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trying to trace Harris relatives lost on RMS Leinster

PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2009 9:10 pm
by karenorrell
Hello everyone

posting details of my missing relatives in the hope that someone can help!

The family story goes that my ancestors were lost on RMS Leinster when it was torpedoed, 10 Oct 1918 - but finding proof of this is extremely difficult...

The facts as I know them are: My great great uncle Abraham Harris, married a Leah Kerstin and had 2 children - on the 1911 census he is living with Leah and one child, Alice, although the census states that there are 2 children, both living (in Stratford, London). Alice is 4 years old. A search of a nearby infirmary turns up a Barabara Harris aged 1 - but I have no way of telling if this is my missing person.

I have found a death entry for a Leah Harris September Q 1913. I have then found a marriage entry for Abraham to Lottie Goldwater December Q 1914 in Birmingham.

So, now the family story: During WW1, Abraham thought his family would be safer in Ireland, so off they all moved. Abraham returned to Birmingham a week before his family in 1918 to get himself established, thus his children Alice and Babbie Harris along with their stepmother Lottie were returning to England on the Leinster on 10/10/1918. Apparently they had the family fortune in money pouches on their persons!! Abraham was a prosperous jeweller - after the loss of his family and fortune he went on to rebuild the fortune and marry Lottie's sister, Lily Goldwater.

Back to facts - I have found Abraham's marriage to Lily in Whitechapel June Q 1922. I have also seen a photo of their tombstone which makes no mention of his previous wives or children - just stating that he is Abraham son of Kalman (Colman) Harris and she is Lily daughter of Samuel Goldwater.

Now this story was told to relatives of mine by people who were childhood playmates of the 2 young girls Alice and Babbie and who would have been in their late teens when the tragedy occurred. My own grandmother told me it was the Lusitania they went down on, but as she was only a few months old in October 1918 and did not have very close contact with her family after she was married we think she was confused - knowing it was a ship that began with an "L", and therefore assuming it was the Lusitania.

The Leinster is also not really all that well known as it seems to have been a bit hushed up.

After all this rambling, I will get to the point! I have looked at records at Kew regarding both the Leinster and the Lusitania and turned up nothing. I have looked at obituaries in Jewish newspapers - nothing. I cannot find a record of death for any of the three on Ancestry or FreeBMD. They are not listed on the Philip Lecane website about the Leinster. Lloyds Register carries info only on the ships, not the passengers. Is it possible for someone to be lost at sea and it not be recorded? Where do you look for records of people lost at sea - if their bodies were not recovered, what happens - surely a death must be recorded for Abraham to be able to remarry - and to his wife's sister no less, so one would assume this means that it cannot be an elaborate story to mask a divorce! If their bodies were recovered it seems they would have been returned to Ireland. If no bodies were found would there have to be a period of time before they were officially declared dead and what implications would that have had on registering the deaths?

Any help very gratefully received!

Does anyone have any ideas of where to look next? There is now a memorial to those lost on the Leinster and it would be lovely to get my ancestors on there if that is where they lost their lives.