April 13, 2012

Were any of your relatives impacted by the sinking of the Titanic?

Prior to last month, I would have said NO.  But, as I delved into New York Ludington family members who migrated to Wisconsin, I discovered a connection to this terrible event.  Not a close relative by any means, but part of the larger family group.

My ancestor Tertullus Ludington (1773-1821) had several nephews who ventured further west while he remained in New York State. In particular, the sons of his younger brother Frederick (who also spent his entire life in NY) moved west to Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and beyond.

Frederick’s son Nelson moved to Wisconsin where he married in 1843, raising 3 children and operating as a lumber merchant.  By 1860 he was in Chicago where his older daughter Mary married in 1868 – a wedding to which 2000 guests were invited!  Seems Nelson did quite well in the lumber business.

Mary Ludington and Charles Barnes had a son and a daughter.  It was their daughter Bertha (1869-1913) who was directly impacted by the sinking of the Titanic.  She was a musician and composer who married James Clinch Smith, a wealthy New York sportsman and socialite on June 5, 1895 in Chicago.  Following their marriage the newly-weds would summer at his renovated family home in Smithtown, Long Island before heading to Paris for “an extended stay”.

James, brother-in-law of Sanford White the noted New York architect, attracted quite a bit of attention from the social pages of New York newspapers. Apparently he and Bertha would routinely move back and forth between New York and Europe, their sailing from Bermuda to the Mediterranean etc often being reported in the newspapers around the turn of the century along with their summer outings in Newport.

While living in Paris, Bertha gained some acclaim as a composer and organizer of an all-female orchestra there. Some gossipy reports stated that James and Bertha were estranged when he left their Paris home in 1907 to return to New York.  He countered that notion, stating that he simply wanted to get his racing stable back in order.

However, over the next several years it seems that they were estranged, as he complained Bertha devoted too much of her time and attention on her music.  Then in early spring of 1912 James returned to Paris with the intention of re-kindling their marriage and convincing Bertha to return with him to New York.  Apparently she agreed and was to follow shortly after his early return to ready the Smithtown home …. He sailed out on the Titanic and did not survive.  Bertha never recovered from the shock, being hospitalized in a Swiss clinic until her untimely death the following year at age 43. She was survived by both parents and her only brother, Nelson Barnes.

1 comment:

  1. I am decendant of Richare Bull Smith so James Clinch Smith was a very distant cousin, and Bertha was related to the Barnes family to which I am also but have not research to see yet if I am related to her to.