My RMS Titanic Connection

By Karen

The 99th anniversary of Titanic’s sinking seems like an appropriate time to share my own little Who Do You Think You Are tale…

You know the backstory: the “unsinkable” White Star liner, Titanic, scraped an iceberg on a clear, cold night on April 15, 1912, and sank in the North Atlantic, killing more than 1,500 people

I’m an ocean liner buff and, in 1999, got to sail through the area where Titanic went down. My ship actually stopped dead in mid-ocean to hold a somber ceremony for the lost souls, officiated by the captain and the noted maritime historian, John Maxtone-Graham.

One night years after that, I was reading another book about the ship and was stunned to see, for the first time, the name “Frederick Wormald” listed as a victim.

Google quickly revealed that he was a crew member and is buried in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I left it at that.

But earlier this year, a friend happened upon a gravestone in Massachusetts that turned out to belong to my great- and great-great grandfathers. That’s when I decided to find out if Frederick was anywhere in my family tree.

Ancestry.com traces the Wormalds back 7 generations. I believe with 98% certainty that Frederick Wormald was the son of my great-great-great uncle, William Wormald, who was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1829.

William’s data is weirdly sketchy. If I could only find out his wife’s name (I think it was Annie Elizabeth), I’d be certain he was Frederick’s father.

But back to Frederick…

Frederick William Wormald was born in 1876, married a woman named Emily Hitchen, and they had 6 children. On April 4, 1912, Frederick’s employer of 4 years, the White Star Line, transferred him to Titanic to serve as a 1st class saloon steward.

Frederick’s body was recovered on April 24 by the Halifax-based British cable repair ship CS Mackay-Bennett. He was wearing an overcoat, and underneath it a white steward’s uniform showing the name “A. Wormald.”

He was taken to Halifax and misidentified as Jewish. On May 3, he was buried in the Jewish Baron de Hirsch Cemetery, where he remains to this day.

Meanwhile, back in Southampton, after Emily surmised Frederick must be dead (he was in the water, unaccounted for, for 9 days), the White Star Line allowed her and the children to sail third-class to New York on Titanic’s sister ship, Olympic. I’m not sure why, since Frederick was dead in Canada. When they got to Ellis Island, they were back by the authorities because Emily had “no visible means of support.”

Can you believe that?

The family returned to England on Olympic, only to find that their rented house in Southampton had been re-let in their absence. Fortunately, neighbors managed to salvage and store most of their things until they found another house. They received some compensation from the Titanic Disaster Fund, but their trail went cold after 1915.

(Thanks to Brian Ticehurst, who published these details on Encyclopedia-Titanica.org.)

Since notable Wormalds don’t pop up every day, I was amazed that my family, even distantly, had anything to do with the most famous ship-sinking ever.

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5 Responses to My RMS Titanic Connection

  1. Nina says:

    Interesting! I love great family history stories (probably ’cause I don’t have any).

  2. Holly Wormald says:

    Hello there! I’ve no idea how I came across this link but Frederick Wormald was my Great Great Grandfather. My Grandad and dad have always taught me about what happened to Frederick, as sad is it was I still like learning about the Titanic. I have photos of him and the family if you are interested in putting a face to the name. His family are scattered around London now. I would like to go and visit Halifax and see his grave one day as no one in my family have been able to so far.

  3. catsworking says:

    Welcome, Holly! I am so excited that you found this post. I am extremely interested in hearing about what happened to Frederick and his family. From what I could learn, after his wife and children returned to England after being turned away from the U.S., they found someone else living in their house, but neighbors had saved some of their things. After that, they seemed to disappear from the record.

    Feel free to tell more of the story here, but I am going to email you directly.

  4. Russell Masters says:

    According to encyclopedia-titanica, Henry Frederick Wormald was the son of John and Caroline Wormald. He appears in 1871, and 1881 censuses, as Henry F Wormald. Later goes by his middle name Frederick.

    I believe Frederick’s sister Emma married my great x3 great-uncle Frank Masters (born in Southampton).

    I realise I’m posting this 3 years after everyone else, but to Holly Wormald above, would be great to get in touch.

    Russell Masters

  5. catsworking says:

    Russell, welcome and thank you very much for this information. It would seem that I was tracking the wrong Frederick. It’s been so long since I was researching this that I don’t recall the details.

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