Mr John Kennedy

Titanic survivor from County Limerick

John Kennedy

Mr John Kennedy1 was born at White Wine Lane in Limerick City, Co Limerick, Ireland on 6 November 18872.

He was the son of Thomas Kennedy (b. circa 1848), a general labourer, and Mary Fanning (b. circa 1850), both Limerick natives who had married around 1869 and was one of thirteen children born to his parents, five surviving infancy. 

His known siblings were: Mary (b. 14 November 1869), Michael (b. 26 December 1871), Bridget (b. 20 September 1874), Margaret (b. 31 March 1877), Bridget (b. 15 August 1879), Thomas (b. 20 November 1883) and Ellen (b. 9 December 1891).

John appears on the 1901 and 1911 censuses living with his family at Rosemary Place in Limerick City, by the time of the latter record being described as an unmarried shop porter. 

His brother Michael emigrated to New York around 1902 and was married there in August 1904 to Mary Fitzgerald and with her had four children by 1912; it was John's intention to join his brother there at his home on Perry Street, Manhattan. 

Kennedy boarded the Titanic at Queenstown as a third class passenger (ticket number 368783 which cost £7, 15s). It would appear he was travelling alone but was carrying across the Atlantic several gifts from his homeland to relatives in New York, including Irish Whiskey and Limerick ham and bacon and items of children's clothing, presumably intended for his niece and nephews.

John Kennedy survived the sinking but how he is escaped remains mysterious and it is likely he left in one of the aft-starboard lifeboats and came away unscathed. 

Coming off the Carpathia in New York John Kennedy was described as a 21-year-old picture framer, giving the name of his nearest relatives as his parents at 1 Rosemary Place, Limerick, and stating his destination as to the home of his brother Michael at 29 Perry Street. From that address he lodged a claim for compensation, which included clothing such as a serge suit, blue coat, a watch and chain, a brooch, children's garments, shoes, a set of china, a pipe, prayer books, rosaries and Irish whiskey and hams and bacon. He also sued $500 for personal injuries and the claim totalled at £533, 7s.

John stayed in New York and never married and it appears remained living with his brother and his family but details about the next few years of his life are largely unknown.

Kennedy was drafted into the US military and began service on 26 May 1918; his address was listed as 7 Fourth Place, Brooklyn and was sent for training to Camp Hancock, Richmond County, Georgia. His training proved brief and after just over a week he fell ill. It was determined that he had contracted anthrax, transmitted from his shaving brush. 

After lingering for four days, John Kennedy died on 9 June 1918; his closest relative was his brother Michael, also of 7 Fourth Place, Brooklyn.

PVT. KENNEDY DIES
IN BASE HOSPITAL
Private John Kennedy, aged 25 years, of Company 21, machine gun training camp, died at the Base Hospital, Camp Hancock, at 2:05 Sunday afternoon. Kennedy lately came to Camp Hancock from his home, Brooklyn, N. Y.

The body is now at the R. E. Elliott funeral home awaiting burial instructions. - Augusta Chronicle, 10 June 1918, page 3

His hermetically sealed coffin was returned to his brother in Brooklyn. 

Notes

  1. Sometimes listed as John Joseph Kennedy or, as per his WWI military records, John F. Kennedy. No such middle names appear on his birth record. 
  2. Birth date as per birth record; travelling aboard Titanic he described himself as a 21-year-old. His WWI military records give his birth date as 7 February 1893.
 

Pictures

John Kennedy
Limerick Leader  (1912) 
JOHN KENNEDY
 

Articles and Stories

Titanica! (2017) 
 

Comment and discuss

  1. avatar

    Phillip Gowan said:

    I heard on the news this morning that there have only been 20 cases of death in the United States during the last 100 years from virulent anthrax. One of those was a Titanic survivor. was a young Irishman from Limerick who survived the Titanic sinking only to meet with another dismal fate within a few years. (Taken from the AUGUSTA CHRONICLE, Augusta, Georgia, June 11, 1918) HANCOCK SOLDIER SUCCUMBS TO MALIGNANT CASE OF ANTHRAX Private John Kennedy of Machine Gun Company 21, Has... Read full post

