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RMS Titanic

The sinking of the RMS Titanic is one of the greatest disasters in maritime history. Four days into its maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City, the 882-foot luxury liner hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean. The Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, killing over 1,500 people on board, including famous passengers like financier John Jacob Astor IV.

The tragedy of the Titanic has captivated the public ever since. And whether you have a family connection to the Titanic or are, like so many, fascinated by its story, the historical records on Ancestry® can help you learn more about the ship, its passengers, and its crew.

What Is the Real Story of the Titanic?

From the moment it sank, the Titanic became the stuff of legend, fueling a century of myths and conspiracy theories. What is the real story of the Titanic ship, and what is fiction? Here’s a look at some of the myths.

Everyone thought the Titanic was unsinkable. The White Star Line, which constructed the Titanic, touted the ship as the "Queen of the Ocean" and the "Finest Steamer Afloat." Contrary to popular belief, though, it never widely touted the ship as unsinkable. It was largely after the disaster, when the story became a metaphor for human hubris, that people started talking about how the ship had been thought unsinkable.

White Star Lines cut corners on lifeboats. When the Titanic hit an iceberg off of Newfoundland, Canada, passengers and crew members rushed to board lifeboats. Though there were 2,228 people on board, its lifeboats could only seat 1,178. This has led people to believe that the White Star Line cut corners by not providing a sufficient number of lifeboats. In fact, it exceeded British safety guidelines at the time.

Third-class passengers were locked in. A common myth, perpetuated by Hollywood, is that third-class, or steerage, passengers were locked in and unable to escape. But did they really lock third-class passengers on the Titanic away? The investigative report issued by the British government did not find evidence of this. Steerage passengers were, however, farther away from the lifeboats, which were easier to reach from the first-class and second-class cabins. Only a quarter of steerage passengers survived. By contrast, over half (about 60 percent) of first-class passengers did.

Learning More about the Titanic Through Ancestry® Records

When an event captures the public imagination, it can be easy to forget about the real people involved. Yet the Titanic was a personal tragedy for many families. Victims came from all over the world and from all walks of life. They included a Russian infant, an English butler, and a German monk. There were farmers, clerks, musicians, miners, carpenters, laborers, and priests; and there were immigrants headed for Ellis Island, and the millionaires John Jacob and Madeleine Astor returning from their honeymoon.

The Titanic Records collection on Ancestry® helps reveal their stories. You can explore fascinating details about those who survived and those who tragically drowned—and maybe even find your own connection to the doomed steamship. Here are the records and what they can reveal.

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, RMS Titanic Fatality Reports, 1912

Immediately after the sinking of the Titanic, the White Star Line chartered ships to look for bodies and retrieve them. Those ships recovered about 337 bodies. This database of fatality reports includes physical description, estimated age, and, where identifiable, the names of the bodies recovered from the disaster.

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, RMS Titanic Graves, 1912

Of the over 300 victims of the Titanic disaster recovered in search efforts, more than 100 were buried at sea. And just over 200 were brought to the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada. Some of the bodies were sent home per the wishes of relatives, but the rest (121 victims) were buried at a local Halifax cemetery, Fairview Lawn. This database has photographs of the headstones of the Titanic victims buried there.

Titanic Survivors, Carpathia Passenger List, 1912

The Titanic sank very early in the morning on April 15, 1912. The closest ship, the HMS Carpathia, heard the Titanic's distress calls and rushed to the rescue. But it was 60 miles away from the Titanic's last known position; by the time it arrived four hours later, about 4 o’clock a.m., it was too late for many Titanic passengers. Still the Carpathia managed to bring aboard about 703 survivors. It then headed to New York City, the original destination of the Titanic. This database of passengers contains biographical details for each of those 703 rescued survivors, including birthplace, last residence, and port of departure.

UK, RMS Titanic, Crew Records, 1912

These records list name, age, address, position, and more for Titanic crew members. They also contain information about some passengers such as name, port of embarkation, class, and whether they were missing or saved.

UK, RMS Titanic, Deaths at Sea, 1912

This collection is a register of everyone who died during the sinking of the RMS Titanic, including their occupation, nationality, age, and birthplace. It contains two collections of registers, one for passengers, and another for the crew.

UK, RMS Titanic, Outward Passenger List, 1912

This database contains the names of everyone who boarded the Titanic in England and Ireland, listing details like their ticket class, profession, age, gender, port at which the passenger contracted to land, and last residence.

Tips for Finding a Family Connection to the Titanic

Might you have a family link to the Titanic? Here are some tips for exploring your connection.

Write a simple timeline with details about your family members. Census records can help you figure out where your family members were living around the time of the voyage of the Titanic. City directories can help you fill in the gaps between census records and can give details like occupation and home and/or work address.

Listen to family stories and look for memorabilia. Note if anyone is said to have a connection to the Titanic. Remember that the ship touched thousands of lives beyond the people onboard; you may be related to one of the about 15,000 people who helped build the Titanic, a Carpathia passenger, or someone who met survivors in New York City.

Build your family tree on Ancestry. Start with yourself and your parents, then work backward to your grandparents and beyond. Your family tree will give you a sense of who was alive in 1912 and may have had a personal connection to the Titanic.

Search for your family members in the collection of Titanic records on Ancestry. If you think you could have had family on the famous ship, the Titanic Records collection on Ancestry could provide a clue.

Get Started with Ancestry Today

Even if you don't have a name to search for in records related to the infamous RMS Titanic, you probably had ancestors who ventured out to sea—and made it safely ashore. Ancestry has 200 million immigration and travel records, like passenger and crew lists, or ship pictures and descriptions. Discover your connection to nautical history today.

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