Mrs Samuel Beard Risien was born as Emma Jane Lellyett in Havant, Hampshire, England 1 in early 1848, being baptised on 29 March that same year.
She was the second child of Walter Lellyett (b. 1804), a coal merchant and victualler, and Charlotte Boyett (b. 1816), natives of Hampshire and Sussex respectively who had married in Chichester in 1845. Emma's known siblings were: Mary Louisa (b. 1846), Charlotte Amelia (b. 1851), Kate Elizabeth (b. 1852), Walter Thornton (b. 1854), Louisa Emily (b. 1856), Ellen (b. 1857) and John Densley Hopwood (b. 1860).
She appears on the 1851 census living on North Street, Havant with her family and on the 1861 census on South Street. The family disappear from British records thereafter and are believed to have settled in Durban, South Africa and became involved with diamond mining. Emma's elder sister Mary had been married to an English carpenter, Samuel Beard Risien and settled in Texas. Mary died sometime after 1880 and Emma and Samuel were wed sometime before 1890.
The couple appeared on the 1910 census living in Limestone, Texas and it is possible they had spent time living in South Africa where Emma's family were reportedly involved in diamond mining. They returned to Durban in late 1910 and stayed for about 14 months. Family lore has them bringing back diamonds and travelling third class so no one would guess what they were carrying in their huge suitcases.
On 30 March 1912, Samuel sent a postcard to his son Charles Risien from London:
About the time you get this we will be leaving for N. York We expect to sail on the new ship "Titanic" largest in the world and her trip (45,000 tons) two more papers I think will be all I can send We shall sail from Southampton on April 10th that is if they can get coal enough to go on. it is getting very scarce and dear Both well, Papa
On 10 April 1912, Emma and her husband boarded the Titanic at Southampton as third class passengers (ticket number 364498, which cost £14, 10s).
Both Mr and Mrs Risien were lost in the sinking. Their bodies, if recovered, have never been identified.
- She would claim in the 1910 US census to have been born in South Africa to South African parents. Whilst she is believed to have spent time living there, records indicate that she was in fact English by birth and born to English parents.