Master Francis Rice1 was born in Spokane, Washington on 13 September 1909.2
He was the son of an English father from Surrey, William Rice (b. 1876), and an Irish mother from Athlone, Margaret Norton (b. 1872). His father, a British soldier, had been stationed in Ireland where he met and married his mother Margaret, a factory worker, on 18 June 1898.
One of six sons born to his parents, his siblings were: William (1898-1898), Albert (b. 1902), George (b. 1903), Eric (b. 1905) and Arthur (b. 1907).
His eldest brother William (b. 1898) died after less than two months of life, dying tragically after choking on his pacifier. His parents had crossed the Irish sea to his father's native London where they lived for a short while. The family later migrated to Canada, first to Montréal and then to Ontario, before crossing into the USA in January 1909, settling in Spokane, Washington where he was born.
The family made their home at Hillyard, Spokane; his father, a labourer on Great Northern tracks at Hillyard, was crushed by an engine on 24 January 1910 and later died at the Sacred Heart Hospital.
Francis, his mother and his siblings appear on the 1910 US census living at 435 Sheridan Street, Hillyard, Spokane. The family soon returned to Ireland where they still had relatives and they appear on the 1911 census living at Castle Street in Athlone, Co Westmeath, Ireland. With perhaps the stay in Ireland not intended to be permanent the family soon made plans to return to Spokane, perhaps convinced to do so by several others from their locality who would be making a crossing of the Atlantic aboard Titanic.
Other people from in or around Athlone that Margaret and her sons would be travelling with included: Eugene Daly, Bridget Mulvihill, Margaret Daly and Bridget Henry. She and her sons travelled under ticket number 382652 which had cost £29, 2s, 6d and they boarded Titanic at Queenstown as third class passengers.
On the night of the sinking Bridget Mulvihill, also from Athlone, reported that she saw Mrs Rice stood on either the boat deck or A-deck, clutching her youngest son to her breast and with the other boys holding on to her skirts. The entire family was lost in the sinking and only Mrs Rice's body (#12) was recovered by the Mackay Bennett and identified.
It was long speculated that the body of the unidentified child recovered from the Atlantic may have been Francis Rice; the men who recovered the body were so moved by the sight of the young boy that they paid to have a monument erected to him for his burial in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The boy remained anonymous for many years but was later identified as another third class passenger, Sidney Goodwin.