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May 16, 2009

Abandoned in Australia Part 2: The query and the responses

After several disappointing tries at writing a query asking for help with my Stead family mystery which I sent to an Australian newsgroup (all of which had zero responses) I re-sent my query with what I hoped was an attention-grabbing title ABANDONED IN AUSTRALIA!

Over a dozen Australians wrote in response, offering to help.

This is part of the query I sent to the list on 13 July 1995:

Hello! This is my first time on this conference, and I have high hopes that someone out there can help me with my mystery. It concerns two children left behind in Australia by my g-g-grandpa William STEAD in 1867. Since most of this is family lore, I have very little sourced information. Here is the story as it has passed down through the years:

William Stephen STEAD b. 6 July 1834 England, md. Sarah ELVERY. They had 4 children: three boys supposedly named William, Edward, and Charles and a daughter Sarah Jane. In 1867 the family sailed to Australia and 4 days after arriving, Sarah ELVERY died. Some time later (days? months? a year?) William Sr. sailed back to England with Charles and Sarah Jane, leaving William and Edward behind. I know that William Sr. was back in England by 24 Nov. 1868 because on that date he remarried to Mary Lydia GORE.

A letter written by my grandmother's sister in 1970 states that there were two cousins in Australia and that Will, the son of William Sr., died. It is very little to go on, but I would really like to find any evidence of these two boys.... William STEAD and Edward STEAD, left in Australia after their mother died. Who were they left with? What happened to them?

I realize Australia is a B I G country, but I'm hoping someone recognizes the STEAD surname, or can advise me where I might begin a search. Sarah Jane STEAD, the daughter brought back to England, was my g-grandmother, and she married David George SIMPSON in England.

Within a few weeks I had the following information, including photocopies of all documents and a map of the general area in Australia where events occurred.

From the Public Record Office (Melbourne): The N S W index to vessels Arriving.
Vessel "Light Brigade"
Owner "Black Ball Line"Year of voyage 1867
Reference 2140-2485

The passenger list of "Light Brigade" showing arrivals on 21 May 1867 included my family:

* William, age 32, gardener, from Ramsgate Kent. Church of England, able to read and write
* Sarah age 30, wife, from Sandwich Kent. Church of England, able to read and write
* William S. age 7, child from Ramsgate
* Charles age 5 child from Ramsgate
* Sarah age 3 child from Ramsgate <== My Great-Grandma who married Simpson
* Edward age 1 child from Ramsgate
* male "infant" born at sea

The list of "Particulars" showed two deaths on the voyage and three births. Date of departure from Plymouth was 13 Feb. 1867; date of arrival in Syndey was 21 May 1867 where they were quarantined. The total number of days on voyage was 97. Price per adult was 12 pounds 17 shillings

I was pretty excited - there were the 3 boys as named in the letter (Will, Edward and Charles) and my great grandma Sarah Jane. The male infant born at sea must refer to the "dying in childbirth" that Grandma's sister Lily said happened to poor Sarah the mother.

But what should I do next? I didn't have long to think about that, or to wait, as more responses and information poured in from those who read my query.

See all 4 parts in the series Abandoned in Australia

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