Black dress links family to days of old

Last updated 05:00 28/01/2013
bessie stand
Bessie Berridge shakes hands with Lorraine Agate, who is wearing a black dress worn by Kitty Berridge more than 100 years ago.

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A "visitor from the past" surprised members of an Omata family reunion yesterday.

More than 70 descendants of Ann and John Berridge who settled in Omata 160 years ago gathered at the Omata Hall to celebrate their heritage.

One of the descendants, Pam Davies, said Ann and John had moved to a farm in Omata from Leicestershire in England in 1852, and it was wonderful to be able to trace their history.

"When Ann passed away she was buried in the Waireka cemetery and when John died he was buried there as well. Later when their son William died he was buried there, and their two young children, one who died when he was 10 weeks old and another who was 3 years old, were also buried there."

Recent excavations in the Waireka cemetery uncovered the graves of Ann and at least one of the children.

"Today we're putting up a headstone for them. We're putting all of their names on it because we think they would have all been buried together."

The family was treated to a blast from the past when another descendant, Lorraine Agate, arrived at the cemetery wearing a black dress that had belonged to Kitty Berridge and been in the family for more than 100 years.

"I just had it hanging in my wardrobe, and Mum had it before that and we worked out it would have been my great aunt's," Mrs Davies said. "We thought we'd get it out and surprise everyone."

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