List of Primary Sources


Jun 12, 2004
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I'm not sure if this has been presented before, but I looked around the forum under most-likely categories and found nothing (although it probably has been, and no doubt someone will come by and say something along the order of "This has already been discussed, Mark . . . Go here [link]"). Still, I just thought I'd ask again:

What is the basic and all-inclusive list of primary sources on Titanic? Here are some that I have so far. Have I missed anything? (undoubtedly. Therefore: Can anyone suggest other sources?). Remember: This is a list of primary sources only. I want to create a tier-by-tier structure of sources to obtain, starting, at the top, with the primary sources. Secondary and tertiary sources will come later (first things first). Anyway, here goes:

* Complete transcripts on the American and British Inquiries.

* Titanic BluePrints (including technical manuals that describe nature and function of engines, electrical network, structural arrangement, etc.)

* Passenger and Crew Manifests (including bookings, etc.)

* Cargo Manifests

* Claims made for valuables lost

* Ship's log (those available, including Carpathia, Californian, Virginian, and other ships in contact with Titanic during the maiden voyage)--By the way, where would I find these?

* Book on Maritime Law during that era

* Crew discharge books (where would I find these?)

*Survivor experiences (a large part of which are included as testimonies in the Inquiry transcripts). A few examples of this would be Lightoller's book, Gracie's book, and Violet Jessop's memoirs.

* A Night to Remember, by Walter Lord

* Perhaps The Discovery of the Titanic, by Dr. Robert Ballard (regarding the wreck site)--'background' notes of info not given in the book (probably not accessible, but, hey, I thought I'd mention it)

* Death of a Titan, by Morgan Robertson (not sure if this would be considered a primary source, but I thought I'd mention it, as it supposedly presents illuminating insight on the Titanic tragedy)


Okay. This is what I have so far. What else will I need to complete the list of primary Titanic sources? Any other transcripts? (I noticed that a few people mentioned a couple of other transcripts, but I can't remember what they were or where I saw them, sorry). Any and all suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Take care, all.
happy.gif
 

Inger Sheil

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quote:

* Ship's log (those available, including Carpathia, Californian, Virginian, and other ships in contact with Titanic during the maiden voyage)--By the way, where would I find these?
I doubt you can, Mark - but if you are successful in locating these logs, you'll be a very popular man! As you may be aware, there were several logs kept. Quite a few 'Official Logs' for merchant vessels in that period are extant, and can be found in several different locations (most that survive, however, are in Newfoundland, Kew and Greenwich - roughly in that order). But Official Logs won't shed much more light on the events that unfolded that night than, say, crew agreements do. They record significant incidents such as births and deaths on board, contain some information re arrivals and departures, desertions, signing on of substitutes etc etc, but not much at all in the way of navigational data. Few of the logs or scrap logs kept on the Bridge, which would contain navigational information, survive for this period in the merchant service. Same with logs kept in engineering.
quote:

* Crew discharge books (where would I find these?)
Those that survive are scattered, many in private collections.

Photographic evidence from the wrecksite itself might be a possible addition to your list. Also geneological material (e.g. birth, death and marriage certificates, census returns etc) if you're interested in the biographical side of things (this won't shed too much light on the mechanics of the disaster, of course).​
 

Dave Gittins

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Any existing crew discharge books for Titanic's crew are replacements issued after the sinking and are of little use. The signing-on sheets are much more useful.

Quite a number of Marconigrams survive and are in Signals of Disaster and on the Marconi web site.

I'd forget Walter Lord. He was good in the 1950s, but ANTR is superceded now. The Night Lives On is of more use. Morgan Robertson is only of curiosity value.

Contemporary newspapers vary in value. If they can be cross-checked, they can be valuable. They are often valuable in showing the attitudes of the time, rather than the facts.

A very good source is personal letters. They sometimes contain good details. A notable example is George Rheims' letter to his wife.

As a general rule, I'd say that the best evidence comes unfiltered by the press. For instance, Charlotte Collyer's magazine story is very dodgy. Accounts given years after the event are often very poor. The books of Rostron, Lightoller and Bisset are cases in point.
 

Dave Gittins

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I should have mentioned the documents connected with the Californian affair. There are statements from Stone and Gibson, letters and an affidavit by Captain Lord and a pile of Board of Trade documents.
 
Jun 12, 2004
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No, I am interested mostly in the people, as they, in my opinion, make the whole story what it is. Therefore, geneological and biographical material is/are not only pertinent, but paramount to Titanic research. I want to start at the base to solidify my own knowledge, if that makes any sense.

Also, there are some sources, such as the location of said birth and marriage certificates, that are a loss to me. My usual canon of research resources consists of: books, photos (sharp and correctly illustrated), Internet, documentaries and film, exhibits (which are once in a blue moon), locations (such as the cemeteries, The Grapes pub and the launching dock, etc.) when I am able to get there, experts like you, and THS and other organizations. Other sources, such as those for personal info on passengers and other individuals, is an oblivious one to me. Sorry.

