Thursday, February 6, 2014

Samplers with Family Trees and Family Registers

Think outside the box for unusual places for clues to your genealogy! Or perhaps I should say, “Think outside of the book!”

Did you know that many samplers  worked by young girls in years past often had family trees or family registers?  Did you know that mourning pieces were often embroidered by young women, in memory of a loved one who had passed away.  All these types of samplers and embroideries contain names, dates, places and other clues valuable to genealogists.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society values these resources, and has created a data base of Family Samplers at their website  This is the Dan and Marty Campanelli Collection.  You can access this database search directly at this link:

I checked out this database last week. There is no browse feature, so instead of being able to peruse the surnames I decided to put in “New Hampshire” as a place name.   Many hits came up, including this sampler worked by Eliza Hills of Londonderry, with her family carefully embroidered in cross stitch lettering. Once you have pulled up a sampler of interest, you can hit “next” to browse the collection.

Each sampler in this collection has an enlargeable color photograph and a one line biography of the stitcher, some had a family sketch, description of the sampler, and every sampler had a list of each person on the piece.  I counted over thirty samplers, from many states, and even one stitched by a little boy, James H. Hoadley,  in Connecticut 1844!  

John Hills Born Oct. 3. 1799. Married to Jane
Anderson Dec. 17. 1807.  She was Born Feb. 5. 1785.
And by him hath the following children
Names                   Births                                      Deaths
Eliza Hills                  Born Sept. 27, 1808                
Gilbert Hills              Born May 20. 1811                
Charles Hills             Born Sept 23, 1813                
Jane P. Hills             Born Sept. 25, 1819               

Next unto God Dear Parents I address
Myself to you in humble thankfulness
For all car and pans on me bestow’d
The means of learning unto me allow’d

Wrought by Eliza Hills in the 12 year of her age
Londonderry Sept. 1, 1820

You just might find your family in a database or museum collection like this.  Many art museums and historical societies have collections of samplers.  The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has had exhibits of samplers, and their website has an online database at this link: and type the word “sampler” into the search box.

I’ve also seen samplers at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont,  the Philadelphia Museum of Art and at the Smithsonian Museums.   Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth had a wonderful exhibit of nine samplers until February 1st (you just missed it!)  They have a new exhibit open February 1 through April 25 "Needlework Samplers: Wrought by Tradition" that includes 72 samples from the 17th to the 20th century including the oldest sampler in the USA, the Loara Standish sampler.  Keep your eyes open for exhibits of antique samplers at galleries and museum.   Watch online for samplers for sale in auction catalogs, eBay and at antique shops.

Here is a second sampler I found at the NEHGS database, from a border town of Londonderry.  It was wrought by Dolly Abbott of Litchfield, New Hampshire in 1817.  It is a combination sampler/mourning piece if you notice the embroidered gravestone of her little sister Mary T. Abbott, died 1815, at the bottom (not quite two years before she completed this sampler).  This one also has the death dates for most of the siblings, including herself in the black box.  Someone must have embroidered in the death dates later.

20. 1772 Married to REBEKAH MASSEY
April 1794 Who died Dec. 19 1795 in the 24th year of her age
And to DOLLY PARKER Dec 31 1800 Who Was Born
Sept 12 1779 the following are the names of their CHILDREN
NAMES                                                 BORN                                      DIED
REBEKAH                                       Nov. 21. 1795                         July. 18. 1819
CLARISSA                                      August. 20. 1801                     Nov. 28. 1841
DOLLY                                           April. 19. 1803                        April. 27. 1855
  ELIZA                                             April. 5. 1805                              August 3, 1838
EMILY                                           Sept. 18. 1807                                                 
THOMAS P.                                 May. 14. 1810                          May. 24. 1810

SALLY P.                                       Sept. 13. 1855                          Sept. 22. 1811
MARY T.                                     June. 17. 1815                         Nov. 7. 1815

My heart exults while to the attentive eye
The curious needle spreads the enamel’d dye
While varying shades of the Pleasing task beguile
My friends applaud me and my Parents smile
Dolly Abbott         Litchfield  New Hampshire   Sept 18, 1817

Other blog posts I have done on school girl embroidery:

Sarah Henshaw’s Embroidery, daughter of Elizabeth Bill (my 3rd cousin, 6 generations removed)

Phebe Munroe’s Sampler, 1844  (my great great grandmother)

Both sampler photographs above  are from Family Tree Samplers. Online database. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2013. (From the collection of Dan and Marty Campanelli.)

Pilgrim Hall Museum,
75 Court Street,
Plymouth, Massachusetts
"Needlework Samplers: Wrought by Tradition" 72 samplers from the 17th to the 20th Century, including the Loara Standish sampler- February 1 - April 25, 7 days a week, 9:30 - 4:30. 

UPDATE 20 February 2014 Flickr album of the NEHGS Campanelli Collection

The URL for this post is 

Copyright © 2014, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Replies
    1. I love your family sampler, Elizabeth, especially since I'm a Chapin descendant, too!