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Amateur Historian Uncovers Secrets of Bay Area Tragedy

By Garvin Thomas
|  Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013  |  Updated 1:33 PM PDT
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Claire Britton-Warren learned a few years ago that her great-great-great-grandfather was among the 50 people who died in the Jenny Lind steamboat disaster of 1853. She set out to learn more about that part of her family history, and ended up uncovering secrets of Bay Area history

Claire Britton-Warren learned a few years ago that her great-great-great-grandfather was among the 50 people who died in the Jenny Lind steamboat disaster of 1853. She set out to learn more about that part of her family history, and ended up uncovering secrets of Bay Area history

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Claire Britton-Warren didn't know she had California roots.

Over the years, Claire had done quite a bit of genealogical research into her family tree, yet had never known that more than one hundred and fifty years ago, her great-great-great-grandfather had moved to California from New York.

One reason that may have escaped her notice is that he lived in San Francisco for just three weeks. He died when the boiler aboard the steamship, Jenny Lind, exploded on April 11, 1853.

Both of those facts were revealed to Claire in an unexpected phone call from a historian in New York, one who had stumbled across John Bradbury's story and decided to share it with his ancestor.

The news got Claire, an amateur historian herself, wondering about the Jenny Lind. She spend the next three years researching the disaster, correcting mistakes in the history, and uncovering the big role the disaster may have had in California history.

Watch Garvin Thomas' story above.

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