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A Note from the Editor: Genealogical Sharing and Sampler Databases

(A Note from the Editor) Permanent link
Lynn Betlock

Lynn Betlock

The issue of sharing — or “stealing” — genealogical information online has continued to resonate with readers and we received many more emails on this topic. Several people wrote to ask why we hadn’t included any reader excerpts about the positive aspects of sharing information online. Frankly, no one had written in with positive stories the first week — it was the negative practices that really seemed to strike a nerve.


This week we have three positive accounts to share.


Susan J. Rabick of Grand Rapids, Michigan:
I have connected with people who were from other branches of my tree, which has been exciting because our branches had generally lost touch. (There are cases of separated orphans, a North vs. South division in the Civil War, etc.) While sometimes I can get bare bones facts from online sources, other descendents can provide the wonderful stories behind the facts.


Joan Schuette of Fitchburg, Wisconsin:
A third cousin who lives in Sweden found me because a cousin here in the U.S. set up a website that contained my research and notes. (I had given my permission.) We have now visited each other and, recently, another Swedish cousin visited. I had to share this good news! 


Jared Handspicker of Nashua, New Hampshire:
I just wanted to put in a plug for those of us who, despite having experienced some negatives related to sharing our research online, have had mostly positive experiences. Those positive interactions bring a greater joy to genealogical research that leads to a greater desire to do an even better job, and to put more time and effort into perfecting our research techniques, and so on. Let's not dwell on the negatives since the positives of sharing surely seem to outweigh them!


Samplers and Sampler Databases


The cover story of the spring issue of American Ancestors magazine — which has just been mailed to members — has given me a new appreciation for samplers and the stories behind them. Dan and Marty Campanelli’s article, “Following the Threads of the Carver Fruit Tree Family Register,” traced the history and genealogy behind a sampler created in the early nineteenth century in Taunton, Massachusetts. The story has heightened my sampler awareness, and I know now about two initiatives designed to collect sampler information.


Recently launched by the University of Delaware, the University of Oregon, and the Sampler Consortium, and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Sampler Archive Project intends to create an online searchable database of information and images for all known American samplers and related girlhood embroideries from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. As the project progresses, an online database that will make information and digitized images available to the public will be unveiled.


"Our hope is that historical societies, art museums, private collectors and families will help us build this online database by contributing information and digital photographs of the antique samplers in their possession," says University of Delaware history professor Ritchie Garrison. Project staff members estimate that there may be as many as 15,000 to 20,000 American samplers in existence. "Our goal," says University of Oregon professor Lynne Anderson, "is to find them all." If you have an historic sampler or know of a collection that should be included in the Sampler Archive, you can let the Project know by filling out a brief questionnaire by visiting, clicking the downloads tab, and then selecting “sampler survey.” For more on the Project and for background on samplers, you can read “Stitches in Time Go Online.”

The National Society of Colonial Dames of America has a long-standing interest in samplers. In 1921, the National Society of Colonial Dames in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts published American Samplers by Ethel Stanwood Bolton and Eve Johnston Coe, now available on GoogleBooks.


In order to bring this knowledge up to the present day, the Society has undertaken a decorative arts sampler survey which includes samplers in museums, historical societies, and individual collections. To learn more, visit To participate, fill out a sampler survey form, available on the webpage. Survey results and a link to the sampler database are available at

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