Mr William Neal Thomas Ford

Mr William Neal Thomas Ford was born in Mayfield, Sussex, England on 20 August 1897.

He was the second son of Edward Ford (b. 1858), a farm worker originally from Fletching, Sussex, and Margaret Ann Watson (b. 1857), who hailed from Bracadale on the Isle of Skye in the inner Hebrides in northern Scotland.  His parents were married in Hadlow Down, Wealden, Sussex, England on 17 June 1890 and besides Edward had four other children: Dollina Margaret (b. 1891), Frances Mary (b. 1893), Edward Watson (b. 1895) and Robina Maggie (b. 1904).

William first appears on the 1901 census living in the hamlet of Mark Cross in Rotherfield, Sussex. He was enrolled at Rotherfield Council School on 30 May 1904 aged 6 and continued at the school until December 1910 when he took his exemption exam enabling him to leave early to begin full time work. His name appears on the school register as 'Neil Ford'. His family are still in the same locale by the time of the 1911 census but William is listed elsewhere as a telegraph messenger at the Post Office in the hamlet of Mark Cross, Sussex.

William's father Edward later reportedly deserted the family leaving his mother to eke out an existence as a poultry farmer. His sister Frances had emigrated to the USA in 1911 and worked as a domestic servant with a wealthy Long Island family, and so impressed her family back home with tales of a better life that the family decided to leave their home in Rotherfield and settle in America. Travelling with them was his aunt Elizabeth Johnston and her family and a family friend, Phoebe Alice Harknett. The Fords bought ticket W./C. 6608 (which cost £34 7s 6d) and they boarded the Titanic at Southampton as third class passengers and were destined for New London, Connecticut where his uncle Thomas Watson lived.

The entire party of ten were lost in the sinking. None of their bodies were identified amongst those recovered after the sinking. His father Edward later filed a claim for the loss of his family and was awarded five shillings per week. What became of his father is not known but it is possible he remained in Rotherfield and died in 1933.

 

Articles and Stories

Chicago Examiner (1912) 
 

Comment and discuss

  1. Emma Richardson said:

    HELLO, THIS IS MY FIRST MESSAGE SO PLEASE BE PATIENT WITH ME....I HAVE BEEN RESEARCHING THE FORD FAMILY FOR OVER A YEAR NOW AND HAVE FOUND SOME INTERESTING INFO OUT INCLUDING D.O.B FOR ALL CHILDREN. WHAT I WANT TO KNOW IS..MR EDWARD FORD IS SUPPOSED TO HAVE ABANDONED HIS FAMILY IN OR AROUND 1904 BUT EVEN HIS FAMILY DON'T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED SO HOW DO WE? ANY THOUGHTS ON THIS....

  2. Geoff Whitfield said:

    Hello again Emma! I think that the information comes from the American Red Cross Relief Fund records which give details of daughter Frances Ford's claim for compensation. It states that "the family had been abandoned by the father many years ago but he turned up after the sinking to claim 5 shillings (if my memory serves me) each week for the loss of the family. Margaret Ford's sister's family did not make a claim to the Red Cross - maybe they did from the British Relief Fund - I really can't remember.

  3. Emma Richardson said:

    Hello Geoff, I have recently discovered that Edward Was almost certainly living with the family in 1908 as he was listed as living in the same road as the rest of the family on the Electoral Register. Also the family's local church held a memorial service for them after the sinking which He attended and a collection was made for him which he received after the ceremony. Of course this doesn't prove one way or another that he left!!! however his family do seem to think that he may have married a few years afterwards and moved to London.

  4. Magda Natalia Piotrowska said:

    I know that entire Ford family died in the sinking. Did any survivor see their on the boat deck?

  5. Laura Melinda Varjo said:

    Hi Magda, I don't think so. There were no recollections of the family(or even their relatives the Johnstons) during the sinking. But you know, I too, was trying to figure this out some time ago, but gave up. I assume they never even made it to the boat deck, but were sadly trapped somewhere in the maze of Titanic. But I could be wrong. Hey, I'm Hungarian, but my mom has been to Poland several times. Laura

  6. avatar

    Arthur Merchant said:

    The liklihood of stories concerning the large families lost in the sinking pretty much relied on whether there were other friends or acquaintances (usually single females) who were fortunate enough to escape. So an account of the Paulson family was provided by August Wennerstrom; the Rice family from Bertha Mulvahill, the Anderssons from Anna Nyston and the Panulas courtesy of Anna Turja. In the case of the Ford/Johnstons, their single friend and traveling companion, Phoebe Harknett also perished. That leaves sadly, them along with the Goodwins, Lefevbres, and Skoogs whose final days... Read full post

  7. Miranda Martin said:

    Were there any photos of the Fords or Johnstons? Miranda

  8. Emma Richardson said:

    Hi Miranda I have been researching the Fords for over 6 years now and have been in contact with all sorts of their relatives. Sadly no known photographs survive for the Fords here in the UK, although there are photos of their close relatives. I have whole class school photos for some of the years they were in school but none of the children have been positively identified as of yet. I am currently getting my research together for publication in the near future. Best wishes Emma

  9. Miranda Martin said:

    If you manage to identify the children on the photos, could you please send them to me? Miranda

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Credits

Gavin Bell, UK
Geoff Whitfield, UK

References and Sources

Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])
Names and Descriptions of British Passengers Embarked at the Port of Southampton, 10 April 1912 (PRO London, BT 27/780B)
Marriages, births, deaths and injuries that have occurred on board during the voyage (PRO London, BT 100/259-260)
Search archive British newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2015) William Neal Thomas Ford (ref: #816, last updated: 16th June 2015, accessed 4th April 2020 14:07:01 PM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-victim/neal-thomas-ford.html