The family christening gown

Most families use a new christening gown with each baptism, each family, or each generation. My family used one gown from 1858 through at least 1990. I know because my mother made a list.

The gown was made by my mother’s mother’s father’s[1] mother Laura Matilda (Henshaw) Crane for his older brother, Charles, in 1857. It was then worn by my great-grandfather at his baptism in Bainbridge, Indiana, in 1858 – a ceremony at which his grandfather, Rev. Silas Axtell Crane, officiated – and by a younger brother, Clarence, in 1861.

My family used one gown from 1858 through at least 1990. I know because my mother made a list.

The gown descended through Harry Crane’s branch of the family, and he and his wife Ida baptized their two daughters in it: Alice in 1881 and Laura in 1883. Alice baptized her daughter – my mother Lois – in 1907 and her son Lauren in 1911. Lauren’s only child, Suzanne, was baptized in 1940, as was my elder brother, David. Then came me in 1947. Our middle brother, John, did not wear the gown because he was baptized in Trinidad just after Pearl Harbor, which is another story for another time.

Sitting on my mother’s lap, 1947.

Suzanne had her eldest son Lauren (named after his grandfather, who was killed in the war), baptized in 1961. David had all three of his children baptized in the gown: Edward in 1961, Kristen in 1968, and Steven in 1970. John had all four of his children baptized: Karyn in 1964, Brenda in 1965, Carl in 1971, and Holly in 1977. That is where my Mother's list ends, but I have been polling my nieces and nephews about their children, and just confirmed that my mother's great-grandchild, Jeffrey, Brenda's oldest, wore the gown in 1990.

The gown is cotton, 32” long, with an open work bodice and high waist. The skirt has tiered horizontal pleats and open work on the hem. There is also a bonnet with cotton lace over a silk lining and tie ribbons. Making a video of the gown for my family’s collection is “on the list.” When done, it will be available to the public on my Facebook page.


[1] Henry Axtell Crane.

Alicia Crane Williams

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia Crane Williams, FASG, Lead Genealogist of Early Families of New England Study Project, has compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant and the Alden Family “Silver Book” Five Generations project of the Mayflower Society. Most recently, she is the author of the 2017 edition of The Babson Genealogy, 1606-2017, Descendants of Thomas and Isabel Babson who first arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637. Alicia has served as Historian of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Assistant Historian General at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and as Genealogist of the Alden Kindred of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in History from Northeastern University.View all posts by Alicia Crane Williams