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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Arandora Star

February 13, 2008

On 2 July 1940 the Arandora Star was hit by a German torpedo and sunk off the coast of Donegal, Ireland. The ship was transporting 1,500 German and Italian men to interment camps in Canada. Over 800 people died in the sinking, a figure exacerbated by inadequate lifeboat provision.

The Arandora Star was built in 1927 and intially sailed under the name Arandora. The Arandora’s maiden voyage was on 22 June 1927 to Buenos Aires, and can be found in the exclusive Passenger Lists on ancestorsonboard.com.

Passenger Lists - Arandora maiden voyage

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Rebuilt and renamed in 1929, the Arandora Star continued to sail as a luxury cruise ship. Records from it can be seen in our Passenger Lists, by searching under ship name.

Search the Passenger Lists

An example of the journies undertaken in peacetime by the Arandora Star can be seen below, from a cruise made in March 1939:

Passenger Lists - Arandora Star Cruise

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The captain of the fateful journey in July 1940 was Edgar Wallace Moulton. He can be seen sailing her in 1939, in the Passenger Lists on ancestorsonboard:

Passenger Lists - Edgar Wallace Moulton

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A Canadian destroyer, HMCS Laurent, arrived to attempt a rescue mission, but it proved largely fruitless. Some of the scant lifeboats on board had been damaged by the torpedo, whilst others were unusable. Those internees that survived the sinking were still deported, sent on other ships as soon as possible to Australia.


Titanic passenger lists free to view at findmypast.com

December 20, 2007

With the Christmas Day special edition of ‘Doctor Who’ set on board the RMS Titanic, findmypast.com is making the original handwritten RMS Titanic passenger lists FREE to view during the festive season so viewers can discover if their ancestors travelled on the same journey as the intrepid Doctor. The original passenger list will be available to view online for free from Friday 21 December until Sunday 6 January.

View the free Titanic passenger lists

You’ve seen Kylie Minogue play fictional waitress Astrid Peth on the Titanic in Doctor Who. But what about real-life stewardesses on board the ill-fated ship?

Violet Jessop was 24 years old when she set sail from Southampton on the Titanic’s maiden voyage, working as a stewardess on board. She had already survived a collision on board one of RMS Titanic’s sister ships, the RMS Olympic, when it collided with HMS Hawke in 1911. Miraculously she also survived the sinking of the Titanic, just a year later, escaping in lifeboat number 16, and was picked up by the Carpathia after 8 hours.

During World War One Violet served as a nurse on board the RMS Britannic – the other sister ship of the Titanic and the Olympic. She was on board the night it sunk in the Aegean in 1916 after it hit a German mine. The ship sunk quickly and Violet was sucked under the ship’s keel, which struck her on the head. Yet again she managed to escape.

See Violet Jessop in findmypast’s passenger lists for free

Despite surviving three tragedies at sea, Violet was undeterred. She went on to work as a stewardess on cruise ships. You can see her listed in the passenger lists at findmypast.com age 45 in 1933 on board the Pennland.

She died, on dry land, in 1971 at the age of 84.  Was Violet the inspiration behind Kylie Minogue’s Dr Who character, Astrid Peth?


Titanic – unknown child mystery solved at last

August 6, 2007

Six days after the Titanic sank, the body of a baby boy was found and recovered from the North Atlantic waters by the recovery ship CS Mackay-Bennett.

The child was not identified and, as such, was buried in Nova Scotia with a tombstone reading simply ‘The Unknown Child’.

With the advent in recent years of DNA testing, a move was made in 2001 to identify the child and, to this end, researchers from Ontario exhumed the body and carried out tests. By consulting the passenger lists they had narrowed down the possible identity to one from four: Gosta Paulson (noted as Gosta Paulsson on the list), Eino Panula (Eina Panula on the list), Eugene Rice or Sidney Goodwin.

Initial tests concluded that the body was that of Eino Panula, but last week this was shown to be erroneous. Advanced testing carried out on a tooth from the body, when compared to the DNA of a surviving relative, confirmed that ‘the unknown child’ was Sidney Goodwin. A shoe recovered from the scene also ties in with the child having been British. 

Sidney Leslie Goodwin, previously ‘the unknown child’ was born in September 1910 in Melksham, Wiltshire.

Sidney was the youngest of six children born to Fred and Augusta Goodwin, all of whom were onboard. Neither his parents nor his other siblings’ bodies were ever recovered.

The family had been emigrating from Fulham to Niagara Falls, Fred having decided to join his brother in America and seek employment in a new power station opening near there. Initially booked on a steamer, the family was transferred to the Titanic due to a coal strike which prevented their planned sailing.

The family can be seen in the passenger list here:


The last of the Mohegan

February 20, 2007

In The National Archives’ BT27 passenger lists there is only one voyage for the Atlantic Transport Line’s Mohegan, on 12th October 1898, even though that voyage was actually the ship’s second. The reason for this is that the Mohegan was called the Cleopatra at the time of its first voyage on 29th July 1898. The Cleopatra proved less than shipshape on its maiden voyage, passengers complained and it had to undergo temporary repairs when it reached its destination in New York, followed by a full re-fit on Tyneside upon its return to Britain. When the ship was re-launched, the Atlantic Transport Line quietly changed the name to Mohegan to distance itself from the bad publicity surrounding the maiden voyage. Unfortunately, the second voyage from London to New York ended in catastrophe: the ship ran into the Manacles near St Keverne in Cornwall and sank within a quarter of an hour.

The sinking of the Mohegan is notable for several reasons. Among the more than 100 passengers and crew who were drowned was Joseph Charles Duncan, the father of avant-garde dancer and scarf-wearer Isadora Duncan. All bar one of the passengers on board appears to have been American, the sole exception being the sadly anonymous “Mrs King’s maid”, against whose entry on the list is the annotation “This girl was a native of Elstree” (in Hertfordshire). William McGonagall, possibly the worst poet in the English language ever to be published, penned the bathetic “The Wreck of the Steamer Mohegan” in tribute – see here: only the brave of heart will make it to the end. More recently, the wreck of the Mohegan has become popular with divers and was featured on BBC TV’s Coast series.

Read more about the Mohegan story.

Ancestors on Board will introduce new “ship search” functionality later this year, enabling researchers to look for voyages of vessels without needing to know the names of passengers. In the meantime, if you are interested in the passenger list of the Cleopatra, you can find it by searching for Last name: Babcock and Ship name: Cleopatra. Similarly, if you are interested in the Mohegan, you can find it by searching for Last name: Duncan and Ship name: Mohegan.

Click on the image below, which is taken from the top right-hand corner of the first page of the Mohegan passenger list. It reads “The SS Mohegan was lost off the Cornish coast and forty of her passengers perished. The eleven who were saved have been taken out of this list”. In fact, “taken out” merely means that the names of the 11 passengers in question have been struck through in pencil on the list: all names remain legible.

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