Finding Alexander Fleming

March 16, 2009

Alexander Fleming

Sir Alexander Fleming, the nobel-prize winning scientist who discovered the antibacterial effects of penicillin, travelled extensively during his lifetime and crossed the Atlantic several times, with the journeys logged on the Passenger Lists.

Fleming was born in East Ayrshire, Scotland in 1881. This event, along with many other Scottish records can be found on our sister-site, ScotlandsPeople.

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Fleming spent the first four years of his career working in a shipping office, but after being left an inheritance by an uncle, he decided to follow the career path of his elder brother, Tom, a physician.

He studied at St Mary’s Medical School, London University from 1901. Fleming can be found on the 1901 census, living in Marylebone, London, as a medical student (click image to enlarge):

Fleming on the 1901 census

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After qualifying with distinction in 1906, Fleming joined the research department at St Mary’s as an assistant bacteriologist.  He served throughout the First World War as a Captain in the Army Medical Corps, working in battlefield hospitals on the Western Front.

Fleming was ‘mentioned in dispatches’ (a report that was issued in the London Gazette, which recorded noteworthy actions) for his conduct in the war. Many soldiers who served or died in the First World War can be found among the findmypast.com military records.

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During the war Fleming had repeatedly witnessed the deaths of soldiers from septicaemia that resulted from infected wounds, and he became convinced that antiseptics on deep wounds served to hinder a patient’s chances of recovery. When he resumed his post at St Mary’s he resolved to find a better alternative.

In spite of Fleming’s undoubted brilliance as a researcher he was also a somewhat careless and chaotic lab technician. It was his carelessness in leaving some cultures unattended whilst on holiday in 1928 that led to the discovery of the world’s first antibiotic, and revolutionised medicine.

Fleming gave many lectures on his work overseas, and can be found aboard the Aquitania in 1939, on a trip to the USA:

Fleming aboard the Aquitania in 1939

In recognition of his contribution to medicine, Fleming was knighted in 1944. The following year, alongside fellow pioneers Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery of the bactericidal effect of penicillin. Here is Fleming on the Passenger Lists four years later, bound for America aboard the Queen Elizabeth:

Fleming aboard the Queen Elizabeth in 1949

Alexander Fleming died 53 years ago this month, on 11 March 1955, and his ashes were interred at St Paul’s Cathedral. His death is recorded in the findmypast.com death indexes.

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Here is Fleming’s final Passenger List voyage, aboard the Queen Mary, again bound for the USA, in 1950:

Fleming aboard the Queen Mary in 1950

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Raymond Chandler

June 25, 2008

Among the most influential of crime fiction writers is Raymond Chandler. In just seven novels he established his protagonist Philip Marlowe as American fiction’s quintessential private detective. He was also behind some of the finest screenwriting Hollywood has seen. Screen adaptations like Double Indemnity bear testament to his innate ability to write for cinema.

Since the 1940s, so many crime and screenwriters have tried to mimic Chandler’s style that, outside his original stories, his characters have become rather clichéd. Within them, however, they have lost almost nothing.

Chandler’s prose is punctuated by a brilliantly clipped style, his ability to convey a time and place – namely 30s and 40s Los Angeles – and of course his sparkling witticisms:

‘Even on Central Avenue, not the quietest dressed street in the world, he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.’ – Farewell, My Lovely, 1940.

Although an American citizen by birth, Chandler was classically educated at Dulwich College in London, a grounding that shaped him profoundly and made him a confirmed Anglophile for the rest of his days.

Here is Chandler, in 1957, aboard the Queen Elizabeth, on his way back to America following a stay in London:

Raymond Chandler on a passenger list

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He had suffered the death of his wife of 30 years – a blow from which he never fully recovered – 10 months previously, and was battling alcoholism. In a letter to Roger Machell, the Director of his English publishers, he wrote of the journey:

‘The voyage was hell. Still practicing to be a non-drinker (and it’s going to take a damn sight more practice than I have time for). I sat alone in the corner and refused to talk or to have anything to do with other passengers, which did not seem to cause them any grief.’

Upon his death in 1959, but only after a fierce legal battle with a former secretary of Chandler’s, his erstwhile fiancée, Helga Greene, inherited his entire estate.

Here she is aboard the Statendam in 1957:

Helga Greene on a passenger list from 1957

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Greene also appears within the Passenger Lists for 1938, as a 21-year-old student, bound for New York:

Helga Greene on a passenger list - 1938

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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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New decade added to the Passenger Lists 1940 to 1949

January 31, 2008

Findmypast.com has added another decade of records to the UK Outbound Passenger Lists currently available. Records now include 20 million names within 137,000 passenger lists spanning 1890 to 1949.

