Oz duo trace Ely ancestors

PUBLISHED: 10:24 22 September 2006 | UPDATED: 12:02 04 May 2010

AUSTRALIAN sisters, Carol Arnold and Jan Conroy travelled across the world to trace their ancestors in Ely. They believe their relatives are directly related to Vernon Cross, founder of Ely Museum. Last Wednesday the sisters, from Brisbane, called into th

AUSTRALIAN sisters, Carol Arnold and Jan Conroy travelled across the world to trace their ancestors in Ely.

They believe their relatives are directly related to Vernon Cross, founder of Ely Museum.

Last Wednesday the sisters, from Brisbane, called into the museum where their family history can be found among letters in the archives.

They also picked up a copy of Julia Cross's book, A New Life in Australia, which tells, through a selection of letters sent home, of the family's move from Ely to settle 12,000 miles down under.

The sisters' great great grandmother, Julia Cross, and her husband, farm labourer, George, were married in Ely's Holy Trinity Church, now the cathedral's Lady Chapel.

In those days many people were illiterate and George signed the register with a cross but Julia wrote her name, having been taught to read and write by her grandmother to "give you what no-one can take away."

The couple migrated to Australia in 1855 with their six young children after their eldest son Matthew had already gone there. Another daughter was born in Australia.

Over the following years until 1872 Julie wrote letters back to her mother in Ely and they are now kept in the museum and were displayed during a special exhibition in 1996.

They tell of their three-month journey to Australia by ship, the sea sickness, the food rations and the relief that none of the passengers had died on the trip from cholera.

The letters record the family's joy at their first glimpse of Brisbane, their search for work and their lives as they settle in their new home.

As the children grow, Julia records their moves away from home to find work, Matthew's eventual move to America and their marriages and children.

Jan said: "Looking at those letters was very moving for us. It's incredible to think that such a long time ago our ancestors were walking through this city, visiting this magnificent cathedral. We have been walking in our great great grandmother's footsteps."

The sisters would like to hear from anyone who can give any information about their family or may be related to the Cross family.

They can be contacted at PO Box 5082, Brendale, Queensland, Australia, 4500.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Ely Standard

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists