Miss Ellen Mary Toomey

Ellen Mary Toomey

Miss Ellen Mary Toomey was born in Kilcornan, Co Limerick, Ireland on 2 February 1862.1

She was the daughter of John Toomey (b. circa 1839) and Mary Brandon (b. circa 1835), both farmers.

Her known siblings were: Mary Ann (b. 1859, later Mrs Patrick Joseph Kelly), Catherine (1860-1937, later Mrs Michael Delaney), Bridget (1869-1922, later Mrs William Hanney), and Patrick (b. 1870)(2).

When Ellen first left Ireland to settle in the USA is not clear but contemporary news reports suggest that she had been living in Indianapolis, Indiana for many years. On the 1910 census she is living at 1218 North Pennsylvania Street in Indianapolis and was described as an unmarried Irish maid servant to a surgeon, Orange G. Pfaff and his family. She had been joined in Indianapolis by two sisters, Catherine Delaney and Bridget Hanney who in 1912 lived at 434 West Morris Street and 911 Bates Street, respectively.

Her widowed mother appeared on the 1911 census living at 3 Cowpark in Kilcornan, Co Limerick with her son Patrick, a farmer, and his family; her father had passed away in 1896.

Ellen returned to Ireland in November 1911, travelling third class aboard the Baltic. She visited her family in Limerick before travelling on to Britain where her sister Mary Ann Kelly and her family lived in Barking, Essex. She sent a postcard from London back to her sisters in Indianapolis informing them that she intended to return home aboard Titanic.

Ellen boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a second class passenger (ticket number 13531 which cost £10, 10s) and board she shared a cabin with two other women and a young girl, Mrs Bessie Watt and her daughter Bertha and (probably) Mrs Rosa Pinsky. She recalled the three Catholic priests giving daily Mass.

I was a second class passenger on the Titanic, and in the same room with me were a Scotch woman, Mrs. Watt, and her little daughter, eleven-years-old, and a jewish woman. Mrs. Watt and daughter were on their way to join Mr. Watt at Portland, Ore. We were all in bed, but not asleep, when the ship struck the iceberg. There was a sloight shock, but nothing serious, as we thought. Mrs. Watt went out on the deck to see what had happened, and she was told that it was nothing serious and sh came back and told us. - The Indianapolis News April 24 1912

On the night of the sinking Miss Toomey recalled being ordered with other women and children to the starboard side of the ship, the men falling back. An officer stood by the lifeboat, brandishing a revolver; although he did not fire it, Miss Toomey recalled hearing shots from other parts of the ship. She entered a lifeboat with Mrs Watt and her daughter (lifeboat 9) and noted that the lifeboat held around 30 people and could have taken more. Following the lifeboat's launch two men appeared from underneath the seats.

Ellen ToomeyAfter the lifeboat had rowed out a safe distance it stood by; from here Miss Toomey noticed how much the ship was listing and could see her gradually sink. Whilst unable to see anybody struggling in the water she could hear their cries quite plainly and it was a sound she was sure she would never forget. She recalled a French woman who had lost her husband, became hysterical and had to be subdued. This probably refers to Madame Aubart, who was not married but was the mistress of Benjamin Guggenheim.

As daylight broke Ellen was startled to see so many icebergs dotted around, some of them breathtaking in their size; she reported that she was shown the iceberg that Titanic had struck and she was curious as the berg itself did not look very big. Rescued aboard Carpathia she heaped praise among that ship's passengers and crew for the kind treatment she and other survivors were given.

Ellen was reunited with her sisters in Indianapolis who awaited her return with much anxiety and arrived there by train on 23 April.

Ellen spent the remainder of her life in Indianapolis but there is no trace of her on the 1920 and 1930 census records. Emotionally spent from her experiences, it is understood that she secreted herself in a convent for many years but did not take Holy Orders. She died in Indianapolis on 23 December 1933, having spent her last days being cared for by the Little Sisters of the Poor and she was buried in one of their plots in Holy Cross Cemetery.

Notes

  1. Age under dispute; she would give different ages throughout her life and is frequently cited as 2 February 1862. Her death notices state that she was 73 years of age at time of her passing, suggesting she was born in 1860; this clashes with the birth of her elder sister Catherine.
  2. Both of her death notices state that she had a sister serving in the Order of Holy Cross, Sister M. Bruno. The identity of this person has yet to be established as no contemporary 1912 newspapers mention her.

