Free Workshop on the Historical Importance of Embroidered 'Samplers'

Monday, April 17, 2017
Family register made by Elizabeth Jane Hunter of Knox Co. in 1836

Documents made with pen and paper aren't the only important records of Tennessee history. In some cases, the stories of the state's early days are stitched together in embroidered cloth patches known as samplers. On May 6, the Tennessee State Library and Archives will host a free workshop describing what these samplers can reveal about the lives of our ancestors.

Samplers, once made by schoolgirls learning how to embroider, can be valuable primary sources for genealogists. Family registers were usually copied directly from family Bibles, listing names, births and death dates. When compared to public records, the dates on samplers are often more accurate. For example, if a girl was born and died unmarried before the 1850 census, her sampler might be the only proof of her existence. Some samplers also included details such as the name of a girl’s school, her teachers and the town where she lived.

Janet S. Hasson, the former curator at Belle Meade Plantation, will conduct the workshop from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. May 6 in the auditorium of the Library and Archives building. The Library and Archives is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, directly west of the Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville. Although the event is free and open to the public, registration is required due to seating limitations in the auditorium. To reserve seats, please visit https://tennesseesampler.eventbrite.com

Free parking is available around the Library and Archives building.

"The history of our state is told in many different mediums," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "The tradition of making samplers dates back thousands of years, which of course includes the era in which Tennessee existed as a frontier territory before statehood. I believe this workshop will offer tips on a fun and informative way to study history that's quite different from digging through reference books and maps. I encourage people to make reservations as early as possible for this event."

Hasson is the genealogist for the Tennessee Sampler Survey, a nonprofit organization she founded in 2004 with her colleague Jennifer C. Core. The organization is dedicated to the documentation and preservation of Tennessee’s needlework. The group has documented approximately 240 samplers so far. The authenticity of those samplers has been verified by extensive genealogical research, most of it done at the Library and Archives. Hasson will share the fun and frustration she experienced in solving some of the sampler makers’ stories. When the group's project is complete, all research materials will be donated to the Library and Archives for public use. For more information on the samplers and their stories they tell, visit the Tennessee Sampler Survey website, www.tennesseesamplers.com.