Emily was the half sister of Dr. William Henry Emeris Burke, they shared a father. Long before the birth of Emily and her three full siblings, her father Rev. William John Burke was married to the Widow Kennedy, who had seven children from her first marriage. The Kennedy’s were originally Catholic, but Mrs. Kennedy converted, when she met Emily’s father and after the death of her first husband. All but one of her children converted with her and at least two of her sons became clergymen. One such stepson was Rev H. M. Kennedy, who was vicar of Plumpton in the diocese of Carlisle, wrote to the Home Secretary making a case for his half brother.