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Search for a Lusitania Victim

by John Walmsley Introduction to the Problem The R.M.S. Lusitania, one of the largest ships in the world, was sunk off the coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915 by a German torpedo, nine months after the beginning of the First World War.  She reportedly sank within 20 minutes of being hit.  A second explosion just after the first has been the subject of much speculation:  sabotage, ignition of coal dust, ignition of illegally carried ammunition.  Approximately 1200 men, women and children perished.  It was an important event for two reasons:  it scuttled the widely held belief that passenger ships were immune to attack, and it helped turn the tide of public opinion in America against Germany (the United States, however, still did not enter the war until 1917). I was told many years ago by my father that his mother Gertrude née Dew lost a cousin at the sinking of the Lusitania.  Coincidentally, my father's paternal grandfather James Walmsley died in Canada on the same day that the Lusitania went down.  This coincidence stuck in my mind, ensuring that I would remember that it was the Lusitania and not, for example, the Titanic (1912) that would be the subject of my research. Searching the Passenger List In the early 1990s, I began with the help of a Dew cousin Dorothy Bull by obtaining a copy of the passenger list kindly photocopied for me from a book in the collection of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England.  Alas, I could not find a Dew listed; neither could I find a Parry, my grandmother's mother's maiden name.  All my grandmother's uncles and aunts would have been born with Dew or Parry as a surname, as would the uncles' children (my mother's first cousins).  So I faced the daunting prospect of looking for children of an aunt.  (Or, the even more daunting task of checking second cousins.) Over the years I had found two of the aunts' married names: a Muriel Parry had married a Weston, and Emily Ann Dew had married first a Minett and second a Turner.  (Very unusually for those times, Emily had divorced her first husband in 1872 on the grounds of desertion and adultery.) Going back to the passenger list, I could find no Weston or Minett.  There was a Scott Turner of New York travelling in First Class, but I had not found a Scott among Emily's children. Divorce, 1881 Census, and ICR Records From her Petition for Divorce (obtained for me by professional genealogist Ken Smallbone), I learned of Emily's three Minett children and their dates of birth.  In the 1881 British census (available on CD-ROM), I found Emily Turner and four children, and was able to find birth records in the Index of Civil Registration (ICR) for three of them: Margaret Emily Valentine Minett, born at Ross, Herefordshire on Valentine's Day 1863; Florence Mary Dew Minett, born at Ross in 1864; Francis Edward Minett, born at Ross in 1866.  A daughter May Turner was four years old in the 1881 census, but I could not find her birth record.  (As an aside, Gertrude Dew, also age 4, was visiting her aunt Emily and cousin May when the census was held on April 3, 1881, just four days after the birth of Gertrude's younger sister, Maud.) Subsequent research, assisted by Internet correspondence with Minett researchers in England and Australia, led to more information on the three Minett children - about which, more later. Searching the 1901 Census The 1901 British Census became available on-line in 2002.  I searched it for Emily and her children.  I found Emily Turner living, a widow, in Putney, London with a daughter Dorothy Turner, age 18, born in Ross, Herefordshire.  (Also at the residence were a male visitor and a female domestic servant.)  I also found Dorothy's half-brother Francis Minett.  Visiting him and his family was his sister Frances M. Turner, age 25. Back to the ICR Therefore, the reason I had been unable to find May Turner's record of birth was that her first name was Frances.  Looking again at the ICR, I found the following: Frances May Turner, born at Ross in 1876; Dorothy Elizabeth Turner, born at Ross in 1882. A few years ago, I found marriage records of the two Minett daughters, both in 1895:  Margaret married John Johnson; Florence married Herbert Wharton Buckler Taylor.  At last, I had a connection to the Lusitania passenger list.  There was a Mr. H.W. Taylor travelling Third Class.  I wondered at the time how I could confirm that I had at least found a spouse of my grandmother's cousin, but set the research aside for the moment. A False Trail Included on my Christmas 2002 wish list was a novel, The Lusitania Murders, an intriguing blend of fiction and well- researched fact by Max Allan Collins (2002).  