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Titanic: Who was/wasn't on board? Finally, it's easy to find out

April 12, 2012|By John M. Glionna
  • The Titanic, shown in 1912 before its fateful maiden voyage across the Atlantic.
The Titanic, shown in 1912 before its fateful maiden voyage across the Atlantic. (David Fitzgerald )

This post has been corrected See the note at the bottom for details.

LAS VEGAS -- Just in time for the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the world’s most storied ocean liner, thousands of records on the passengers and crew of the ill-fated Titanic have been made public online by Ancestry.com.

With the click of a computer mouse, historians and arm-chair genealogists can search for the names of those who sailed aboard the ship, or who helped rescue survivors, by name or shipboard class.

More than 2,200 people were aboard the Titanic when it struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic the night of April 14, 1912. The 100th anniversary of the ship's sinking is Sunday.

The treasure trove of data, available in one location for the first time and temporarily accessible free of charge, is the brainchild of  Dan Jones, vice president of content acquisition for the Provo, Utah-based ancestry website.

“Rather than focusing on the ship itself, the documents in this collection tell the story of those who sailed on or crewed the ship, as well as those who sought to save the victims from the icy waters of the North Atlantic,” Jones told the Los Angeles Times.

Jones, who once worked at Great Britain’s national archives, coordinated a staff to collect records from existing academic and government document collections in the U.S., England and Canada.

The online archive includes  passenger lists, crew records, and registers of both victims and survivors. There are also coroner inquest files for bodies recovered at sea and headstone images for 121 victims who were buried in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The collection is available for viewing this week with a simple registration instead of a subscription. The records can be found at www.ancestry.com/titanic.

“It's all aggregated in one location, a sort of one-stop shopping for those looking to put to rest or complete their research of a relative who might have traveled on the Titanic,” Sean Pate, a spokesman for Ancestry.com, told The Times.

The researchers also sent a photographer to Nova Scotia to document the gravestones of some 300 Titanic victims buried there. Some tombstones come with inscriptions; others are nameless graves.

“Some of the stories of those aboard the Titanic will always remain mysteries, but some fascinating glimpses of history have been uncovered,” Jones said.

The data, he said, gave details of one passenger whose body was recovered with thousands of dollars sewn into the lining of his coat. “There are so many questions,” Jones said. “Why was he going to America? What was he heading toward? What did that iceberg get in the way of?”

The collection has already proved useful to one Ancestry.com employee, Pate said. The woman mentioned to researchers that her great-grandfather might have sailed on the Titanic. Before she archive was released, she searched its files and found her great-grandfather’s name among the passenger lists.

“For her, there were always rumors,” Pate said. “Now she has facts.”

[For the record, 3:03 p.m. April 12: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Sean Pate as a spokesman for Archives.com. He's a spokesman for Ancestry.com.]

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john.glionna@latimes.com

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