Michael Findlay


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Dec 12, 1999
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Many thanks to Phil Hind for initiating a useful forum for ET contributors and visitors to learn about one another.

I am 31-years-old, and have worked for a family owned accounting firm for over eight years, both in New Jersey and New York City. I lived in New Jersey, but call New York City home most of the time.

My particular area of interest in the Titanic concerns her passengers and crew. Ever since the age of eight, I have been fascinated by this subject. Friends and family always claimed that I was more mature than most eight-year-olds, and I believe this led to my desire to investigate the subject of the Titanic further.

I joined the Titanic Historical Society in 1979, and was fortunate to befriend both Charles Haas and John Eaton, former officers of that organization. Thanks to both men, my interest intensified, and I was permanently hooked.

I began writing to survivors and relatives of those who sailed on the Titanic. I first contacted John B. Ryerson in Cooperstown, New York, in 1982. Mr. Ryerson was extremely kind, and answered all the questions I asked him. I told him I was thirteen-years-old, and I'll
never forget his response, "Now isn't that interesting. Did you know I was 13 when I was on the Titanic?" I'll never forget how pleased I was to be speaking with him. He was the boy I had read about and seen in the movies at boat #4, at first not being allowed to join his mother and sisters. It was not until John's father spoke up to Officer Lightoller and demanded that his son take a place. I asked Mr. Ryerson how he felt at the moment when his life was hanging in the balance. He replied, "I was so frightened to tell you the truth, that I kept silent and let my father handle the situation. I truthfully didn't think I was going to get on the boat!" It led to a friendly exchange of letters over the next year or so - until Mr. Ryerson was no longer able to communicate with others on a regular basis due to his advanced age and failing memory.

My communication with Mr. Ryerson led me to other survivors who were just as willing to share their memories of the Titanic. I soon met Marshall Drew of Westerly, Rhode Island, Marjorie Newell Robb, of Westport Point, Massachusetts, and Frank Aks, of Norfolk, Virginia. I often visited them, and sat in complete awe as they relived many painful memories endured on that tragic night in 1912. I was closest with Marjorie Newell Robb, who I first had the privilege of meeting for the first time in 1985. We became friends, and I visited her on countless occasions. Mrs. Robb made the best New England clam chowder I ever had, and always treated my fellow researcher friends and I to extraordinary tales of the old days. Her memories of the Titanic were remarkably vivid and haunting for she was 23-years-old at the time. She once told us how on the last night she wore a long train gown to the most lavish dinner of all served during the voyage.

I was also fortunate to meet many other friends who shared an interest in the Titanic's people such as Robert Bracken, Shelley Dziedzic and Brian Meister. Brian and I spent a good portion of our research taking trips across the country to visit libraries, archives, and best of all, cemeteries. Brian and I visited hundreds of graves of Titanic survivors and victims back in the late 1980s. At that time, there was no ET to learn or consult a particular passenger's date of birth, age, etc., nor a book to obtain the information either. Brian and I enjoyed hunting for any statistical information contained on a survivor's gravestone, and in many cases, we would be ready to scream, when after spending hours trying to locate a grave, we found out there was no marker! We braved snowstorms, rain, and even cemetery security guards in our quest to learn more about the Titanic's people. Cemeteries located in the most depressed and dangerous areas of U.S. cities didn't hinder our detective work. It was a most enjoyable experience, and Brian and I always laughed at the great lengths we would go to learn about the Titanic's passengers and crew. The photographs of some of the graves of Titanic's people found on ET were obtained during this time!

I have met and corresponded with over twenty-four survivors and hundreds of descendants. My friendship and association with these men and women further strengthened my belief and desire to perpetuate the memory of those who sailed aboard the Titanic's first and last voyage. Without the 2,207 passengers and crew aboard the Titanic, there would be no story to hear or read about.

In 1985, I was fortunate to be present when Charles Haas and John Eaton discovered the claims filed by the Titanic survivors at the National Archives in New Jersey. Volumes of material emerged as a result, and so much was learned about the Titanic's people than ever before. To see just what was actually on board the Titanic, owned by each passenger, was fascinating. I'll never forget Jack Eaton's expression when we realized just what were in for.

