Why My Ancestors Still Immigrated Even After 1912

I have long thought about how very brave and determined our ancestors were to continue crossing the Atlantic in the months and years immediately after the sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912.  When I had acquired the ship manifests on several of my father’s family and when they came to resettle from Lancashire County, England to Essex County, Massachusetts, it was amazing how many came over in the months after the sinking of the giant ocean liner.


Prior to the April 1912 tragedy, my father’s unmarried uncle, Frederick journeyed across the Atlantic on the SS Ivernia, arriving in the Port of Boston on October 26, 1911. Another uncle named Edwin, along with a cousin, traveled on the same ship arriving on February 22, 1912.  It was customary for family members to save enough money to send one or two relatives at a time to America to get jobs and establish a residence before others arrived. However, it was my father’s grandmother, another uncle and niece who traveled on the SS Franconia from England arriving at the Port of Boston on October 23, 1912 that surprised me. This was just six months after the tragedy.


In April 7, 1913, an aunt and her family came on the SS Franconia. It would be December 6, 1913 that my father’s father would make the journey with his brother-in-law to Massachusetts. They traveled on the maiden voyage of the SS Alaunia of the Cunard Shiplines.  That too surprise me, another maiden voyage by a major passenger ship across the Atlantic, weren’t they concerned?


Finally my father, Harry, age 9, his brother, Edwin, age 3 and sister, Ethel, age 5, with their mother traveled on SS Carmania leaving the Port of Liverpool, England on April 14, 1914 and arriving at the Port of Boston on April 23, 1914. So that was nine relatives who came to America on vessels within two years after the sinking of the Titanic.


Researching the ships traveled by my family, they were all of the Cunard Lines, a British company. The Titanic was of the White Star Lines owned by J. P. Morgan of the United States. In fact, it was the RMS Carpathia, a Cunard ship, that did come to the aid of the passengers on the Titanic on April 15, 1912.


New regulations for safety on the ships immediately came into existence for British and American ships. The requirements were strengthen of having enough lifeboats for all passengers.  Prior to the Titanic the required lifeboats was based on the ship’s tonnage, not the number of people on board. Establishing lifeboat drills right after a ship left the port was mandated. Also the shipping lanes were shifted further south, away from any possible iceberg fields.


A new law created by the U. S. Congress, titled the Radio Act of 1912, required the ship’s radios be manned day and night, have a range of 100 miles and be able to run on another source of energy besides the ship’s engines. It turns out the nearest ship to the Titanic was the California, but its one radio operator was off duty that night.


The ships built after the Titanic also had stronger hulls so they would not flood if hit by an object. They were made as double hulls and the bulkheads were extended higher to make the compartment watertight. These structural improvements were even done to the previous built ships.


So it appears the Titanic sinking served as a wake-up call to speed up maritime safety regulations.  With this type of reassurance published, there well may have been less fear by people about ocean voyages. In addition, they appeared very willing to take that risk to make a new life in America. This is what I believe was my ancestors’ reasoning.


Look back over your immigrant ancestors. See when they traveled across the Atlantic.  A reminder, not just the lost of the Titanic, the period from 1914 to 1919 also saw increased dangers at sea because of World War I where many ships were sunk by torpedoes and mines. A good example was the Cunard ship Lusitania, torpedoed on May 7, 1915 by German U-boats with 1,198 passengers killed.

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