by Dennis Dalman
Bragging rights accrue instantly to anyone who is related to someone who was aboard the RMS Titanic when it sank in the North Pacific shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday, April 15, 1912.
L. Marilyn Stinson of St. Joseph, a geneaological sleuth, doesn’t have bragging rights-not that she wants them-but she’s intrigued a relative later sailed on the Carpathia, the ship that saved the 710 Titanic survivors on that bleak, cold morning. Fortunately, the Carpathia had been about three hours away from the Titanic when its crew heard the telegraphic distress calls.
Stinson decided to share her story with the newspaper after she read a column about the Titanic in the April 27 issue of the Newsleader.
About three years ago, while Stinson was watching the blockbuster movie Titanic on TV, she perked up during a scene toward the end when she glimpsed “Carpathia” on the side of the ship that picked up survivors from lifeboats.
That name, Carpathia, rang a bell. Stinson began to wonder if there was a connection with that ship and an Alexander John Cameron, who was a relative of hers on her mother’s side.
Stinson, who has been doing intricate family-roots research since 1983, is a member of the St. Cloud Genealogists Inc. Like a detective, she has a way of remembering minute details and connecting the dots.
Delving back into her voluminous family research, she did a lot of checking and double-checking. And, sure enough, her hunch was right. A relative had sailed on the Carpathia from Quebec to England, although his voyage was two years after the ship’s role in saving Titanic survivors. Still, Stinson found that fact interesting, partly because the passenger, Alexander John Cameron had been a shadowy figure for so long. Stinson’s further delving into that “mystery” helped bring the distant relative more to life.
For many year’s, all Stinson knew about Cameron was he had married an English war bride, according to Stinson’s mother. Details had become entangled in hearsay and legend, and so Stinson was not sure what was true and what was not.
Further research began to verify the details.
Stinson’s grandmother, Elizabeth Cuthbertson, and her sister, Mary Ann, moved from Huron County, Ontario, Canada to Cass County, N.D. (near Fargo) in 1882. In North Dakota, Mary Ann married a man named Alexander Cameron. They had a son, Alexander John Cameron, who was born in 1888 in Cooperstown, N.D. When the boy was young, the Camerons moved back to Canada – to an area near Winnipeg.
In 1914, the year World War I began, Cameron, who’d been working as a bricklayer, enlisted in the Overseas Expeditionary Forces and left Winnipeg for Quebec, where he boarded a ship named the Carpathia, bound for England. Cameron, without doubt, was aware the ship and its crew had been highly honored two years before for rescuing Titanic survivors.
In France, Cameron suffered a terrible schrapnel wound that nearly killed him. He survived and married an English woman. For a time, they lived on Belgrave Road in the Abbey Road section of London, made famous so many years later as the neighborhood of the studio where the Beatles recorded their classic songs, including the “Abbey Road” album.
Eventually, the Camerons returned to Canada and then to the United States. Their only son, George, was born in New York. Cameron worked for many years as a bricklayer and died, at age 78, in Bergenfield, N.J.
Stinson managed to find those bare-boned details about her distant cousin by accessing old military records in Winnipeg. The Carpathia, she noted, was refashioned into a military cargo ship during World War I. It was torpedoed in the ocean southeast of Ireland by German submarines on July 17, 1918. Five crewmen were killed, but most of the ship’s men – about 270 in all – managed to get into rafts and were later picked up, just as the Carpathia had picked up survivors of the Titanic on that horrific dark, cold morning six years before.