Mr Benjamin James Thomas (Saloon Steward, 1st Class) was born in Clapham, London, England on 31 May 1881.
He was the son of Jane Thomas (b. 1852), a native of Shrewsbury, Shropshire, but the identity of his father is not clear and he had died around 1890. He had one known surviving sibling, a brother named Ernest (b. 1890).
Benjamin was listed on the 1891 census with his mother, then a housekeeper, and brother living at 41 Rathbone Street, West Ham, Essex.
He was married to Polly James (b. March 1877) in Lewisham in 1906. Polly hailed from Bicester, Oxford and she and Benjamin went on to have one child, a daughter named Bertha Annie (b. 29 June 1907) who was born in Digswell, Hertfordshire. The family appear on the 1911 census living at 122 Avenue Road, Portswood, Southampton and Benjamin is described as a ship's steward.
He was on board the Titanic for her delivery trip from Belfast to Southampton. When he signed-on again, in Southampton, on 4 April 1912, he gave his address as 122 Avenue Road, Southampton. As a first class saloon steward he received monthly wages of £3, 15s. His last ship had been the Olympic and he had been aboard her when she collided with the Hawke in 1911.
Thomas was rescued in lifeboat 15.
It is not clear if Benjamin ever worked at sea again and he soon settled in the USA and was later joined by his wife and daughter, who departed from Southampton on 2 October 1912 aboard Oceanic. The family established themselves in Plainfield, New Jersey and Benjamin worked as a steward on the railroads. The 1930 census shows he and his wife as visitors to the home of survivor Fred Toms who at that time was living in Los Angeles.
Benjamin spent the rest of his life in Plainfield; he passed away in 1937 and was buried in Hillside Cemetery in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. His widow Polly later passed away in 1949.
Thomas' daughter Bertha later worked as a stenographer, married Halsey Saint Mills (1905-1991), an office clerk, and had one son, Thomas, who died whilst still young. Bertha died in Middlesex, Massachusetts in 1978 and she is buried with her parents in Hillside Cemetery.
Peter Engberg, Sweden
References and SourcesAgreement and Account of Crew (PRO London, BT100/259)
Particulars of Engagement (Belfast), Ulster Folk and Transport Museum (TRANS 2A/45 381)
1920,1930 US Census
1891-1911 British Census
World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918
Craig Stringer (2003) Titanic People (CDROM)