Capt Smith's Family

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mike disch

Guest
Gary Cooper's bio gives his daughter's b'day as in 1902 (making her 10 at time of disaster) but gives no month or day. Some books say she was 12, and one showed birth year as 1888, making her 14. Anyone have documentation.
(P.S. I'm playing E.J. at Titanica exhibit at CA Science Ctr in L.A., and I'm trying to get my facts as accurate as possible; various people on this website have already been of tremendous help, I appreciate all of it (even though I usually don't take he time to write thank u responses), and will accept all the help I can get. Thanks
 
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mike disch

Guest
Addition to previous post: I looked at the archived info on Helen; there is reference to her husband being from a wealthy family. Surely someone, a surviving daughter or grandaughter, must know her real birthday and age. Anyone?
 

Lisa Shoup

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Oct 22, 2007
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According to info. on titanic-titanic.com & other sites which I've now lost track of, his daughter Helen Melville Smith was 12 when he died. One site said 14, but most say 12. I don't have documentation so can't confirm. Also, it's noted many places that she went by the nickname "Mel" rather than Helen.

She is reported to have had one early & brief marriage which left her widowed, but she re-married and had two children. Her son never married and was killed in WWII, and her daughter married but had no children. Her daughter has since passed away, due to polio if I remember correctly.

If I can just find the site I read this on I'll let you know!
 
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mike disch

Guest
Cooper's bio, "The Man Who Sunk the Titanic? the Lief and Times of Edward J. Smith" mentions Mel, as a child, using the nickname Babs for some reason. His book is the most detailed (with references to census data, exact addresses, and so forth, so I tend to give his info the benefit of the doubt whenever there's a question. Also, he's from Hanley, Smith's birthplace. Still, the DOB for Mel remains in question.
 
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simone griffiths

Guest
hello. I am checking on Captain Smiths daughters name. My mothers aunt looked after an elderly couple until their deaths. They had no children and left their estate to my great aunt.
My aunt told my mother that this lady's father was the captain of the Titanic. My aunt has since passed away. My mother has in her possession a postcard sent from the lady's husband to her and the name on it is H. Dewdney. He worked for an oil company and they lived in Mexico and Argintina at the time. (the stamp is over the name so I think this last name is the correct spelling) she also has an old wooden box. it has the following words on it...
Ticketmasters WILLIAMSON (next line)TICKETPRINTER (next line) ASHTON - under - LYNE.
Do you know what this is , or what it was used for? thank you for your help. kind regards.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Simone, the Captain's daughter was Helen Melville Smith, generally known as Mel. She married a Captain John Gilbertson, was widowed and again married to Sidney Russell-Cooke, who was I believe a barrister. She did have children, but outlived them and died alone.
 

Gary Cooper

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Jun 5, 2003
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Hello Mr Disch, I believe you are the fellow who telephoned me a couple of months ago about Captain Smith. Following our conversation I decided to look once again into the history of Captain Smith's family and the actual birthdate of Helen Melville Smith, which was one of your main queries. I now have local access to the General Record Office files held in London, which I did not in 1992. You note that in my book I put her date of birth as 1902, which was my best estimate at the time, but one Helen Melville Smith is actually registered as being born in W. Derby(shire?) in the June quarter (i.e. April, May or June) 1898. I have not yet had time to confirm that this is the Smith's daughter, but as soon as I have the information I will let you know.
 
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mike disch

Guest
Mr. Cooper,
Yes, I'm the one who called you. I intended to send an email thanking you for your generosity with your time, but messed up your email address. In any case, thank you for remembering, continuing your research, and posting your message.
I'm still at the exhibit (till Sept. 1).
I sometimes tell visitors that I have a "secret" to share with them--that I'm retiring upon returning from New York--and of course most know the reality--in part because I have a beautiful 10 year-old daughter, Mel (actually Helen Melville, but we call her Mel) who fortunately looks just like my wife and nothing like me (no beard at all) and I want to have some time to share with her before she gets married and moves on.
So if she's really 14 (vs. 10) it doesn't really change anything, but it would be nice to be accurate; and in addition, I'll be able to quote my authoritative source.
Thanks again, and keep me posted.
I don't know if there's a way I can email you directly via this website, but if anyone does know (without posting it for all the world to see) please let me know.
 
