Proof of Titanic letter-writer's fated trip found in findmypast.co.uk's passenger records

July 27, 2010

A letter from a first class passenger aboard the Titanic to his wife fetched a reported £55,000 at auction on Saturday 17th April at Devizes, Wiltshire, and we’ve found the author in findmypast.co.uk’s passenger lists.

The letter was written by an Adolphe Saalfeld, a 47-year old German manufacturer of perfumes living in London and was dated 10th April 1912, the first day of the ill-fated trip. He described in detail a near collision with another liner at Southampton, the lunches and dinner he enjoyed, and the comfort on board. According to the auctioneers, it is the most detailed first person account of life aboard the Titanic in existence.

Mr Saalfeld’s passenger records, along with all those who travelled on the Titanic, can only be found on findmypast.co.uk. Saalfeld’s passenger transcript states details of his port of departure at Southampton, and expected port of arrival, effectively verifying the letter. He did in fact arrive at his expected destination of New York, having boarded a lifeboat and been rescued when the ship hit the iceberg.

Here you can see the passenger list for the Titanic:

Titanic passenger list

Titanic passenger list

Debra Chatfield

Debra Chatfield

Debra Chatfield, findmypast.co.uk’s marketing manager, said: “When we heard about this amazing letter, we were keen to look up the original passenger record for Adolphe Saalfeld online at findmypast.co.uk. Passenger lists are so useful for finding out when people travelled and to where, for example when and where they emigrated or travelled on business.

There are so many details you can see in the records, from who travelled with the passenger, to exactly when they left, their year of birth and their occupation. In this case it proved an important historic document as it meant the letter was hugely likely to be the genuine article.”

Search findmypast.co.uk’s 1890-1960 passenger lists today.

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The Whitechapel Windmill

December 23, 2008

Judah Bergman, otherwise known as ‘Jack Kid Berg’, to this day is considered one of the finest boxers Great Britain has produced.

Berg was born to a poor Jewish family in Whitechapel, East London, on 28 June 1909. For a young man such as Berg, in the 1920s, professional boxing was one of the few viable routes to a better life.

‘The Whitechapel Windmill’ (as he became known), after entering his first professional fight aged 14, notched up a long string of victories. Despite initially having no formal training, his strength and raw aggression, combined with a natural aptitude for the sport, carried him through.

Setting sail for America

After beating the cream of Britain’s featherweights and lightweights, in March 1928 he set forth on a voyage to America. Here is Berg aboard the Mauretania, on his first USA trip:

Berg on the Passenger Lists in 1928

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The Englishman proved a big hit with American audiences, winning six out of seven of his first US fights. After briefly returning to England later that year, he set sail once again for the States, in March 1929. Here he is aboard the Berengaria:

Berg on the Passenger Lists in 1929

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World Champion at last

This time Berg stayed a while longer.  After an extended unbeaten run, defeating some of the best fighters of the day, he finally got his shot at the world light-welterweight title, held by the American, ‘Mushy’ Callaghan. Berg’s boyhood dream was realised on 18 February 1930, at the Royal Albert Hall in London, when he captured the title from Callaghan via a tenth round stoppage.

The victory made Berg a national hero. He successfully defended the title five times, before losing it to Tony Canzoneri, another American, 14 months later.

He never won it back, but continued to fight on both sides of the Atlantic with considerable success up until 1945. During a 20 year ring career he amassed a phenomenal record of 157 wins in 192 fights.

The last voyage

He appears a remarkable eight times on our Passenger Lists – on each occasion bound for America. Here he is on his last BT27 trip, aboard the Queen Elizabeth in September 1956:


Cary Grant

July 31, 2008

The Hollywood star familiar to millions as Cary Grant was born Archibald Alec Leach, in Bristol in 1904.

He appears three times in our exclusive Passenger Lists, bound in each instance for New York. We first find Grant in 1920, aged 16, aboard the Olympic. In his company are eight other actors; collectively they comprised the ‘Bob Pender stage troupe’ and were heading to the United States to perform their variety act – Grant himself was a stilt walker.

When the rest of the troupe returned to England, Grant elected to remain in the States to pursue a stage career. It proved to be a wise move.

