Mrs Kātrīn Yūsuf

Katrin Yusuf

Mrs Kātrīn Yūsuf (Katherine Joseph) was born as Kātrīn Rizq in Sar'al, Lebanon around 1886.1 She was the daughter of Thomas Rizq and his wife Sada.

When Katherine first came to the USA is not clear but at some point in the early 1900s she was living in Detroit, Michigan. At age 18, on 5 September 1904, Kātrīn was married in that city to Peter Joseph (Buṭrus Yūsuf) (b. circa 1883), a labourer also from Lebanon. Their son Michael was born in Detroit on 11 May 1907, followed by their daughter Mary on 21 September 1909.

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

Asleep at the time of the collision, Katherine was stirred awake by the impact. Further commotion outside the cabin prompted Mrs Joseph to get up and get dressed before dressing her children. Holding baby Mary in her arms, she instructed her young son to hold fast to her skirt as they started for the upper decks amid a growing crowd of confused steerage passengers. Accounts vary as to what happened next; one wildly states that the family made their way to the upper decks and climbed into a lifeboat together and, following the foundering of Titanic, Mrs Joseph accidentally dropped her young son into the water. Fearing him drowned, he was reportedly picked up by a passing lifeboat. Another account states that Michael became separated from his mother and sister in the crowds on the way to the boat deck, they leaving the ship without him. Michael, bewildered and alone was guided to another lifeboat by an unknown man and reunited with his mother and sister aboard Carpathia, he having arrived aboard ahead of them both. 

Upon arrival in New York Mrs Joseph's two children contracted measles whilst aboard Carpathia and were hospitalised in St Vincent's before they made the journey to Detroit.  

Over the next few years life in Detroit was difficult for the family; they lived in an apartment above a grocers at 134 Congress Street East. On Sunday 22 March 1914 Katherine, her husband and young son went to church, leaving 4-year-old daughter Mary alone, asleep in her crib.

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 her 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 was buried in Mt Olivet Cemetery in Detroit. 
It was perhaps some consolation to them that in March 1915 the family welcomed another addition when daughter Sadie was born. 

Katherine did not live long to see her young daughter grow and she died on 19 June 1915. She is buried in Mount Olivet cemetery, Detroit, Michigan (section 44, Tier 7, Space 589).

Her baby daughter Sadie did not survive long after; suffering from bronchopneumonia and later admitted to The Children's Hospital, she died 5 November 1915.

Katherine's widower survived just over a decade and a heart condition hastened his demise on 23 March 1926.

The only surviving member of the family, Michael, was taken in by relatives and lived a long life before his death in 1991.


  1. Age uncertain. When she married in 1904 she stated that she was 18. By 1912, on Ellis Island records, she claimed to be 24. 


Catherine Joseph Headstone
Kātrīn Yūsuf

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Joseph (Yūsuf) Family (5 posts)
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Trevor Baxter, UK
Gavin Bell, UK
Leila Salloum Elias, USA
Judith Geller, USA
Peter Engberg, Sweden
Phillip Gowan, USA
Louis R. Joseph, USA
Hermann Söldner, Germany

References and Sources

Leila Salloum Elias (2011) The Dream and Then the Nightmare: The Syrians who Boarded the Titanic, the Story of the Arabic-speaking Passengers.
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])
Judith Geller (1998) Titanic: Women and Children First. Haynes. ISBN 1 85260 594 4
Titanic Commutator, 1991, issue 2: obituary of Michael Joseph
Search archive British and Irish newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

(2019) Kātrīn Yūsuf Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #1132, updated 15th December 2019 18:59:59 PM)