Friday, 26 July 2019

Ellen Skierys

One of the earliest Australian Lithuanian women we have any details about was Ellen Petraitis/Peterson Skierys. My thanks to her niece Rosemary Petraitis/Peterson Mitchell for the following biographical outline.

Ellen was born around 1892 in Manchester, England, to a Lithuanian family. Her elder sister Mary had been born in Lithuania only a year earlier, so we can assume the family were very recent immigrants. Her parents Alexandra and Izidorius Petraitis - later known as John Peterson - went on to have another 10 or 11 children in Manchester, but only 7 of their offspring survived to adulthood.

Izidorius Petraitis/John Peterson was a successful tailor who operated his own business in central Manchester until the depression years of the 1930s forced him to close. Not only was the business profitable for Izidorius but it also provided a solid start in life for most of his children who were employed there at one time or another. It also appears he travelled back to Lithuania, at least in the late 1890s, on business matters: earlier posts here and here have recorded the stories of Australian Lithuanians Jonas Vedrinaitis and Ksaveras Skierys and how they seem to have been recruited by Petraitis as apprentices.
Ksaveras (also known as Alexander) Skierys lived with the Petraitis family in Manchester for some time, as well as working further afield, including Scotland and Ireland. However in 1911 he departed for Australia, settling in Sydney where he found work as a tailor.  Ellen, who had fallen in love with him in Manchester, decided to follow him. So, at the age of 21 she boarded the 'Irishman' in Liverpool on 20 March 1913 for the two month voyage to Sydney.  There she worked for a tailoring firm in Surrey Hills until she and Ksaveras/Alexander married in 1916.

Ellen and Ksaveras Skierys had three children: Alexander, Nelly and William (Bill). They were active members of the Lithuanian community in Sydney and Nelly, at least, continued the family tradition of entering the tailoring trade, initially indentured to her father.

Ellen and Alexander Skierys, with Nellie (born 1919) and Alexander (born 1917)

Forty years after leaving Manchester Ellen travelled back to revisit England and spend time with her relatives; she returned to Sydney in 1955 with her younger sister Nellie (Angela) who stayed for 18 months.

Ellen died in 1975, Ksaveras in 1961. They are buried at the Woronora cemetery (Sydney) together with two of their children, Nellie and Bill.   


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