The Story of my Four Branches
with some twigs, nuts, deep roots and many little leaves


Aboard the Lusitania? Looking for John William Jackson

RMS Lusitania

I can still remember my Grandmother Ethel Drain nee Jackson telling me about her Uncle William. This is the story.

Ethel’s father Alfred wanted to join his brother in Boston, Massachusetts in the USA. He spoke of the house that William lived in, a “house on wheels”. It seemed life was good for William and his second wife Sarah.

William had lost his first wife –Sarah Thomas, in 1907. They had a son also called William, who would later become a police officer working from Willet Street Police Station in Manchester.

William senior had married Sarah Jane Webb soon after the death of his first wife. Strange has it may seem to us, grieving is a very personal issue, and back then, not everyone had the time to spend mourning the loss of a spouse.

William, Sarah Jane, her mother and brothers emigrated to Boston sometime after the wedding. You may be wondering how come Alfred didn’t take his family to join them; his wife Emily refused to go, saying she was a “dry land Sailor”.

One day in 1915, William junior received a letter from his father, informing him that they were returning back to the UK – it’s unknown if it was to be permanent, or just a visit, however he did give the name of the ship as the Lusitania.

Hindsight and history tells us how the trip ended for William, his wife and his in-laws. However, William junior with the help of my gran, his cousin Ethel, needed to find out for certain that his father had been on the fateful ship.

Passenger lists were checked. There was NO passenger by the name of John William Jackson. But then, why did he not contact his son to let him know he was safe? They searched for years to find the truth.

Fast forward the clock to 1997. I, Beverley Weir Stimpson, the granddaughter of John William’s niece, Ethel (nee Jackson) am researching my family history. I grew up with the stories of Uncle William, of course I need to carry on the search for him. I’ve posted on forums, I’ve sent off letters and emails and had nothing back to help solve the mystery.

Then in March 2016, I received an email. Geoffrey (surname withheld for his privacy) had been working in the museum. He had located our John William and his family aboard the Lusitania.

He had thoroughly researched on my behalf and discovered that William’s mother-in-law had booked passage for the entire family party. She had for some unknown reason given William her surname – Webb.

Uncle William was at last found; Unfortunately, we will never know if his body was identified, since many of the poor unfortunate passengers never were. His remains, and those of his wife and in-laws are most likely in the mass grave in Cobh, County Cork, Ireland.

Mass grave for the Lusitania Victims

RIP Uncle William – rest now.

This story written by Beverley Weir Stimpson. All rights reserved.


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