For one Chicago family, the revelation of having a descendent who was on the Titanic—almost 100 years ago to date—is huge. Palatine Christine LeBrun, an alumni relations director for a Catholic high school, discovered the link when she saw picture in an article about the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. The image struck her so much that she showed her uncle, who recognized that last name. Pictured was Joseph Laroche, a Haitian-born, French-educated engineer, with his pregnant wife, Juliette, and their two daughters.

LeBrun’s cousin, Marjorie Alberts, began looking into the history and found that Laroche was in fact their ancestor and is believed to be the only Black man to ride the ship as a passenger. As the story goes, Laroche was traveling from France to Haiti to look for a job, but because he couldn’t dine with his kids on the boat originally planned they decided to take the Titanic. On the evening of April 15, 1912, upon hitting the iceberg, Laroche put his family on a lifeboat but was never able to join them as planned. A century later, the family is just happy to expose the truth to the world