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1940s – Horrors, Hitler and the aftermath

The first half of the 1940s was one of the darkest periods in history, with global war causing millions of casualties and the horrors of the Holocaust. Buoyed by the USA’s entry following the attack at Pearl Harbor, the Allies eventually secured victory in Europe. Victory in Japan came only after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Following Armistice the world looked once again to rebuild: the ‘Iron Curtain’ descended in the East leading to the beginnings of the Cold War. Thousands of women left their families and homes to start a new life in Canada, America and Australia with the soldiers they had met and married. ‘Home Children’ were sent away to Canada for a better life, with mixed results. Commercial travel increased, as did the possibility of travelling for business, to compete in sports and other events.

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Notable passengers on board in the 1940s

One man whose influence on the decade cannot be overestimated appears in the passenger lists, travelling to America in 1946. Winston Churchill M P, following defeat in the 1945 election as the nation looked toward the social reforms of Attlee’s Labour Party, can be seen with his wife, valet and maid on board the Queen Elizabeth:

Passenger Lists - Churchill

The American film star Spencer Tracy may be seen on the Queen Mary:

Passenger Lists - Spencer Tracy

Whilst the famous sculptor Henry Moore can be found travelling to New York:

Passenger Lists - Henry Moore

Other notable names include Walt Disney, Elia Kazan, Benjamin Britten and Joan Fontaine.

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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.

Start Searching Now

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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Evelyn Waugh

November 19, 2007

Evelyn Waugh is primarily noted for his novels satirising the upper echelons of English Society, such as Vile Bodies, A Handful of Dust and Brideshead Revisited. He was, however, also an avid traveller and writer of travel literature.

Waugh can be found twice in the current Passenger Lists on ancestorsonboard.com; once travelling to Tangier in 1933 and once to New York in 1938.

Here he is travelling to Morocco, listed as living at Brook St in London’s Mayfair.

Passenger Lists Waugh Tangier

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Here is Waugh, and his second wife Laura, travelling to New York in 1938. His brief marriage to his namesake Evelyn having ended in divorce in 1930.

Passenger Lists Waugh New York

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Among Waugh’s travel writing is 92 Days, detailing the time he spent in British Guyana and Brazil, a trip which inspired some of the novel A Handful of Dust.

Waugh also wrote about many other African, European and Near-Eastern places, including Abyssinia, Malta, Cairo and Constantinople.


Checking in with your American Ancestors

October 9, 2007

A feature of the Passenger Lists, from the 1920s on, is the inclusion of a last known address in the UK next to the passenger’s name.

This is of enormous use and interest for family historians – seeing where an ancestor was living before they emigrated or, indeed, went on holiday. It is also an easy way of being sure that the passenger on board is the person that you were searching for.

The inclusion of an address is not only of interest to those searching for passengers who were permanent residents in the UK, however. Viewing the latest decades of the Passenger Lists has revealed a trend, particularly amongst the ‘Aliens’ section of larger cruise ships going to the USA.

A great number of American passengers list London hotels as their last residence in the UK, affording you a fascinating insight into the style in which they lived and, perhaps more specifically, vacationed.

Passenger Lists - last known address
 

With this information in hand you might be tempted to undertake a family history tour of sorts, to retrace your ancestors’ footsteps and check into the hotel at which they stayed many years ago.

Hopefully your ancestors chose somewhere comfortable!

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Prince Aly Khan – divorce and diplomacy

October 5, 2007

Prince Ali Solomone Khan, known popularly as Prince Aly Khan, was the son of Aga Khan III and is perhaps best known for his association with the sport of horse-racing and his playboy lifestyle.

Khan’s first wife was Joan Guinness, nee Yarde-Buller, whom he married in May 1936, just days after her divorce from Loel Guinness. 

Khan and Guinness’ relationship had begun during her first marriage, with the pair reportedly having ‘occupied a hotel room together from 17 May until 20 May 1935’. Khan was named in the proceedings of the divorce.

A list of divorce and matrimonial causes for 1858-1903 can be searched on findmypast.com. 

The pair can be found travelling together aboard the Colombia in the new decade of the Passenger Lists on ancestorsonboard.com, prior to Guinness’ divorce. Click on the image to enlarge.

Aly Khan Joan Guiness

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Khan and Guinness divorced in 1949, with Khan going on to marry the Hollywood actress Rita Hayworth in the same year.

The early hedonism of Aly Khan’s life meant that his appointment, in 1957, as the permanent spokesman for Pakistan to the United Nations came as a great surprise to many. Equally surprising was the aptitude for the role that he displayed.

Khan was elected to the post of vice president of the United Nations General Assembly in 1958. Tragically, only two years later, he died following a car accident.