Blue Riband

The Cunard Line’s RMS Lusitania is renowned for various reasons, not least of which is its sinking by a German u-boat during the First World War. However, an earlier claim to fame also involved the Germans: the Lusitania was the British steamship which in October 1907 achieved the fastest ever west-bound transatlantic crossing (the first to make it in under 5 days) and reclaimed the Blue Riband from the Germans (whose ships had held it since 1898).

There are two passenger lists for the record-breaking voyage to New York, due to the way in which the Board of Trade filed passenger lists which boarded passengers from more than one UK port. The Lusitania departed Liverpool on 5th October 1907 and Queenstown (Cobh of Cork) one day later on 6th October 1907. The Board of Trade filing system was by port, which meant separating lists. For decades, therefore, the Liverpool list has been filed in archive box 542 and the Queenstown in box 551 in The National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office) at Kew, which inherited the BT27 records from the Board of Trade. The same is true of all those voyages – and there are many – which picked up passengers from two or more ports. One of the longer term intentions of Ancestors on Board over the course of 2007 is to connect these lists in such a way that researchers – ship buffs and maritime historians as well as genealogists – will be alerted to the existence of the companion list and will not labour under the misapprehension that there is, for example, only one list for a particular voyage.

Click below for the first page of the Queenstown list for the Blue Riband winning voyage. Nearly all the passengers on this page are described as being Irish labourers and servants. Those persons whose entries are crossed out bought tickets but did not board the liner. Like some other returns of this period, this one was completed in pencil which has faded over time. However, one advantage of this is that the crossed-out entries are still legible, which might not have been the case had they been scored through in ink. Note that the reference to “24 days” in the header of the list is to the provisioning for the voyage, not to the actual expected crossing time!

Readers inspired by this article to exercise their sea legs might like to visit http://www.cunard.com.

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