Updated: Mar 27, 2022
Few stories from the Titanic are as heart breaking as the loss of the young Loraine Allison and her parents leaving an orphaned infant boy. The fate of young Loraine was to become one of Titanic's curious enigmas...
(Dec 9 1881 Chesterville, Ontario, Canada - Apr 15 1912 Atlantic Ocean)
(Nov 14 1886 Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA - Apr 15 1912 Atlantic Ocean)
(Jun 5 1909 - Apr 15 1912)
(May 7 1911 Westmount, Quebec, Canada - Aug 7 1929 Maine, USA)
Miss Alice Catherine Cleaver (Nursemaid)
(Jul 5 1889 Kentish Town, London, England - Nov 1 1984 Winchester, Hampshire, England)
Mildred Brown (Cook to Allison family)
(Aug 18 1893 Kensington, London, England - Jun 30 1976 Sutton, Surrey, England)
Miss Sarah Rebecca Daniels (Personal maid to Bess Allison)
(Nov 10 1875 Marylebone, London, England - Unknown)
Mr. George Swane (Chauffeur to Allison family)
(Dec 12 1892 Brighton, Sussex, England - Apr 12 1912 Atlantic Ocean)
The Titanic story is a source of endless fascination and has been for generations. The harrowing and heartfelt moments on the boat deck, as families were divided, touch us all. We first come to know Titanic as a story of hubris but eventually are forever moved by the human cost.
The fate of fifty three of the seventy six third class children is difficult enough to consider, First and Second class children fared much better, except one poor soul, Helen Loraine Allison. The tragedy of the only First or Second class child to perish is powerful enough, but as the twentieth century marched onward, the story of this babe in arms has become even more extraordinary when a lady named Helen Kramer claimed to be that very same Allison child.
The short life of Loraine Allison
Helen, known better by her second name Loraine, was born to her mother Bess and father Hudson on June 5 1909. She was travelling with her parents and her younger brother Trevor, their own maid and cook and Trevor's nurse maid Alice Catherine Cleaver.
After the incident, Alice Cleaver took baby Trevor and boarded lifeboat 11. Despite the fact that Bess and Loraine were put on a lifeboat, Bess was frantic at not being able to locate her son and dragged her young daughter out of the boat to return on deck and continue to search for her other child. The body of Hudson Allison was recovered in the aftermath but Bess and Loraine were never found. Trevor was returned to Canada and raised by his aunt and uncle, George and Lillian Allison.
Trevor died on 7 August 1929 at the age of 18 in Maine, USA of ptomaine poisoning (food poisoning from a tongue sandwich) and was buried beside his father in Chesterville, Ontario.
This was not the end of the focus of extraordinary tales that swirl around the poor Allison family.
Accusations of Infanticide
The stories of Titanic survivors were in demand in the days and weeks following the tragedy and the press investigated the story of Alice Cleaver. The nursemaid avoided talking to reporters in New York by giving her name as Jean. It seems confusion regarding her identity arose when she was mistaken for Alice Mary Cleaver who had been convicted for the murder of her own child in 1909. She had thrown her baby from a moving train after the child's father had abandoned her. She was still in jail in 1912 and died of tuberculosis in 1915.
The unfortunate sequence of events that saw Miss Cleaver rescue young Trevor as the rest of the family perished in a vain hunt for the missing boy took a darker complexion when the accusation of infanticide was added to the story.
This mistaken identity has haunted Miss Cleaver ever since. This confusion of identity was perpetuated in Titanic books and then continued in a T.V series that depicted her as stealing the young Trevor away.
Helen Kramer makes an astonishing claim
In 1940, a woman named Helen Loraine Kramer made a plea on radio show "We the People" to find her real family. She claimed to be the lost Allison daughter. She told the story that at the last minute her family gave her to a man calling himself Hyde who then raised her as his own in England. The story became even more fantastical when she stated that Hyde had confessed the story on his deathbed, also revealing he was, in fact, Titanic designer Thomas Andrews. This claim, obviously coming after the death of Trevor, would have meant that Helen Kramer was the heiress to the Allison family fortune.
Members of the distant family believed her, but the most immediate relations rejected her claim. That being said, they offered to pay her passage to Canada, agreed to meet her and enable an investigation of her claim. She refused and relocated to the American Midwest, never to contact the Allison family again.
This curious story seemed to have faded when Kramer died but on the centenary of the disaster in 2012, Debherrina Woods, Kramer's grand-daughter, reignited the claim. The tensions rose to a point that lawyers were asked to intervene to prevent Woods from scattering her grand-mother's ashes on the family plot in Ontario.
The Loraine Allison Identification Project
The resurfaced dispute led to a group of Titanic experts establishing a project to settle the dispute. Founded by Tracy Oost, a forensic scientist at Laurentian University, Ontario, they approached both parties to participate in a DNA test. Woods declined but her half sister Deanne Jennings and the great-niece of Bess Allison, Sally Kirkelie, agreed.
The results confirmed no genetic link between the families and although Debherrina Woods persists with claims of evidence the fate of Loraine Allison remains that of the only first class or second class child casualty of the Titanic. Tracy Oost stated that only one mystery remains, who was Helen Kramer?