Thursday, 12 March 2015

Alexander (Ksaveras) Skierys

Ksaveras Skierys, like his friend and neighbour John Wedrien (see my earlier post), was a co-founder of the Australian Lithuanian Society in Sydney in 1929.  Their stories also have several other parallels.

Skierys was born in Marijampolė in southern Lithuania, around 40km from Wedrien's home town of Kudirkos Naumiestis;
  • the modern-day town of Marijampolė was known as Senapilė or Staropolė in czarist times, and Skierys gave his birthplace as Senapilė on his Application for Naturalisation in 1925; 
  • he recorded his father's name as Andrius Skierys;
  • at the age of 17 (like Wedrien, around 1899) he left for the United Kingdom and, after spending a decade in Scotland, England and Ireland and establishing himself as a tailor (again, like Wedrien) he came to Sydney;
  • Skierys was listed as a steerage class passenger aboard the SS Rotorua which sailed from London to Sydney via Hobart, arriving on 21 September 1911.
SS Rotorua; launched 1910, torpedoed and sunk 1917

Skierys and Wedrien knew each other in England and, as noted in the earlier post, Skierys accommodated Wedrien on the latter's arrival in Sydney in 1913 and helped him find employment. Popenhagen in Australian Lithuanians states that Skierys and Wedrien co-wrote a 1914 article on Australian Lithuanians for the North American magazine Lietuva.

Ksaveras married in Sydney in 1916:
  • the NSW state marriage indexes record that 'Askaveros Skierys' married  'Helena Petreytis';
  • Skierys' 1925 Application for Naturalisation shows that his wife's birthplace was Manchester, England;
  • the bride's maiden name is of interest, because Wedrien's history shows him leaving Lithuania for Manchester in the company of a tailor named Izidorius Petraitis.  It seems at least possible that Helena/Ellen Petraitis-Skierys was related to that Petraitis, also that both Skierys and Wedrien may have worked for Petraitis in Manchester.
By 1925, Skierys was calling himself Alexander and working as a tailor for a major Sydney department store, Farmer's Ltd, in Pitt Street.  He was living at Arncliffe, as was Wedrien, and raising a family with Ellen.

In 1929, together with three others, Skierys founded the Australian Lithuanian Society and was at different times the Society's treasurer and secretary.  

As with the Wedrien family, Alexander (1882-1961) and Ellen (c1895-1978) Skierys are buried at the Woronora cemetery in Sydney, catholic section;
  • two of their children, Nellie (1919-2009) and Edward William (?-2008) are also buried at Woronora, while their eldest child Alexander Skierys (1917-1982) was buried in Queensland.
Sources: Metrastis No 1; Australian Lithuanians; National Archives of Australia; NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages; Ancestry.com 

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