Karl Alfred Backström was born on 14 January 1880 in Kejtala, Strömfors, Loviisa, Finland, to Karl Gustav Backström (born 26 February [or June?] 1842 at Kejtala), and Sofia Lovisa Grundström (born 10 March 1843 at Borgå). He had two siblings, one of whom was Anna Sofia (born 4 July 1875).
He seems to have first travelled to the USA in 1905. He left Liverpool, England, 17 June 1905 as a steerage (third class) passenger on the steamer Campania. He was then described as a sailor aged 25 bound ultimately for San Francisco, California, but came first to New York on 24 June 1905. It was stated his last place of permanent residence was Malmö, Sweden, but that he had been born in Finland. It is not clear if he went as far as San Francisco and when he applied for US citizenship on 20 March 1906 he stated he was a labourer living in Rome, New York.
He went back to Finland, but returned to the USA after a few months' stay in the old country.
Karl left Hangö, Finland on 7 September 1906 aboard the steamship Polaris to make a connection via England for a steamer to New York. He left Liverpool, England, 21 (28?) November 1906 as a steerage passenger on the steamer Celtic and arrived in New York on 7 December 1906. He was travelling with Anders Gustafsson, 31, a seaman. Karl was described as 5’7’’ tall, had brown hair with grey eyes.
He seemingly went back to Finland again at some point, probably in 1911 for an Alfred Backstrom had been recorded in 1910 as living in Rome, Oneida County, New York, and described as a barge canal worker aged 30, a native of Sweden.
On 24 September 1911 in his home country he married Mathilda Gustafsson.
The following year he received an offer to be foreman for some construction work in USA and he and Mathilda decided to go. He wanted to work with people he knew and persuaded her brothers Johan Birger Gustafsson and Anders Vilhelm Gustafsson to accompany them. Mathilda was 6 months pregnant when they started. They travelled from Hangö to Hull on the Polaris and boarded the Titanic at Southampton, their tickets cost 618 Finnish Marks (£25.7s).
Karl, Johan and Anders were lost in the sinking and Maria decided to go back to Finland, where she arrived on 9th May 1912. She later received £325 in damages for her loss.
Karl Alfred's body was never found.
Red Cross files: 028. (Finnish)
Husband drowned, while returning from a visit to Finland with his wife and her two brothers. The wife was saved, the two brothers were drowned. The wife was pregnant. She and her husband had lived in this country seven years. The wife returned home in April, 1912, to make her home with her mother. She was given $300 and clothing while in New York and was paid £100 from the English funds. (Referred to the English Red Cross)