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Hannah O'Brien

Titanic survivor from County Limerick

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Credit: Gavin Bell

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Hannah O'Brien

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 O'Brien and her daughter
Hannah O'Brien and her daughter Marion c. 1915

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. 

References and Sources

Syracuse Post Standard, 17 June 2018

Research Articles

Pregnant Titanic passengers and posthumous fathers...
The tragic stories of Titanic survivors who died prematurely...

Newspaper Articles

Belfast Telegraph (4 July 2008) My Family's Dark Secret And The Legend Of Titanic

Documents and Certificates

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


Noel Ray (1999) List of Passengers who Boarded RMS Titanic at Queenstown, April 11, 1912, The Irish Titanic Historical Society
Senan Molony (2000) The Irish aboard Titanic, Wolfhound Press, Dublin
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Comment and discuss

  1. Gavin Bell

    Dear Anybody For some time now I have been working on what became of Hannah O'Brien -- I have not yet come up with her final whereabouts but I have uncovered this, which may or may not be correct. Anybody who wishes to make comments on this, add to or make corrections please do! Hannah O'Brien from Kyle, Co Limerick, Ireland, and her husband Thomas, from Pallasgreen, Co limerick, met on train journey. A few months later the couple eloped and were married in Limerick by a priest related to Hannah and subsequently travelled to Queenstown to board the Titanic. Obviously, Thomas was lost in the disaster but Hannah was saved, unknowing that she was pregnant at the time. Hannah made it to America where she had two sisters who were nuns and they took care of her. Hannah later gave birth to a baby girl and called her Moira. Mrs O'Brien never returned to Ireland and settled in New York where she was remarried to a man named Hanlon (?). There was a fiasco regarding... Read full post
  2. Mike Herbold

    Cameron: I was comparing your bio to the article that Robert Bracken and Michael Findlay published in Voyage 27 (Winter 1998) and noticed a few things they had that you don't. They show her maiden name as Godfrey. They say they were originally going to Chicago where Thomas had several sisters. They say there are two versions of how she escaped -- 1) Thomas managed to get her into lifeboat 16 with many other Irish women, and 2) she and Thomas got seperated below deck and she joined a group of women and they found their way to the lifeboat. They say that she stayed with her relatives in Brooklyn, New York, where she gave birth to a daughter named Marion on November 21, 1912. They mention that much later on in life she moved in with Marion, who was living in Connecticut. Hope this helps. Mike Herbold
  3. Phillip Gowan

    Mike/Cameron, I don't want to scoop the "Irish book" by Senan Molony which is about to be published in Ireland--(it will have lost of details about Hannah and her daughter Marian)--however, I did want to say that the information you have on her later life is not correct. She did not marry a Hanlon and she did not go to live with her daughter Marian in later life in Connecticut. In fact, Marian does not appear ever to have lived in Connecticut at all. Also, the birthdate given for Marian is not correct. I've been in touch with Marian's living descendants, have death certificates, social security records, obituaries, and cemetery records for the family members--and an absolutely fantastic photo of Hannah and Marian will appear in Senan's book. Sorry to be vague--but all the info will be forthcoming shortly.
  4. Michael Findlay

    Dear Phil (and Mike and Cameron), Thanks for attempting to correct the wrong information about Hannah O'Brien. Speaking on behalf of my fellow researcher and co-author, Robert Bracken, the information regarding Hannah O'Brien's later life, which we wrote about in our article on the O'Briens for our society's journal, "Voyage", came directly from relatives in Ireland. If the data is wrong, the family in Ireland must be misinformed - which is, of course, very possible. So often, through our years of research on the Titanic's people, we have relied on material given by families of those who were aboard to be gospel. Through later research, we discover that much of what we were originally told was incorrect. Families have added to their family history or have perpetuated rumors. We have tried to be as accurate as possible regarding our research on the passengers and crew but cannot vouch for the accuracy of everything. In many cases, we have laid the groundwork for others to... Read full post
  5. Gavin Bell

    Dear Michael, Phillip and Mike Thanks for all your help. I am looking forward to Senan's book. Is it due for publication in March in Belfast? Best wishes Cameron
  6. Senan Molony

    Senan Molony here. That book is due out in April. I will say that I found Hannah O'Brien and a wonderful photograph myself and passed details to Phil Gowan, who indeed has been most generous with his research with me in turn. The way Mike Findlay writes, it sounds as if I am nothing but a hapless sponge... It is a very nice picture, and there are some nice pix in there, including a nice new one of Purser McElroy and the first clear one of Patrick O'Keefe. Just more grist to the mill.
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Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Mrs Hannah O'Brien (née Godfrey)
Age: 27 years 10 months and 11 days (Female)
Nationality: Irish
Marital Status: Married to Thomas O'Brien
Occupation: Housewife
Embarked: Queenstown on Thursday 11th April 1912
Ticket No. 370365, £15 10s
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Cause of Death:
Buried: Holy Cross Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York, United States on Sunday 20th October 1918

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