Here is Grant (then Leach) with the rest of the ‘Bob Pender stage troupe’ – you might say, charting a course with destiny:

Grant on the Passenger Lists in 1920
Grant on the Passenger Lists in 1920

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By 1931 he’d swapped the stage for celluloid, having broken into Hollywood. Initially, he chose the stage name of Lockwood, after the surname of his character in Nikki, a recent play. But this bore similarities to another actor’s name and, on the insistence of his new employer, Paramount Pictures, he used Cary Grant instead. Two years previous to his big break, he appears in the Passenger Lists:

Grant on the Passenger Lists in 1929
Grant on the Passenger Lists in 1929

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Grant ascended the Hollywood ladder with remarkable rapidity. In 1932 he played the leading man opposite Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus, and the following year appeared opposite Mae West in She Done Him Wrong and I’m No Angel, two of her most successful films.

In 1936 he signed to Columbia Pictures; that year he appears twice in the findmypast.com Passenger Lists. Grant was due to sail on the Majestic, on 31 January, but the line through his entry indicates he did not board:

Grant on the Majestic

Grant on the Majestic

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We find him five days later, however, aboard the Bremen, the clerk including his stage name, but mis-spelling ‘Cary’ as ‘Gary’:

Grant on the Bremen
Grant on the Bremen

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Grant next appeared in a string of hit comedies and, in the ensuing years, established himself as one of Hollywood’s leading lights – a position he sustained for several decades.

In later years he was the favoured star of the notoriously difficult auteur, Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock described Grant as: ‘the only actor I ever loved in my whole life.’ Suspicion, Notorious, To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest were all Hitchcock classics starring Grant.

Hitchcock appears numerous times in the Passenger Lists. Here he is in 1955:

Hitchcock on the Passenger Lists in 1955
Hitchcock on the Passenger Lists in 1955

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Grant died in 1986 with his wife – who, incidentally, was 47 years his junior – at his side. In 1999, the American Film Institute named him the second greatest male American cinema star of all time, just behind Humphrey Bogart.


Passenger Lists statistics and graphs

March 25, 2008

Now that the Passenger Lists are a complete set we’ve been looking at trends and patterns in the long-distance movement of people by ship from the UK.

The overall number of passengers travelling for each 5-year period from 1890-1960 can be viewed below. Please note that the last bar is actually a six- rather than a five-year period (i.e. 1955-1960 inclusive).

Passenger Lists - total number of passengers travelling by decade

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The number of passengers travelling to the five most popular destinations, USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, on the Passenger Lists can be seen here:

Passenger Lists - passengers travelling to the big 5 destinations

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Below is a graph showing the movement of passengers from the UK to the United States of America. It is worth noting that after WW1 and the Russian Revolution the USA looked to restrict immigration – the 1921 Quota Act restricted it to 3% of its foreign-born population of 1903 and the 1924 Quota Act to 2% of its 1890 population. This reduced its availablility as a destination for UK emigrants.

Passenger Lists - passengers travelling to USA

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This graph is for passengers travelling to Canada:

Passenger Lists - passengers travelling to Canada

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Passengers travelling to Australia:

Passenger Lists - passengers travelling to Australia

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Passengers travelling to South Africa:

Passenger Lists - passengers travelling to South Africa

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Passengers travelling to New Zealand:

Passenger Lists - passengers travelling to New Zealand

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Passenger Lists now complete with launch of the final decade

March 18, 2008

Search for ancestors from 1890-1960

The last decade of the Passenger Lists has now been added, allowing you to search from 1890 all the way up to 1960, for ancestors leaving the UK. There are now more than 24 million passengers, across 164,000 exclusive passenger lists.

The 1950s – Elvis, Egypt and Emigration

The 1950s is often seen as a conservative period, in relation to the more radical 60s. Despite this it saw the birth of the teenager, with Rock ‘n’ Roll music emerging from America, the ‘Beat’ writers and the seeds of the Civil Rights movement. The intensifying Cold War between the USA and the USSR was played out in a race for Space: by the decade’s end Sputnik I had been launched.

