Who was Magaretha Schmitt?

When I first started researching my family I found an antique cross-stitch sampler that was passed down through my maternal grandmother’s family. I was eager to discover which of my ancestors had made it and I thought it should be easy to figure out. After all, it spelled out the stitcher’s name and age.

First, I examined the sampler. It was faded but still legible and was sewn with Roman and Gothic alphabets, as well as floral and animal motifs. It also contained the words “Magaretha Schmitt 16 Jahre alt 1855.” The German “Jahre alt” translated to “years old.” This would make Magaretha 16 years old when she finished the sampler in 1855. I concluded she was probably born about 1839 and likely of German descent because of the German language and alphabets.

Next, I looked at my maternal grandmother, Catherine (Yeagle) Dauber, and her ancestry. She was of German and Austrian heritage on her father’s side and German and English heritage on her mother’s side. Her paternal ancestors were in Ohio by about 1850. The other side of her family started off in New York City and Albany in the early 1800s before migrating to Cleveland, Ohio, after 1880. It looked like I was on the right track with all the Germanic ancestors.

But I could not find anyone named Schmitt. Catherine’s paternal surnames included Yeagle, Kreilick, Flatz, and Gemeinder. Her maternal surnames included Ritter, Johnson, Blackett, and Withington. Even when I went back another generation I never found a Schmitt surname.

I thought if the wife died young, perhaps the sampler was kept as a memento.

I also looked for any female, in all the families, who might have created the sampler. Only one German family had a girl born around 1839. Her name was Mary Yeagle. It seemed unlikely Mary would create a sampler under the name Magaretha Schmitt. I even searched for a first marriage I might have overlooked. I thought if the wife died young, perhaps the sampler was kept as a memento. But I could not find a family where the dates and ages would work to make this possible.

After researching my maternal lines for over fifteen years I still have not found a family member who could have made the sampler. How my grandmother ended up with it is still a mystery. I wish she was still alive so I could ask her more questions, but maybe she would be as clueless as I am!

About Pam Holland

Pam is a certificate holder from the Boston University Genealogical Research program and has researched family history for over 14 years. She has attended numerous genealogical institutes, including Samford University Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) and Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG). She also has a B.A. from the College of Wooster and a M.S. from Northeastern University. Her areas of interest include New England, New York (both city and state), Ireland, Germany, Social History, and DNA.

16 thoughts on “Who was Magaretha Schmitt?

  1. Some times people just buy stuff at auctions, estate sales, garage sales, and even from antique shops or from, in the old days, from Goodwill, etc. Go “global” with your search at Ancestry, etc. Best wishes.

  2. I have the same mystery problem! A sampler that hung on our walls for decades by “Lucy M. Walker” doesn’t match with any families on either side. It has frustrated me for years.

    You have one advantage: Lucy was born in the 1810s and so would likely have been married before the 1850 every-name Census. You can search the 1850 Census for all Margaretha Schmitts born 1838-9 and see if any of them turn up in towns where your ancestors lived. Maybe she wasn’t a relative but a dear friend of an ancestor. Of course, spelling variations by Census takers may prove a hurdle. Good luck!

  3. Perhaps she received it from her husband’s family? Sometimes in-laws give a family memento upon the birth of their first grandchild.

  4. Another scenario to consider: Very best friends could have made their samplers together, and exchanged them when they were done. You will never know until you find out who this Margaretha Schmitt was. Good luck in tracking her down!

    1. I came up with a similar idea. 16 year old girls exchanging samplers they made together, or because they were moving away from each other.

  5. My German-American great-grandmother was named Anna Margaret Schmidt when she was born in 1864 in Hagerstown, MD, but went by the nickname of “Mollie”. Her “Schmidt” was also spelled Schmid, and she also had visiting cards which gave her surname as Smith. Other nicknames for Margaretha are Meta and Greta (and the English Meg, Peggy and so forth). So if she made this sampler in America, there are lots of alternative spellings to consider when searching for her in records. If the sampler was brought from Germany or Austria it would be difficult to search unless you know the town they came from (I have run into this brick wall too!).

  6. I do not have the wisdom of the other commenters in regards to this sampler, I guess I went to my tree to check for a Magaretha, as I have Schmitt in my family tree from that time frame, and from Ohio, and from germany……and of the names given I matched one, and that was Johnson. But alas, no Magaretha Schmitt……….the surname of Schmidt, was change a few times, and ended up as Smith……..but it was Schmitt at one time…..probably changed again before any young lady finished it…..the sampler.! I hope someone can claim it as belonging to their lineage…….what a nice surprise that would be……!

  7. Pam, my ears always perk up when I see the Schmitt (no “do”, double “t”) surname. My ex was a Schmitt from Brentwood MO, but I’ve only gone back in his tree as far as his ggf, Herman C. Schmitt, born somewhere in Germany, who married a WALKINS. The only child I have for them (ex’s gf) was born in 1883, which would make Herman born in the 1850s or 60s. Alas, I’ve had no contact with the Schmitts since we divorced, so no access to family documents to find out if Herman had an older sister named Margaret. Sorry.

  8. My grandmother (White) Rogers 1880-1964 gave me a sampler in the early 1950s telling me it had been made by a girlfriend of hers in Birmingham England. I framed it years ago to protect it and display a representative of girlish industry of the period. She may have told me the stitcher’s name at the time, but I did not remember it. The colors in the embroidery thread have faded so that I can no longer read them but I think they may contain her identity. I would love to think that I could locate the girl’s descendants and send it home but it is very unlikely now. Just another reminder to identify things while we still can.

    1. Carol Boggs, try taking a photo of it in b/w and color or scan it then play around with light and contrast you may be able to raise enough to read

  9. Pam – I too have a sampler but fortunately I know who made it! My great grandmother Marguerite Bringol who stitched it in 1850 at the Ursuline Convent in New Orleans where she probably was schooled.

  10. The style of the sampler certainly looks like 1800’s, but I find it strange that the words “Jahre alt 18” are all embroidered in red/maroon colored thread, and placed close together. However, the “16” and the “55” are both embroidered in lavender, and are placed at either end of the phrase. Is it possible the year is 1655, and Magaretha was 18 years old??

    1. While I had my custom framing/antique I framed many samplers, old and reproduction. Colors were used much differently than now. And PLEASE have them framed by a professional who has experience. Only acid-free materials, a spacer under the glass, and UV filtering conservation glass to prevent fading. Expensive? Maybe, but if the stitcher had been paid by the hour for all that painstaking labor…

  11. Try the siblings! My cousin has a sampler with the name of Ann Shore as its creator. I, too, had wondered for decades, until I found her in the UK censuses – as the aunt of my g-g grandfather. In our case, Shore was the family name, but we’re not descended from the maker. It appears she never married, and hence it came down through her nephew.

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