The Titanic: Stories of Families Who Survived or Died When The Ship Sank
The Titanic Shipwreck
The infamous luxury liner set sail for New York from Southhampton, England with stops in Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, Ireland. The ship hit an iceberg at 11:40pm, April 14th, 1912 and sank at 2:20am, April 15th.
Casualties and Survivors:
- 1,343 passengers and 885 crew members were on board.
- 832 passengers and 685 crew members died.
- 706 people survived.
The Legacy of Titanic Passengers
Those who experienced the shipwreck over 100 years ago are all gone now, but their stories have been written down and recorded. There are first-hand accounts from interviews with survivors in newspapers and television documentaries. All of this information, including the stories of many passengers who died, is now freely available on the internet.
From these accounts, it's hard not to feel like we know some of the families who died in the tragedy. We can read about their reasons for boarding the ship, like immigrating to America with the hope of a better life. Some second-class passengers were returning from business trips in Europe, and some newlyweds were using the voyage as part of their honeymoon.
By reading their individual stories, we can also feel their pain, terror and utter despair as they tried to escape from the ship. Through these memories, the legacy of the many passengers who died on that terrible night will always be alive.
In this article, you can learn the stories of three families aboard the Titanic.
Priority of Passengers Based on Class Accommodations
Passengers were divided and prioritized by first, second, and third-class accommodations, respectively. Each passenger's access to designated areas of the ship depended on their class. Therefore, first and second-class passengers had a better chance of reaching the lifeboats.
Most of the deaths were men as the officers in charge of loading the boats prioritized women and children. Some boys as young as ten and eleven were left on board with their fathers as their mothers and sisters were lowered down from the sinking ship.
The Spedden Family From America
Douglas Spedden was six years old when he was a first-class passenger on board the Titanic. He was traveling with his very wealthy parents and their two servants. In a famous photograph, you can see him aboard the ship with his father, Frederic Spedden, and his nanny, Elisabeth Burns.
The Famous Photographs of Father Browne
This iconic photo was taken by an Irish priest, Father Browne, who had boarded the ship at Southampton. He was a keen photographer and set about photographing the passengers and crew on his short journey. He received his ticket to board the Titanic as a gift, but he got off the ship at a stopping point in Queenstown before the accident. This is why his famous photos still survive today.
The Spedden Family and Their Servants all Survived
The family was interviewed about what happened on board when the iceberg hit the Titanic, and how they got into Lifeboat #3. Douglas’s nanny told reporters how he reacted when he was in the lifeboat and when the rescue ship, the Carpathia, finally came to save the survivors.
The tragic part of this family story is that Douglas died just two years later in a terrible car accident. Frederic and Daisy Spedden were devastated and never got over the loss of their very loved and only son.
5 Real Titanic Survivors & Their Stories
The Goodwin Family from England
Mr. and Mrs. Goodwin and their six children, Lillian (16), Charles (14), William (11), Jessie (10), Harold (9), and Sidney (less than two years old) all died in the shipwreck.
Frederick and Augusta Goodwin and their six children were from London. They left England on the Titanic as immigrants to start a new life in America. They boarded in Southampton as third-class passengers.
Frederick was a qualified electrical engineer and had been offered a job in New York. His brother, Thomas, and his sister were already living there. They secured a rental home and took weeks preparing and furnishing the house for the family’s arrival.
As third-class passengers, the family was excluded from designated areas of the ship. This led to many deaths of third-class passengers, including women and children. They were not told of the danger of the ship sinking until it was too late and most of the lifeboats were already gone.
Even when the third-class passengers were aware of the terrible danger, most of the families were trapped in their cabins and third-class areas which were segregated by doors and barriers.
The doors to the first and second-class areas were either manned by the crew or kept locked. The only way to get to the lifeboats was through the first-class areas.
As soon as the lifeboats were being prepared, the Captain gave the order that the second-class passengers were allowed to enter the first-class accommodation to reach the decks and lifeboats.
The Segregation of Third-Class Men
Another reason so many third-class women and children didn't make it to the lifeboats was because of the segregation of men in third-class accommodations. All adult males and older male children stayed in rooms separate from their families.
The Titanic hit the iceberg at 11:40 pm, meaning many of the mothers and young children were asleep in their cabins on the stern side. Their husbands and older sons were in the opposite part of the ship, on the port side. Any single men were also kept separately and were not available to help any mother escape with her young children and babies.
This was the case for the Goodwin family on that terrifying night. There is no record of what happened to them in the last hours of their death. We do not know if Frederick Goodwin and his sons managed to get to the rest of their family before they died.
The Rice Family From Ireland
Mrs. Margaret Rice and her five young children boarded the Titanic in Queenstown. She was a widow and was returning to her home in Washington.
Here children were Albert (10), George (8), Eric (7), Arthur (4), and Eugene (2).
Margaret was a very young child when she immigrated to Canada from Athlone, Ireland with her family. She met and married William Rice at age 19, and they went back to Canada.
The family later moved to Washington, but William died in an accident at work a few years later. Margaret received compensation from the company and bought a house in Washington, but in her grief, she decided to make a long visit to her hometown in Ireland with her sons.
After over a year in Ireland, she finally felt strong enough to return home to America via the Titanic. The entire family died, but only Margaret’s body was recovered.
Google Earth and The Titanic
The wreck of the Titanic lies at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Using the Google Earth app, you can navigate around a 360 degree 3-D model of the ship and view real images of the ruins.
You can feel the eerieness of what is left of this magnificent vessel and the passengers who were trapped in its many corridors and cabins.