Britain’s prestige was dealt a blow with the Suez Crisis, in 1956. Rationing was slowly ending, National Service was in place, wide-scale rebuilding after the devastations of World War Two were bearing fruit and thousands of ‘Ten Pound Poms’ took the opportunity to start afresh in Australia. Commercial sea travel was in its last days, with air travel becoming more affordable and prevalent from the 1960s on.

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Notable passengers on board in the 1950s

There are lots of famous faces and notable names in the final decade of the Passenger Lists. One of Hollywood’s greatest stars, Gregory Peck, can be seen aboard the Queen Elizabeth in 1950:

Passenger Lists - Gregory Peck

Matt Busby, the manager of Manchester United for many years can be found travelling with his team in May 1950, where Manchester United undertook their first tour of the States. Busby, whose tragic ‘Busby Babes’ died in the Munich Air Disaster in 1958, led the club to success in the European Cup in 1968.

Passenger Lists - Matt Busby

Other notable passengers in the 1950s include Max Factor, Gloria Swanson, Cecil Beaton, Jack Buchanan and Bill Haley.

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Find your ancestors in the Passenger Lists

Search by person or by ship name alone. You can now also narrow your search with the name of a travelling companion. A comprehensive guide to searching the passenger lists can be viewed here

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Our premium Explorer Subscription offers you unlimited access to over 500 million records on findmypast, including the passenger lists, and costs £89.95 for 12 months – the equivalent of just £7.50 a month. The Voyager Subscription gives you 30 days’ unlimited searching of all the Passenger Lists for only £14.95. You can also view the Passenger Lists on a pay-per-view basis. It costs 10 units to view a transcription and 30 units to view, print and save the full-colour digital images.

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Jewish refugees

February 11, 2008

As the Nazi Party’s anti-Semitic agenda became clearer and more brutal, thousands of Jews fled Germany and its neighbouring countries. Following Kristallnacht in November 1938, the need to emigrate in order to avoid persecution became more urgent.

The 1940s Passenger Lists contain many Jewish individuals fleeing Europe for America and Australia. One example is a voyage made by the Brittanic on 3 May 1940 to New York. The ‘alien’ section of the Passenger List reveals a large number of Jewish passengers, many of them merchants. Most are from Germany and Austria.

Passenger Lists - Jewish refugees

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Some of the passengers are described as having their last UK address as the Council for German Jewry’s Kitchener Camp, in Richborough, Kent:

Passenger Lists - Kitchener Camp

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The Kitchener Camp provided accommodation for almost 15,000 Jewish men, despite it having been designed to house only a fifth of that number. The camp was disbanded in June 1940 as, following the evacuation of Dunkirk, German and Austrian nationals were viewed as ‘enemy aliens’ and were subject to internment.

8,000 of the ‘enemy aliens’ were deported to Australia and Canada as the threat of German invasion increased, to ensure that they couldn’t pose any threat to national security.


War Brides

February 1, 2008

Thousands of British women found love during the Second World War. American and Canadian troops stationed in Britain during the War gained a reputation as being ‘overpaid, overfed, oversexed and over here’.

British women married these servicemen in huge numbers, with approximately 100,000 wedding Americans and a further 45,000 marrying Canadians. Once the war was over and peace secured the women faced a new challenge.

These women, who often had young children, had to travel with their new husbands back to America or Canada to begin their married life, away from the unreal wartime existence that they had been enduring.

The relocation of thousands of British women was a cause of controversy, not least because they were seen by some as taking the valuable places of homesick servicemen on board ships.

The first ship used for transporting the so-called ‘war brides’ was the S.S. Argentina. 452 war brides made the journey to America aboard her, and can now be seen in the exclusive 1940s Passenger Lists live on ancestorsonboard.

In the Passenger Lists you can find an exceptional level of detail, including the U.K address of the women and the name and address of the American serviceman of whom they were a dependant. Below is an image from the S.S. Argentina List.

Passenger Lists - War Brides

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Conditions on board were deeply unpleasant, many of the women and children had caught a ‘camp fever’ during their stay at an assembly point before sailing. The arduous journey was only the beginning of the adventure for the new brides, and their children.

A long standing legal wrangle in Canada has recently been making headlines, as children of war brides seek to be recognised as Canadian citizens, a right denied them through a change of legislation.