Mrs Hannah O'Brien

Titanic survivor from County Limerick

Mrs Hannah O'Brien (née Godfrey) was born on 4 June 1884 in Kyle, Cappamore, Co Limerick, Ireland.1

She was the daughter of Michael Godfrey (b. circa 1848), a farmer, and Eliza "Lizzie" Gilhooly2 (b. circa 1850), Limerick natives who were married in Dromkeen, Co Limerick on 8 February 1875. 

She had five known siblings: Mary (b. 21 February 1876), Michael (b. 8 March 1877), Catherine (b. 25 September 1878), Margaret (b. 24 October 1880), Hanora (b. on 29 January 1882) and Patrick (b. 6 January 1887).

Hannah and her family were listed on the 1901 census living at house 12 in Kilduffahoo, Limerick and she was described as a farmer's daughter aged 16. By the time of the following census her father had passed away (on 15 June 1904 from a stroke) and her brother Michael was running the farm.

Hannah later became involved with another Limerick man, Thomas O'Brien (b. 1885), a native of Grean. It is not clear if the two were ever officially married but by early 1912 it was clear that Hannah had fallen pregnant and it was decided that the couple should emigrate.

Hannah and Thomas boarded the Titanic at Queenstown as third class passengers (ticket number 370365 which cost £15, 10s). They were travelling to Chicago, Illinois where Thomas' sister Mary Hunt lived at 638 Sherman Plaza.

Hannah was rescued, in which lifeboat is unknown, Thomas was lost.

Hannah arrived in New York aboard Carpathia Hannah was gave her next of kin as her mother Eliza back in Ireland and stated her destination as the Foundling Asylum at 65 Street. She did not travel as planned to Chicago but also decided against returning to Ireland. 

Hannah later became involved in a wrangling over compensation with Thomas' family back in America and back in Ireland. Hannah was soon able to produce evidence that she and Thomas were married and she went on to benefit from various relief funds. In a terse letter to her sister-in-law Mary Hunt, Hannah said:

"You needn't worry about me. My baby and myself will be alright. I knew ye were all trying to get some money. I produced my marriage certificate, and I had the nearest claim. So you nor the lawyer needn't bother..." 

On 3 September 1912 she gave birth to a daughter and named her Marion Columba O'Brien and they made their home Brooklyn. Hannah later received word on the passing of her mother who died on 14 November 1913.

Hannah was remarried to a fireman originally from Kilkenny, Ireland named James Quinn (b. circa 1883) who had first arrived in the USA in 1908. The couple had son, also named James (b. 1918).

Hannah died from influenza aged 35 on 17 October 1918 and was buried three days later in Holy Cross Cemetery, Brooklyn.

Her daughter Marion, son James and widower appear on the 1920 census living in Brooklyn with the older James's sister Mary helping to care for the young children. Hannah's widower later remarried to another Irish woman, Catherine, and with her had a daughter, Mary (b. 1921). By 1940 the family were living at Carroll Street, Brooklyn and James was by then a dock worker whilst the younger James was a clerk. What became of them thereafter is unclear.

Marion, a Titanic survivor in her own right, went to work at a young age as a telephone operator. She later married an Irishman William J. Hanlon (1905-1975), a civil engineer. Hanlon was born in Waterford, Ireland to Thomas and Catherine Hanlon, the latter née Sinnott. 

Marion and William had one son and two daughters. She lived in Albany up until widowhood when she transferred to Tennessee where her daughter Catherine lived. She died in Manchester, Tennessee on 4 July 1994 aged 81 and is buried in St Agnes' Cemetery, Menands, Albany with her husband.


  1. Birth apparently never registered; most sources state she was born 4 June 1884 but at least one source states the date as 29 September 1884. Neither date has been verified. 
  2. Her death record states her mother's name as Mary. 

Articles and Stories

Titanica! (2017) 

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References and Sources

Belfast Telegraph, 5 September 2007, My family's dark secret and the legend of Titanic,
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279]).
Noel Ray (1999) List of Passengers who Boarded RMS Titanic at Queenstown, April 11, 1912. The Irish Titanic Historical Society
Search archive Irish newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

(2020) Hannah O'Brien Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #1085, updated 13th January 2020 16:11:10 PM)