Mr William James Major was born in Southampton, Hampshire, England on 26 February 1880.
He was the son of Edward Austin Major (1853-1933), a lock pitman, and Ann Frances Grant (1853-1920), both natives of Southampton who were married in 1876 and who went on to have seven children.
William's siblings were: Henry George (b. 1872), Edward Austin (b. 1877), Annie Victoria (b. 1887), Mabel Elizabeth (b. 1890), Joseph Michael (b. 1892) and Richard Ware (b. 1894).1
William appears on the 1881 census living with his family at 6 Lower Back of Walls, All Saints, Southampton and on the 1891 census at 7 Oriental Terrace, Southampton. The family would remain at Oriental Terrace for the following census in 1901 but William was not present and perhaps already at sea.
He was married in his native Southampton in 1906 to Rose Edwards (b. 1881), another Southampton-native, and their first child, Rose Annie (1907-1994, later Mrs Albert Dawson2), was born the following year. The family show up on the 1911 census living at 4 Oriental Terrace, Holy Rood, Southampton 3 and William was described as a ship's fireman.
When William, known as Wally, signed on to the Titanic on 6 April 1912, he gave his home address as 4 Oriental Terrace, Southampton and his previous ship as the Olympic. As a fireman he could expect to earn monthly wages of £6.
Major survived the sinking, escaping in lifeboat 13. He later sent a telegram to his family announcing:
"Safe arriving Lapland Major"
William returned to life at sea following the disaster and he was still working at sea as of the 1920s. Back at home, he and his wife would welcome another child: William James (1914-1992). William was widowed in 1935 and he himself died on 10 September 1960 aged 80.
In May 2011 several items, including his discharge book and telegrams sent to his wife telling her that he had been saved were sold at auction by a descendant.