I enjoyed finding most of the book's characters on the Lusitania passenger list.  I was also inspired to take up the search for my relative once again.  I began by sending Max an e-mail.  He very promptly responded, wished me luck, but said virtually all the resources he had used were included in his book's bibliography. The next step was to "browse the web".  I used Google Search with the key words, "Lusitania" and "passenger," and quickly arrived at the Encyclopedia Titanica website, a bulletin board that included recent correspondence about the Lusitania and its passenger list.  A person that seemed very knowledgeable was Hildo Thiel of The Netherlands.  I e-mailed him and received a prompt response: "About your question concerning 3rd class passenger H.W. Taylor, I think it is not your grandmother's cousin because Harold William Taylor did survive the disaster; so did his wife Lucy; he was 21 and she 19; they lived in the United States." Breakthrough at Last This was disappointing news, but Hildo would not let me become discouraged.  He wrote: "Do you have any more information on the person that you are looking for?  Maybe I can help you." I sent Hildo a list of possible surnames, together with known first names.  Back came a page of details including "Mrs Charles Frederick Fowles; her maiden name was Turner."  I asked if he knew the first name of Mrs Fowles.  The responding e-mail had the subject heading "It's Frances May Fowles".  In his message, Hildo wrote: "I searched for the name on the Ellis Island site (passengers arriving by ship at New York City).  The last time Mr and Mrs Fowles went through Ellis Island was in late 1914.  At that time she gave her age as 37.  In 1903, Mrs Fowles came to the United States travelling together with Miss Dorothy Turner and a Miss Fowles.  So I can say it is 100% sure that Mrs Fowles was your grandmother's cousin."  I could hardly believe that the search had ended with such success.  Thank you, Hildo. I subsequently learned that Hildo had obtained his information by a circuitous route.  It seems to have originated with Judith Tavares, who gleaned it from the New York Times issue(s) of May 1915 and/or from Hickey and Smith (1981).  I was able to contact Judith through Ren (James) Wang, webmaster of [ . . . ] The Lusitania Resource [this site.] Back to the 1901 Census All that remained was to tidy up a few details.  It turned out that Charles Fowles was about 10 years older than his wife and that the Miss Fowles who travelled with Frances in 1903 was one of her two stepdaughters, Gertrude and Gladys.  I searched the 1901 census for the two girls and tentatively found them in Brecknockshire, Wales; but their father was not there.  There was one Charles Fowles of the right age in Putney, London.  I was thinking he was a possibility when suddenly something clicked:  Putney!!  I went back to the 1901 census entry for Emily Turner and her daughter Elizabeth in Putney (see above) and found "Charles Fowles, visitor, widowed, age 35, born at Hereford, traveller in fine arts". The Ellis Island Website Next, I went to the Ellis Island website myself.  Maintained by the American Family Immigration History Center, the site allows searches for passengers arriving at New York in the period 1892 - 1924.  I found, as Hildo had mentioned, that accompanying Frances May Fowles in September 1903 was Dorothy Elizabeth Turner, age 20, single.  Frances made six additional crossings and her husband several more.  In October 1905 they arrived accompanied by his two daughters; Charles' occupation was listed as "fine art dealer". In October 1912, Frances and Charles were accompanied by "Dorothy Smith, age 29, married" and Kenneth Smith, age 5.   Evidently Dorothy was Frances' sister. Frances and Charles travelled to New York aboard the Lusitania in September 1913, and on their last crossing in November 1914 aboard the Baltic. Future Research To complete the picture, I plan to search for the marriage records of Frances and Dorothy, and the birth record of Dorothy's son.  I shall also look for a death record for Frances and Charles.   As I was writing this, I received another e-mail from Hildo promising to send me a copy of "a legal case to the German Government by the family".  Intriguing!  The research seems to go on and on and on . . .. References þ Collins, Max Allan.  The Lusitania Murders (New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 2002, ISBN 0-425-18688-1). þ Hickey, Des and Gus Smith. Seven Days to Disaster: The Sinking of the Lusitania (New York: Putnam, 1981, ISBN 0-399-12690-6, page 96).

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