I do not intend to go in any detail regarding my involvement with the Titanic story. I will say that I am pleased to be a founding member of the Titanic International Society, of which, we have over active 1,200 members. I am a trustee of the organization, and have spent much of my time to the administration and direction of the society.

I am active with RMS Titanic, Inc., and have been an associate of theirs since 1987. I was pleased to be a participant in the 1996 Titanic expedition, and have enjoyed contributing photographs and historical information to their archives and exhibitions around the world. I have written extensively on the Titanic's passengers and crew for over fifteen years, and much of this information has been published in our society's quarterly journal. I was also privileged to share much of my material with authors Charles Haas, John Eaton, Susan Wells, Judith Geller, Alan Hustak and Per Kristian Sebak

At the moment, I am presently collaborating on a new Titanic book with my friend and fellow researcher, Robert Bracken. Our focus will be on the Titanic's passengers and crew. The book will be encyclopedic in nature. We hope it will be well received by the public as it has been in the making for over two years. Friends and co-authors have finally convinced us to publish our work rather than always give it to others to do for us.

I am pleased to be both a visitor and contributor to the Encyclopedia Titanica. Phil Hind has done a truly outstanding job in maintaining this impressive web site. I am very pleased to see how far the ET has progressed since its inception in 1996. My thanks to you, Phil, for all your hard work and dedication to this subject.

Thanks also to all of you for sharing your information, and for the friendly atmosphere that is evident on the message board. It is enjoyable to participate in a forum that doesn't exchange in unprofessional and childish behavior as do some chat rooms. I wish to also thank Phil Gowan for all his hard work in the area of tracking down so many of the more difficult survivors.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share a little about myself with you. I look forward to chatting with you all in the future.

Michael Findlay
 
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Elaine Barnes

Guest
Hello, Mike,
How I envy you and your fortune in being friends with so many survivors and their families. I look forward with great anticipation to the publication of your book.
Sincerely,
Elaine
 
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Karen Angstadt

Guest
Hi Michael! I have to say when I first started to come to the ET Message Board, your name looked very familiar. I checked through my Titanic books and alot of the stuff being contributed was from you. I also have to say that I honestly thought with all the knowledge you had accumulated you were somewhere in your 50's(not 2 years younger than me). I feel very honored to be posting at the same message board as you. Thank you for your research time and all the info you've shared.

Karen Angstadt
 
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Cátia Lamy

Guest
Hi Michel!

I have to agree with Elaine. You're so lucky to had the chance to meet survivors or descendants of them. I would be so happy only to talk to ONE of them; just one! Anyway, I haven't (sadly) read any of your articles do I don't know any of your work but you make it sound as a trully new and enthusiastic experience. Thank you for beeing a trully help for us who have so many question about this dream ship and her great passengers and crew. Thank for, like Celine Dion said once, keeping their lifes going on!

Sincerely,
Kátia Lamy
 

Pat Cook

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Apr 26, 2000
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Hi Michael,

Just a note to say I agree with all the others. You and I have only chatted briefly via emails regarding the Charlotte Collyer article but you were most helpful.

Best regards,
Cook
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
Hello Mike, it's good to see yet another researcher who is writing a book on this subject. A magnum opus on the Titanic I hope. With all the pop market junk out there, I always look forward to material from people who know what they're talking about.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

Mike Herbold

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Dec 13, 1999
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Michael:
Thank you for having no Texas connections. I've enjoyed your many Voyage articles and am glad to hear that you'll be finally publishing your own book. Can you imagine the Titanic knowledge we would have if the internet existed when Walter Lord published ANTR, and even more of the survivors were still alive?!
 
Dec 12, 1999
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Dear Michael,

Thank you for your kind words about my "Voyage" articles. I am glad you enjoyed reading them.

You are so correct when you mention how much the internet would have helped during the time Walter Lord wrote ANTR.

A little bit of news for those of you who may not know.

On one of my visits to Walter Lord years ago, he kindly shared the mountain of correspondence from survivors he received over the years. He freely stated that he heard from so many survivors before, during and after writing ANTR that he could not use all of the material he received from them. In many of the survivor letters, they wrote remarkable accounts of their experiences on the Titanic. Most of these recollections were never used in ANTR, nor were published by Walter elsewhere. These survivors are long gone, but their memories are still in Walter's filing cabinet. How wonderful this collection would be for Titanic historians to see one day in their entirety.

