Family Spots Ancestors’ Letters in Titanic TV Show

From Associated Press

Letters recovered from the ocean floor at the wreck of the Titanic were written by the great-grandmother and great-aunt of a man who learned of the connection from a television documentary.

Barbara Shuttle was watching a Discovery Channel special, “Titanic, The Anatomy of a Disaster,” in April when she noticed the name “Mrs. Shuttle” signed at the bottom of a yellowed letter that was illustrated. It had been found in a trunk on the ocean floor.

In the body of the letter, she recognized the first names Roy and Pearl.

“She starts screaming, ‘You’ve got to see this!’ ” said her husband, David, who was in another room at the time. The couple was taping the special, so they rewound to the letters.


Shuttle recognized the names as belonging to Ann Shuttle, his great-grandmother; his grandfather, Roy; and Roy’s sister, Pearl.

When he called the R.M.S. Titanic Inc., the owner of the ship’s remains, the company said they had been searching for a Shuttle family contact for two years. The company provided the family with transcripts of the letters.

The ship hit an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland on April 14, 1912, and sank, killing 1,500 of the 2,200 passengers. The wreck was discovered 2 1/2 miles down on the ocean floor in 1985.

The letter was among 20 found in a trunk owned by a sweetheart of Pearl’s, Howard Irwin of Buffalo, N.Y. They were from Ann and Pearl, and were written to reassure Irwin that Pearl, who traveled often as a vaudeville performer, loved him.

“You asked me if the love I had was dying,” Pearl wrote. “I say not.”

“It’s unbelievable how in love the two of them were but couldn’t get a relationship going,” David Shuttle said.

Irwin, who had been on a world tour with a friend, was supposed to return to Buffalo on the Titanic but left Europe two months earlier because he had heard Pearl was sick, Shuttle said. Irwin did not make it home in time; Pearl died in 1911 of typhoid fever, unmarried and childless.


“My aunt’s dying saved his life. He came home early instead of on the Titanic,” he said.

The Shuttles’ research showed that Irwin’s friend Henry Sutehall Jr., who had gone on the world trip with him, wasn’t so lucky. He died in the disaster, apparently having brought Irwin’s trunk and other belongings with him as a favor to his friend.

For the Shuttles, the discovery has ignited their interest in genealogy. They plan a trip to Canada to further research their ancestors.

“If they hadn’t brought the chest up,” Shuttle said, “I would never have known about my relatives.”