A Titanic survivor in the family

by Simon Collings

A few years ago, after my mother died, I spent a few months constructing our family tree on Genes Reunited. By the time my six month subscription lapsed I had run out of steam.I found nothing of much interest. My mother was descended from a long line of agricultural workers who lived in and around Selborne in Hampshire. Some of these ancestors would have been parishioners of Rev. Gilbert White, but get no mention in his Natural History. My father’s family migrated from Weymouth to the burgeoning port of Southampton in the early 19th century, working in the docks as lighter-men, and later on the steamships. The most colourful character in the family seemed to be my grandfather, a bigamist who served a spell in prison for fraud. But I knew about that already.

Occasionally people message me on Genes Reunited enquiring about possible connections. One such message arrived last week, requesting access to my tree, which I duly authorised. I had a further message of thanks. ‘I suppose you know that Henry Noss was a survivor of the Titanic?’ the message said.

Henry Noss married my father’s aunt, Annie Collings, in 1908 in Southampton. I knew he was a ship’s fireman, but I had no idea he was a crew member on the Titanic. He and Annie had two small boys when he set sail on that fated voyage. Henry escaped in lifeboat 15, the last to get away. He and another sailor, who was in charge of the boat, took turns at the tiller. Henry got a passing mention in a Daily Mirror article on 17 May 1912 which gives a vivid account of the ordeal.

I told my father about this. He had never heard it before.