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

Joseph (Yūsuf) Family (5 posts)
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Gavin Bell, UK
Leila Salloum Elias, USA
Peter Engberg, Sweden
Phillip Gowan, USA
Louis R. Joseph, USA
Tiffany Selvidge
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.
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

(2019) Michael (Shafīq) Peter Yūsuf Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #1133, updated 19th November 2019 05:36:36 AM)