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mike disch

Guest
Mr. Cooper,
To borrow from Inspector Columbo, just one more thing, sir:
Smith first signed on his bother's ship in Liverpool, at some point later in his carrer moved to Liverpool, and then eventually down to Southhampton. I don't have the chronology in front of me, and in any case I don't know where W. Derby(shire) is anyway. Nevertheless, in terms of where Smith was in 1898 (which would be 18 years into his stint with White Star) does W. Derby make sense as a possible birthplace for Mel?
 

Gary Cooper

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Jun 5, 2003
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Hello again Mr Disch, thanks for the reply. I will be sending off for the certificate in the next day or so, so should soon be able to tell you whether this is the right Helen Melville Smith or not (though it probably is - it's an unusual name). Derbyshire is the neighbouring county to Staffordshire, Captain Smith's (and my own) native county. It could be that he or his wife had friends or relatives there and Eleanor was staying there during her confinement. The paucity of information on Captain Smith's life and movements gave me quite a lot of the same trouble, when I was writing my book, as you are experiencing now - why was he in such a place at such a time, etc? Barring a miracle, or the discovery of a lost autobiography of the man, we will probably never know. Perhaps in this particular case the birth certificate will give us a clue when it comes. I will post the information as soon as I have it.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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I think you coped admirably with the problems inherent in the subject matter, and I'm one of those who certainly enjoyed your work. To take a comparatively obscure individual, whose fame derives from one cataclysmic event in their life, and to flesh them and their social and professional milieu out as much as you did was quite an achievement!
 

Gary Cooper

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Jun 5, 2003
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Thank you very much for your kind comments. It's good to know that a work I produced over a decade ago is still of use, though I am well aware that much of what I wrote has been overtaken by new research and fresh discoveries. The Mystic seaport letters, for instance, would have been a godsend for me in 1992. Perhaps as we move towards the centenary of the sinking I might attempt a revised 'life', but we'll see.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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I'd certainly put my hand in my pocket for a revised life! It seems to be one of those out of print titles that is already in rather a lot of demand in Titanic circles.
 

Gary Cooper

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Jun 5, 2003
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Yes, I'll certainly consider it, other projects permitting, though it would, I think, take a while to come to fruition as I have tended to become much more of a stickler for detail than I was eleven years ago (that's what comes of working in a museum - pedantry). That is no bad thing, though, and here I have something I did not have then, a useful forum in which I could bounce a few ideas around - you all certainly seem to know your stuff!
 
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simone griffiths

Guest
It has been so interesting reading all the correspondence about Helen Smith, I can only wonder if she could have ever imagined that so many people would be interested in her. I know everybody wants to know when she was born but does anybody know where (what country she died in?) or what year? would her death certificate have her previous names and date of birth?? Hope you all have a happy day, regards Simone.
 

Gary Cooper

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Jun 5, 2003
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Hello Simone, I can't claim to have personally discovered a great deal about Helen Smith myself, but there is a good piece about her on the ET biography of her father Captain Smith.
 

Gary Cooper

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Jun 5, 2003
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For Mike Disch (and well, anyone else who wants to know),
I received Helen Melville Smith's birth certificate this morning. The daughter of master mariner Edward John Smith and Sarah Eleanor Pennington, was born on 2nd April 1898 (a Saturday) at 20 Alexandra Road, Waterloo, Litherland, near Liverpool. The birth was registered by Edward John Smith on 3rd May 1898. The 'W. Derby', which so confused matters for me, is nothing to do with Derbyshire, it is actually a registration district which covers part of Merseyside.
This means that Helen Melville had just passed her fourteenth birthday when the Titanic set sail.
 
May 12, 2005
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Gary,

Forgive my ignorance, but do you know who all is interred in Captain Smith's family plot at Brookwood Cemetery? I recall the name Russell-Cooke. Capt. Smith's widow's grave is but a few yards from the Duff Gordon graves and in April I was able to remember which direction it was in so that I could show some people. They took lots of photos of the graves surrounding Mrs. Smith's but I don't think any of us really knew "who was who."

Such an honor to have you with us, by the way.

Best to you,
Randy
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Many thanks for posting those details and putting the matter beyond doubt, Gary. (Isn't it kewel when that much needed index entry jumps out at you when you're scrolling through the FRC volumes?). I well remember Randy taking us to see the Smith grave at Brookwood - interesting that it's in such close proximity to the Duff Gordons.