Mrs Massey’s great-granddaughter Peta Geisel and great-grandson Jason Massey. (ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)
Descendants of the owner of a rare 100-year-old mourning gown have been reunited with the garment after a nationwide search for the family.
The gown was part of the Queensland Museum’s collection, yet there was little information about its owner, Christina Massey (nee Woolridge).
It had been donated to the museum in 2008 and now painstakingly recreated despite the original’s fragile condition.
After hearing the story on ABC Radio Brisbane, great-granddaughter Peta Geisel called to say the gown belonged to her.
“I was thrilled and honoured to see the dress, not just for myself but my family,” Ms Geisel said after seeing the garments with her brother Jason, nephew Adam, daughter Jasmine and granddaughter Asher.
The descendants of Christina Massey are reunited with the gown. (ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)
“I’m very thankful and grateful for the amount of work that Solitaire [textile conservator] did on the finery.”
Ms Geisel said her family had been overwhelmed with the amount of interest around solving the mystery.
“People embraced it and I’m tickled pink that the whole friend and family unit really got behind it.
“It’s been a wonderful tale and how it’s all unfolded is another story in itself. I’m thankful I was listening to the radio at the right time.”
Bringing the family and gown together
Museum curator Liz Bissel said reuniting families with ancestors’ items they didn’t know existed was one of the best parts of her job.
A replica of the original mourning gown worn by Christina Massey. (ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)
“It’s really special and it was great to see a thriving line of Christina Massey still living right here in Brisbane.
“It’s helped us put together the pieces of the family tree, as we didn’t realise that Christina had four children; we originally thought she only had three children, so that was great to know.
“We’ve also been able to hear some funny stories about the dress and who in the family has worn it.”
Learning about Mrs Massey
Mrs Massey was born in Scotland in 1865 and emigrated to Queensland and married Thomas Massey in Roma in 1888.
The family believe the gown was made for her husband’s funeral in 1918.
Ms Geisel said the discovery of the gown had prompted her to do more research into the family.
Christina Massey (right) emigrated to Brisbane from Scotland. (ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)
“I visited my 97-year-old aunt, who was Christina’s granddaughter, and she reminded me that Granny Massey was quite a lady and quite refined,” she said.
“Yet my aunt also said, ‘she could throw a shovel from a distance and kill a snake’.”
Ms Geisel said they had learnt her great-grandmother would have a day of visiting each Sunday, when she would wear her finest and share cards.
“Granny Massey certainly knew the better side of life but was also able to go out to the chook pen and look after her family and land.”
Generations appreciate the gown’s history
The great-great-grand-daughter of Mrs Massey, Jasmine Forsythe, also saw the gown with her daughter.
“It was so special seeing the dress and it has such a history already and wonderful to see it looked after,” she said.
The family examines the original garment while speaking to textile conservator Solitare Osei. (ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)
“Seeing it brought back to life in all of its glory and being appreciated by the museum is wonderful.
“Having my daughter, Granny Massey’s great-great-great-granddaughter, see the gown showed her what it means to the family and its story, which has a special place in our family history.
“It’s exciting to know that it will now go on show for others to learn about it.”
The family hopes to return to the museum when the dress goes on show as part of an Anzac legacy galley later this year.