Master Michael (Shafīq) Peter Yūsuf

Master Michael Peter Joseph was born in Detroit, Michigan on 11 May 1907.

He was the son of Lebanese immigrants Buṭrus Yūsuf (Peter Joseph) (b. 1883) and Kātrīn Rizq (Katherine Rizq) (b. 1886) who had married in 1904. He had a younger sister, Mary (b. 1909).

Michael, his mother and sister 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).

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

Asleep at the time of the collision, Michael's mother was stirred awake by the impact. Further commotion outside their 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. 

Michael and his sister contracted measles whilst aboard Carpathia and upon landing in New York were hospitalised in St Vincent's before making the journey to Detroit.

Life back in Detroit proved an unhappy time for the young Michael. In 1914 his younger sister Mary died following horrific injuries sustained in a house fire. His mother died the following year and another sister, born in 1915, died aged only eight months and not long after the death of his mother. 

He later attended St Peter & Paul School in Detroit and the nuns there assigned him the nickname "Ty" as a result of his miraculous survival, a moniker that would persist for the rest of his life. 

His father, afflicted with a heart condition, died on 23 March 1926 and, following the loss of both his parents Mike was taken in by an aunt and uncle in Detroit, Harry and Rose Joseph and he was still living with them and their large family by the time of the 1930 census, then being described as a driver for the Ginger Ale Company.

On 7 April 1937 Michael was married to Catherine Ann Rouhana (b. 16 October 1917), another Michigan native of Lebanese parentage, born to Joseph and Lily Ignatius Rouhana. Michael was described as a truck driver and his bride as a labeller. 

The couple went on to have four children: Peter Michael (1938-1995), Anthony Paul (1941-2003), Liela Catherine (b. 1942) and Louis Richard (1945-2013).

The family appeared on the 1940 census as residents of 2622 East Congress Street, Detroit and Mike was still described as a truck driver, a profession he maintained up until retirement in 1967. Mike remained in Detroit for the rest of his life and, perhaps scarred from the many personal tragedies he had lived through as a young boy, was described as a quiet man who enjoyed nothing better than the company of his family. He never cared to discuss the Titanic but would sometimes open up about it to his grandchildren.

Mike Joseph died in Warren, Michigan following a stroke on 18 May 1991. He is buried in the Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton, Michigan under an elaborate headstone depicting the Titanic, created by his grandson Brian, a funeral home director. It reads:

Family of
Michael P. "TY"
"Michael P. Joseph nicknamed TY
and recognized as a miracle child
by the nuns of Sts. Peter & Paul
Jesuit Church after surviving the
sinking of the Titanic
on April 15, 1912"

His widow Catherine died on 3 March 1998 and is buried with him. 

His son Louis became a banker and worked out of Michigan, Florida and Illinois before his retirement in 2005. He was an avid collector of Titanic memorabilia and was said to have been very proud that his father survived the Titanic disaster. He died in Grosse Point, Michigan on 23 October 2013. 
Mike's daughter Liela (Mrs Chris Dunlap) was still alive as of June 2016 and living in Michigan. 


1. One source (PEK) places Michael in C and Catherine and Anna in D.


Michael 'Ty' Joseph in later years
Detroit Free Press  (1991) 
Grave of Michael P. 'Ty' Joseph

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

Reply Watch Thread


Gavin Bell, UK
Leila Salloum Elias, USA
Peter Engberg-Klarström, Sweden
Phillip Gowan, USA
Louis R. Joseph, USA
Tiffany Selvidge
Hermann Söldner, Germany

References and Sources

Elias, Leila Saloum (2011) The Dream and Then the Nightmare: The Syrians who Boarded the Titanic, the Story of the Arabic-speaking Passengers. Atlas, 2011. ISBN 978-9933-9086-1-4
Judith Geller (1998) Titanic: Women and Children First. Haynes. ISBN 1 85260 594 4
Titanic Commutator, 1991, No. 2, obituary
Search archive British and Irish newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2018) Michael (Shafīq) Peter Yūsuf (ref: #1133, last updated: 13th September 2018, accessed 20th April 2021 13:04:07 PM)

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