Miss Helen Alice Wilson was born in Clonberne, Co. Galway, Ireland, around 1879 1 on 12 February.2
She was the daughter of Irish parents Patrick Wilson and Ellenor Feeney who lived and raised their family in Dunmore near Tuam in Co Galway. Her known siblings, all born in Dunmore, were: Mary (b. 1862), Patrick (b. 1866), Bridget (b. 1867), Mathias (b. 1870), Thomas (b. 1873), Ellen (b. 1875), Peter (b. 1877) and Margaret (b. 1882).
Helen had first arrived in the USA sometime between 1904 and 1906; around 1908 she became a maid to the wealthy Frederic Oakley Spedden family of Tuxedo Park, New York and travelled extensively with them, taking in much of Europe and North Africa.3
Following a trip to Egypt Miss Wilson boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg on 10 April 1912, travelling first class with her employers Mr and Mrs Frederic O. Spedden, their young son Douglas and nursemaid Elizabeth Burns (ticket number 16966 which cost £134, 10s); whilst aboard she occupied either cabin E39 or E41.
Miss Wilson survived the sinking, escaping with the rest of her party in lifeboat 3. She later recounted:
It was the most beautiful starlight night that I ever saw when we struck the iceberg. This I noticed especially after the lights of the ship had all sunk below the water...
I shall never forget the cries of anguish that went up from that ship as the life-boats pulled away. While we were being put into the boat there was a mad rush of some foreigners to get in, and two Italian men were shot dead before my eyes. The sight of floating bodies as we rowed away was horrible.
Mr. Spedden was saved by what might be really called a leap for life. He had put his family into the boat which was lowered at once, and there were no more women in the immediate vicinity, so one of the officers seeing room for one more said to Mr. Spedden. 'You may as well jump and save yourself.' He did so and landed in the boat, thus joining his family.
The water was almost to our knees in the boat. We pulled away toward a light which we thought was on a vessel, but after four hours we saw that it was only a star.
We feared when the Carpathia came up that we should be swamped by the waves after all our troubles but we were saved.
I will never forget the awful experiences of that night. I wish I could sleep and wake up to find it was only a dream, but it was too real.
Upon reaching New York Helen stayed with the Speddens at the Hotel Seville and was met there by her brother Peter who had travelled from Plainfield, New Jersey.
Helen left the employment of the Speddens within the next few years and was married to Swedish sea captain Axel Johannes Rosenquist (b. 7 November 1877); with him she had two daughters, Helen (b. 1917) and Esther (1920-1982, later Mrs John F. Heinz, Jr). The 1920 and 1930 censuses show the family living at 311 Plymouth Place, Merchantville, Camden, New Jersey where Helen would spend the rest of her life.
Helen Wilson Rosenquist died following a long illness on 1 December 1939 and was buried in Arlington Cemetery, Camden, New Jersey. Her widower Axel died in 1945.
Helen Alice was my Great Grand Aunt and was born in the parish of Clonberne, Co. Galway (this is near Dunmore) and was indeed Irish.