This is my 2nd great-grandmother Sarah (Elvery) Stead. She is 30 years old in this photo taken in 1866 just one year before she set sail from England for Australia. Sarah was 7 months pregnant at the time, and was with her deaf husband, my 2nd great grandfather William Stephen Stead, and their 4 children ages 1 to 7. They were leaving Ramsgate England to settle in Australia near William's brother Edward Crunden Stead.
Poor Sarah's fate was sealed from the moment she stepped on board the ship Light Brigade. Luckily she did not know what was in store for her. The journey to Australia was not an easy one. The Light Brigade ran into foul weather which increased their travel time. Due to the long voyage Sarah went into labour and a son Ebenzer was born while they were still at sea. Poor Sarah died shortly after his birth, bitten by a flea from a rat and developing typhus. The ship lay in Quarantine in Sydney Harbour at the time of her death.
Her husband continued his trip with his 4 children and a newborn babe and made it to Sunny Corners where his brother lived. I'm sure he had no idea what he was going to do with 5 young children, no wife and no job. Sadly after 6 months little Ebenezer died and was buried beside his mother in Haslem's Creek Cemetery (now Rookwod Cemetery) in Sydney.
|My mother at the grave where Sarah and Ebenezer are buried|
The gravestone marker only records Thomas Newland and his children. There is no stone for Sarah and Ebenezer but they are found in the cemetery records as being buried in the Newland family plot.
Now came William's dilemma. His wife was dead. His baby son was dead. He was a deaf man with 4 young children in a strange country and now way to support them. The decision was made - he would return to England where he had a job and family to help him out. But he could not manage with 4 young children. So he took his 7 year old son and his 4 year daughter (my great grandmother) back to England and left his other two sons ages 1 and 8 behind with his brother.
His brother had recently lost a child of his own and one of William's sons was not only the same age, he had the same name! So Edward and his wife adopted the two sons left behind by his brother and raised them as their own.
William left a copy of the photo I own of Sarah with the two sons his brother adopted. His hope was obviously that they would never forget their real parents. One of the boys left behind died young but the other survived and married and had children. Sadly their descendants had no clue who the lady was in the photo passed down in the family. But one of the descendants managed to uncover the truth and connect with my family in Canada in the 1980s.
But I often think about poor Sarah dying so young and her children being separated and raised by different parents in countries so far apart. I wish she could have lived and seen her baby and other children grow and have children of their own.