Encyclopedia Titanica

Ellen Bird

Miss Ellen Bird was born on Wilby Road in Old Buckenham, Norfolk, England on 8 April 1881.

She was the daughter of Samuel Bird (b. 1842) and Mary Ann Clarke (b. 1842). Her father, a farmer and shepherd, was also native to Old Buckenham whilst her mother hailed from Shropham, Norfolk. They were married in early 1864 and went on to produce a brood of eleven children. Ellen's siblings were: George (b. 1862), Samuel (b. 1864), Sarah (b. 1868), Emma (b. 1870), Anna (b. 1872), Eliza (b. 1874), Benjamin (b. 1876), Mary (b. 1878), Abigail (b. 1883) and William (b. 1885).

Ellen appears on the 1891 census living at her family home on Wilby Road, Old Buckenham, the place of her birth. Her parents were shown on the 1901 census living at Horsham (?) Road and on the 1911 census at Staxford, both in Old Buckenham, but Ellen was not listed at these addresses with them and only her eldest surviving brother, Samuel remained at home. It seems that Ellen, along with the majority of her siblings, went out to work at a very early age and by the time of the 1901 census she was listed as a general domestic at an address in Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey.

Bird was living in London when she was employed by Mrs Isidor Straus just prior to their return to New York. The Strauses had been in Europe since January 1912 and were trying to find a new French maid to bring back. They had no success but did hire a British maid who left them at the last minute and Ellen Bird was then hired. In letter from Ida Straus to her children she expressed her wish that this new girl work out.

Ellen boarded the Titanic at Southampton with the Strauses and she occupied cabin C-97 (ticket number PC 17483). Also travelling in their party was the Straus' English manservant John Farthing.

After the collision, as Mrs Straus dithered over whether or not to enter a boat and handed Miss Bird some of her Jewellery but then decided to take it back. Ida also gave Ellen her fur coat saying that she would not be needing it. Encouraged by her steadfast employers Ellen Bird boarded Lifeboat 8 and was saved. Both her elderly employers remained behind and were both lost, as was their manservant John Farthing.

After being rescued, Ellen tried to give Mrs Straus' fur coat back to the family, specifically to Sara Straus Hess, the Straus' eldest daughter. Sara told Ellen that Ida had given her the coat and she should keep it.

Ellen went to work for the family of Frederic Spedden of Tuxedo Park, New York. The Speddens were also on the Titanic and had also travelled to Europe in January 1912, coincidentally on the same ship as Isidor and Ida Straus.

Following the disaster it is reported that Ellen worked for the Spedden family of Tuxedo Park, New York, who also survived the Titanic disaster and who, coincidentally, had travelled to Europe in early 1911 aboard the same ship as Mr and Mrs Straus. She would remain in their employ until her marriage.

Ellen was married on 3 June 1914 in Manhattan to Julian Edward Beattie (b. 30 August 1881), a London-born man who worked as a yacht captain and also in the hotel trade. They went on to have just one child, a daughter named Gwendolyn, who was born in New York on 29 June 1915. The child barely passed her second birthday and died on 8 September 1917. Ellen and Edward had no further children. They were listed on the 1920 census living in Morris, New Jersey and both under the employ of a Mr Peter Hood Ballantine Frelinghuysen and his family. The couple were listed on both the 1930 and 1940 censuses living in Boston, with Mr Beattie being described as a proprietor on the later record and still connected with the hospitality trade. Ellen reportedly worked for several prominent families in Newport, Rhode Island, having moved there from New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Ellen Bird Beattie, who became a naturalised US citizen in 1938, died in a rest home in Newport, Rhode Island on 11 September 1949. She was buried in Acushnet Cemetery in Bristol, Massachusetts. Her husband Edward outlived her by over a decade and died on 21 September 1963 and was buried with her.

References and Sources

The Straus Family Historical Society
John Balls (1999) Titanic: The Norfolk Surviviors. Nostalgia Publications, Dereham.

Newspaper Articles

The New York Times (21 April 1912) MOST OF THE CREW SAIL
New York Times (22 June 1912) IDA STRAUS ESTATE $260,000

Documents and Certificates

(1912) Contract Ticket List, White Star Line (Southampton, Queenstown), National Archives, London; BT27/776,780
Search archive online

Comment and discuss

  1. Andrew Maheux

    How long did Ellen Bird work for the Speddens and when did she start? Thanx Andrew

  2. Shelley Dziedzic

    It seems these cemetery outings always turn into adventures. After calling Acushnet Cemetery and getting horrific directions from the office manager, I ended up on Rt. 24 North 20 minutes from Boston- at one point ending up at the dog track! If you plan to visit Ellen's grave, make sure to get on 195East to 140 and take a left off the ramp. Achushnet is a tiny town just outside New Bedford, about 20 minutes northeast of Fall River. The rose granite stone is just behind the yellow office/garage complex. I wondered how Ellen ended up here, the opposite side of the stone below indicates perhaps... Read full post

  3. Shelley Dziedzic

    The opposite side of the stone.

