This family register sampler, with its melancholy verse about the fleeting nature of life, was stitched in 1833 by Abigail Barnard. Although such samplers were typically part of the needlework education of schoolgirls, Abigail created this example at the age of twenty-seven to document the birth, marriage, and death dates of her parents and siblings.
Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Abigail was the daughter of a military sergeant. She had four brothers and four sisters, including another Abigail, who died before her namesake was born. Abigail never married and resided with her father and mother until their deaths in 1842 and 1852, respectively. According to census data, she was living alone in 1870, but by 1880, at the age of seventy-four, she was sharing a household with her fifty-three-year-old niece, Lucy, who worked as a dressmaker.
Unlike many recorders of such family histories, who often left their samplers incomplete, Abigail faithfully stitched in the marriage and death dates of her brothers and sisters as they occurred. The single missing date is that of the 1886 death of her brother John, who was the only sibling to outlive her. The date of Abigail's own death, October 2, 1885, has been added in ink.
Jennifer N. Johnson holds a degree from the Parsons/Cooper-Hewitt Master's Program in the History of Decorative Arts and Design. While pursuing her studies, she completed a two-year fellowship researching the Cooper-Hewitt's American sampler collection. She is currently a Marcia Brady Tucker Fellow in the American Decorative Arts department at Yale University Art Gallery.