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Orphans of the Titanic

The orphans of the Titanic have captured history’s attention for more than 100 years.

Nn interesting article over at Picture This, the blog for the Library of Congress’s photograph collections, is titled Waifs of the Deep: Orphans of the Titanic.

In honor of another Titanic anniversary today, let’s see how some 20th- and 21st-century crowdsourcing resolved a family’s identity.

For other posts on the Titanic and genealogy, click here.

The New York Evening World featured this heart-tugger in the aftermath of the sinking on April 20, 1912:

Who are the two little French boys that were dropped, almost naked, from the deck of the sinking Titanic into the arms of survivors in a lifeboat?  From which place in France did they come and to which place in the new world were they bound? There is not one iota of information to be had as to the identity of the waifs of the deep – the orphans of the Titanic.

Did the orphans of the Titanic find their parents?

Orphans of the Titanic

Courtesy Library of Congress

In one of the few happy endings to the Titanic tragedy, these boys were reunited with their mother. Joseph Pulitzer’s  New York Evening World soon after recounted a story of parental abduction by the boys’ father. Stolen away several weeks before the tragedy, the boys’ father, who perished, used an assumed name for their passage. The mother had been searching for her children and ultimately found them in newspaper photos.

Newspaper coverage reunited mother and sons in 1912. Michel Marcel Navratil, Jr. (12 June 1908 – 30 January 2001) was one of the last survivors of the sinking of Titanic on 15 April 1912. He, along with his brother, Edmond (1910–1953), were known as orphans of the Titanic, having been the only children rescued without a parent or guardian. He was four years old at the time of the disaster, and was the last remaining male survivor.

In an interesting twist, crowdsourcing from the Internet helped the Library of Congress identify the photographs correctly, despite the minimal captions, decades later.

About the Author:

Nancy Loe has an MA in American History and an MLS in Library Science and Archives. She has appeared on PBS’s American Experience, at Rootstech, SCGS Jamboree, and state and regional genealogy conferences. Her website was featured in Family Tree Magazine's “Social Media Mavericks: 40 to Follow.”

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