Playing Dress Up:

Okay...so, I did something tonight that I have ALWAYS wanted to do, but I just never have. So, my grandmother is in the hospital and my dad's oldest sister came up to help. She knows that I am really into studying our family's history and trying to figure out where we came from originally.

Well, two weeks ago, I found out that my fifth great grandfather was Eugenio Antonio Sierra, a Spanish doctor in Pensacola. Anyway, it solved a lot of mysteries, including: 1) where so many people in my dad's family get those gorgeous dark looks; and, 2) where the name Irene originated in our family. Well, it turns out that Eugenio had a daughter named Irene (my fourth great grandmother) and the name has been passed down since then.

So, back to my aunt:

Well, when I went out to the hospital this afternoon, she presented me with a small box of jewelry and other items that belonged to the Neville/Morrison/Sierra women. I brought them home to photograph and catalog, before giving them back to her.

The box contains some amazing items:
1. The cut steel comb and wedding veil lace that belonged to Maria Sierra, daughter of Eugenio Antonio Sierra (who moved from Spain to New Orleans).

2. A Pearl card case that belonged to Irene Sierra Morrison, wife of General Pitcairn Morrison. (Picture in the case is Irene Morrison Rector, my great great grandmother, when she was 16.) There is a button picture of my great grandmother Irene Thecla Neville, and a calling card of my great grandmother's that reads "Mrs. Charles Reynolds.")

3. Jet jewelry that belonged to my great great grandmother, Irene Morrison Rector, wife of Major Thomas Rector. Also a key and tag that belonged to him.

4. A black cross, black bead pin, and broken jet jewelry set that probably belonged to Irene Morrison or her mother (or possibly her grandmother, Irene "Marie or Maria" Sierra).

5. Other items sold in Chicago during the depression.


So...these things were so exciting to see, especially the steel comb that looks like a tiara and the wedding lace. So, when I got home, I decided to do something crazy...

Here is my great grandmother, Irene Neville Reynolds, on her wedding day:



Now, as best I can tell, she isn't wearing any of the items in the box that I have right now. But...Guess what?

I own her wedding dress.

Oh, yeah.

Victorian crazy fantasy come to life.

And, I have never ever put it on. It is in really bad shape and I always thought it would totally fall apart if I tried to do anything with it. But, I was inspired tonight. So, I found the dress in the bag, and started looking at it. It is in really bad shape in some respects. The underskirt is falling apart, but all of the hooks are still in place and the outer shell of the dress is silk, and it is in remarkably good condition. The sleeves and border of the neckline are lace and some other gauze-like material, and they are not looking great.

But, I wanted to put it on. I unhooked everything and looked at it carefully, vowing that if I heard a single rip that I would immediately take it off. Amazingly, I was able to slip into it feet first...a very good thing, as I didn't want to chance ruining it over my head.

So, I got the dress on...and, even more amazing: it fits! A little big in some areas, but overall...wow.

The silk is really wrinkled, but who cares?? Then, I put on the tiara comb that belonged to my fourth great grandmother, along with her wedding lace...and...and this is the cheesy part...I made my mom take a photo. Because why not?

The photo sucks and it isn't as if I put a lot of effort into my appearance, but I needed to record the moment because I won't be wearing any of this ever again!

So, here it is:


(Sorry...the lighting is bad and my mom was totally confused as to how to focus my camera...so I am half speaking and trying not to move out of fear that I would ruin the dress!)



(A similar problem to the one above--plus I am exhausted! But, I wanted a close up of the tiara and the wedding lace. It was so fantastic to wear that stuff!! I am not really smiling here! Not my usual self, I assure you!)


Alas, I had to carefully repack everything...but it was TOTALLY worth it, my friends. I felt tied to my ancestors in a powerful way. I can't believe that I was wearing a dress over a hundred years old, and jewelry nearly 150 years old (or more). EXCITING!!

Comments

Amy said…
I LOVE this post and the pics! I love genealogy as well, so I'll share a little story. My grandfather on my Dad's side always said that his great grandfather was born in Cuba and came to America as a stow away on a ship. I don't know if this is a well known story in our family. I never heard it until I was an adult, but we always had those unexplained beautiful dark looks in our family as well. Well a couple of year ago, I proved it. My great, great, great grandfather was born in Cuba. I can find no records of his passage, so maybe he really did stow away. I was so excited to find this out. The search for family history is like a treasure hunt and you never know what you'll find.
Susie said…
Thanks, Amy! That is an amazing story and so fascinating! Wow! I just love looking into everything. We are lucky in that we still have a lot of material and belongings that have been passed down, but some of it is still a mystery. I love finding out details about personalities, when possible, because it makes the photo I find come to life.

The family history on one side of my dad's family is really easy to trace because it was so well documented, but I have hit a huge roadblock with the Reynolds family. One day, I hope to have the time and resources to look into it a bit more. I just can't afford the money for ancestry.com just yet! We have a partial version of it available to us on campus, but it isn't the best access.

Anyway, loved the story and keep me posted about what you find out!

Susie
Anonymous said…
Susie,
Loved the post and the pictures. I'll be looking forward to more. Jeanne
Susie said…
Jeanne,

It was just too much fun to resist! I loved it! We should get photos of everyone in the tiara! (PS: it isn't as heavy as I thought it would be!)

Love,
Susie

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