  2. Colleen Collier said:

    Phil. You actually beat me to the question. Another sad fate of a survivor. Thank you for sharing! Colleen

  3. avatar

    Michael H. Standart said:

    It's a pity they didn't have anti-biotics in those days. While hardly a sure thing, they would have given this unfortunate soldier a fighting chance. My understanding as to why it's useful as a weapon isn't that it's all that remarkably virulant. (It isn't) But that it's so bloody tough to kill. Absent a host, it can go dorment for years until it enters a nice warm moist environment...like some poor sods body. For the perposes of terror, it doesn't even to be all that effective in and of itself. In the sort of game that appears to be afoot these days, it's the fact that it can... Read full post

  4. Dave Hudson said:

    Phil, Are you sure that that John Kennedy is the same John Kennedy that was on the Titanic? There is a 5 year age difference and the Titanic Kennedy was from Ireland. David

  5. avatar

    Phillip Gowan said:

    Yup, that's him. The age reported in the newspaper (and death certificate) is wrong--they were just guessing. His body was claimed by his brother Michael--the same person listed as his next of kin on Carpathia. I would also add that the Irish seemed, more than other ethnic groups, to prevaricate about their ages. I've obtained birth certificates for some of them that prove they were as much as 13 years older than they claimed on Titanic and later. Major offenders were Hannah Riordan and Delia McDermott. I've been in touch with John Kennedy's living relatives who now live in Massachusetts... Read full post

  6. John O'Malley said:

    This is sort of a far fetched theory, but I'm just curious about what other peoples opinions are. I was just wondering if there is any confirmation that John Kennedy was onboard the ship. There seems to be very little known about his experiences onboard and I was wondering if it was possible that someone may have bought his ticket. According to "The Irish Onboard Titanic", his age and occupation are inaccurate on the passenger manifest. He also apparently lied about being injured in the sinking (according to his claim for compensation for the US District Court) when the John Kennedy at the... Read full post

  7. avatar

    Michael H. Standart said:

    All which has been collected in Phil's stack of stuff can be seen at It's not much but there's no particular reason to believe he wasn't there.

  8. John O'Malley said:

    Thank you. I suppose he is just a person who liked to keep out of the public eye. It just struck me as odd that there is so little information about him in comparison to the other surviving 3rd class Irish passengers.

  9. avatar

    Michael H. Standart said:

    >>Thank you. I suppose he is just a person who liked to keep out of the public eye.

  10. Arne Mjåland said:

    The Augusta Cronicle June 10 1918. Pvt. Kennedy dies in base hospital. Private John Kennedy, aged 23 years of Company 21, machine gun training camp, died at the Base Hospital, Camp Hancock at 2;06 Sunday afternoon. Kennedy lately came to Camp Hancock from his home, Brooklyn N.Y. The body is now at the R.E. Elliott funeral home awaiting burial instructions This may be a thread for those who may want to find out more about him

  11. avatar

    Michael H. Standart said:

    Sounds like he may have been a victim of the Spanish Flu epedemic. The barracks where soldiers lived by the hundreds made military bases a happy hunting ground for this bug.

  12. avatar

    Annette nihill said:

    Hi I was wondering if there are any descendants of John Kennedy survivor, on these boards, I’m new on here thanks

  13. avatar

    Annette nihill said:

    Hello , I’m a descendant of John Kennedy and he actually died of anthrax in camp Hancock, my great aunt , his nominated next of kin was compensated for his death to the tune of 10,000 US dollars

  14. avatar

    Steven Christian said:

    Hi. Welcome to ET. I just read your relatives bio on here. Its ashame he had to go so young and how he did. I don't think they had any treatment for Anthrax back then. Even today with Cipro you have to get it treated very early or it will still kill you. [URL... Read full post

  15. avatar

    Annette nihill said:

    It was suspected that he contacted it from a shaving brush brought with him from New York, apparently anthrax spores could survive in the animal hair that brush was made of, my family always knew it was related to a shaving incident but was not aware of the anthrax, so a sad story

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Credits

Gavin Bell, UK
Phillip Gowan, USA
Senan Molony, Ireland

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2018) John Kennedy (ref: #937, last updated: 29th June 2018, accessed 30th May 2020 07:07:35 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/john-kennedy.html