Crew sign on sheets - help needed please


David W

Member
Oct 24, 2013
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Hi,

This is only the second time in my life I have posted in an internet forum, so I hope I'm following the proper form.

I recently bought at a local auction saleroom (in the UK) a postcard written by someone aboard the Titanic and posted during the ship's stop at Queenstown. The postcard is signed only with a forename and unfortunately it was not posted to a family member so I can't work backwards from the name of the addressee to identify the sender by using genealogy websites. Circumstantial evidence however, suggests it might have been posted by a particular member of the Victualling Crew who I have been able to identify.

I have seen on this and other Titanic websites that all crew members filled in the crew 'sign on sheets' when they joined the ship. There are a few images online of individual crew members' names and personal details taken from these sheets but - try as I might - I can't find images of the whole sheets online anywhere. Does anyone know where the originals are held and if so, whether it is possible to request images of particular names? It strikes me that I might be able to test out my theory about the sender of the postcard by checking his hand-writing against his details on the sign-on sheet.

I'd be very grateful if anyone knows the answer to my question and I imagine - if the information isn't already on this site somewhere - other people might like to know too. Thanks in advance to anyone who can help.

David W
 

Jay Roches

Member
Apr 14, 2012
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Hello David,

The document you're looking for is called the "crew agreement" and the original is at the National Archives in Kew, England. Images are available on genealogy websites (findmypast.co.uk and ancestry.com have them). I can't find any free sources that contain the images themselves.

A caveat, though -- some images are available, and it appears that only the signature is in the crewman's own handwriting. The sheet I've seen is for the officers, and all the details about address, age and so on are in the same handwriting, probably that of a clerk.

Thanks,

Jason
 

David W

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Oct 24, 2013
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Thanks very much Jason. I've been trying for days to find this information with no success but then did actually find it about half an hour after posting to this forum! Something inevitable about that. I just logged back on to answer my own question so other people would have the info - but you had beaten me to it.

I discovered, as you rightly say, that the crew records are held at the National Archive. The National Archive has links to genealogy websites but I found that you can just get a scan of the original directly from the National Archives website at no charge. You need to find the record you need by name and then add the it to your online shopping basket. You then need to go through the process of checking out - but as the Titanic records are free, there is no charge at the checkout stage The scan I wanted was delivered to my e-mail address as a pdf file instantly. It's a brilliant service. Again, as you rightly say, only the signature appears to be in the crew member's own hand. In my case it wasn't as helpful as I'd hoped as he had signed only with his first initial rather than his whole forename. His surname is not very long, so there wasn't enough there to be conclusive really.

Thank you for taking the time and trouble to reply.

Regards,

David
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
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Just a general point that anybody wanting their own image copies of documents such as the signing-on sheets can obtain a large collection (in the form of pdf files) quite cheaply on CD-ROM or as a direct download from publishers such as "The Paperless Archive". Their 'Titanic Disaster Histrorical Documents Archive' CD contains the scanned images of over 12,000 pages of documents and even the complete texts of several books. Much of the content can be found online elsewhere for free, but it's handy to have it all readily accessible in one place.

Titanic Disaster Historical Document Archive
 

David W

Member
Oct 24, 2013
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David, can you post scans of your postcard? I would be interested in seeing it.

Hi Doug, I will do that but I'm hoping to be able to pin down the name of sender first. I have a 'prime suspect' with a fair amount of circumstantial evidence but I can't be certain yet. Also, at the moment, the postcard is pasted face down to a backing sheet. This had been done by a previous owner. I am having the card professionally removed. Once I have had that done (assuming the restorer can do it successfully), I will be able to post a scan of both sides. David
 

David W

Member
Oct 24, 2013
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Hi all,

It took several weeks for the conservator to get on with my postcard but I now have it back. Just as a reminder to the earlier messages, I bought this postcard at auction but it had been glued, image side down, to a backing sheet. The first thing to say is that there was a bit of a surprise, when the postcard was finally revealed, in that it did not have the expected image of the Titanic. I have posted photos below but you can see that it has Lake District scene. Presumably the sender already had this postcard with him. I've now got over my slight disappoitnment at this and decided that it is actually quite charming that the postcard was purchased elsewhere.

