Loraine Allison was the only first class child to perish when Titanic sank in 1912. Her parents, Hudson and Bessie, died in the frantic search for baby Trevor. Trevor had been taken by the maid, Alice Cleaver, and both her and the baby survived the sinking. That normally would end the tale except that in 1940 a woman by the name of Mrs. Lawrence Kramer of Berkley, Michigan claimed to be Loraine Allison. Needless to say, this caused a stir in the Allison family who long thought she was dead.
According to the Chicago Tribune (5 Sep 1940), Mrs. Kramer notified the U.S. Department of Justice that she had just learned her real name was Loraine Allison and had been rescued by an Englishman named Hyde. Supposedly this Hyde sent her a letter detailing that he had gotten her from the arms of her father that fateful night. Hyde recounted her father said his wife and baby were on another lifeboat. He then went on to say later he learned neither of her parents survived and so raised as his own daughter in England. Mrs. Kramer would also make the claim that while aboard the rescue ship Carpathia she shared a room with Titanic designer Thomas Andrews.
Kramer hired a lawyer to investigate her claim, obtain her birth certificate, and other needed papers. Members of the Allison family were soon in contact with her. Sadly young Trevor, who had survived Titanic, died in 1929 of ptomaine poisoning. Then her attorney suddenly died and when asked about the papers that proved her claim, Kramer said they had been destroyed in a fire. Her claim ended and Kramer was not heard from again. Then her granddaughter alleged she had found a suitcase full of documents that supported the original claim. This suitcase allegedly contains all the documents her grandmother had amassed thanks to her attorney and others. This is apparently to be revealed in an upcoming book.
Kramer’s claim back in 1940 was sensational. And like an extraordinary claims, you need extraordinary proof. We know that Trevor survived because Alice Cleaver took him and got on a lifeboat. The Allisons would not leave Titanic until they found the baby. Mrs. Allison did get on a lifeboat with Loraine at one point but got off to race to the other side because she was told her husband was seen there. All three perished when Titanic sank. Only the body of the father, Hudson Allison, was found and buried at the family plot in Canada. Even more sensational was the claim Thomas Andrews survived and returned to England managing to avoid detection by anyone, and becoming Loraine’s adopted father of sorts by bringing her back with him.
A description of Loraine Kramer says she was “a 31 year old woman, former registered nurse and married with 5 children, living in a nice suburb of Detroit, Michigan as Evangeline Kramer, who wanted to go across the river to Windsor, Ontario, Canada to shop.” This would imply someone stable and not prone to fantasy. A high school friend said that in their teens they formed a sunshine club. The Milwaukee Journal (6 Sep 1940) had some interesting information about Hyde. Hyde had brought his 3 year old daughter and lost her in the confusion (she perished) and ended up caring for Lorraine in the end never informing proper authorities he had Loraine Allison. The paper also relates that Lorraine would also be in line for a considerable sum of money from the Allison fortune.
That would be a motive for trying to make such a fantastical claim. However those trying to make such claims generally try to keep it simple and with just enough proof to make it plausible. No doubt the Allisons, if they had good sense, hired their own attorneys to verify her claim. Kramer just had to prove she was Bessie and Hudson Allison’s daughter by producing proof from this Mr. Hyde who raised her about the story she related to the justice department and press. I suspect both the Allison’s and energetic journalists on both sides of the pond tried to locate this Mr. Hyde, who apparently was alive in 1940. Of course Britain was at war with Germany at the time making things more difficult due to wartime restrictions. According to a recent news article in the Chesterville Record (2 May 2012), he is identified as James Hyde and a traveling geologist. He put her in British boarding schools and rarely visited the girl.
The other possibility is that Kramer made it all up as part of a fantasy. It would not be the first or last time someone has believed they are someone they are not. Consider the case of Anastasia, the daughter of Tsar Nicholas II. The Soviets had the family killed in 1918. Stories of her possible survival circulated and several women claimed to be Anastasia, the most famous of which was Anna Anderson. However the remains of the executed royal family was revealed in 1991 which had the remains of the Tsar, wife and three daughters. In 2007 the body of the son and a daughter (either Anastasia or Maria) were found. DNA testing on Anderson’s remaining tissue (she had been cremated) concluded she was not related to Tsar Nicholas or his family.
DNA has now become an important forensic tool to clear up a lot of unsolved crimes and determine paternity in custody suits. And apparently the Allison family decided to do just that using Mitochondrial DNA. Since the main principals are dead, you look for the DNA that is passed down by female line but only the female children pass on this DNA. So one has to look for the proper descendants to test. Once done, you then take a sample of the same DNA passed down through the Kramer line as well. It is somewhat complicated having to determine who is the best candidate but once you have it, you send the DNA samples off to a lab to determine if they are related. And according to the blog Loraine Allison Identification Project the test proved negative. That means Mrs. Lawrence Kramer was not related to the Allisons nor their daughter Loraine.
However this is disputed over at her granddaughters site:
We have also completed our own mtDNA and other separate DNA TESTINGS,
that included much “CLOSER genetic participants” than the
aforementioned opposition complied “TEAM”.
Furthermore, we have always maintained that it is suspiciously, convenient
to many of those on this opposing team’s best interests,TO HAVE
A DETERMINATION of this nature “announced” at this time
in THEIR (so called) FAVOR ….
and we still stand STEADFAST, in our quest and determination to
present the TRUTH to all, disclosed in the volume of documentation
we have so very carefully dedicated ourselves
to compiling, these past two years.
Unfortunately such DNA evidence is very compelling unless you can prove the testing was wrong or the samples used improper. Setting that aside, you have to prove she actually survived the sinking. Checking the list of Titanic survivors is easier these days and can be viewed at places like Encyclopedia Titanica. There is no James Hyde on the list but there is a Leo James Hyland, age 19, who was a steward. Even if James Hyde used an alias and saved Loraine that night, why did he not turn her over to proper authorities? She had family in Canada and a brother (Trevor) who survived. It would have been the right thing to do. Otherwise what he did can be construed as kidnapping since he unlawfully took a child into his custody without any legal right to do so. If the story is true, he dumped her in British boarding schools for most of her young life. Hardly a kind thing to do.
And then there is the Thomas Andrews angle. Kramer claimed he was aboard Carpathia and in her cabin no less. With newspaper reporters swarming the Carpathia in New York, he would be hard to hide. Or did Andrews become James Hyde? Kramer’s fantasy, if that is what it was, was really soaring on this. Again this is just sheer nonsense. No one believes Thomas Andrews survived and became James Hyde. His body was never found and no witnesses in any of the lifeboats state he was there.
What we are left with is this: DNA that says Helen Loriane Kramer was not related to Bessie Allison and thus not her daughter. There is little documentary evidence that has been provided to substantiate Kramer’s claim put in the public record and the DNA results makes the claim unproven.
Hat tip and thanks to Paul Lee.
1. Loraine Allison(Encyclopedia Titanica)
2. The Last Titanic Mystery-The True Story of the Helen Loriane Allison
A website run by Kramer’s granddaughter that supports her grandmother’s claim.
A blog that looked into some aspects of Kramer’s claims
4. Loraine Allison Identification Project
A rival site of the granddaughter and disclosed the DNA information that testing was negative.
5. Kramer Claim Discussion on Encyclopedia Titanica
Debrina Woods,the granddaughter of Helen Kramer,started a discussion about her grandmother being Lorraine Allison. Some interesting bits of information that cut Kramer’s story to shreds are to be found there.