Walter related a funny incident regarding survivor Hakan Bjornstrom-Steffanson. Bjornstrom-Steffanson was still alive at the time Walter was writing ANTR, in fact, he lived within blocks of Walter's apartment here in Manhattan. Walter said that Bjornstrom-Steffanson was of particular interest to him since he was the only surviving member of the Candee/Gracie/Kent etc. group aboard the Titanic. Bjornstrom-Steffanson answered Walter's letter for information on the Titanic, but refused to let Walter visit him for a private interview. "Just use what I wrote in my letter as that is sufficient, in my opinioon, to what you need to know for your upcoming book," the letter went on to say. Walter showed me the letter and still laughed about the remark because there was nothing in Bjornstrom-Steffanson's letter detailing his own experiences. Instead, he gave Walter a history of the ship without even mentioning his own association with it. These little nuggets of Titanic survivor history are fascinating!

Sincerely,

Michael Findlay
 

Mike Herbold

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Dec 13, 1999
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Michael:
Please, only my mother and a few ladies over the years were ever allowed to call me Michael. Mike is OK.

Seriously though, I hope that all the survivor letters written to Walter Lord and similar letters a little later to Ken Kamuda are someday published. Just the raw letters, without comment or explanation, would be absolutely wonderful, and I would pay an arm and a leg for them. I'm imagining a book the size of "Titanic & Her Sisters" chock full of copies of letters and whatever photos they also sent. Expanding them into an even bigger book with remembrances like yours of Bjornstrom-Steffanson would be even better.
 

Mike Poirier

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Dec 12, 1999
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Hi Mike:
So when are you going to visit with Shell and I?
Give her a call. She goes to England on Friday.
Mike
 

Shane Kurup

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Jul 31, 2000
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Hey Mike!

I'm just here to say thanks for that info on the
survivors.You know SOOOOOOOOO much!

Shane
p.s do you think Brian will know alot about the survivors if I write to him?
do you have any tips for doing research?
 
Dec 12, 1999
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Hi Shane,

Thank you so much for your kind words.

I'm sure Brian will be happy to help you with any of your questions. He does visit the ET so drop him a line under his name.

There would be several points to address in regards to doing research on the Titanic and her people. All of us differ in our approaches to the subject. I have been researching the Titanic's passengers and crew for over twenty years. Back in the 1980s, Encyclopedia Titanica didn't exist. My research began in libraries, archives and other historical repositories. I wrote to the remaining survivors and hundreds of descendants of passengers and crew. Believe me, it wasn't so easy years ago to learn about the Titanic's people. With the advent of the internet and subsequently, Phil Hind's ET, it made the job for many people much easier. I remember how much fun it was to travel to libraries, view old microfilm reels until your eyes gave out, spending countless dollars on copies of every article one could find. Shelley Dziedzic, Bob Bracken, Brian Meister (to name a few) and I used to make many trips to cemeteries to ascertain passenger data. Those were the good old days of hard work and dedicated research - now it is only a click away on the internet! I would encourage anyone to use Phil Hind's site to the fullest but, if possible, they should also give themselves an opportunity to visit a library or archive and see just how much fun and rewarding tracking down material on the Titanic's people can really be.

If you have any specific questions about Titanic research, Shane, please don't hesitate to ask.

Sincerely,

Mike Findlay
 

Mike Poirier

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Dec 12, 1999
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Hi Mike:
Don't forget all the money you spent copying the material for other people!
Talked with Shell, seems to want a go ahead for project get together.
Mike
 
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Scott Blair

Guest
Dear Michael

I gather from Shelley Dzeidzic that you have carried out research into the life of Helen Melville Smith , daughter of E.J.Smith.I have a long term interest in Smith and his family.

I would love to share any information on them.In particular I am keen to develop my knowledge of Helen.I may consider publication of something on her and would of course acknowledge any help from you.

I would be truly grateful if we could discuss Helens' life.

It may be that you would wish to do this
"off-board". My e-mail is [email protected].

I hope to hear from you.

Regards

Scott Blair
 

Tracy Smith

Member
Nov 5, 2000
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South Carolina USA
Michael,
This sounds like a wonderful book you have planned; I know I'll want a copy

31 and you've met all those people? Wow. You're lucky you had parents who made allowance for you to pursue your Titanic interests so extensively at such a young age.

