William Edwy Ryerson was born in Port Dover, Norfolk, Ontario, Canada on 7 December 1878.
He was the son of George Arthur Ryerson (b. 1851) and Catherine Eleanor Hamilton (b. 1854), both Ontario-natives who had married in 1875 in Toronto and who went on to have three children (that are known of). William's siblings were: George Arthur (b. 1877) and Charles Arthur Egerton (b. 1880).
William was living in York, Ontario when his father died in 1881. His mother was remarried several years later to Thomas Edward Williams (b. 1855) and had a daughter named Kate Hamilton (b. 1888) before her own death in 1889. William joined the Royal Canadian Dragoons at a young age and later joined a British regiment where he served during the Boer War. Following this he served time in India but contracted typhoid, necessitating his immediate return to England for treatment. Following his recovery he began working at sea in the Merchant Service, initially for Cunard.
William was married near Birmingham, Warwickshire on 17 December 1906 to Florence Annie Mallison (b. 5 September 1881), a native of Southgate, London. The couple would have six children: Clarence Edwy (1907-1937), Katie Hamilton (1910-1984, later Mrs Stanley George Newling), Thomas Arthur (1912-1994), William Ernest (1914-2003) Ronald Jack (1918-1990) and Ralph Egerton (1920-1996). He, his wife and first two children appeared on the 1911 census living at 27 Amberley Road, Paddington, London and William was described as a storeman.
When he signed on to the Titanic, on 4 April 1912, William gave his address as 18 Salop Road, Walthamstow, citing the Titanic as his first ship. As a second class saloon steward he could expect monthly wages of £3, 15s. Unbeknownst to him, his wealthy American third cousin, once removed (they shared a common great-great grandfather) Arthur Larned Ryerson, and his family, was travelling aboard the Titanic in first class.
Following the disaster William returned to England. His wife had been pregnant at the time and gave birth in May 1912 to a son named Thomas Arthur. William resumed his career at sea and during the First World War enlisted in the 159th Gun Brigae, Royal Field Artillery, rising to the rank of Sergeant. The family would move back to Ontario with his family sometime around 1919 where he various jobs, including farming, the post office and as a customs officer. Following retirement, he and his wife resettled in England but would make several more trips across the Atlantic.
William died in Runwell, Essex on 9 December 1949 and he was buried in St Mary's Churchyard, Runwell and his resting place remained unmarked until 2012 when, on 15 April of that month to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking, a headstone was finally unveiled:
IN THE NEIGHBOURING EARTH LIE
THE MORTAL REMAINS OF
WILLIAM EDWY RYERSON
7TH DECEMBER 1878-9TH DECEMBER 1949
SERVED AS 2nd CLASS STEWARD
ON SS TITANIC IN 1912
His widow Florence moved to Oxford to be near her youngest child Ronald and she died there on 11 September 1968. His last surviving child, William, died in Simcoe, Ontario in 2003.