As you can see, the postcard is signed only "Edward". There were over 30 Edwards onboard the Titanic, over two thirds of whom were crew members. I've been through them all fairly carefully using the very helpful biographical information on this website and have identified the one whom I think the most likely to have been the sender. This man is Edward Brown (1878 - 1926), a steward to first class passengers. He is quite a well known figure in the record. He survived the sinking, having spend some hours in the water before being picked up by a lifeboat. He is known to have helped passengers into lifeboats and, according to some accounts, may have been the last man to see the captain alive. He was one of those called to give evidence to the official enquiry.

The reasons I think that he may be the sender of the postcard are circumstantial - but reasonably convincing.

Edward Brown is the only Edward onboard who originated from North Wales. He was born and raised in Holyhead on the island of Anglesey. Bangor, to where the postcard is addressed, is just on the other side of the Menai Bridge on the Caernarvonshire coast. Edward Brown's parents are known to have married in Bangor and so they may have had family connections there. At the 1911 census, the address to which the postcard was sent was occupied by one Richard William Hughes, his wife, Kate, their four daughters (aged between 15 and 24) and their one son. None of the daughters is recorded as being called Amy but one is registered on the census as "Nanna", which sounds like a nickname, and another has the middle inital "A". Either of those could be the Amy to whom the card was sent. Alternatively, I guess, Amy may have been a relative who was not living with the Hughes family in 1911 but had moved in with them by 1912. Richard William Hughes, his wife and the three eldest children were all born in Holyhead - again, suggesting the possibility of a family or friendship link with Edward Brown and his family.

Unfortunately, when Edward Brown signed on as a cew member on the Titanic, he signed only "E. Brown". It is not therefore possible to make a particularly accurate comparison of his handwriting with that on the postcard. Nevertheless, one can see from the images at end below, that the handwriting is really quite similar - particularly the letter "E". On the other hand, the capital "B" is very different although this may be explained by Edward using fancier capital letters in his signature than in his regular handwriting, which is something that lots of people do.

All-in-all it's a bit of a tease. I shall continue to see whether there is more information and if you can shed any light on it, please do let me know. It may be though that it will never be possible to know for sure who was the sender of the card.

David

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Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
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NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
Hello David.

Just a wee bit of observation you might find of assistance.

Back in 1912, even the simplest of people took great pride in their handwriting. You've probably heard the expression "joined-up writing". Not only did writers join each letter in a word but school children were taught in Primary School to slope the written word at an angle of between 10 and 15 degrees to the vertical. Normally, the hand-writing of a right handed person sloped to the right and of a left hand person to the left. Additionally, individual letters of a left hand person were generally more rounded.

If you look carefully at the signature of the crew member on the Articles of Agreement, you will note that the man was most likely to have been right handed. However, the text on the postcard seems to have been written by a left handed person. Not only that, but two different writing implements were used. I dare-say the signature was written with a dip-in-the ink type pen supplied by the Shiping Master. However the writing on the post card seems to be almost calligrific in quality and was written using a broad nibbed pen. The text is almost clinical in its execution.

As you've noticed, another inconsistancy is the capital letter "B". On the 'Agreement' it is sloped to the right, and there are two 'left sides' to the letter. Additionally, the cross bar of the body is looped. In the address of the card, the form of both capital "B"s is exactly the same in the words "Bryn" and "Bangor" but completely different from the Agreement.

I also find it strange that in such a neatly written text, a slash, rather than a comma was used twice and the customary commas at the end of each line of the address are missing.

I'm no hand-writing expert but I doubt if the man E. Brown was the person who wrote that postcard.

However if the postcard was written by someone on board Titanic, I suspect the pen used was an extremely expensive 'fountain' type. and that the person who wrote the card did not normally correspond by typwriter or very often by letter. The missing commas suggest that to me.

Jim C/
 

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