Inger, how did you connect with the families of the officers? I know that's the manner in which you were able to obtain most of your background knowledge on those individuals. I have ideas, I just don't know exactly where to start regarding certain aspects of the Titanic legend and the research behind it.
 
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By the way, wouldn't logs hold records of navigational information? For example:

6 January, 10:14pm--First-Officer Jones ordered reduced speed from 18 to 12 knots due to increased darkness and possible rock protrusion. He further ordered a slight deviation to port at 25N/05W-16N/18W...

8 January, 8:23pm--Second Officer Jenkins received a report from the chief engineer that the starboard condensor was stalled for 45 minutes this afternoon at 4pm. Cause of the stalling has not yet been ascertained...

My retained knowledge of nautical references and terminology is limited, and I am aware that such entries may not be written in the fashion that I wrote above, but I think the example reflects my point.

In any case, I know that such logs on Titanic are long gone to the bottom (why didn't Boxhall grab those logs and other important documents before jumping into LB #2? They certainly would have helped. From What I sense, Boxhall was thorough in his job. I got the impression that he was the Titanic navigator, so-to-speak. I figured it would have been his job to salvage these important articles and that he no doubt thought about that beforehand. I also am similarly curious as to why Andrews didn't supply someone the blueprints, complete with notes. He, also, should have known of their dire importance in an expected follow-up investigation), but I figured that logs, in this way, did hold technical and navigation information of some kind and to some degree.

Sorry for my rambling. Just trailing off into thought, hehe.

Take care
 
Jun 12, 2004
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I thought of the BoT documents, David. I'm sure that I can find those documents online? I'm not even sure where to find these personal accounts. See? my dilemma? hehe. Anyway, thanks for the input. It certainly does help.

By the way, at which links would I be able to find the signing-off sheets and the Marconi website? That's a start. Thanks!
 
Jun 12, 2004
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Thanks so much for the link, Paul. That helps. It may be far from complete, but at least it's a start. ;)

By the way, you're a doctor? May I ask in which field you have your doctorate? History, perhaps? A professor of history whose specialty is maritime practices and ship-building? Just curious...
 
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By the way, nice and thorough. It's a great place for me to start. Thank you!

Oh yes! Can you fill me in the Ryan vs. OSNC? I am not familiar with that? I would greatly appreciate it, Paul. Thank you again.

Take care
 

Inger Sheil

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Yes, there were logs kept on the Bridge that would have contained navigational data (first in the scrap log, then transferred to the formal log). However, as I explained in my previous post, few of these survive from merchant ships of that era. What tend to survive - and not all of them are still extant - are what are termed 'Official Logs'. These cover the areas I described above (e.g. crew desertions and substitutions, incidents involving deaths on board, etc etc). It is very frustrating, for example to see reference to 'Official Logs' in archival catalogues, knowing that they do not refer to material that could shed light on navigational matters (although you can sometimes be lucky with RN and RNR material - although 'lucky' is a relative term if you've had to wade through years worth of war-time logs that record weather conditions, course changes, daily routine such as washing and mending and nothing more exciting than 'smoke sighted on horizon' or 'leave given to Port Watch until 1800').

There are a variety of ways of locating and approaching the families of those who sailed on the ship - other researchers have been kind enough to put me in touch, I've traced them through genealogical records and an awful lot of phone calls, letters and emails that turned up dead ends, and in more than once case I've been contacted by a family member after they've come across some of my research. Serendipity plays a remarkable part - I was put in touch with a relative of Harold Lowe's by one of my English friends - they happened to be neighbours! This branch of the family had been out of touch with Lowe's direct descendents since the death of Harold himself.

The question about why the logs weren't saved was answered by Pitman at the American inquiry - as he pointed out, there were more immediate things to worry about. It has been argued that Moody would normally have been given charge of the log at that point, but of course he didn't survive. I have wondered if perhaps it was intended to send him away in Collapsible A with the log, but events overwhelmed him. That is, however, pure speculation on my part with no supporting evidence.

You may find these links on Ryan vs. OSNC helpful:

https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/articles/molony_ryan_inq.pdf
https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/articles/molony_ryan_com.pdf


I think you'll find that your research skills develop as you go along - while there are certain techniques that are useful or even necessary, it's still not an exact science. I'd identify tenacity, an eye for detail and an ability to follow intuition as good qualities for a researcher to have, as you've probably found in your own area of expertise. A good place to start might be the nearest large archival repository of newspapers you can find, where you can follow up local angles.
 
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ANTR would not be a primary source, but a secondary. Much of Lord's book came from the Inquiry's testimonies, though there were parts that came directly from survivors he contacted on his own.

For that matter - now that I've read the Inquiries themselves, I see how heavily almost ANY Titanic book leans on them! Of course, it has to be that way, though. But it really has killed my interest in reading most Titanic books lately.
 
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Well, someone here told be that ANTR was considered "The Bible" to many here, so that's why I put it on the list. I guess that its mainly because of the direct influence of many survivors, who were primary sources.

