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February 29, 2016

Woman of Courage Sarah Elvery Stead

Because February is Women's History Month I wanted to share with my readers the story of strong and courageous women in my life. You will be able to follow along as you wish by choosing the label "Women of Courage" in the right side bar. I encourage my readers to join me in honoring women of courage in your own families.

Sarah Elvery Stead 1867
Sarah Elvery has always been an ancestor whose life story brings tears to my eyes. Born in Kent England in 1836, Sarah grew up in a hard-working family. At the age of 20 she married William Stead, a local gardener. William was deaf, having suffered from measles as a 10 year old and losing his hearing as a result.  

Children soon followed in rapid succession - Edward, William Jr. and Charles. In 1862 their only daughter, my great-grandmother Sarah, was born. Sadly one year later little 6 year old Edward died. 1866 saw the birth of another son who they named Edward after their deceased first-born son. 

William decided the family would emigrate from England to Australia where his brother had been living since 1855. It was 1867, the Civil War was barely over in the United States, and 29 year old Sarah was pregnant with her 6th child.

The voyage on the Light Brigade was a rough one. They encountered many storms and the voyage was much longer than normal. Sarah was nearing her time to deliver her child an they were still at sea. Then tragedy struck. Sarah gave birth to a son who they named Ebenezer but shortly after his birth she was bitten by a flea on a rat, and fell ill with Typhus. When the ship reached Sydney Harbour, they were quarantined and poor Sarah died on board without ever setting foot on land. 

Although Sarah did not have to suffer anymore sadness, there was more to come for the family. After she died in June, William took his four children ages two weeks to 8 years old to his brother's. Then in October 5 month old Ebenezer died and was buried in Sydney with his mother. William was left with a very tough decision as to what to do next. 

Sarah would no doubt have been heart-broken at what happened next. William took his 5 year old daughter Sarah and 7 year old son Charles back to England, leaving his other two sons behind with his brother. They were later adopted by William's brother, and William himself remarried in England one year later and had more children with his new wife.

He never saw his two sons left behind in Australia again. 


Carol said...

What a sad story!

Dana Leeds said...

Wow! What an incredibly sad story. I only hope that the 2 boys left behind, and the two siblings that went with their father, had happy, well-adjusted lives.

Here in the States, it appears March is Women's History Month. I am following Lisa Alzo's daily prompts & have written two posts (so far) about some of the incredible women on my family tree.

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Hi Dana

Yep I am sitting here red-faced. March IS Women's History Month, not February :-( I don't know how or why I got confused but I did.

Love that you are writing about your own incredible women!

Sad to say only one of the boys left behind had a decent life. The other died in his early 20s :-(