The main 'characters' in Letters to Emma are Emma herself and those who wrote to her: Richard Davies, who was to marry her, and her parents and many siblings (the Sumpter family).

Emma's father, George Sumpter, is our leading figure - one of the 'movers & shakers' in the development of Oamaru, once a town on the rise, with ambitions to rival Dunedin itself.

Her mother, Susanna, was originally a Newell, daughter of Richard Smith Newell and Susan Steed. The Newells, of Chichester, migrated to Australia in 1852, when Susanna was 12. George, who had migrated when he was 16, met and married Susanna in Goolwa, near Adelaide. They moved to Oamaru in New Zealand when Emma, their first-born, was a baby.

Emma was the eldest of eleven:

Harriet Eveline (1862-1943)

Charlotte (“Lottie”) (1864-1938)

Mary Jessica (1866-1943). Married Charles Edward Graham.

Susanna Blanche (1868-1939). Married George Henry Waymouth.

Clara (1869-1938). Married John Watson.

John George Howard (1871-1955). Married Marion Harriet Keddell.

Walter Richard (1873-1935). Married Eva Helen Newton.

Maria Millicent (“Millie”) (1875-1968). Married John Ingledew Royds.

Beatrice Winifred (“Winnie”) (1877-1960). Married Humphrey George Hanmer.

Bertram (“Bertie”) (1879-1965). Married Elizabeth Lander Bennett.

The family moved to Oamaru not simply because it was a town on the make, but because George's sister was now living there, having married one of Oamaru's founding settlers, John Lemon. She and John also had a large family. The Lemons are frequently mentioned in the letters.

Other people mentioned frequently include:

John Mann (Rakaia)

James Finch (Oamaru)

Winter (Rakaia), with whom Richard went into partnership in the auctioneering business