Miss Nabīah (Mary) Yūsuf

Miss Mary (Anna, Nabīah) Yūsuf (Joseph, Mary Peter)1 was born in Detroit, Michigan2 on 21 August 1909.3

She was the daughter of Peter Joseph (Buṭrus Yūsuf) (b. circa 1883), a labourer, and Kātrīn Rizq (b. circa 1886), both Lebanese immigrants who had married in Detroit, Michigan on 5 September 1904.

Mary, her mother and brother returned to Syria (Lebanon) around 1910 to visit relatives and perhaps because of monetary woes back in America. For the return to Detroit, the family boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg as third class passengers (ticket number 2668 which cost £22, 7s, 2d).

The family escaped intact from the disaster although there are differing accounts as to how they survived.

Upon landing in New York young Mary and her brother were found to have contracted measles and were hospitalised in St Vincent's before they made the journey to Detroit.

In following years the family made their home at an apartment above a grocers at 134 Congress Street East, Detroit. On Sunday 22 March 1914 a 4-year-old Mary was left at home alone, asleep in her crib, whilst her parents and brother Michael went to church, the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral. Michael Tonie, the grocer who lived directly below the Joseph family, heard the screams of a child and rushed up to the apartment. Kicking open a bedroom door he was met with flames and spotted young Mary standing helpless in the middle of the room, her clothes alight. Mr Tonie, without regard for his own safety, beat the flames out with his bare hands and swept the child up and rushed her down to his grocery store where he telephoned for an ambulance; Mary was taken to St Mary's Hospital. Her parents, upon returning from church, were met by a policemen who informed them of events and they hastened to the hospital.

Mary died from her injuries later that day with her parents by her side. She is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Detroit, in an unmarked grave (section 44, Tier 10, Space 529 paupers section).


  1. Sometimes listed as "Anna"; Ellis Island records and her death notice record the name as "Mary". Elias (2011) reports that her name as declared in Arabic media was Nabīah. 
  2. Her birthplace is often listed as Lebanon/Syria; the Ellis Island records state that she had been born in the USA but her death certificate states she was born in Assyria (sic). The family were Lebanese but possibly of Assyrian ethnicity and descent. 
  3. Date as per death certificate. Ellis Island records state that she was 19 months at the time of her arrival in New York aboard Carpathia. Another date cited is 21 September 1909.    

Articles and Stories

Titanica! (2017) 
Detroit News (1914) 

Comment and discuss

  1. Robert Aaron Fernuik said:

    I have questions regarding information on the Joseph Family, 3rd class mother, brother, and sister traveling under the surname "Peter" aboard the Titanic. I only have what information is given so far on this website under their passenger bios (birth & death date for Mary/Anna and Michael, death date for Catherine, burial place for Catherine and Mary/Anna). Just taking a stab in the dark to see if anyone else has any more information than listed as I progress in research on my end. I've searched what resources I can online: no results on any possible aliases in the U.S. Census records, no... Read full post

  2. Lester Mitcham said:

    Hello Robert, There are two and a half pages on the family in Judith Geller's" Titanic Women and Children First. Michael went to a Catholic grammar school.

  3. avatar

    Brian J. Ticehurst said:

    Robert - Hi and welcome. For some technical reason I cannot access the biographies of the three people you are interested in so some of the below may be duplicated anyway here are my entries for them: JOSEPH, MRS. CATHERINE. Saved in Lifeboat D. Aged 24 years. Returning to husband in America after visiting relatives in Syria. Died in 1915 and is buried in the Mount Olivet Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan. in Section 44, tier 10, lot 529. JOSEPH, MICHAEL PETER JOSEPH. Saved in Lifeboat D. Syrian. Son of above. Aged four years. Died 18th May 1991, Warren, Michigan. Joseph, Miss Catherine.... Read full post

  4. Robert Aaron Fernuik said:

    Thank you Lester and Brian for your prompt responses into my inquiry, particularly Brian for filling in some of the holes. In progressing in some of the research, I have found a discrepancy in the spelling of the name of the Lebanese or Syrian hometown of the family. This website gives the home name as "Seraal" and "Scraal." The Carpathia passenger manifest gives the home name of Catherine's mother, Sada Thomas (if that name is meant to connect with hers), as first "Saral" and then "Sarol." Phonetically, Saral, Sarol, and Seraal sound the same, so I am inclined to omit the fourth... Read full post

  5. Hildur Panula-Heinonen said:

    Okay so, on Titanic Mary is 1, her brother Michael is 4. That was 1912. Mary is burned to death at her home while Michael and the parents were on the way to church. It says Mary is 4, Michael is 8. That was 1914. See the issue? Someone had posted the newspaper article about it a while back, and i just thought that the ages are wrong either then or on Titanic. Also the children were born in Assyria, which, surprise, (or maybe just to me) is now modern-day Iraq. [Moderators' Note: This message, originally in a separate thread, has been moved to this pre-existing one addressing the same... Read full post

  6. Leila Salloum Elias said:

    I realize the thread above is years old but let me correct what has been said. The family is Syrian NOT Assyrian The passenger's name transliterated from the Arabic is Katrinah and she is from Sar'al which was in Syria in 1912. Again, please understand that there never existed the country of 'Lebanon' until the Greater Powers of colonization and mandates divided Greater Syria up into the countries we have today. They were not Assyrian. The family was Syrian from Syria as were all the other towns that are in today's modern day 'Lebanon' were all in Syria. They were not 'Lebanese'... Read full post

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Trevor Baxter, UK
Gavin Bell, UK
Phillip Gowan, USA
Hermann Söldner, Germany

References and Sources

State of Michigan Certificate of Death
Search archive British and Irish newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2018) Nabīah (Mary) Yūsuf (ref: #1134, last updated: 13th September 2018, accessed 5th June 2020 05:56:28 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/anna-mary-joseph-peter-joseph.html