Mrs Claire Karnes was born as Claire Bennett in Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania in June 1889.
She was the daughter of William Findlay Bennett (b. 1867), a coal office clerk, and Bessie Barclay (b. 1867), both native Pennsylvanians, and she had one known sibling, a brother, Charles who was one year her senior.
She was listed with her family on the 1900 census living at the home of her paternal grandparents, Frederick and Sarah Bennett, in Allegheny, Pennsylvania and on the following 1910 census at the home of her maternal grandmother, Susanna Barclay, in Pittsburgh.
Claire was married in West Virginia in April 1911 to Jacob Frank Karnes (b. 1880 in Pennsylvania). They shortly travelled to Burma where her husband worked as a driller for a petroleum company.
She fell pregnant whilst in Burma and decided to return to the USA to have her baby. She boarded the Titanic in Southampton as a second class passenger and was travelling with Mrs Mary Corey (joint ticket number 13534, which cost £21), also a resident of Pittsburgh and whose husband Percy worked with her own in Burma where the two ladies became acquainted. Mary was also pregnant.
Claire probably spent the last day of the Titanic in the second class library. Lawrence Beesley wrote:
"Close beside me--so near I cannot avoid hearing scraps of their conversations--are two American ladies, both dressed in white, young, probably friends only: one had been to India and is returning by way of England, the other is a schoolteacher in America, a graceful girl with a distinguished air heightened by a pair of pince-nez."
Both Claire Karnes and Mary Corey became two of only a dozen women travelling second class to die. The reason for their not leaving is unknown.
Claire's husband Frank was later revealed to have died, whilst still in Burma, within a few days previous of her own death on 12 April 1912 due to smallpox