  4. Shelley Dziedzic

    This is the house where Ellen and her husband lived, and where Ellen died, on the second floor at 20 Everett Street, Newport. Just around the corner Molly Brown spend her last Newport Summer on Catherine Street at Pine Lodge, and Margaret Hays lived one street over on Ayrault Street (#36)- all these houses are just a couple of blocks off famous Bellevue Avenue.

  5. Shelley Dziedzic

    The Beatties occupied only the second floor- this is a very large house on a beautiful tree-lined street of Victorian homes. I have never been able to find a photograph of Ellen-she probably worked hard taking care of other people all her life and never had time to pose for photos. Does anyone know if one exists?

  6. Eric S. Silvia

    Shelley, Many thanks for sharing. I find it facinating traveling to various cemeteries in search of family graves. Almost all had passed on before I was born, which makes such a process more intriguing, in my opinion. Are you from Massachusetts? I live a few towns over from Acushnet--they have great peach and apple orchards there. Also, I had read a post many months ago regarding a Titanic survivor that was buried in the town of Bridgewater, MA. Would you know who that was and the cemetery by chance? I would like to try and locate their grave. I wish you the best of success...... Read full post

  7. Randy Bryan Bigham

    Thanks Shelley for posting these

  8. Jemma Hyder

    Jemma Hyder

    I am positive that there is more than one photo of Ellen. I believe Phil Gowan had them included in a copy of his work that he brought to one of the BTS Conventions...

  9. Shelley Dziedzic

    Eric, it is Francis Millet I think who is buried in East Bridgewater. I actually got lost there too on the way to Achushnet. I seem to recall he was from Mattapoisset. There were so many cemeteries I decided not to try to find him without directions. I live on the CT-RI stateline nearly Westerly, R.I. which has been a convenient place as so many passengers are in the Massachusetts/CT/NY/PA/NJ. area, it has been possible to get to many over the years. I am glad to hear there is a photograph of Ellen-perhaps from earlier days in England? I had hoped there might be a wedding photograph. :-)

  10. Arne Mjåland

    Hallo Shelley. Interesting to read about the trip to the cementeries. I definitely would have to take a bus if I had done a thing like that. You had got even more out of it inside the cementery if you had been there late at night in autumn with bad weather, rain and wind. I am sorry I have to correct you a little bit: According to the obituary about Mrs Edward Beatie (Mrs Ellen Bird) from the New Bedford , Massachusetts, Standard Time newespaper Mrs Beattie died in a Newport resting home, not at home. Here is the obituary: Mrs Ellen Bord Beattie 66 formerly of New Bedford and wife of... Read full post

  11. Phillip Gowan

    Arne, You are right about John's excellent research on Ellen--despite contacting members of the family in England, he managed to get only photos of the old homeplace and peripheral things but no one had a photo of Ellen herself. The we tracked down a living great-niece in the United States and she was able to identify Ellen in two Kodak type photos that her mother had kept through the years. These two photos of Ellen will be made public at some future time and John will include them if another edition of The Norfolk Survivors is published. I have a copy of the obituary you've quoted above... Read full post

  12. Shelley Dziedzic

    Thanks for the correction Arne, I have copied your post for Bill Harrison who is doing the book on Newport Titanic people. Aquidneck Convalescent Home is no longer in business- Newport is on Aquidneck Island along with the towns of Portsmouth and Middletown. There is no obit in the Newport Daily News for Ellen, but the folks in New Bedford are looking into possibilities there of some information and have promised to call this week. Lovely place Norfolk- fields of lavender.

  13. Michael Findlay

    Shell, If I'm not mistaken, didn't Bill Harrison say that the Aquidneck Nursing Home was the location where Ellen died at 20 Everett Street in Newport? I recall him saying that Ellen lived in one of the rooms at that location and died there. He did say that other people lived at that residence when Ellen died - giving the impression that it was a nursing home of some sort. I don't recall and the files aren't accessible at the moment. I'm sure Bill would know. Mike

  14. Shelley Dziedzic

    Actually Mike, I just heard from the historical society- yes, The Aquidneck Convalescent Home was the address and house posted in the photo above - it is clearly marked in the 1949 directory of Newport. She had rooms on the second floor in the final stages of her life. It is a small world, as we were chatting about Ellen, relatives of Dr. Easton came in, so that led to another whole opportunity to gather information on another passenger!

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Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Miss Ellen Bird
Age: 31 years and 7 days (Female)
Nationality: English
Marital Status: Single
Embarked: Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 17483, £221 15s 7d
Cabin No. C97
Rescued (boat 8)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Died: Sunday 11th September 1949 aged 68 years
Buried: Acushnet Cemetery, Acushnet, Massachusetts, United States

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