Mrs Fanny Maria Kelly was born as Fanny Maria Tozer in Wandsworth, London, England in late 1863 or early 1864 but her birth was never registered.1
Sometimes known as Nellie, she was the daughter of Charles Tozer2 (1825-1884), a shoesmith3, and Annie Knott4 (1831-1890), natives of Bow, Devon and Lacock, Wiltshire, respectively who were married in Pentonville, London on 30 November 1856.
Fanny had twelve siblings, several of who did not survive infancy: Charles Knott (1855-1856), Eliza Tryphena (b. 1857), Charles William (1858-1858), Annie Rosina (b. 1859), William Richard (1860-1860), Mary Louisa (b. 1862), Alice Maud (b. 1865), Charles William (1867-1868), Charles Mark William (b. 1869), Emmeline Florence (b. 1871) and Lily Beatrice (b. 1873) whilst an unnamed sister was stillborn in early 1866.
The Tozer family are shown on the 1871 census residing at 25 Brooks Mews in Hanover, London, later appearing at the same address on the 1881 census; by the time of the latter record Fanny was described as a dressmaker.
Fanny was married in St George’s Parish Church, Middlesex on 17 January 1883 to Richard Henry Kelly (b. circa 1857), an Irish-born jeweller.
Richard Kelly hailed from Dublin but little else is known of his origins; when he and Fanny appeared on the 1891 census—as residents of 6 Regents Square, St Pancras, London—he was described as an “East India precious stone merchant”. Their only child, their son Richard Charles, had been born at the same street on 29 June 1883.
By 1901 Fanny was the proprietor of a boarding house at 22 Upper Bedford Place in Bloomsbury, London and she was shown living there on the 1901 census, then being described as a widow. What had become of her husband is unknown. On the 1911 census she was still described as a boarding house keeper but was herself a boarder at 59 Torrington Square in Bloomsbury, London where her son, by then an unemployed clerk, was also staying.
Fanny’s son Richard left Britain and arrived in New York aboard the Oceanic on 8 March 1912; curiously he had been scheduled to arrive there the week prior aboard the New York, but he did not join that voyage. Giving his next of kin as his uncle, a Mr Hamilton of Wilberforce Road in Southsea, Hampshire (the husband of his maternal aunt Mary Louisa, née Tozer), he was destined for 135 Lennox Avenue in New York and was described as a lunch room owner and of Irish ethnicity.
Using the first name Florence, Mrs Kelly purchased a second class passage aboard the Titanic (which cost £13, 10s), intent on joining her son in New York, her first-ever visit to the USA. She boarded the Titanic at Southampton and whilst aboard shared a cabin with Hilda Slayter. She was reportedly carrying her life savings across the ocean, some $8000, with which she intended to help her son solidify his business.
Mrs Kelly survived the sinking and was rescued by the Carpathia, although in which lifeboat she escaped is uncertain (possibly in lifeboats 9, 10 or 13). On the Carpathia she sent a telegram to her sister in London on 18 April at 6.32 pm:
Hamilton 32 Bedford Place London
saved cable Dick lost address
Arriving in New York, Mrs Kelly gave her next of kin as her sister Mrs Hamilton of 32 Bedford Place in London. She was described as standing at 5’ 6” and she had brown hair and blue eyes and was destined to the home of her son at 68 West 71st Street, New York City. Her son, incorrectly identified as James Kelly in contemporary media, had apparently resigned himself to the fact that his mother had been lost when he could not find her name on the lists of survivors. When a revised list was published on the day of Carpathia’s arrival in New York with Mrs Kelly’s name on it, he was overjoyed and was at the Cunard Pier to meet her:
MEETS MOTHER AT PIER;
BELIEVED HER LOST
After having believed since Tuesday morning that his mother, Mrs F. Kelly, had perished with the Titanic, James Kelly discovered her name among a revised list of survivors published in the Evening Telegram last night and hurried to the Cunard pier to meet her.
Mrs. Kelly was on her way to the United States for the first time, bringing with her $8000 so that her son could purchase the Chester Lunch, at No. 130 West Thirty-sixth street, and start in business for himself. It was all the money she had in the world, and it was this sum which was to set her son up in business. He forgot the money when he saw his mother’s name among those saved. He could only rejoice at his good fortune.
“My mother I saved!” he cried while tears of joy streamed down his face. “I don’t know whether she lost the money or not, and I don’t care so long as I have her.” - New York Herald, 19 April 1912
According to the 1913 The Emergency and Relief booklet by the American Red Cross (recipient number 236), Mrs Fanny Kelly returned to England, arriving in Britain sometime between September and December 1912. By 1919 she was living at 32 Bloomsbury Street, London.
Fanny Maria Kelly died aged 56 on 1 March 1920 at 32 Bloomsbury Street, London. According to her death certificate, she had been afflicted with diabetes for eight years, perhaps suffering with the effects of this ailment whilst aboard Titanic. Her final resting place has not yet been located.
Her son Richard, described as a hotel proprietor, was married in London in August 1920 to Myrtle Dorothy Eugenie Curtis (b. 1900), the daughter of a photographer. In December 1924 when passengers aboard the P&O ship Barrabool, which was en route to Australia, the couple had been living in Hove, Sussex and Richard was described as a chef. Richard and his wife settled in Sydney where he died in June 1945.