I'm 42 and I became interested in the Titanic at around age six or so, in 1964. There were probably quite a few survivors alive at the time that I could have met, if I'd been old enough to think of it.

Yes, going through libraries doing research is a lot of fun. One of my other hobbies in genealogy and back in the late 70s and early 80s when I started, genealogical research was done in the same manner. And the internet has also made genealogical research that much easier. In the last few months, I've had several descendants from one particular great great grandfather contact me online, each providing their particular branch of the family tree. This research would have been much more time consuming the old fashioned way.

I'm assuming you already know how to use genealogical resources in your hunt for Titanic passengers and crew.

To Mike Herbold:
I have a Texas connection. ;-) I lived in Richardson, TX (far north Dallas) for six years, 1979-1985.
 
Mar 20, 2000
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Mike,

I tried emailing you a while back but got no response. It could be I've got your old address.

I wanted to tell you that as my mss is finally headed into safe harbor, I am at liberty to share more info, such as you had requested, re: the Duff Gordons. You may have noticed, for instance, the letter from Lucile to Margot Asquith which I posted recently here on ET, the first time it has ever been seen publicly btw; I was glad to do it as I've been helped tremendously by the kind people here and wanted you all to be the first to see it. It was also my way of a tribute to the late Tony Halsbury, Lucile's grandson, who died last year on January 14.

I am hoping that we may work out some kind of a trade. I understand from Mike Poirier and others that you have material on Edith Russell, whom I am now researching for an article. If I can pick your brain on this subject, I'll be glad to do what I can to help you with info on the DGs for your projected book.

Do e-mail me when you get the time so we can chat. My new address is [email protected].

Best wishes to you in your ongoing research.

Regards,

Randy
 
Dec 12, 1999
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Hi Randy,

I will be more than happy to assist you concerning your article on Edith Russell. I will contact you privately via e-mail.

I very much appreciated your posting Lucile's letter to Margot Asquith here on the ET - it was most interesting and gave me an entirely different impression of her.

Check your e-mail within the next day or two.

Regards,

Mike Findlay
 
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Lindsay Willis-Joughin

Guest
Mike,

My name is Lindsay. I tried to e-mail you, but my mail was returned.

I'm a new member of the "Encyclopedia Titanica" message board and such, and read with great interest the following message:

"Randy,

Absolutely.

I have known several of Charles Joughin's descendants for many years since he lived near my home here in New Jersey.

I have seen the family photos, documents and heard the stories on how deeply the sinking effected Joughin. Following his rescue, his hands and feet swelled terribly and doctors in New York suggested serious treatment. The Titanic disaster was the leading factor in Joughin's decision to give up the sea. He settled in Paterson, New Jersey, where he died in 1956.

Family members recall the many stories he would relate about the sinking. One of his step-granddaughters remembered him talking about his swimming around with the polar bears to give her an indication of just how cold the water was.

Personally I do not believe Joughin was in the water as long as he claimed but he was there for a reasonable amount of time. Almost all of the survivors had difficulty in estimating time, and given Joughin's serious situation, I doubt he was counting minutes during his struggle in the icy water. It must have seemed like an eternity in those conditions.

Regards,

Mike Findlay "

My reason for writing to you is this. I too am a relation of Charles Joughin. He was my grandfather's great uncle, and my family here in England have spent a lot of time trying to gather information on him. My grandfather (John Christian Joughin) and great aunt (Agnes Joughin) in particular are obsessed with finding every single minute detail that they can!

I wondered if there was any way at all that you could help me to contact his relatives in New Jersey. With their consent, of course. I would be eternally grateful for anything that you could do.

I'm kind of new to all this, but from what I've seen so far it's generally acknowledged that you're the person to ask about... well, everything! My e-mail is:

[email protected]

Any information at all would be wonderful!
happy.gif


Thank you for your time.

Regards,

Lindsay.
 
Dec 12, 1999
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Mike,

I did receive it (just this morning!). Absolutely no problem with any of your requests. I've been all over lately and having several e-mail addresses, I get confused with who is sending what where.
happy.gif


Check your e-mail.

Mike
 
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