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.