At first I thought, oh my! If she had been on the Titanic, I wouldn't be here. Then I remembered the Titanic sank in 1912 and my grandmother was already born, so my existence was secure.
Family stories are fun, but it's important to do the proper research and separate fact from fiction. In this case, Great Grandmother Alice missing a ride on the Titanic? Fiction. But almost, emphasis on almost, possible...
Here's how I came to this conclusion -
Follow The Passenger Lists
Even though the Titanic sank in 1912, I started with Alice's entry into the U.S. in 1906 because I had some postcard clues and it was important to me to follow all her transatlantic crossings to be sure I'd covered my bases.
As with all research, I keep my eyes open for macro details and avoid being laser focused on only one question. That way, I don't miss details that could prove important later on.
My great grandmother Alice Vince Pinborough immigrated to the U.S. aboard the S.S. Arabic on 22 Jun 1906 with her children Winifred, Hilda (my grandmother) and John. For unknown reasons, her husband Frederick, was not able to travel with them but was initially booked on the same journey as listed on the UK Outward Passenger Lists and Massachusetts Boston Passenger Lists 1891-1943 available on FindMyPast.com or FamilySearch.org.
When I first started doing genealogy research and looked at U.S. Passenger Lists, I only made note of names and dates, I don't do that anymore. There are so many fantastic details that give you insight into your ancestors life. Read everything!
For example, of note on Alice's 1906 entry into the U.S. is her answer to "Whether in possession of $50, and if less, how much?" The record indicates Draft $1499.7 and $1730. This is most interesting (to me) as most of the other second class passengers were in possession of about $30. As a comparison, when her husband Fred arrived later that year, he had only $40.
Everyone in Alice's party was listed in good health on the 1906 arrival record except for Hilda, my grandmother. She was listed with Strabismus & cataract right eye. Strabismus - aka Crossed eyes, is failure of the two eyes to maintain proper alignment and work together as a team. She had this in one eye. This is not news to me as I have already heard about this condition, I just found it interesting that it was indicated in the health report.
Curious, I read through other passengers health reports. They included Short statured, Corneal Opacity & Partial blind right eye, Chronic blepharitis, senility, hair lip, stutters, acne, debility, eczema.
Everyone on my great grandmother's page and the next were headed to Utah. Perhaps they lined up to leave the ship based on their next destination, or they socialized on the ship based on where they were headed, or she made this journey with one big group of LDS converts?
- Which gives me an idea -
IF your ancestors were on board the S.S. Arabic that sailed from Liverpool 22 June 1906 and arrived at the Port of Boston 20 June 1906 maybe they knew my great grandmother Alice and you have some story passed down and around the family about the journey to Utah. Please share! Here are some of her Utah bound ship mates:
Henry MacCartney, Leonard Willis, Dorothy Willis, George Crippo, Sarah Ann Crippo, William Henry Robinson, Anne Robinson, Annie Robinson, Charles Vaughn, Marion Vaughn, William J. Vaughn, Henry G. Vaughn, Sarah Elizabeth Vaughn, Harold Vaughan, Robert Vaughan, M Jane Middleton, Albert Middleton, Jane Craig, Ethel Dover Istell, Eva Haslar, Annie Lazenby, Alice Carsey, Harry Oakes, Lina Chipman, Mary A Lambert, Angus Cannon, Miss Fern Chipman, Lewis Gardner, Thomas Simper, Rufus Johnson, Daniel Rich, George Francis Webb, George Braby, Henry Smith, Wilford Beesley, Walter Halversen, Lauritz Christensen (Missionary Scandinavian), Andrew Eliason (missionary), Andrew Lundberg (missionary), Lambert Pack, Norman Stoddard, Charles
Fred, her husband arrived 30 June 1906 in Boston Massachusetts aboard the same ship. He sent this card to Alice.
Aug 27 1906 Chicago
Arrived here this morn at 8oclock, am leaving again at 6PM arrive at Kansas City Tuesday morning about 8, enquire at Salt Lake what time we arrive. I am well. Hope you are. Fred.
1911 Alice Returned To England
In 1911, Alice received this postcard from her nephew.
January 31, 1911 - Dear Aunt I have just had a letter to say that grandma is very bad and the Doctor gives no hope for her. Aunt Annie is up day and night with her hoping all is well. I remain your affectionate Nephew. William
She did not embark on the journey to see her mother until Saturday June 10th 1911. She traveled aboard the White Star Dominion Line R.M.S. Celtic and kept this postcard from that journey.
