I was admiring a friend's redecorated office recently. As I scanned the wall, looking at framed photos and artwork, she pointed out a large cross stitch. The timeworn fabric contained the names and birth dates of a very large family, with the heading "Parents and Children." The parents were stitched in at the top, followed by twelve children, all with the same surname as my friend's husband. Separated at the end were the death dates of two of the children (one less than a year old), as well as the date the mother finished her needlework, approximately five years prior to her death, which was also recorded in the same style.
I was thinking about how fortunate her husband's family was to have kept such a treasure in their family, when my friend told me the story of how it came into their possession. It turned out that her college roommate's mother had found it at a second-hand store in Kansas. She purchased it and kept it hanging on a wall in their home. Eventually, when she was downsizing, she thought of my friend, who was getting married to a man who shared the same surname as this family. She offered it to them, and they gladly accepted it. So, in fact, the family hanging on their wall was not at all related to my friend's family, that she knew of.
I realize that there are many early-American families whose vital information was recorded by needlepoint in this fashion, particularly during the 18th and 19th centuries, so this may not be the most "unusual source." (In fact, needlework has been used to support pension claims!) That said, how many of these works of love have been destroyed by time, or handed down to second-hand stores, rather than to grateful relatives? No one in my family has inherited something like this, that I know of - what about you, dear Reader? Could an unrelated someone be lovingly displaying the genealogical evidence you have been seeking on their wall right now?
My friend treasures this handwork, and happily agreed when I offered to help her learn more about this family. Using the dates sewn into this fabric, I was easily able to find a Find A Grave entry in Kansas for the mother of this family, which is where we found a beautiful tribute from her obituary. We'll do a little more digging... wouldn't it be amazing if it turned out that her husband actually WAS related??