Miss Mary Kelly was born in Dernagaragh, Castlepollard, Co Westmeath, Ireland on 9 March 18901
Coming from a Roman Catholic family, she was the eldest daughter of Lawrence Kelly (b. 1855), a farmer, and his wife Mary McKeon (b. 1862). The couple had married on 21 October 18862 and had a total of eight children.
Mary's siblings were: James (b. 28 April 1888), Kate (b. 16 March 1892), Anne (b. 14 January 1894), James "John" (b. 18 March 1895), Edward (b. 6 April 1897), Bridget (b. 15 October 1899) and Margaret (b. 20 April 1902).
She appears on the 1901 census with her family living at house 16, Collinstown in Westmeath. Her father died from tuberculosis on 16 November 1901 aged 46; her mother was carrying her youngest child Margaret at the time who was born six months later and who apparently died shortly after.
Mary would be absent from the family home by the time of the 1911 census when they were living at 18 Pakenhamhall Street, Kinturk, Castlepollard.
Mary Kelly worked as a domestic in Castepollard and hoped to find employment working for wealthy families in New York. She was also engaged to be married to a Castlepollard man by the name of John Heslin (b. 22 March 18933) who had crossed the Atlantic a year in advance of her own journey, he arriving on 26 March 1911. He was the son of carpenter Patrick Heslin and the former Mary Anne Mantell.
Mary Kelly boarded the Titanic in Queenstown, Co Cork on 11 April 1912 as a third class passenger(ticket number 14312 which cost £7, 15s). Her destination was 113 West 15th Street, Manhattan. On board Titanic she shared a cabin with two Cork girls, Annie Jermyn and Bridget Driscoll.
On the night of the disaster Mary and her cabin mates made their way to the upper decks and eventually to the forward boat deck where they were rescued in the last lifeboat successfully launched from the Titanic, collapsible D. Whilst afloat Mary helped look after the two mystery French boys, Edmond and Michel Navratil, whose father had placed them in the lifeboat before stepping back and sinking with the ship.
Mary eventually reached New York and was reunited with her fiancé. The couple were wed around 1913 and settled in Brooklyn where they had six children: Howard Vincent (b. 18 December 19144), Maureen (b. 4 March 1921), Margaret (b. 7 May 19225), Jacqueline Elizabeth (b. 29 September 19236), John Lawrence (b. 25 June 19277) and James William (b. 28 April 19308).
By 1920 their address was McLain Street in Bedford, Westchester, New York where her husband worked as a farm labourer. They moved to Brooklyn and by 1930 their address was on Ralph Avenue, Brooklyn and her husband worked as an inspector on the railways. At the time of John Heslin's 1942 WWI draft their address was Coney Island Avenue, where they were also listed on the 1940 census and where Mary would live for the remainder of her life. Although John Heslin later became a naturalised US citizen it would appear that Mary did not follow suit.
Mary remained in Brooklyn for the rest of her life but did traverse the Atlantic again as early as 1919 when she and her son paid a visit to her sister Anne in London. She may also have had a visit to Ireland in later years.
Mary Kelly Heslin died at her home in Brooklyn on 27 December 1950 and was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery. Her widower John died less than a year later on 1 July 1951.