Perhaps she did not leave until June because the ships were full. Perhaps she had to save enough money for the journey. Perhaps there were other letters that indicated she did not need to rush. Perhaps she had a troubled relationship with her mother and hesitated to go. This is a detail I will likely never know.
I suspect the passenger list from her journey in 1911 is what initiated the rumors of her possible Titanic voyage because on the back of the Second Class Passenger List book was this:
But, following this postcard from Alice to Fred, and checking the passenger lists, Alice returned aboard the SS Arabic from Liverpool to Boston on September 26, 1911. The White Star Line Titanic departed Southampton on April 10 1912, seven months AFTER Alice left the UK.
Now, Alice's mother, Hannah Maria Meachen, passed away March 28, 1912 at the age of 80, six months AFTER Alice left the UK.
Had Alice stayed until her mother's death, perhaps she could have booked passage aboard the Titanic and departed on April 10th from Southampton. But, Alice made all her journeys through Liverpool, and the Titanic did not depart from nor stop there, though it was the port of registry.
So - while there is a possibility that she could have booked passage aboard the Titanic and been on board that fateful day April 15, 1912. It seems highly unlikely that she "just missed" the journey or even considered departing from Southampton.
To me, this is a family myth busted.
1926 Back to England
I mentioned earlier that I'd check all her transatlantic crossings and even though 1926 is nowhere near 1912, she did return to England in 1926. I suspect to visit family. I do not know her departure date from the US, but I know she returned to the U.S. via Liverpool aboard the R.M.S. Celtic on 14 August 1926. [UPDATE: March 2016, Alice traveled from Montreal to Liverpool on Friday June 4, 1926 aboard the SS Montcalm. Click here to see the passenger list.]
She recorded on the back of a ship postcard her daily latitude and longitude during the journey and made a few notes about the weather that I suspect corresponded to each day.
Strong wind rough sea
Strong wind rough sea
Mod gale and high sea
Rough to smooth sea
Moderate wind and sea
I do not yet know her primary purpose for the journey, other then to visit family. Her passport was issued June 16, 1926, and the photo captured below on July 11, 1926. I'll have to research more passenger lists to find the day she left.
Using 1926 as a reference, I dug through the old letters I have (thank goodness I sorted them by date), and found some correspondence between Hilda & Alice. I'll scan and post those in a few days. I know Alice stayed with Elizabeth Vince, her brother's wife, at 52 Old Gravel Lane Wapping E.I. London England. But that's it for now.
While tracing Alice's footsteps and transatlantic crossings, I was also searching through photos and one stood out to me.
Robert-Blair Crosbie Born Dec 10th 1902 and Clara McGeorge Crosbie Born June 21, 1908.
I had been trying to determine who the heck the Crosbie family was and where they fit on our family tree and was not making any connections. Then, as I was reading passenger names in the passenger list, it occurred to me that perhaps some of these photos were people Alice met along the way.
So I guessed the age of the kids in the photo and started scanning the 1911 passenger list to and from the U.K. And there, on the same ship as Alice, the SS Arabic Second Class Passenger List Sailing from Liverpool 26 September 1911, were Clara Crosbie, Clara McGeorge, Robert Crosbie.
A little more digging and I could find no other connection to Alice & Clara. Clara b. 1877 in Birmingham married Blair Crosbie, born in Scotland, around 1901. Their children were born in Harrow Weald Middlesex England. (UK 1911 census). Her husband was already in Boston and it seems that is where they spent the remainder of their lives.
Alice must have met this family aboard aboard the ship. Sadly, I have found no other communication between Alice and Clara, yet. There is still hope!
I have to thank the family tale of Alice missing the Titanic, as because of it, I've realized that for some of these photos with names that are unrelated to me, they just might be on passenger lists from her transatlantic crossings and friends she made along the way!
So - thanks to Passenger Lists, I've been able to prove that Alice did not just "miss" a journey on the Titanic, was able to identify people in a photo she owned & how they were connected to her, learned how much money Alice arrived in the U.S. with, and discovered that if you were short statured, had acne or a stutter, the U.S. Immigration officers made note of it.
Until Next Time, Happy Genealogy Hunting!
** Alice's Passenger Ships & Passenger List - These are more images, postcards & the complete passenger lists that belonged to Alice.
Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society - They helped me identify the car in the Great Yarmouth photo as a 1918 Crossley Charabanc.
FindMyPast - Great resource for all history UK.
Greater Yarmouth - Official Tourism Site. I do hope to get there someday and retrace some of my ancestor's footsteps.
White Star Line - history and additional details on Wikipedia