Encyclopedia Titanica

Karl Alfred Backström

Swedish Titanic Victim

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)

Newspaper Articles


Claes-Göran Wetterholm (1988) Titanic, Prisma, Stockholm. ISBN 91 518 3644 0
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Comment and discuss

  1. leeann gilbertson

    leeann gilbertson

    After attending an exhibition of the Titanic, I found this name as one of those passengers who died. Some time later upon looking at our family tree back to the approx. time of the Titianic I found a relative by the name of Karl Backstrom who had no decedents and no date of death. If I could find any information on his fathers name or other family, I could tie this all together.

  2. Bob Godfrey

    In case you haven't seen it, here's Karl's entry in the passenger biographies section of this site. Not much there, but it might help.

  3. Arne Mjåland

    Here is the obituary about Maria Matilda Backstrom from the "Kotka Nyheter", Finland. In spite of the fact that the newspaper is Finnish, the language is Swedish. (About 10 % of the Finns speaks Swedish) Our loving mother and grandmother Maria Matilda Backstrom from Stromsfors, Kejtala, born 28.7.1878 slept in quietly 30.6.1947. Thankful memories kept by daughter, son in law. grandchildren and other family. Alfhild and Yrjo Forso Arla Elise-Helena and little pian (probably little girl) The funeral takes place at Abborfors funeralplace Saturday 5 July 1947 at 13 o clock. ... Read full post

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Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Mr Karl Alfred Backström
Age: 32 years 3 months and 1 day (Male)
Nationality: Finnish
Marital Status: Married to Mathilda Gustafsson
Last Residence: in Loviisa, Finland
Occupation: General Labourer
Embarked: Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 3101278, £15 17s
Died in the Titanic disaster (15th April 1912)
Body Not Recovered

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