Treasures: Valuable 19th Century Sampler is a Family Record

This early 19th century needelwork records some family births and deaths starting in the mid-18th century.

This early 19th century needelwork records some family births and deaths starting in the mid-18th century.

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? — W. H.

Dear W. H.: Families have recorded milestones on blanket chests, beds and other pieces of furniture plus on colorful textile and paper documents.

The textile versions 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.

This family record 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 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 who learned how to sew and embroaider as young women spent 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.

The original article can be viewed on the website.