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Articles and Stories

Indianapolis Star (1912) 
 

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  1. Colleen Toomey said:

    Recently I discovered that there was a woman by the name of Miss Ellen Toomey on board the Titanic. I am very interested in finding out if she is a relative of mine, since my family name is Toomey. I was wondering if anyone could give me some direction as to where I should begin looking for information on her. Thank you for your help. Reading, PA

  2. Mary Butler said:

    Does anyone have any information on Ellen Toomey? Mary Toomey Butler

  3. Phillip Gowan said:

    Mary, Ellen Toomey continued on to Indianapolis and remained there the rest of her life, dying in 1933. She never married. She had one sister in Indianapolis who was a nun and another who married and had a family. She has a 101 year old niece and a 95 year old nephew still living in Indianapolis and a bunch of great-nieces and nephews.

  4. Morgan Henn said:

    If ANYONE knows anything about Miss. Ellen Mary Toomey please write what you know and send any pics. to

  5. Morgan Henn said:

    Cam. I'm doing a reaserch paper on Miss Ellen Mary Toomey. She died on Dec. 23 1933. She is buried in the Holy Croos Cemetary. If you want to know more. E-mail me! Morgan :)

  6. Morgan Henn said:

    Holy Cross Cemetary!

  7. Stephen Toomey said:

    Can any person help me with finding a place I can contact in Indianapolis, Indiana. There was a Miss Ellen Toomey rescued from the Titanic, she was traveling to the above place. I think by all reports that I have obtianed that she must have been a NUN. Because she spoke of going to mass every day, also the names of three preists.

  8. Phillip Gowan said:

    Hi Stephen, Ellen Toomey was never a nun. After her experience on the Titanic, she was shaken physically and emotionally to the point that she sequestered herself in a convent with The Little Sisters of the Poor where she remained the rest of her life and is buried on a cemetery plot normally reserved for nuns. She never married but left a sister, Catherine (Mrs. Michael Delaney) who has living descendants still in Indianapolis--including a 102 year old granddaughter and a 97 year old grandson. Regards, Phillip Gowan

  9. Pat toomey said:

    can anyone tell me how to find information on Ellen Toomeys family history? I am researching my Toomey ancestors and Ellen is a common name amongst them, I would love to find out more about her. thank you

  10. Phillip Gowan said:

    Pat, Ellen Toomey was born in 1864 in County Cork, Ireland, daughter of John Toomey and Mary Brandon. She had two sisters living in Indianapolis including Catherine, Mrs. Michael Delaney. Ellen went back to visit her mother and other relatives in Ireland in November of 1911 and was returning to Indianapolis on the Titanic when the disaster occurred. She continued on to Indianapolis but was so disturbed over her experience that she sequestered herself in a convent and stayed the rest of her life, though she did not become a nun. When she died she was being cared for by the "Little Sisters of... Read full post

  11. Stephen Toomey said:

    Dear Philip Gowen I still have all your report to me from the year 2001,that were on the massage board. They changed the name of the place where Miss Ellen Toomey, was buried,it is now called ST, Augestines in Indianapilis. I otained all this from a Great Grand neice, Debbie Matthews, plus a write up from THE Indianapolis, Star, dated April 25, 1912. Debbie, has Miss Ellen Toomey, dying at the age of 72, and buried like you siad in a Plot of The Sisters of the Poor. I will leave it at this but it throws her Birth-day out of wack; Debbie sent me about three pages from a Microflim. Take... Read full post

  12. Phillip Gowan said:

    Thanks Stephen! I have three different birthdates for her and haven't proven which is correct. Out of curiosity, when I was in touch with members of the Delaney family a few years ago, Ellen had a very elderly niece and nephew still living. Do you know if they are still alive? Regards, Phillip

  13. Colleen Collier said:

    Stephen. Isn't Indiana genealogy FUN?!?! (sarcasm there!) Do you have many ancestors located in the Indianapolis area, and if so, how long were they entrenched there? (Mine, about 100 years worth.) Phil, I understand your frustration regarding Indianaoplis. I believe St Augustine is on my list of stops to locate elusive Collier family members, when I get back to Marion County. If you don't beat me to it, I will keep out a watch for Titanic people as well.

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Credits

Gavin Bell, UK
Michael Poirier, USA

References and Sources

Indianapolis Star, 21 April 1912, Indianapolis Woman Saved
Indianapolis Star,
25 December 1933, death notice
Indianapolis News 24 April 1912
Indianapolis News, 26 December 1933, death notice
Search archive Irish newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

(2019) Ellen Mary Toomey Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #579, updated 25th April 2019 23:57:14 PM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/ellen-mary-toomey.html