Throwback Thursday: Great-Aunt Pierina

A major genealogy find this week: I finally located the box that contains a lot of old family photographs. A few are originals. Most are copies. Some I had remembered and wished I could find; others I had little memory of. But this helps so much with my family history research!

Here is one of my favorites. This is my Great-Aunt Pierina’s First Holy Communion portrait, taken with her mother, my maternal great-grandmother Francesca. The year is probably around 1914, when Pierina was seven years old. They lived in northeastern Pennsylvania when this was taken, but both were born in Europe. My great-grandmother — like virtually every other person in my maternal ancestors’ line — was from the Marche region of Italy. Pierina was the only one I know of who was not born in either Italy or the U.S. She was born in Le Havre, France, where her mother and two older brothers lived after her dad left for the United States. Francesca worked as a wet nurse in France before she and her children joined her husband in Pennsylvania in 1909, when Pierina was two years old.

I am always blown away by the clothing worn by 18th- and early 19th-century Italians. A religious milestone like a First Holy Communion required appropriate clothing, and no matter how poor they were, they managed to dress beautifully. Look at the intricate detailing on their outfits: the mother’s buttons and collar, the child’s lace, headpiece, and hemline. And those tall white shoes are just wonderful!

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