Friday, June 22, 2012

Serendipity in Embroidery

It is as though our ancestors want to be found. Uncanny coincidence. Olympian luck. Phenomenal fate. Tremendous intuition. Remarkable miracle. We call It, “Serendipity in Genealogy.”

According to the 1830 census of Bainbridge, Chenango, New York, Ann Rogers had two young daughters.1

Ann Rogers in the 1830 Census

Susan M. Lemmon knew one was her great-grandmother, Hortense Rogers. After many years of searching, neither she nor her mother had learned the name of the other daughter. Ann Rogers was the widow of Henry Rogers who died leaving Ann to care for the two young children.2

Lemmon’s mother searched for many years before her passing in 2002. Lemmon then carried on the search. In 2009 she came across a message board post made back in 2000 asking for more information about Hortense. Lemmon posted her willingness to share what she knew.3

That post, perhaps even her willingness to share, triggered the serendipity.

A genealogist—Sean Dixon I assume—came across an interesting sampler, a piece of needlework, in the Consignment Gallery of Portland Oregon. The Gallery specializes in quality home furnishings “from colorful Quimper pottery, Italian contemporary furniture, to stately antiques.”4

“I thought this was a little treasure that needed to find its way home,” said Dixon on her blog.5 “I find things like photos, Bibles, and needlework in antique shops and consignment stores. I reunite them with their families.”6 Dixon started looking for a descendent.7

“This woman found the inquiry I had left years ago and contacted me,” said Lemmon. “With the information she provided I was able to purchase the framed embroidery.”

imageThe sampler contained a wealth of information. Not only did it identify the unnamed sister—Helen—it revealed the existence of a third child, Byron. “There was no previous knowledge that Byron even existed,” said Lemmon, “because he had died at 15 months of age.”

Several things had to happen before Susan Lemmon could learn about her great-grandmother’s siblings. Nine year old Helen had to create the sampler. It had to survive to the present. It had to make its way to Oregon and go on sale near the home of Sean Dixon. Dixon had to come across it and selflessly work to find a descendent. And Lemmon had to make herself findable by making a gracious offer to help others.

That is serendipity in genealogy.


     1. "United States Census, 1830," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 17 June 2012), Ann Rogers, Bainbridge, Chenango, New York; citing NARA microfilm publication M19, roll number 86.

     2. Susan M. Lemmon, “Family History Moments: Handwork History,” LDS Church News, 17 June 2012, 16.

     3. Sue Lemmon, “Re: Hortense (Rogers) Hartwell,” message board post, GenForum, Presented by ( : posted 16 February 2009).

     4. Consignment Gallery : Portland Oregon ( : accessed 17 June 2012).

     5. [Sean Dixon,] “Wrought by Helen Rogers 1834,” Ancestorism: Close Encounters of the Genealogical Kind ( : posted 30 March 2012). The detail from the photograph of the needlework is from this article. Click on the link to see the entire sampler.

     6. “About,” Ancestorism: Close Encounters of the Genealogical Kind ( : accessed 17 June 2011).

     7. s_e_dixon (username), “Old Needlework by Helen Rogers 1834, Daughter of Henry Rogers and Ann Slade,” message board post, Message Boards ( : posted 19 September 2011).


  1. Wonderful story. I ama quilter and I sign all my quilts with my name & date.

  2. This is a wonderful and inspiring story. It reminds us of the importance and possibilities of those old message board posts and adds a dimension of reality to eBay searches for surname specific antique items.

  3. I hope purchasing that treasure didn't cost an arm and a leg. In our bunch a 1871 Mexican war presentation medal appeared at an auction. Too bad families can't "claw back" mementos. A cousin went to the auction but his ancestor's medal went for far too much money for his means, it went for something like $750.

  4. I love this story! Very inspiring indeed! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Message Boards are investments in the future, which this story illustrates.
    Isn't it wonderful that some people will spend a lot of time trying to reunite mementos with family members. Kudos to this lady.


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