Posted by Crista Cowan on April 10, 2012 in Collections

One hundred years ago today the Titanic set out on her maiden voyage amid much fanfare.  So much has been written and produced about that fateful voyage that anything I try to write sounds like so much cliché.  But I have been thinking about the trips my own ancestors took as they immigrated to America.  They were full of hopes and dreams as they boarded other ships, on other dates, setting sail across that same ocean into new lives.  That fate could have so easily been their fate.  Any one of them.  But, it wasn’t.  And because of that I am here now.

Today as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sailing of the Titanic I invite you to discover more about the details of the passengers and crew.  I imagine that as you learn about those people, who they were, where they came from, what they went through, you just might get a glimpse into what some of your own family experienced.

I have come to know that family history is both personal and universal.  The things we endure, while filtered through our own unique perspective, are not really unique at all.  We are all born, we live, we love, we work, we die.  Taking the time to know and understand the experiences of others often helps us understand our own experiences, and those of our ancestors, better.

That is one of the reasons I take the time to study more about the history of the time and place my ancestors lived.  I learn about the things they experienced, witnessed, endured.  I look into the news they read, the politics they discussed, the religions they embraced.  I feel I know them better when I can start to see the world as they saw it – whether it was 72 years ago or 100.  And that makes me feel a little bit like a voyager setting sail into the unknown.

Crista Cowan

Crista has been doing genealogy since she was a child. She has been employed at since 2004. Around here she's known as The Barefoot Genealogist. Google Twitter


  1. john

    Please explain to me why Ancestry, as in history of ancestors, is investing any effort in the Titanic. Really?? I’m sure the families of the poor individuals lost in the tragedy that occurred 100 years ago “might” care. It means nothing to most anyone that visits or subscribes to your site. Move along!

    I’m actually losing my interest in subscription since this is just another example of “good for your marketing team”, but of no value to the researchers!!!


  2. Crista Cowan

    Did you really want an explanation, John? Re-read the last two paragraphs of the blog post.

    Also, names and dates are only the skeleton of the stories which should be told about the ordinary and extraordinary lives of our ancestors. Anything that helps me tell those stories more fully and more richly is valuable to me.

  3. Donna

    My husbands father (born 4/19/1912 in Finland) told us that his parents and 2 siblings had booked passage on the Titanic, but because of his birth, they missed the boat. I am trying understand why they would have booked passage with the impending birth so close to the sailing date of the Titanic. Could it be possible that they would have purchased their tickets a year or more before the sailing date? and is there any way to verify their claim? They did sail on the S/S Mauretania, arrived New York on Aug 10, 1912. Port of Departure from Liverpool.

    Any help will be appreciated.

  4. Crista Cowan

    Donna, It is my understanding that you could only book passage on the Titanic a few months before the sailing. If I come across the source for that I will let you know.

  5. Sandra

    This reply is to John. Any historical information is valuable. I never really appreciated history before joining Ancestry, but knowing that my grandfather changed his last name before joining the army in WWI was always a family mystery…after researching the history if Cincinnati and learning of the anti-German attitudes helped give me insight in to why he would have done such a thing. For me the details on Ancestry provide a springboard from which to jump and lead me to do on site research. Otherwise it would be just a lot of dates with dashes between. I want to find out more than when they were born and when they died…what’s between the dash is the story.

  6. Pat Secord

    #5 Sandra – I agree with you, Sandra. I was never interested in history either. But I look at history in an entirely different light now. Even if my ancestors weren’t directly involved in historic events, just seeing how people lived during a time period helps to understand how our ancestors lived. As for the Titanic collection, what a great way to honor those who perished.

  7. Colleen

    Well said Crista. I couldn’t agree more. I in fact did find a voyage similar to the Titanic in my own family history. It was 60+ years before the Titanic sailed but met with a similar fate. My ancestors were some of the fortunate ones who survived for hours stranded on an iceberg hoping for rescue. Many of their fellow passengers were not as lucky.

    I’m glad I’m not alone in my fascination with not just the facts — names, dates and locations — but the circumstances and times in which they lived. I spend so much time reading about those aspects that I’m not sure I’ll ever finish my tree. What do they say — it’s not the destination but the journey that counts? That’s certainly true for me.

  8. dannieb

    John, really? The Titanic is something that almost everyone has heard of. As a public (money-making) site, it behooves to take notice of the anniversary.

    For those of us whose ancestors came earlier, the story of the Titanic is interesting, in part because the voyage had, supposedly, become more commonplace. For the modern-day researcher, any ocean voyage may be fascinating – “what do you mean you could not arrive by plane in a few hours?”

  9. RWE1953

    I have a unique connection to the Titanic, my grandfather was supposed to be on board but was late getting to the ship from Sweden. He was traveling alone at 16 to meet an older sister already in Massachusetts. To him it was a chance at a new life, there was poverty and much disease at home, illness had already taken his five other siblings and his father. I’m sure it was similar for a lot of the 2nd and 3rd class passengers. Unfortunately, he never talked about family or his journey, I wish now that I had had the courage to ask him some questions.

  10. Alice Luckhardt

    No matter what historical event it does involve people and everyone has story – we can all learn from history and a person’s story. Read the April issue of ‘History Magazine’ by Moorshead Publisher with two feature articles with personal stories surrounding the Titanic.

  11. Sonya Johnson

    I have been on Ancestory .com since last Feb I find the history enriching and have found out so much about my ancestors it has been a emotional journey for me. Now that I find out searching passenger records of the Titanic that I may of had 2 ancestors Thomas Myles and Frank Miles on the Titanic I have to research it further to be for sure .I was separated from my family when I was 2 and my father passed before I was born so I never had the privilege of knowing any of my family growing up so by researching my family I have a better understanding of who I am and where my family on both sides came from .I have a deep appreciation for what my ancestors endured in there time to make a better life for generations to come.

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