As for the Inquiries being primary sources, that's why I put them first on the list. ;)
 

Dave Gittins

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I have serious doubts about the extent to which Lord used survivor accounts when writing ANTR. His main sources seem to be the US inquiry, contemporary newspapers and Logan Marshall's book. He gathered material from survivors but very little found its way into ANTR. He even got swindled by a phoney survivor called Belford. ANTR remains a good read, but it's not a reliable source.
 

Noel F. Jones

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Inger:

"Yes, there were logs kept on the Bridge that would have contained navigational data (first in the scrap log, then transferred to the formal log).

If you are ever researching marine casualties; the deck log does not necessarily give you the full story on engine movements. An even more ethereal source of information (if you can ever locate them!) is the respective Bridge and Engine Room Movements Books.

Whereas the deck log is a document written up in retrospect, the Movements Books were adversarial documents of record between bridge and engine room and which would have been entered up in real time.

The deck log will contain blanket expressions such as 'proceeded VMO' (various movements ordered) but the Movements Books will detail each manoeuvreing order as it is sent and received.

The Movements Books were brought into operation between EOP (end of passage) and FAOP (full away on passage), in other words, when entering and leaving port and manoeuvreing within port limits. The task would be assigned to such as the senior cadet or third mate on the bridge and a junior engineer in the engine room. There would have been a regime for the safekeeping and landing of these records along with the deck log whenever a voyage was completed.

The keeping of these departmental records was routine – until your vessel rammed a lock gate or somesuch! Thereafter they would be jealously guarded by the master and chief engineer (or unaccountably 'lost' as the case may be!) against the outcome of the subsequent inquiry.

So if you're lucky enough to locate a deck log for research purposes you would be even luckier if you managed to locate the concomitant movements books.

Specific to the Titanic disaster, I doubt if any movement book regime would have been ordered upon such an interruption of ocean passage. The respective engine manoeuvres would/should have been entered straight into the deck and engine room scrap logs.

Since the advent of bridge engine control consoles the need for separate movements books no longer exists, there being no adversarial potential. The modern equivalent would in all probability be a computer printout.

Official Logs, as you say, are a entirely different animal; they run in parallel with the current Articles of Agreement and any mention in them of navigational evolutions would be entirely incidental to crew records.

Noel
 

Inger Sheil

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Thanks for that information, Noel, and the additional information that certainly clarifies matters. I did refer to the log kept in the engine room earlier when trying to explain to Mark that not one, but several logs were kept.
 
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And I am aware that several logs were kept, Inger. I was merely addressing what you said about navigational and technical information not being considered within the logs. I knew that certain navigational and technical information, by its nature, had to have been recorded somewhere, and I know that I have seen certain entries containing such information before, so I knew they existed. I wasn't aware of the differences in logs (although I know that there are/were several kinds), and for that I am appreciative to Noel for that clarification.

David: Regarding ANTR, I remember reading in several different sources, even hearing in interviews within various film documentaries, that Lord had been in correspondence with several survivors and found inspiration through them. Also, he gained the personal perspective of survivors through the American Inquiry. If we take that source as being primary and true-to-word, then Lord did rely on some, albeit limited and incomplete, personal accounts.

By the way, I was only repeating what had been mentioned to me by another expert on this board, so that's why I shared it. The "Bible" claim was not originally my assertion, so please keep that in mind.
 

Inger Sheil

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quote:

I was merely addressing what you said about navigational and technical information not being considered within the logs.
Not routinely included within the Official Log is what I said, Mark - at no point did I suggest it was not 'considered within the logs'. In fact, I specifically told you that the navigational information would be in the deck and engineering logs. Your original question was about primary sources, and mentioned logs. My response was geared towards explaining what logs survive, and what sort of information you could expect to find in them. As I stated in my first post:
quote:

Quite a few 'Official Logs' for merchant vessels in that period are extant, and can be found in several different locations (most that survive, however, are in Newfoundland, Kew and Greenwich - roughly in that order). But Official Logs won't shed much more light on the events that unfolded that night than, say, crew agreements do. They record significant incidents such as births and deaths on board, contain some information re arrivals and departures, desertions, signing on of substitutes etc etc, but not much at all in the way of navigational data. Few of the logs or scrap logs kept on the Bridge, which would contain navigational information, survive for this period in the merchant service. Same with logs kept in engineering.
As I explained a couple of times, there is a difference between the Official Logs that are most often extant, if any logs are, and the logs that record data related to navigation. Very few of the other logs from the deck or engine departments survive from merchant ships for this period. I have quite a few copies of Official Logs for WSL ships, on the other hand. "Official Log" is the formal designation for the logs I referred to by that name - the words appears on the front of these documents.​
 
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>>Not routinely included within the Official Log is what I said, Mark - at no point did I suggest it was not 'considered within the logs'.<<

Must have misunderstood you, then. My apologies. Although I appreciate the clarification, it isn't necessary to continuously provide similar explanations when one will suffice. Inger, I appreciate your in-depth explanation, and I appreciate Noel's distinctions, too. Now that we have established the different types and contents of logs, it's easier to know what to look for and where to look. This helps to categorize my search. Thanks again.
 

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