Treasures: Family Record Needlepoint’s History Worth Thousands

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I saw an article in our local newspaper from 2012 in which you had written about the value of a family needlepoint. The attached photographs are of a family record done by one of my ancestors, Deidamia S. Rogers, in 1826. What can you tell me about it? Does it have any monetary value? Should it be insured?

Thank you,

W. H.

Dear W. H.,

The recording of family births, deaths and marriages has been done for a very long time. It is possible to find these milestones memorialized on such items as blanket chests, beds and other pieces of furniture plus on colorful textile and paper documents.

The textile versions, such as the one in today’s question, were often crafted by young girls as school projects. The phrase “Family Record” or “Family Register” might appear on the piece and contain details of the births, marriages and deaths of ancestors, as well as current family members such as parents and siblings.

In the case of the charming piece in today’s question, it is indeed titled “Family Record” and starts with Josiah Rogers, born on April 28, 1759, and died in 1774 (there is a “22” stitched in before the death date that is inexplicable to us). Below that is embroidered “Miss Deidamia Reed Born Dec.” (no date visible), and under that “Married June 1st, 1813.”

Then the names of three girls are listed in a line – Lucy J. Rogers, born Dec. 22, 1814; Deidamia Rogers, born Jan. 16, 1816; and Martha Rogers, born Mar. 20, 1819. All this is enhanced with a trailing floral, leaf and vine border with dramatic weeping willow sprays around a sawtooth-edged memorial to Mr. Josiah Rogers, died Feb. 4, 1822.

Finally, noted at the bottom is “Wrought by Deidamia Rogers,” 1826 or 1836. The date is hard to read, and we cannot be absolutely sure of which one it is. Thanks to our friend and textile specialist Carol Huber, we found a descriptive listing for this exact family record in Ethel Stanwood Bolton and Eva Johnston Coe’s book “American Samplers,” which was first published by the Massachusetts Society of The Colonial Dames of America in 1921 (it has since been reprinted and is available for as little as $1 online).

Deidamia S. Rogers is listed (check as having lived in Tewksbury, Mass., until the late 19th century. In 1826 she would have been 10 years old, and may very well have been a student at some “female academy” that taught sewing and embroidery skills as necessary accomplishments for young women who would spend their adult years as homemakers. If the date is 1836, Deidamia (a name which comes from the Greek for “patient in battle”) would have been 20, which is a little late for her to be creating a piece such as this one.

Without the family history, this piece would have been worth $2,000 to $3,000, but with the history, that figure jumps to the region of $7,500 to $8,500 – if it is in exceptional shape. Yes, it definitely should be insured and kept out of sunlight. The mahogany frame is probably original and to preserve this important family record an acid-free backing would be a good idea.