Confusion Over a Name: Yrois or Yvois

Almost since the Titanic sank there has been confusion over the name of a second class passenger. What we know for positive was that her first name was Henriette. She was traveling with film maker William Harbeck. They both lost their lives in the sinking.

The confusion was in the spelling of her last name. When her ticket was purchased her name was given as Yrois. After the sinking her body, if found, was never identified. Harbeck’s body was and among the possessions he carried with him was a woman’s purse.

On July 23, 1912 a woman calling herself Brownie Harbeck sent a letter to White Star officials asking what effects were found with William Harbeck’s body. Officials responded with a letter to Brownie listing all the possessions including the purse. On August 31, 1912 Brownie wrote back asking more questions about Mr. Harbeck’s effects and adding the following: “Referring to lady’s articles among Mr. Harbeck’s effects. I knew the lady well. I understand she was all so lost on the Titanic. Her name was Henriette Yvois.” Since the writing of that letter there has been confusion over how to spell Henriette’s last name: should there be an “R” or a “V”?

Amazingly I believe Brownie Harbeck spelled it with and “R” and not the “V” that was attributed to her. Brownie did not have the best handwriting. Her handwriting was so shaky that in the White Star's response to her that they have mis- interpreted her "MRS" as "MR" and replied to her as "Brownie Harbeck, Esq." and "Dear Sir".

Her handwriting appeared as if it had been created by an older person with unsteady hands. Examining a scan of the her actual letter every “R” that she writes appears to be a “V” including the “R’s” in Harbeck and “Brownie”. When comparing the way she penned her cursive “R’s” to the so called “V” in Yvois it is apparent it is just her way of writing a “R”.

Henreitte’s last name was always Yrois. But because of the poor handwriting by someone who claimed her to know her well it was misspelled.

With this mystery solved one more remains. The wife of Mr. Harbeck, Catherine, and his two sons claimed they had never heard of Brownie Harbeck. Her identity true is still unknown.

Related Biographies:

William H. Harbeck
Henriette Virginie Yvois


John Lamoreau


Encyclopedia Titanica (2007) Confusion Over a Name: Yrois or Yvois ( ref: #5471, published 13 February 2007, generated 28th May 2020 06:02:28 PM); URL :